Small stands can achieve big impact: Some guidelines for competing against the exhibiting giants

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Posted by , 11th June 2019

One Savings Bank’s stand at FSE London, Old Billingsgate shows how a small stand can be effective when it comes to being seen on a show flooor (image courtesy of Guardian Display)

“How do we compete with the companies on giant stands? We don’t have anywhere near their spending power…?”

This is a comment that I hear from time to time from clients or would-be clients.

They are contemplating taking part in a successful event, yet worried that their small stand is going to be lost among the giants.

As a “minnow” in the hall, they fear that won’t be seen. So why run the risk of exhibiting?

That same question is often expressed in three different ways but each expression has the same meaning.

The three “small” questions 

1. How can we be successful in the XY Show without taking a big space? 

2. How on earth can our small business compete with the bigger brands?

3. What can we do to make our stand visible to people on the show floor? 

Now I understand why these questions are asked.

Valuable money, time and reputation are at risk.

Mistakes for a small business can be costly and not just in terms of the money spent or sales unwon.

Small businesses often have concerns about being lost among their bigger spending competitors.

“Whose going to see us…How we will be noticed..”

Yet, this is a fact of life small businesses have to deal with every day in many other areas of their marketing.

Certainly beyond the world of trade shows.

So, my advice is to take heart, be brave and use the tactics I’m about to describe to compete with bigger-spending rivals.

Let’s answer those three questions.

1. Do you need a big stand space to have a successful trade show?

No, you don’t.

Many of our clients keep on proving that you don’t need a big space to have a successful show.

For them, a well organised and professionally designed stand on a modest space can work just as effectively.

A design that makes the most of the space and works with the stand’s position in the hall will help to achieve that “effectiveness.”

So, it’s important to work with a company that can help you create a stand design like the one I have just described.

Also, using a modular stand will be the most cost-effective option and the one that will enable the most visible impact to be created for the money available.

Coupled with investing in stand design, I’ve also found that having clear event objectives is another trait found in our most successful clients.

These are the businesses that use a pre-show promotional plan to support their participation.

Messages designed to attract the people who can make a big difference to the fortunes of the business.

Always keep in your mind that visitors attend trade shows in the main to find new ideas and solutions.

The size of the stand that those ideas come from is not important to them.

Anthony Booty of Guardian Display explains how small stands can compete with the giants at trade shows in this post from Exhibitors Only

Laing O’Rourke exhibiting very successfully on a 3m x 2.5m stand at CTBUH Exhibition, The Brewery London Excellent graphics, screens and lighting all in one small display (image courtesy of Guardian Display) 

2. How can a small business compete with the big stands in an exhibition?

First by showing up.

You need to be present at the events that are considered to be the leaders in your industry.

Doing this will put your business in the same arena as your bigger rivals. However, don’t see their presence as an impediment to your success.

Instead, benefit from all of the promotional pull that they have in the market.

Again, trade show visitors make the effort to attend events because they are seeking solutions and ideas.

They aren’t too fussed whether they find those breakthroughs on big or small stands.

Second, work every angle possible. 

Promote your presence to your clients and prospects.

Take part in the conference or seminar programme.

Submit entries for new product showcases and other forms of associated content marketing that trade shows offer.

Third, do the things those bigger boys and girls can’t.

Like displaying last minute additions, changes and updates to your product lines and displays.

Your business can be more nimble and work with shorter lead times than your bigger exhibitor rivals.

Joint-venture with other another non-competing exhibitors to get a bigger stand space or a better hall location.

Piggy-back content on the themes of the event in order to gain publicity before, during and after the show.

You can compete. And to grow your business you must compete.

3. What can you do to make your stand visible to people on the show floor?
  • Be different. Being clever and creative with artwork can pay off with a small stand
  • Make use of colour. Use plenty of striking colours to create visual attention
  • Big images in your artwork will help explain what you do more quickly to visitors as they approach your stand
  • They can also make a small stand appear bigger
  • If possible, get your stand into a high footfall area even if it means being on a small or irregular shaped stand. A good design can still make this work and you’ll benefit from the traffic
  • Effective lighting is important on a small stand. Don’t skimp. Be bright and bold. Be seen
  • Try to build-in storage space however small in order to keep your space un-cluttered
  • Don’t overcrowd a small stand with stand staff. Leave room for visitors to get on or into your space!
  • Avoid barriers. Keep the stand as open as possible
  • Using digital screens on a small stand can help to create a strong visual impact and they can arrest the attention of visitors long enough for you to start a conversation
  • Ensure branding is clear and visible from a distance. Don’t use a small type in your graphics as they won’t be seen
  • Use on stand attractions to get people to stop but keep them to scale in relation to the size of your stand and its shape
About the Author

Anthony Booty of Guardian Display explains how small stands can compete with the giants at trade shows in this post from Exhibitors Only

Anthony Booty is the Sales Director of Guardian Display, stand designers and builders who specialise in helping exhibitors transform their exhibiting results through more effective exhibiting and more effective stands and displays. Based in Southend, Anthony and his team work with clients taking part in events across Europe. Guardian is also the official branding partner of The Institution of Engineering and Technology at their prestigious London headquarters at Savoy Place. You can contact Anthony via LinkedIn.

Posted in Trade show advice  /  Trade show marketing  /  Trade show sales

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