Audio-visual decisions all too often come down to cost. But the
popularity and versatility of products is bringing prices down and it's
no longer just the big budget exhibitors and production companies that
are able to use advances in technology to showcase products and
Lower costs in the hire and supply of audio-visual equipment means that
the technology normally associated with large-scale outdoor events is
moving into the exhibition hall. And companies are finding new ways to
maximise the effectiveness of products such as video-walls and plasma
'They no longer need to be the focal point of a stand's design as long
as they enhance the overall exhibition environment,' says Qudos Design
director Anton Jerges. 'Consumers are already exposed to the technology
in everyday life so any impact the most expensive piece of kit may once
have had is now reduced.'
PSL, which is the preferred on-site A-V and presentation equipment
supplier for Excel, agrees. The company encourages clients to take
advantage of what can be achieved with the wide range of equipment
PSL estimates it holds about pounds 1m-worth of state-of-the-art
equipment at the London Docklands site. 'A plasma screen can be put in
the corner of a stand displaying the company message, but it will have
much more impact if it is integrated into the design or concept of the
stand,' PSL spokeswoman Michelle Cowan says. 'There is so much
audio-visual choice for all budget requirements and it is important that
exhibitors choose the equipment that will really work towards what they
want to achieve.'
Chris Bramwell, senior manager at Creative Technology NEC (formerly
Gearhouse NEC), says plasma screens are still the most popular A-V
solution in an exhibition environment. While Apex director Peter Forse
believes the best return on an investment in plasma technology is all
down to positioning.
'A plasma screen is often best situated high up on the stand so it draws
people in. Opting for interactive touch-screen technology can be
successful, but there is always the danger that it is only relevant to
one person at a time,' he says.
Video-walls are often used to combat the problems with positioning as a
16-cube video-wall will carry a 10ft by 12ft picture. 'Clients often
need to get the message across to as many people as possible and the
last thing you want is someone important four rows back not being able
to see,' says Mar-Com Presentations production manager Simon Prickett.
'Before opting for a video-wall the client needs to have carefully
considered its purpose and the impact of its content.'
Digital visual systems company SNP Group specialises in video-walls (or
media walls as they've become known because of their high-resolution
data capabilities). At one time, these large pieces of equipment were
more associated with launch events or custom-built stands but
developments in technology has created greater diversity for the
media-wall as an exhibiting tool.
'Most people opted for a media-wall if they needed scale, but their
increased flexibility has meant clients are adapting the width,
configurations and depth to suit almost any environment,' says SNP
marketing executive Emily Mardon-Taylor.
The depth of an average media-wall used to be at least two metres. That
has now been reduced to 40cms. Plasma Screen Company sales manager Gary
Clulow says: 'We even stock a Plasma wall that is mountable and only six
to eight inches deep. Some people hang them from a gantry system for
This reduction in size means the cost per sq m of exhibition space is
not as limiting as it once was. 'The walls we use for the exhibition
environment are now being used for point-of-sale messaging in window
displays with limited space,' SNP's Mardon Taylor says. 'Liquid crystal
display (LCD) technology means walls can withstand high ambient light
environments and have greatly advanced viewing distances.'
Manchester United FC has taken advantage of the developments in
video-wall clarity. The Premiership club has re-configured one into an
ultra-thin one-by-three cube wall and it stands as a mannequin-style
messaging unit in the clothes section of its club store.
Nick Matthews, commercial director at design agency Furneaux Stewart,
produces work using light-emitting diode (LED) technology. He argues
that where moving imagery is required, LED is an option that should be
'In an exhibition environment, the audio has restrictions on how far it
can travel. But the visual can be seen from the other side of the hall
if the right technology is used. Plasma screens allow the audio and the
visual to travel the same distance, but an LED screen emits brighter
images that can act as a moving signpost to a stand anywhere in the
hall,' he says. 'The exhibition environment is making way for brighter
stands that are not conducive to dark pictures. If a client uses a back
projection screen to show slides, the brightness of the stand will burn
out the picture. LED technology allows for brighter stands wishing to
use strong visuals that will be seen from a long distance.'
Whatever the technology, good use of A-V involves careful consideration
of content, positioning and cost.
'There are so many products on the market, all of which can contribute
to a successful A-V solution. But so much depends on the message. It is
no good throwing money at an exhibition stand if the content and use of
technology adds nothing to the overall message,' says Interactive New
Media joint managing director Fergus Mitchell.
Most A-V companies include delivery, collection, installation and a
24-hour back-up service as part of the cost but it is always advisable
SNP Group hire costs
Clarity 40-inch SVGA Data/Video cubes (80cm by 60cm)
2 by 2: pounds 800 daily/pounds 2,400 weekly
3 by 2: pounds 1,200 daily/pounds 3,600 weekly
3 by 3: pounds 1,800 daily/pounds 5,400 weekly
4 by 4: pounds 3,200 daily/pounds 9,600 weekly
5 by 5: pounds 5,000 daily/pounds 15,000 weekly
Impact Europe (to buy):
Pioneer PDP502 (50-inch plasma): pounds 7,990
Pioneer PDP402 (40-inch plasma): pounds 5,500
Sharp LC-20A2 (20-inch video and data): pounds 3,400
Sharp LC-15A2E (15-inch video): pounds 1,750
Plasma Screen Co hire costs
Plasma wall 100-inches: pounds 1,070 daily/pounds 3,210 weekly
50-inch PDP502 plasma screen: pounds 270 daily/pounds 810 weekly
50-inch SOPD1 plasma screen: pounds 230 daily/pounds 690 weekly
42-inch PFM42B1 plasma screen: pounds 225 daily/pounds 675 weekly
42-inch PFM500A3W plasma screen: pounds 180 daily/pounds 540 weekly
PSL hire costs: 50-inch plasma screen: pounds 1,050
40-inch plasma screen: pounds 780
20-inch LCD screen (data only): pounds 450
15-inch LCD screen (data only): pounds 265
20-inch Sharp flat screen (video): pounds 395
CASE STUDY: BT
'When investing in the audio-visual side of an exhibition stand, it is
important to remember they are temporary structures,' says BT account
director Charlotte Wilkinson-Prior. 'Big screen technology can be an
expensive wallpaper to any stand design. I believe in a low-tech,
high-impact approach that doesn't have to cost the earth. The best
approaches are innovative and make people sit up and take note.'
Wilkinson-Prior worked with PCI Live Design on BT's Can't see the wood
for the trees exhibit at Brighton's TMA exhibition last October.
Visitors were invited to cut through a forest of communication issues
and then were shown a wide range of BT solutions, through the use of
audio-visual and interactive demonstrations. 'We went for a visual way
of getting the message across by using a series of light-boxes to create
We created the impression of tree bark and then, when the light changed,
it revealed a back panel with different solutions to business issues
written on it,' she says.
- Apex, Exhibition House, London Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire,
SK11 7QX. Tel: 01625 429 370
- Creative Technology NEC, Unit 11/12 Second Exhibition Avenue, NEC
Birmingham, B40 1PJ. Tel: 0121 782 0433
- Furneaux Stewart, 16E Portland Rd, London W11 4LA.
Tel: 020 7792 9000
- Impact Europe, Calthorpe House, 30 Hagley Rd, Birmingham B16 8QY.
Tel: 0845 650 3076
- Mar-Com, 14 Silver Rd, White City, London W12 7SG.
Tel: 020 8740 7777
- MCL, Venture House, Daivs Road, Chessington, Surrey, KT9 1TT.
Tel: 020 8391 9700
- PCI, 3-18 Harbour Yard, Chelsea Harbour, London SW10 OXD.
Tel: 020 7544 7500
- PSL, Unit 2, 41 Humber Rd, London NW2 6EN. Tel: 020 8208 7100
- Plasma Screen Company, Unit 5, Wellington Industrial Estate, Spencers
Wood, Reading, RG7 1AW. Tel: 07000 752762
- Qudos,Constable Boat House, 15 Thames Street, Hampton, Middlesex,
W12 2EW. Tel: 020 8979 8880
- SNP Group, Unit 8 Brentford Business Centre, Brentford, Middlesex,
TW8 8LG. Tel: 020 8580 0000.