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Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting your message across powerfully, practically and persuasively - rule of three.

The next time you are at a trade fair or exhibition take time out to do a 360 degree whirl, view the banners and give them a score out of ten. You won’t find many that grab you.

Here is an opportunity to make yours work when others don’t.

I visit the NEC and ICC regularly and in a day take in several hundred of these displays. The number that stay in the mind are pitiful. Assume your audience scans you for a couple of seconds at max.

A visit to Earls Court or Olympia, provides fertile ground for observing one of the most misused business marketing tools around. We are talking of the seven foot pop-up roller banner and its cousin, the airship-dimensioned display frame. Erected apprehensively, knowing they may collapse on you or snap down like a mouse trap. We have all been there.

How many of them really catch the eye? Have company managers dominated the design process and content? Have the graphic artists, speech-writers and copywriters had their creative skills pruned? Have we kitted the stall-holders with tools that just don’t work? How many exhibitors pack up their displays, wondering whether the ROI has been justified? The same rituals are played out thousands of times a day.

This is how it goes. After an outlay for the stand, possibly running into thousands, our intrepid exhibitor lays out the gizmos to attract the punters. The bowl of sweets, key fobs, mouse pads and corporate blurb come out of the bag. The backdrops of course are the banners and this is what they remain - a glorious vehicle to market the organisation but woefully misused.

So where does it all go wrong? Well it could be the content of the banner for starters. There could be too much of it. As the punters walk the aisles they will give a fraction of a second to each banner, so you need something to bring them in. The name of the organisation and the logo don’t work and they are usually the dominant graphic and text. Punters want to know what you do, what makes you different and whether you are any good.

Banners can be run off in a day, but it takes time and skill to put one together which is eye-catching and discourages a high bounce rate. Walk the aisles and make a note of the banners which pull you in. Those that do make you think, tug at your emotions and give the reader something to do.

Next, borrow some rhetorical speech-writing devices from the political worlds i.e. rules of three, contrasting phrases, witty play on words and reversal phrasing eg “Building is what we do best and the best is what we build.” Useful and snappy copy for the press release and website. Living in a five second culture, we do not tolerate lots of text so keep it down. Cut out the jargon.

Space on a stand can be at a premium so why not use the banner itself as a demonstration tool? Something you can engage the client with. It is almost as if the production of the display banner becomes an end in itself when in reality it is a starting point for promoting goods and services.

Ineffective banners emphasise company name, logo and contact details and have no call to action. The punchline is simple: create banners that are pithy, witty and engaging.

Of course you need presenters who can bring them to life – but that is another story.

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