17th June 2009

The Dos and Don’ts of Using Video on a Trade Stand

The days when a big plasma screen in itself would impress passers by have long gone. You must put as much thought into the display itself as the content playing on it. . .

Michael Kilcooley is a producer at Meantime Media a video production company specialising in videos for trade stands and exhibitions.


Tel: 44 (0)1453 887733


The days when a big plasma screen in itself would impress passers by have long gone. You must put as much thought into the display itself as the content playing on it.

A video playing on a trade stand has two specific jobs to do.

It must simultaneously act as a filter and as a magnet. It must filter the time wasters and draw in the potential prospects.

Our research at dozens of large exhibitions shows that the average passer by at a trade stand allows no more than one minute, per stand, to take in the entire offering. Video is a great way to condense your message in this situation but getting it right can be tricky. You will spend a lot of money hiring the screen so the video you play on it should be working hard to generate leads.

The brief for an exhibition video should conform to the following spec – otherwise you are probably better off without it:

1. The screen must be where passing prospects can see it. Remember, the purpose of the video is to filter passers by into those who have no interest in your offering (whom you can smile at and ignore) and those potentials who may be converted to customers (whom you approach politely like a crocodile who has just seen lunch) It will do neither of these if it is placed at knee level at the back of the stand.

2. If possible try to integrate the screen into the design of the stand. You do not have to use it landscape (sideways)…it might work better in an upright mode – maybe scrolling content from bottom to top.

3. Don’t expect to re-use existing corporate video material without at least editing it specifically for the exhibition you are at. To simply slap an existing demo video on the plasma screen is wasting a valuable sales tool.

4. Do not use sound – at all – ever. This means: no talking heads, no interviews, no customer testimonials and no music. If the message can’t be put across entirely visually then don’t attempt it on a trade show video screen. Why? Because, even if the customer can hear it close-up, chances are that by mid-afternoon on day one of the show your people manning the stand will have turned the sound off in order to protect their sanity.

5. Content should run for no more than 90 seconds in total. This should be looped indefinitly and run continuously throughout the day. No pauses for ‘rewind’ or menus. Within this content, the passing viewer should never be more than 15 seconds away from your key proposal. That means re-stating the key message every 15 seconds – visually - as a caption or banner or 5 second demo.

6. Make sure your people manning the stand are briefed on how to approach someone watching the video. They should know to keep an eagle eye out for the people who pause to watch the video and be ready to approach them. Don’t ask “can I help you”? because the answer will always be no. A nod and a smile is enough to start with and after 30 seconds or so. This will either drive them away (good that was a time waster) or allow them to take in your offering and approach you.

7. When taking details, ask for the email address so that you can send them the “full version” of the video or a version specific to their interests. This gives you a strong reason to follow up and sell the next stage – the meeting.

8. When watching your video alongside a potential customer try to seem as if it is as interesting and exciting to you as first time you saw it. Don’t make excuses for anything in the video which is out of date or no longer relevant. Partly because anything which is not totally current shouldn’t be there but mainly because knocking your own product doesn’t help gain customers.

9. If you do generate a lead from someone watching the video ask them what theyt think and and what they would like to see on a video from a company such as yours. It all adds to getting the content right for the next show.

10. Don’t run PowerPoint presentations on plasma screens. Exhibition stands are completely the wrong forum for PowerPoint Invariably the text is too small to read and in any case what use are bullet points without an explanation? Also, don’t use laptops or small screens, these are for the follow-up meeting. Time on a trade stand should be used to generate leads – not to make presentations.

A final word, not related to video but very important –

Never be seen eating lunch on your trade stand – just don’t ever do it. Nothing drives customers away more effectively. If you do eat or drink on your trade stand make sure you are wearing the correct badge – the one that reads - Sales Prevention Manager!