Exhibitions can sometimes be soulless places. Despite this being one of the most dynamic parts of the meetings and events industry, there are times when one enters an exhibition venue and everything looks a little… samey.
It’s not surprising either, exhibitions can be expensive for exhibitors, and not everyone can design theatrical, immersive and experiential stands that can light up the show. In some areas there can be a visual spectacular, in other areas it can be a little bland. This isn’t the organisers fault either, increasingly they are looking to turn these events into wider experiences, and the better the exhibitors do, the better the show can look and feel; and that means profitable business is done.
So, how can we look at a new model of exhibition venue, one which is a little more unusual, and that can help both exhibition organiser and exhibitor? For us, it’s all about looking to the unusual.
We first cottoned on to this idea last year where we were looking at the very viable option of holding an exhibition in a sporting stadium like Twickenham or Bramall Lane (home of newly promoted Sheffield United!). These are sporting venues, but also meeting and events facilities with conference space for the educational and speaker programmes. We suggested using the hundreds of hospitality boxes, that these stadia have, as exhibition ‘stands’ and encourage the visitors to walk around the stadium, visiting each one.
It works too. It saves money for the exhibitor as they have a ready-made space and can choose to add-in extra branding as they wish. It also makes for an interesting journey for the visitor, going from box to box, and using the natural flow of the stadiums ‘bowl’ so they can be assured of seeing everything (unlike more conventional exhibitions where there are often little jewels hidden behind stands). This layout means the visitor has a start and a finish and can be assured that they have missed nothing.
It’s a compelling option, and one we got very excited about. But it also reminded us that sometimes, traditional models need to be reviewed and that the natural creativity of event organisers needs to be unleashed on some new thinking. What other opportunities are there in our little world of unique and unusual venues?
The main reason for ‘going unique’ is that these venues are already dressed, they come packed with history, heritage and theme. All of which can be used to benefit the general tone of the event, and that limits the amount of onsite branding necessary. On top of that, these venues have all the extras that one would expect; wi-fi and connectivity, audio and visual support, access, and even very yummy food; increasingly important for modern exhibitions. They also have conference facilities on sites, restaurants and bars, depending on what other elements you want to bring into your exhibition.
The question is though, how creative can we be? How can an exhibition come to life in a country house or castle? How about racecourses as well as other stadia? Space is abundant, and there are natural display areas for the big budgeted, attention seeking exhibitors. So the question is always around how one can give the exhibitors the right business environment.