James Mayes

Observations on exhibition hall technique

In Social Media, SXSWi on April 13, 2010 at 8:24 am

I’ve managed a couple of non-SXSW posts recently – but as we’re still very much in conference season, I’m going to return to the event once more for blogging inspiration.  I’m conscious that in conference terms, there aren’t many events on the scale of SXSW – and as a result, there was probably more diversity there in terms of engagement style than almost any other event.  One aspect that particularly struck me – the stands in the trade hall.

These are usually pretty dull affairs – piles of leaflets, maybe some free USB memory sticks with a presentation about the company on there. Two or three staffers who were hitting the hotel bar pretty hard the night before. You know the thing, I’m sure.  Well, here’s a few things that stood out in Texas which might be useful inspiration in future – and perhaps even help trade exhibitions become less dull!

The busiest stand the whole time was a small firm promoting image tools.  Not necessarily the hottest technology in Austin terms, but they did have….. HOT DOGS & BEER!  Cheap, simple,  and hugely effective. Constantly a queue of people looking for a free lunch and always happy to talk to the exhibitor whilst waiting for it.

Business cards. They’re a standard size, with some standard information on them.  Why?  An exhibition or conference is a very specific thing in time and space which usually leaves a lasting impression.  Business cards are cheap enough to get something specific to the occasion.  Most of the best examples at SXSW came from Moo, a British company now taking on the USA too.

One that stood out for the wrong reasons was a hosting company. They had a fairground style attraction, one of these things you need to hit with a huge hammer to ring the bell at the top. Amusing for 30 minutes, but quickly turned into a noise which annoyed everyone else for the next three days. Shame actually, as the people on that stand were probably the most passionate in the hall when it came to representing their brand.

Finally, a trick we on the Digital Mission stand missed. The stand itself looked great, with a double-decker bus as the backdrop and Union flags everywhere.  We had a couple of plasma screens for demonstrating various bits of software from the companies there. All well and good. However, this was a male-dominated event held over a weekend where both 6 Nations rugby and Formula One racing was on.  If we’d given over one of the screens to some of the sporting action, I’m pretty certain we’d have drawn a regular crowd for those reasons. Next year maybe!

As always, comments, thoughts and reactions are welcome!

  1. James,

    It is a tech show and still people are turning out the old paper leaflets and cards – where is the innovation? I know you share my views on that – but when will companies get the kahunas to just be a little different…………..just for a change!

    Andy

  2. Ha! Love the description of the lacklustre sales people and piles of leaflets. Personally I hate all the wasteful BUNK that’s thrust at you at these events. Years ago I was often on the Nike booth at trade shows, and we used to book enough space to have a street dance display team performing at scheduled times throughout the day. Always drew a crowd and gave everyone a bit of entertainment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: