Since opening in 1976, Birmingham’s multi award-winning National Exhibition Centre (NEC) has become the UK’s largest and most popular venue for exhibitions and trade-shows, and hosts every kind of industry trade fair, exhibition and consumer show imaginable.
The NEC comprises 20 interconnecting halls, ranging in size from 1,300sqm to 25,000sqm and providing 186,000sqm total exhibition space, plus 160 acres of outdoor hard-standing, 75 acres of woodland and a 15,643 capacity arena. Coupled with state-of-the-art visitor facilities, it’s no wonder that the NEC is the go-to venue choice for so many event organisers.
The NEC’s size, reputation and accessible location at the heart of the UK help to ensure that exhibitors gain the best audience exposure for their products and services and generate valuable new business.
If you’ve never exhibited at the NEC before, the prospect of exhibiting at one of the world’s top ten largest venues may seem a bit daunting, particularly for overseas companies exhibiting at the NEC for the first time. To help reassure you we have put together this beginner’s guide to exhibiting at Birmingham’s NEC. This will give you a head start and to help make your experience of this world-class venue both enjoyable and successful.
Why exhibit at the Birmingham NEC?
The NEC hosts more than 140 events every year, including famous shows such as Crufts dog show, Clothes Show Live, Grand Designs Live and the Motorhome and Caravan show. More than 2 million visitors pass through the NEC’s halls, providing a rich source of potential customers for those who exhibit at the many major trade fairs and exhibitions held here.
How to get to the NEC
The NEC’s central location and unrivalled transport connectivity mean that it is easy to get to both for UK and international exhibitors. That said, we’d always advise exhibitors to arrive in plenty of time (maybe even the day before the event) to be on the safe side.
This will give you and your chosen exhibition stand contractor sufficient time to ensure that everything is present and correct with your stand, familiarise yourself with the layout of the venue and, if you’re staying overnight, time to plan your route from your hotel to the venue. Getting prepared in advance is the best way to ensure that any last-minute hitches can be resolved, and to calm any pre-event nerves.
Centrally located in the UK, the NEC benefits from superb transport links, enabling exhibitors to get there by road, rail and even air!
Incredibly, 75% of the UK’s population lives within a three-hour drive of the NEC, so if you’re transporting your own exhibition stand and accessories this is a great option. All you have to do is enter the NEC’s postcode – B40 1NT – into your satnav and you’ll find getting there is a piece of cake. The NEC is signposted from major routes and motorways including the M42, M40 and M6, and once you arrive it’s just a case of following the signs to your particular exhibition space and parking close by. Of course, you may have taken the option of using an exhibition stand contractor that offers a complete transport logistics and installation service (like *ahem* Aspect Exhibitions). In this case, you can just turn up in your own car and park in one of the NEC’s 16,500 parking spaces!
If you are travelling from overseas or taking one of the many domestic flights that fly into Birmingham, the transfer to the NEC really couldn’t be any easier. The rail link at Terminal 1 of Birmingham International Airport provides shuttle trains to the NEC every two minutes, and the journey takes just ninety seconds!
If you’re travelling light to your exhibition you can let the train take the strain. From Birmingham International Railway Station you can stroll, under cover, to any of the NEC’s exhibition halls within ten minutes. There are regular train services to Birmingham from stations throughout the UK, although you may need to change at Birmingham New Street station depending on where you’re travelling from. You can plan your train journey to the NEC using the National Rail Enquiries journey planner (http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/).
Getting to the NEC by bus is as easy as hopping on the National Express, Megabus or any of the other 120+ coach services that go to Birmingham International Airport from towns and cities UK-wide every day. From the airport’s Terminal 1, the NEC is a 90-second train journey away. If you’re travelling from Birmingham city centre, you can take the 900 bus (every 15 minutes) or the 97 (half-hourly). You can also pick up the 900 from Coventry or the 966 from Solihull.
You’d be unlucky to find a cabbie that couldn’t get you to the Birmingham NEC, but before you choose a taxi firm it’s a good idea to ensure that they’re reputable and reliable. You can do this by checking online reviews, or by booking with the NEC’s own recommended taxi company; details can be found at http://www.thenec.co.uk/visitors/getting-here/. Taxi ranks are clearly marked outside each of the NEC’s main entrances.
Overnight Accommodation for NEC Exhibitors
Exhibitors needing to stay overnight near the NEC will find an abundant choice of accommodation to suit every taste and budget. With the International Airport close by, all of the usual suspects – Hilton, Ibis, Crowne Plaza and Premier Inn – are present; however, there are many more options besides these. A comprehensive list of hotels near the NEC, with customer reviews, can be found on TripAdvisor (https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/HotelsNear-g186402-d1475116-National_Exhibition_Centre_NEC-Birmingham_West_Midlands_England.html)
It’s worth noting that for the biggest and most popular exhibitions, accommodation near the NEC can book up months in advance so it’s important to plan ahead if you need to stay overnight. If you’re driving to the NEC you might also want to check whether or not parking is included in the price of your stay.
Things to do in and around the NEC when you’re not exhibiting
At the end of a day’s exhibition, the NEC provides plenty of pleasurable ways to spend downtime. Although the sights and attractions of central Birmingham are only a short train ride away, the venue itself has much to offer by way of entertainment. Adjacent to the NEC you’ll find Resorts World Birmingham; a state-of-the-art shopping and entertainments complex.
In addition to a range of outlet stores, Resorts World also offers a spa, a hotel, an eleven-screen Imax cinema, a casino and a new virtual reality gaming centre. You’re unlikely to go hungry or thirsty either, with a total of eighteen restaurants, bars and cafes to choose from, ranging from favourites such as Pizza Express, Nandos and TGI Fridays to the award-winning cuisine of Waters Restaurant.
Choosing an exhibition contractor to help
If you have booked your exhibition space you will almost certainly need to engage the services of a reliable and reputable exhibition stand contractor to build your stand, maximise your presence and show off your products and/or services to their full potential. Even if you’ve booked a shell scheme stand, a good exhibition stand contractor will help to ensure you stand out from the crowd.
The safest option for finding a good exhibition stand contractor is to visit the website of the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) (https://www.essa.uk.com). Exhibition stand contractors that are members of ESSA are bound by a code of conduct; this gives you assurance that they are reliable, trustworthy and committed to high standards of service.
Using an experienced exhibition stand contractor – especially one that is familiar with the logistics and layout of the NEC – can save you time, money and worry, allowing you to concentrate on the important business of making your time at the exhibition as productive as possible.
Get the most from your exhibition stand at the NEC
At Aspect Exhibitions we have long experience of providing services to exhibitors at the NEC; as a result, we know this amazing venue inside out. We pride ourselves on providing everything you could possibly need in order to gain the maximum benefit from exhibiting at the Birmingham NEC. Here’s a quick overview of our main services:
Planning, designing and creating your exhibition stand
Once you have decided to attend your chosen event we can help you to choose the best location, size and layout for your stand space.
We can develop your exhibition stand ideas and requirements into an impressive high-impact exhibition stand that works for you.
As we offer custom build and a number of system solutions we can advise you, with complete impartiality, which solution is best for you and your budget.
When a design and quotation have been agreed, one of our dedicated project co-ordinators will complete and submit the design, plan, risk assessment and method statement to the exhibition organiser. Your stand will be prepared weeks in advance of the show by our experienced staff and, where necessary, unique and custom built elements will be manufactured by our skilled in-house carpenters. After the stand has been manufactured, items such as furniture and lighting will be picked and palletised ready for secure delivery by our professional stand installation team.
Exhibition stand installation and storage
Reliable and professional exhibition stand installation and dismantling sits at the heart of our business, so whether you already possess your own exhibition stand or we supply you with one of ours, you can rely on us to take care of all aspects of its safe delivery to the exhibition venue, installation, dismantling and return.
We can also safely store your exhibition stand for you between exhibitions. At our 16250sq/ft premises in Northampton we have over 8000sq/ft (743sq/m) of dedicated storage area. Your exhibition stand will be kept in a secure, dry and clean environment and will also be covered by our exhibition industry specific insurance.
8 quick tips for first-time NEC Exhibitors
Finally, when exhibiting at any event here are a few things you should consider-
- Plan ahead! Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting when you book your exhibition space, and what you will need to provide yourself.
- Size matters; your exhibition stand must be large enough to meet your needs (adequate space for product displays, literature etc.), and those of your visitors (seating, hospitality).
- Order everything you need for the exhibition (AV equipment, furniture, graphics panels, display plinths etc.) at least four weeks ahead of your attendance.
- Ensure you have sufficient staff on your exhibition stand. This means that breaks and mealtimes are covered and gives more opportunities to engage with visitors.
- Go for the best exhibition stand you can afford. A well-designed, inviting and high-impact stand make the best impression with visitors and set you apart from your competitors.
- Set realistic goals for your exhibition attendance. You might want to measure visitor numbers, leads generated or sales made, for example. After the event, evaluating how you performed will help you to work out which tactics worked best for you.
- Relax and enjoy the experience. Dress smartly but comfortably, smile and acknowledge everyone who approaches your stand and be friendly; remember the adage: people buy from people.
- Take an opportunity to walk around your exhibition and any others that might be going on in the NEC. This is a great way to find out what your competitors are up to, and also to pick up new ideas for exhibiting.
Take advantage of our experience…
We’ve provided services for exhibitors at the NEC for many years. No matter whether you want to make your mark at an indoor or outdoor event, and regardless of the products or services you offer, we’re confident that we can we can help you get the full benefit from exhibiting at the Birmingham NEC.
From individual services to a complete turn-key exhibition solution, let us know how Aspect Exhibitions can make your exhibiting experience at the NEC the best it can possibly be by calling us on 01604 864999 to chat through your requirements.