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Mastering Expo ROI
7 Minute Read

Stand design and structure - Step 6

Mastering Expo ROI
7 Minute Read

2018 MTROI Design

Creating the perfect area that will make visitors feel welcome.

In this post you will learn the best practices and some great ideas for your stand and how to make your ideal clients feel welcome.

You must prepare ahead for your stand design. This means preparing a floor and wall plan, knowing what furniture you need, floor coverings, electricity and lighting…

yes it's a lot – but that’s what we are here to help you through!

This post is part of a series of 17 steps to mastering your trade show ROI. If you haven’t already seen in you need to go back to the first post in the series that covers your goals and objectives. While you can take the information in this single post by itself and improve your results - you will have far greater success if you approach it like a mini course and move from one step to the next.

Get together with your operations and sales/marketing team leaders and decide how you want the display to be set-out. If you have already done a few shows then this will be pretty easy for you to do. Either way there are a few things you want to keep in mind when going through this exercise.

Think about the details, not just the big ideas. Sometimes a structurally simple stand can really impress with its up-close detail. What senses do you want to appeal to? Think about different textures, clever use of lighting, entrance points, technology and furniture. Do you want chill out zones or down to business areas?

If you are only doing a smaller 3x3 stand, this shouldn’t be much of an exercise for you as there aren’t too many options for you. When you are doing the larger 6x6m and bigger island stands – this becomes very critical to having an organised structured display.

Some of the core elements include:

  • Shelving:
    Any shelving you need or product displays – now is the time to draft up a plan on where everything is going as well. You will use this plan to present to the stand builder for quoting and the final design.
  • Lighting:
    Decide where you will need lights – have you got elements or certain products that you want highlighted? Lighting can make a big difference to the warmth and openness of a tradeshow display so make sure you look at this carefully. Again if you’ve been able to look at other shows and have got photos of different stands – go back through and look at what you liked or what looked professional to see how you can copy it.
    Lightboxes are a great way to add extra attention if you need to draw attention to a specific area. They do add a lot to your costs so you need to choose wisely. Often a few well-placed overhead lights can do a great job for half the price.
  • Flooring:
    This is another big portion of your stand design. It definitely makes a big impact and can really improve your stand when done correctly. You wouldn’t normally do raised flooring unless you are exhibiting in either an island display or a larger 3x6 and bigger shell scheme. It adds a lot to your costs and when you put flooring into a shell scheme and it makes it feel even smaller than it is with the raised floor.
    Carpet tiles are good for smaller stands although often an exhibition hall will have a standard carpet tile laid out already so unless you need a different colour for impact or need a specific texture – you will get a better return from your dollars by investing them elsewhere on the display.
  • Storage:
    Do you need a lockable area? If you are selling product you will need adequate storage space as well. Most companies will just need enough storage for their catalogues, promotional handouts and water or snacks only.
  • Reception Counters:
    Depending on your sales strategy – it is often a good idea to have a reception counter of some sort. A lot of displays come with cases that you can convert into a counter and these are great. Not only does it provide a point where visitors are drawn to but it also provides handy shelving for catalogues, mobile phone chargers and that spare bottle of water!
    If you don’t have a specific point of entry to your stand – often visitors will get lost very quickly and not know where to go or look… Using a reception counter makes it very easy for them to know where to go – especially if it's branded clearly and professionally.


You need to select strong, meaningful images and clear, solid messaging when working with your designers. This will give you the best chance of communicating your key message in a few seconds as a visitor approaches.

There are a lot of options with graphics, and this phrase still rings true. “A picture paints 1000 words”. Bolder images, fewer words and larger font. If you need to explain something in detail don’t do it with text – use images, charts, product demonstrations or videos.

I can’t stress enough the fact that you need to keep going back to your 1-PEP and looking at what is the key message or outcome you want from this event. You may have 10-15 different products or services and ways you can help your clients – but remember that speaking to everyone is speaking to no one. Keeping your message to that one main point will make it very easy for visitors to call you to mind and remember you after the show is finished. As soon as you start listing out all the benefits or ways you can help – your message is going to get lost in details and visitors will look at you as one of the many.

Technology continues to offer more and more opportunities to impress and doesn’t need to be costly or take up loads of space. Make sure you do your research in this area though. The most used and highly effective way of using technology on your stand is through video. You can get very well designed inbuilt screens for a lot of the stands out there and they often aren’t expensive. The main point to remember is that if you don’t already have video content that you can show – it will add another lot of costs to get one produced.

You only need a simple looping video that has enough interesting things going on that it makes visitors stop and draws them into the stand. It's also very useful if all your staff are tied up with prospects – people can still watch and learn about what you do while waiting to be served. Even though it’s not ideal, that all staff would be tied up – it can still happen – even with 10 staff on the stand. 

Hire or buy…?

On a small side note – you will need to think about whether you are hiring or buying at this point. With nearly all the components of a display – you do have this option. Your choice will really come down to how many shows you do in a year, whether you have the staff, and whether you can handle the logistics.

A company with only a small number of employees and doing 1 or 2 shows a year – will be a lot better off to hire flooring and furniture. There is a lot in both setting these two elements up and shipping to and from the show which eats into your time and resources. If you do fall into this category we still recommend buying your backwall or display. There are so many more uses for a good portable display than just the tradeshow and you will get years of value from it.

Larger companies and anyone doing more than 3 shows per year – it is definitely worth investing in buying gear and owning it. Some items you can pay as much to hire as you can to buy! Just remember that there will be storage costs if you don’t have your own warehouse.

Portable or Custom Built?

There are no hard and fast rules about whether you should have a portable display or a custom built one, although there are a few pros and cons for both that we will cover now.

Given our background in portable lightweight displays – in 80% of the cases we would recommend these over against the custom-built display.  The main reason is the obvious cost savings.

We've had companies doing 5-7 tradeshows per year and getting a custom-built display every time. With our portable self-build solution, they are now saving over $100,000 per year on their expo costs.

With a Custom-built display, you can still store it yourself and even set it up if you really feel like it, although you will end up wasting a lot of time and money in shipping and staff wages in doing all the prep and pull-down work.

Custom built are great when you have a lot of heavy wall attachments or unique lighting arrangements that you feel will give a better client experience. Just make sure you have done your budgeting correctly and can justify the once off expense with your expected ROI.

So that wraps up this post – hopefully by now you have a very clear plan on what you are putting where in your display and how you are going to do it. Now you need to get in touch with your designers and a display company to start making it a reality for you.

Click here to view the next post in the series.

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