Can conference exhibitors find a little sparkle?

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The exhibition hall is an important part of conference, along with the debates in the main hall, fringe events, training and, of course, the conference bar.

So why are so many of the stands so dull?

Exhibition, Lib Dem Spring Conference 2010, Birmingham
(not necessarily these ones, I hasten to add).

I know it’s not easy to come up with a novel and interesting stand, especially on a limited budget, and I’ll certainly plead guilty to being as unimaginative as the next man (probably more). But conference after conference the stands look much the same, in many cases just a few uninspiring leaflets scattered around on a table, with one or two dedicated souls (who have my complete admiration for their commitment to the cause) sitting, looking mildly bored and reading a paper.

Even the more expensive looking stands tend to look pretty much identical from one conference to the next, just with some nicer banners.

Now, I’m not suggesting a complete ground-up redesign of your stand, throwing thousands of pounds at it, for every conference. We’re all busy people and most of the groups aren’t flush with cash. But there are a few things that can make a difference.

  • Have a campaign, or a petition.  DELGA (who have a colourful stand) always manage to have a petition and some campaign materials to give out – this year there are some very nice leaflets and postcards (well done, Mr Page, your efforts haven’t gone unnoticed).
  • Do some multimedia.  Don’t try for an Internet connection – it probably won’t work – but you can almost certainly get hold of a laptop and a decent sized monitor to show some sort of film or presentation.
  • Hold events at certain times.  Like a mini-fringe, have something happening at your stand at particular times, such as a big name rolling up to chat to people.  Publicise it.  You might even want to use Twitter to let people know, or tell us at Lib Dem Voice.
  • Everyone loves a freebie.  It doesn’t have to be anything big, but if your budget can stretch to it, why not get some pens, badges, keyrings, mints or condomsstickers?
  • Get more imaginative than me.  The old staple at the Tech conferences I used to attend was the folks at Rackspace Hosting getting attractive young ladies who’d somehow forgotten to get fully dressed that morning handing out leaflets.  I’ve a hunch that wouldn’t go down quite as well at a Lib Dem conference, but there are plenty of ways to make an exhibition stand a little more interesting and have people visit it for reasons other than pity for the poor soul manning the thing.  In Bournemouth, one stand had a Wii for people to play on – why not!

The Exhibition Hall is a core part of conference, let’s make it a bit more fun.

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This entry was posted in Conference and Op-eds.
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8 Comments

  • Andrew Tennant 13th Mar '10 - 8:29pm

    Iain,

    Firstly, what’s a condomsticker?

    Secondly, that last point is genius!

  • Andrew Tennant 13th Mar '10 - 9:05pm

    Jennie, on your second point , I don’t know!

    With your first I’m worried conference is becoming a political Abercrombie and Fitch!

  • Ashley Dorrington 15th Mar '10 - 2:01pm

    Well I look forward to Lib Dem Voice’s stand at the Autumn Conference as they seem to know how to do it all. Should we all meet in Liverpool to take notes?

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