When I walk round Agricultural Shows, instead of taking notes on which exhibiting businesses I might contact in the future, I take a quick reference photo. These photos are quick, unobtrusive snaps capturing the stand as a whole and includes the business name. Other than making sure passersby don’t get in the way of the shot, I make no consideration for timing, artistic or technical quality of the photograph itself. It is what it is, a snap collected at a random moment during the show.
But, when I get back to base, there’s very often something very revealing in each of these shots. And frequently it is something negative. For me, at least, I find it much easier to spot such things when I am back at base, quietly concentrating on the specifics of the stand and its staff. Unlike the ever-dynamic environment of a show, with one’s attention being pulled this way and that. Its a bombardment of visitors, stands, tannoy announcements and commentary, animals(!), colleagues, friends, VIPs etc.
Its not easy presenting one’s business in such an environment, let alone doing the hard yards of being on your feet all day interacting with stand visitors. I know, I’ve done it. So the following isn’t meant to point the ugly finger of shame at any business honestly trying to make a strong impact. On the contrary, it is meant as a quick and helpful, if not very comprehensive, checklist of things to avoid that I see on a regular basis in these reference photos.
8 things to avoid
- Stand staff eating on the stand – just think Ed Miliband and bacon sandwiches and you’ll never want to eat in public again. Yes I know its tough being on stand all day, but its a bad look!
- Undercover stand staff – it is often very difficult to tell whether the individuals on stand are staff or visitors. Badges may not be enough if you’re more than 10 feet away. Staff with bright lanyards are much easier to spot, from pretty much every angle. And if a full uniform is inappropriate or impractical, then branded fleeces or polo shits work very well. You’ve spent much resource branding every item on your stand, so why are your staff so difficult to identify?
- Say what your business does – yes really, many stands believe it is possible to attract customers using their business name alone. Maybe the kit displayed is a big clue. or maybe the business name itself holds a clue. But really, is it such a problem to say what you do and who you do it for?
- Don’t spoil your ship for a ha’p’orth of tar – great branding, smart marquee, attentive staff, impressive kit display. So why did you think it would look good advertising your show specials using your office laminator and mono A4 laser printer, then sellotaping the results to the kit?
- Barriers to entry – you want visitors don’t you? So what is that picket fence doing blocking access to 75% of your stand frontage? Why did you place a large branded mat in front of your marquee – I wouldn’t want to walk across that if I have muddy boots. And why have you placed your hospitality tables across the front of your stand? If they are occupied, who’d be comfortable pushing past to talk to your staff?
- Carefully fanned brochures – if a visitor taking a brochure ruins the ‘look’, then the ‘look’ is getting in the way of your objectives. Stack your brochures or leaflets, and have plenty.
- Stand staff in deep conversation with each other – not everyone would want to interrupt. If you’re going to chat, and why not, then stay facing forward and ready to meet visitors eyes.
- Call off your guards – you’ve got great displays with plenty of engaging content but your staff are standing between the displays and your visitors. A visitor is much more likely to look at the displays prior to initiating a conversation, so get the displays out front.
A dispassionate view
But more than the above list, I would like to encourage exhibiting businesses to find ways of taking a dispassionate view of their stand during the show. If that is via randomly and candidly taken photographs then so much the better. It can be a huge help in finessing your presence at future shows.