Stephen Lindsay is the Projects Director for DMN Design Build, where he specializes in experiential marketing, exhibition stand design and exhibition services in London. He has worked in the exhibition industry for more than 40 years, starting on the shop floor and working his way up to Production Manager. His responsibilities include overseeing the smooth transition of all projects from sales into production.
How to Use VR in Your Expo Booth Without Draining Your Show Budget
The use of Virtual Reality (VR) at exhibitions is growing but so is the cost and the complexity. So how do you use VR with your exhibition and how do you do it without spending all of your budget?
To find out, we’re looking at what VR is, why that matters for exhibit stand builders and how you can use VR in your booth and manage the cost. We also look at VR in use to give you some inspiration for your next event.
What is VR?
Virtual Reality builds or recreates spaces digitally. What makes VR exciting is what you can do in these spaces, which is almost anything.
The equipment required for VR at exhibitions is relatively compact and straightforward enough involving headsets, controls and a computer. The complexity and power VR actually comes from the content that powers this technology.
Why does VR matter at exhibitions?
The power of VR comes from its ability to immerse those using it in whatever they are experiencing. For businesses, this immersive capability holds real power, particularly at events.
At events, capturing people’s attention is vital and any tool that can help you do this in the hustle of an exhibition is exciting to exhibitors. Virtual Reality doesn’t just capture attention, it can actually transport your audience out of the show itself.
What can you do with VR?
Virtual Reality has very few limits other than budget and time. If you can afford to do the technology, you can build whole new worlds for audiences to explore. The reality with exhibitions is that you usually have to come up with something a little more practical and a little more cost effective.
The most common uses of VR at exhibitions tend to focus on delivering engaging but straightforward experiences, such as:
Products demos– where customers can see your product doing what it does best. You can give your products back the context and excitement that the exhibition hall can strip away.
Virtual conferences– If you have speakers of note, why not share the experience? You can use VR to let people join the conference from anywhere in the world and not lose the experience of being there.
Games– VR is mostly used to create something that brings a little fun to your audiences exhibition day. Letting them engage with your brand in a playful way. Games are easy and fun for audiences to interact with and usually attract attention.
Experiences– You can also create truly memorable experiences that could be anything from hand-gliding over the grand canyon to immersing your audience within a story. More and more brands are building bespoke branded VR experiences at events to bring their brand’s story to life.
Tours– Another significant advantage of VR is the freedom to explore. You can recreate whole factories and beyond to let your audiences see your company in action. This means if you’re presenting abroad, they can personally experience the heritage and values of where your company is based.
What you’ll need
Being able to build such engaging and personalized experiences with your brand is extremely persuasive and can’t be ignored. The perception of VR is that it will be challenging and expensive but that is not necessarily true. If you know what you want to achieve and what you need, you can manage the cost of the experience.
When it comes to what you’ll need, there really are only three things to consider:
VR content– for people to experience
VR Equipment– for people to use
Space– for people to take part
How you deliver these three then determines how you control the cost, so what do you need to consider and how do you manage the cost of VR?
To keep control of the cost of VR within your exhibition budget, you need to consider how you intend to deliver the key points above. The best way to do this is to ask yourself a few important questions about your planned experience and look at each element to see how best to respond.
What is your content?
This should be tied to your brand and your stand. Are you delivering an experience, a game, a virtual tour or a conference?
Who’s creating the content?
Most companies tend to outsource this to experienced partners but that’s not always necessary. Once you know what the content is you can assess who is best placed to create it. For example, if you are creating a game you might need a gaming company, however, if you are live streaming a conference you may be able to manage this in-house.
Where is the VR to be used on your booth?
Plan how VR sits within your booth experience. For some exhibits, this may be the centerpiece but that’s not always the case. By planning the location and position of your VR into the design of the booth, you can help make considerable savings. As each element will be purpose-built for the experience, you will avoid having to make costly amends to the structure of the booth after the build has begun.
Where are you getting the VR equipment from?
Where you get your VR can also affect the cost. Most companies at exhibitions hire the equipment or the people designing the content to supply it but there are other options. This is particularly relevant if you are planning on attending more than one exhibition or event.
Careful sourcing can help make the experience one you can repurpose or even rebuild. If hiring the equipment, check out different suppliers, particularly if moving the booth around. Often local suppliers to the event might be cheaper than taking the equipment yourself.
The other option is purchasing your own equipment, which if you are planning on using VR regularly can be a lot more cost-effective. If you are considering this approach, you may want to think about what level of equipment you’ll need. Does your content need a highly specialized kit, or could you manage with off-the-shelf equipment like Oculus Rift or even Google Cardboard? By buying consumer-grade equipment, you could save a lot of money.
How much space?
The great thing about VR is that it takes up a relatively small space. So once you know what you are using, you can plan how much space you will need on your exhibit. From a cost perspective, this might mean that you don’t need as big a display as other exhibitors.
For example, if you are doing VR product demos, you might need fewer products on display, which is particularly useful for companies producing larger items.
If you plan the VR in advance and know how and where you are using it, you can make considerable savings. It allows you to build it into your exhibition from day one and manage the cost as simply another aspect of the build.