How to Build a Sustainable Exhibition Stand
By Deni Kirkova|
Sustainable events are a big part of who we are. So, our vision for AIME 2023 was to build a stand that's eco-friendly from start to finish. Here's how we did it.
We've set some ambitious targets to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2030. And we practice what we preach in all facets of the business.
So, our vision for The Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) 2023 was to build a stand that's eco-friendly from start to finish.
Something future-proof that can be repurposed and reimagined, with modular elements made as sustainably as possible.
As the leading trade event for the meetings and event industry in the Asia Pacific region, AIME was the perfect place to showcase our vision and capabilities.
Demand For Sustainable Events is Increasing
Suppliers, designers, exhibitors and event organisers are more aware of the impact we make on the environment. And they want to support sustainable businesses.
As a venue, we are leaders in sustainability and have an important role to play in educating the industry. But what’s needed is a whole-industry approach to create a flow-on effect. We need to work together.
AIME presented an opportunity for us to be an exhibitor in our own venue. We wanted to make our stand as sustainable as possible, to lead by example and to show what's possible.
Like anything, there's always room to improve, but it’s the little steps that help us to achieve our goals. Designing as sustainably as possible is better for the planet, more cost-effective, more convenient and – simply put – better design.
Choosing the Right Event Partner for Our Stand
We needed to partner with an agency that understood and delivered on our goals. It was important for us to work with a local supplier that uses an ecosystem of other local and sustainable suppliers.
Ideally, the signage, builder, furniture hire and entertainment would all be local. And we’d use our own internal teams for food & beverage and technology.
These requirements led us to partnering with specialist event design agency, JAK Creative & Events. They took our brief and sustainability criteria seriously to create a winning concept.
Kerryn Howell, Creative Director at JAK, says: “Over the last five-10 years, we have noticed that clients want event creative to be sustainable by design.
“It's an industry-wide change, and MCEC has had a lot to do with it. Achieving Green Star ratings of 5 and 6 stars for the Exhibition Centre expansion and Convention Centre made people take notice.
“The venue was the first to score so highly. With this, they became the most sustainable convention centre on the planet. It made people think, ‘If a business this big can do this, then we, as smaller businesses, can do it.’
“We now have event management companies and builders that specialise in sustainable events. It's an incredible shift for the industry."
Kerryn says designing sustainable events is about having a long-term vision. Isolating each element through a microscope and thinking creatively, ‘How can each part be modular and produced as sustainably as possible?’
For MCEC, the stand needed a three-year lifespan and to be flexible in design. The components of the stand have been designed to be used for AIME year on year and for branded activations at other times of the year.
Kerryn says: “It’s not a perfect system, but we can do a lot better. If everyone designs more consciously, we can improve every time. It’s about trying harder to create a ripple effect.
"The more we ask our suppliers how sustainable they are, the more they’ll ask themselves how sustainably they can do things. More and more end clients are asking for sustainable solutions, so everyone ends up making better choices.”
How to Create a Great, Sustainable Expo Stand
Branded exhibition stands are supposed to create proximity to your brand. They should be instantly recognisable and allow people to have a positive experience.
Great designs will speak to the customer’s curiosity and make a moment of delight. An activation can help people fall in love with your brand and understand your personality and capabilities. These are the kinds of things to put in your design brief. And to make it as sustainable as possible, follow our guide below.
Top Tips for Exhibitors
The easiest thing you can do is hire as many things as possible. Hire your exhibition stand components, furniture and styling. Some suppliers have these systems in place already.
Add sustainability criteria into your design brief and use this as part of the procurement process when selecting a supplier. It can be hard to know where to begin but you can get an idea for your brief from our criteria, below.
With a custom build, choose a style with modular elements that can be repurposed or reused in different configurations several times. Design your stand so that it's flexible in size and design.
When choosing finishes, choose one that’s readily available. Avoid end-of-line finishes and elements. Kerryn says: "If it's in plentiful supply, there's a better chance we can refresh it for the next use."
Opt for digital signage, which has a high impact. It eliminates the need to print and is easy to change if the content is not resonating.
MCEC’s Stand for AIME 2023 Leads the Way
JAK Creative & Events started designing for our Club Melbourne awards many years ago. And last year, for the first time, the agency came on board to design the activation component of our AIME stand. This demonstrated how they could activate space and generate engagement in an exhibition.
For this year’s AIME, the agency correctly interpreted our brief and brand to win their pitch to us. They worked with MCEC teams to conceptualise, design and construct our expo stand and activate Goldfields Café + Bar. After AIME, all elements will be stored and refurbished for use on our AIME stand over the next three years.
Kerryn says: “We love working with colour and brands, and we could do it very sustainably without compromising on design.”
This is how the partnership for AIME 2023 came about. We put out a brief with certain criteria to encourage sustainability, from choice and procurement of materials to their lifespan and how to dispose of them.
MCEC is a sustainability leader within the business events industry with a robust 5-year strategy. To drive substantial change across the industry, the stand must reflect MCEC’s commitments to a sustainable future, while supporting MCEC’s pledge to the EEAA Sustainable Events 2030 Pledge. The use of sustainably sourced materials should be considered and materials that can’t be repurposed or recycled should be avoided. Where possible, materials should be sustainability sourced and disposed of.
The guidance to sustainability will now also serve as a future reference document when sourcing suppliers.
Our Sustainable Vision: Thinking Beyond the Trade Show Floor
Each element was designed to be modular and reusable. Their life span included three years of AIME plus other activations over the years.
We've taken care to build something structurally sound from the outset. We know we can reuse it over and over, and it will stand the test of time.
Post-AIME, components of the stand will be reused in venue activations and by our catering team. The aluminium frames of the fabric banners can be cut to another size, reused and recycled, while the fabric can be sent back to the supplier and recycled. The rigging for the fringing was hired, and the fringe draping will be reused.
The stand itself was made from wood; purpose built to be modular. Its individual components will be reused. They can be painted and reconfigured year on year adapting to new layouts, colour palettes and floor plans. Meanwhile, the furniture and greenery were selected from a local hire supplier. And we used LED lighting for lower energy consumption.
Incorporated into the design was a custom neon sign that we commissioned in 2019 and branded rings that were used in a previous activation, which can be reused for years to come. And we used digital screens where possible to display video content, branding and images.
To complement this, we designed digital sales collateral for the event in-house, making the need for printed collateral on the stand obsolete. Instead, we had QR codes. And our sales team used their laptops and a digital presentation during meetings. We also created digital business cards.
Our skill tester claw machine activation used plastic refillable balls. We saved and refilled these each day and gave them back to the hire company after AIME to be reused.
Within the balls were food items produced by our in-house pastry chefs and coffee vouchers for Goldfields Café + Bar. Food items were not further packaged. Plus, we made sure we only created enough for the two days to avoid excess food waste. Meanwhile, the vouchers were saved and disposed of appropriately.
All in all, our stand was bold, engaging and delightful while eco-conscious from start to finish.
Looking for a sustainable and globally revered venue for your next event? Reach out to the team and discover the difference.