3D Printing Trade Show Best Practices: Stand Design and Location

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As an interested party but by no means an expert on organizing stands at 3D printing trade shows, I’ve made a round-up, sharing ideas and best practices for your next booth.

Location, Location, Location

Whereas a lot of companies pay attention to the square-meters and their direct competitors, not a lot of attention is paid to surrounding stands. Often it pays to be next to stands that are very popular or have highly anticipated releases. It often actually makes sense to be next to direct competitors especially If they are much bigger firms.

Near bathrooms may not be considered the best areas to host a stand, but there are often very few locations at events with toilets. Especially if your product or service targets other stands, then being on a bathroom route may be good for you.

It was a pleasant surprise that WASP had two stands at Formnext 2021, one for their polymer printers, another for their clay machines. To me, this could be very advantageous, especially in a multi-hall show or a show with different zones to attract different customers. This helps you narrow your focus and may actually be cheaper in some cases.

Often there are key passages to other halls, which attract much more footfall than other stands and areas. I also frequently see marketing teams walk the halls on the last day to evaluate stand positions and where they want to be next year, awesome thinking!

Stand Features 

Word to the wise: attendees are grateful for every chair they can find. However, having a TV at the stand only really makes sense if you have a good video to match. I’d also suggest eliminating audio and opt for closed captions or subtitles. Otherwise, you’ll go nuts.

Those little meeting rooms hosted in a booth are actually quite expensive. Also, they’re never really that nice because they feel claustrophobic and make too much of an echo. Instead you may be able to rent a room a short stroll away with adult-sized proportions. The added benefit is that on your way there and back, you get to informally chat with your client.

Not a lot of attention is paid to the flooring materials. Often you may be able to get some flooring with printing on it to extend your message. Walls are often underutilized at big booths, conveying little in the way of information. In fact, some stands have giant walls that do nothing but act as walls.

A lot of attendees will be hunting for booth numbers to find out where they are or to locate a booth they’re looking for. By putting your logo and name near stand numbers, stand flags, or by making these more prominent, you will get noticed more.

Some booths are mazes or “block off themselves”, not allowing you to see their offerings. Many stands are very enclosed and claustrophobic from the inside. Booth space is very limited and making a tape outline of the stand on your office floor will tell you if things will work. Locating your models inside of a glass cabinet may make them easy to guard but may also make them difficult to photograph. I’d give everything at the booth, such as 3D printed models, a QR code, so people can find out more, bookmark items, and engage more later.

Shows will frequently be attended by hungry job hunters, who may be treated with disdain. However, most of us are in a war for talent. Smart companies have recruiting sections, screens, or posters to encourage eager talent to apply.

For businesses selling services at events, it could be advantageous to provide an email for the individual who is the right person for them to contact. A wall with the photos of key staff and a QR connecting you to them would be enough to let many attendees find the right person at your booth and to connect should that person be away.

Korean museums now feature a selfie corner where a perfectly lit exhibit with the museum’s name above it provide the perfect selfie opportunity. I don’t know if this would work for 3D printing trade shows, but more attention should be paid to if something will photograph well.

Goal, Learn Alone, Browse 

There are people that come to your stands with very goal-directed questions. Others want to learn by themselves. Still others just want to browse and be engaged.

Someone should be able to be left alone and get passed through your brand journey while learning just via clearly explained parts or photos. Those individuals should be capable of exploring and guiding themselves to knowing it all. Then, they should also be able to subscribe to something or to set up their own further engagement.

Ideally, booths should have a kind of Genius Bar area, where easy-to-approach employees can deal with directed questions. Few business bring customer service employees to the show, but they can be the perfect people to answer questions and will learn a lot from meeting clients.

Stands do not display very many inspiring items. What can you do to be inspiring? What can you show? QR codes with bookmarks, engaging videos, and ways to stay connected are key to letting people learn. They can also stimulate more engagement with the stand itself by showing a video of a machine in front of them, for example, or by explaining a key concept.

Industry veterans know that you folks have been making FDM printers for ages, but often attendees new to the industry or event don’t. Do explain yourselves, so that newbies know where to go.

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