What we Learned at CPhI 2014

Rich Hudson

by Rich Hudson

10th October 2014

Yesterday I wrote about attending CPhI.  Today I am going to summarise what we learned from the experience in our CPhI Europe 2014 Review.

I bumped into a range of customers and suppliers at the conference, which is always valuable; networking and relationship building are important.  But if I’m honest, the most valuable thing I brought away from CPhI was how much it taught me about exhibiting.

To begin, here are a handful of tips for exhibitors:

Be Sociable

If you’re manning a stand, spend as much time as you are able on your feet, engaging with people as they walk past.  Don’t hide inside your stand and allow people to drift by without looking – every person who does this is a missed opportunity.  Make eye contact.  Smile.  Break the ice.  It’s not rocket science, yet many people fail to grasp even the basics (some examples of which can be found towards the end of this article!).

Arrange Meetings Beforehand

The more groundwork you can do prior to an exhibition, the more you will get out of it while you are there.  Review the list of attendees and highlight any you want to touch base with.  It’s a given that you should consider potential customers, but don’t neglect existing customers or suppliers.  Many of the larger stands at CPhI had integrated meeting rooms – but there were plenty of communal meeting rooms and breakout areas which could be used by anyone.

Be Specific with your Offering

Don’t go to an event claiming that you can provide everything under the sun as this will only waste time.  I wouldn’t, for example, describe ReAgent as a ‘Toll Manufacturer’ because this could mean anything.  People’s requirements are much more specific, so exhibitors should be precise about their capabilities.

It would be a lot more valuable to claim ReAgent was a ‘Toll Blending and Packing Company, able to handle batches up to 7,000 Litres’ with class 7 cleanroom capabilities.’  (Incidentally, if you are looking for a Toll Blending and Packing Company, able to handle batches up to 7,000 Litres’ with class 7 cleanroom capabilities, let me know!).

Be Interactive

Stands which have some sort of audience participation work best.  Maybe you can enter people into a prize draw if they sign up to your newsletter?  Maybe you can offer them a freebie if they leave a business card?  Whatever it is, find something valuable to offer.  The more value you give away, the more people are willing to give you in return.

To cite an example at CPhI, Samsung had a particularly innovative stand where you could post pills into the mouths of virtual people and TV screens displayed how they would be processed inside the body.  The display was to demonstrate how different pill coatings were designed to be ingested at different stages in the digestion process; some pill coatings being dissolved relatively early in the digestion process (in the stomach) and others relatively late (in the lower intestine).

CPhI Europe 2014 Review: Characteristics of a Great Stand

There was a wide range of exhibitors at CPhI.  Companies of every size and shape imaginable were present, from all over the world, with budgets ranging from shoe strings to blank chequebooks!  But you don’t need a huge floor plan or a big budget to make a good stand; it just needs to be welcoming, engaging and concise.

The best stands were ‘clean’ and ‘clinical’.  They had an open-plan feel to them, with displays clearly stating what they did.  They had comfy furniture and integrated meeting space where possible.

At the ’extreme’ end of the scale, the major players were quite obviously trying to out-do one another by having the biggest, most impressive stand.  I admit I did see some incredible stands with some amazing features.  I saw stands with built-in bars where they would hold networking events, integrated private meeting rooms, dancers, singers, live demonstrations… pretty much everything you can possibly imagine.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but feel that some of the bigger stands were a little ‘over-the-top’ and the companies doing this were doing it ‘because they could’ rather than because it was commercially sound.  One stand, for example, had two grand pianos.  Another stand had a VW camper van inside it.  I’d bet any money that I could have halved the budgets of some of these companies and achieved exactly the same end result from the exhibition.

At the other end of the scale, some of the stands were utterly atrocious.  Many were unwelcoming in their design, or staffed by people who were unwelcoming in their nature.  Some of the furniture looked like it was about to fall apart.  There were also loads of stands which were poorly laid out, cluttered, or minimalist beyond any logic.

Thus, I present to you the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from CPhI 2014!

The Good

This company had a double-decker stand, with private meeting rooms above – an innovative use of space, albeit a costly one!


The Good: An innovative use of space at CPhI

This company went for an open-plan stand with displays clearly conveying what they did, with plenty of meeting space:


The Good: Open-plan stand at CPhI

The Bad

I’m all for minimalism but this company has taken it way too far:


The Bad: Minimalism taken too far

As for this one, it’s difficult to criticise… because there isn’t anything there to criticise:


The Bad: An empty stand

….And The Ugly!

Finally, no matter how bad it gets, never fall asleep when you’re manning a stand – it will do you more harm than good!


The Ugly: Try not to have a nap whilst exhibiting!


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