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A How-to Guide to Exhibit Design in the Post-Covid Era

Smart stand layout

Event organisers are already widening main aisles and implementing one-way traffic. To capitalise on this with stand designs, angular layouts directly addressing pedestrian flow will be vital. To avoid congestion, stands should also implement one-way movements through their space, employing wayfinding graphics in the form of lines and floor markings. Wall and freestanding signage can also be used, though the accent should be very much on integrated and intuitive solutions rather than imperious commands. Careful attention to tone-of-voice will be paramount.

Transparent panels and wall segments will be abundantly-available for designers to use, offering high levels of visibility to reassure visitors, especially when moving around corners or across intersections. Last, but not least, stands will need to offer enough room for visitors to move safely within the exhibit, leaving potentially more cramped public spaces behind. Making sure your stand offers visitors not only a welcome, but a refuge, will only increase its attractiveness.

New materials to answer new demands

The materials you select for your stand design need to be anti-bacterial at least and preferably anti-viral. Materials with moisture-, bacteria- and mould-resistant finishes will help prevent the accumulation of pathogens and offer hospital-grade sanitation levels, as well as being easy to clean. Widely-used Polyrey, homogenous solid surfaces from Kydex or antimicrobial surfaces from Silestone are good choices, for example, for unit design and oft-touched countertops. Where possible, copper fixtures should be used because of its antiviral properties. You can apply sheet copper materials to reception desks and unit tops and re-use them in future designs. If this doesn’t appeal, materials which have copper compound nanoparticles infused into them are also a great choice.

For the same reasons, instead of carpets, consider cork flooring. With social distancing in mind, cork will also work wonders in terms of insulating sound and will ensure comfortable acoustics in an open meeting space.

Furniture and spatial hierarchy
Large meetings in an enclosed spaces will no longer be ideal and there will be a rise in the use of semi-private meeting areas for smaller numbers of people. To make the most of this, screens and dividers should be used. Seating will need to be positioned at 2m distances, allowing for larger furniture pieces to fill the space and aid private conversations as visitors will feel more comfortable and natural talking from eg the ends of two longer sofas than if the space was too dispersed.

New technologies

Contrary to expectation, interactive areas don’t need to disappear completely and we shouldn’t fear the use of touch technology. iPads, touchscreens, models and products can be treated with antiviral surface coatings, preventing the spread of Coronavirus through touch.  However, touchless interaction should of course be considered as well, as not everyone will feel comfortable using a touch screen, even with clear reassurances, making gesture technology a good option. Airports are already testing check-in kiosks with sign detection and this could be the future for trade show stands too. QR codes should also be used in interactive zones instead of brochures. Accessing content through phones is not only convenient, but the information is stored in the device and can be accessed by visitors at any time in the future.

The adaptation of current materials and technology to adhere to new strict anti-viral regulations will no doubt mean a higher cost. The answer here should also be a longer-term and more sustainable strategy. Choose long-lasting products with the aim of reuse, for example and consider modular systems as part of your stock and move towards a sustainable business approach.

•Article With thanks to exhibition news

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