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Exhibition fatigue – is your stand causing it?

There are few more tiring business activities than attending exhibitions. From the moment you step into the hall, you’re bombarded by noise and crowds. Some stands are mobbed, and you need to wait if you want to talk to someone. Others have a visitor shortage, and you slink by, hoping the salesperson doesn’t catch your eye. The overwhelming impression for visitors is the visual noise – screaming logos, shouty colours, large letters, big statements – everything overblown and overstated to grab your attention.

But most people’s attention is finite. After the first couple of attention-grabbing stands, they get exhibition fatigue. Instead of looking appealing, as the day wears on, these stands start to look tawdry and despite their desperate attempts to be different, the sameness of them is what strikes the visitor. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Good design is not loud design. Well – sometimes it is, if that’s what’s called for. But perhaps we can take a lesson from the Japanese – they’re lavish with neon when neon is needed, but masters of severe white minimalism when simplicity is called for. At present, most exhibitions are more Times Square than cherry blossom time.

But you don’t go shopping in a Westfield mall and find that every shop facade is shouting louder than the last one. The designer shops understand that less can be more, and that elegance can be a great crowd puller. Maybe every company should ask themselves “How would the Italians do this?” before they sign off on their exhibition stand design.

A good exhibition designer will try and work with the client to extend their visual references and move them away from the “coffee, business card and a brochure” model. Why not a head massage and a green tea, even if you are showing farm machinery? Business people aren’t as boring or homogenous as most exhibition stands assume they are.

Before businesses talk to their exhibition stand designer, they should perhaps try and extend their visual references. If you’re in meat packing, take a look at how the fashion designers do it (you can be sure they wouldn’t hesitate to borrow some meat packing themes if they thought it would move frocks).

The worst offenders in terms of loud and boring stands are the ones that haven’t used a specialist exhibition designer at all. They’ve got the corporate communications function to dust off the stuff they took to the last exhibition, but with an updated brochure (yawn). On most exhibition stands, you’d think that YouTube and the rest of the media revolution had never happened.

A designer can suggest additions to the exhibition space that engage delegates, and give them some reason to interact with the people on the stand. And if an exhibitor chooses a designer with a complete service, they will also manage the exhibition stand contractor, to ensure that the design ideas become a reality. That way, at the end of the day the stand should still look fresh and interesting – even if no one else does.


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