Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.


How Personal is Your Tradeshow Exhibit?

What kind of question is that, anyway? How personal is your tradeshow exhibit? An exhibit should be the best representation of a brand, which is aimed at a broad market. Isn’t that correct? If that’s the case, it has to have the right graphics with the right messaging. Any images should be chosen to reflect the best your product and brand have to offer. And if all that is true – and I suppose it is – how can your exhibit be personal?

Selling is Personal

Except…selling today is personal. People want to know that you care about them. The challenge is that people don’t really care about your product or service. When it comes to your products, they care about themselves, and themselves only. How do your products or services affect them – personally? The messaging should relate to what they’re going through. As we slowly move back to the tradeshow world with exhibits and face-to-face meetings and larger gatherings, every person is going to have a slightly – or perhaps significantly – different perception of what they need or want. And they’ll have some level of anxiety or distress or challenge in moving forward.

So how do you help them…now? How does your product or service help them…now? What do they need…now?

Your challenge isn’t that you don’t know how to present your products or services. No, your challenge is that you need to understand what’s going on in the mind of your customers and prospects. And the only way to learn that is to ask. In a sense, your tradeshow exhibit should be an invitation to join them. An invitation to walk into their space. Make them feel safe and wanted. There are a million ways to do that. I’m do designer, but I do know how I feel when I walk into a space that welcomes me. With people around that want to see me, and not just to sell me something, but to understand where I’m coming from. And frankly, that’s kind of rare. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee, or a warm smile. Maybe it’s an image that they can relate to that doesn’t look like it’s been chosen out of a stock photo library. Or if it has, it resonates with them.

What makes people buy?

When they finally get to a place where they feel understood. Where they feel you “get” them. Where they feel comfortable and wanted. It’s a bit like belonging to a tribe, but it’s more than that. And less.

It’s personal. What is it your customer wants?

Be creative in how you interact with people. Be creative in how you uncover what’s important to your clients. Learn from them. Then design your next tradeshow exhibit based on what you learned.

It’s not going to be easy. But it’ll be worth it.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee: August 10, 2020: Kevin Carty – TogetherAgain Expo

On July 24th, a relatively small tradeshow-industry event took place in Orlando, Florida. It was an attempt to show the world how tradeshows, events and conferences can successfully work in today’s pandemic-affected world. Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits attended – and the company exhibited – and shares his take on how it all went.

Also referenced in this episode: Brad Kleiner of Grounded by Cedar Root. Check his website, and a previous episode where I chatted with him about sales training, leadership coaching, and one-on-one coaching and more.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The NBA is back! Go Blazers!

Tradeshows Go Virtual, But for How Long?

Yes, tradeshows are going virtual. They have been for some time, and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many shows into the digital world that might not have done so as quickly. Just a cursory search on Twitter with the hashtag #tradeshow gives you a bunch of shows that are moving to online.

The Consumer Electronics Show recently announced they’re going virtual for the next go-around. Others are following suit. In discussion with industry managers and exhibitors, the feeling is that, frankly, no one knows when “normal” will return and exactly what it will look like. There are certainly efforts to get things off the ground, like the recent Together Again Expo, a tradeshow industry event in Orlando last month.

But overall, shows are still being cancelled and / or postponed.

For example, the Snow & Ice Symposium (there’s such a thing?) has gone all virtual. Just add ice to your glass! (Click the images below: it’ll take you to the original tweet in a new tab).

Here’s another virtual expo that I’m not sure about:

The ISSA 2020 event is also going online:

Fabtech 2020 has been cancelled:

The Cultivate Agency offers a pitch on how to make sure that if the show you had counted on is canceled, how can you still use that budget to reach potential buyers?

A-Train Marketing offers several tips for an upside-down tradeshow world:

Even shows overseas are going by the wayside thanks to the pandemic:

And many more, to be sure. The state of the events, conference and tradeshow industry is upside down, but it looks like many shows are going digital as best as they can. It’ll be interesting to see how the shows unfold and to see how, even when face-to-face shows return, how virtual aspects will remain. And how many exhibits and attendees will show up. And when.

The story is still being told.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, August 3, 2020: Lisa Apolinski

It seems in this day and age you jump from one Zoom call to another, from one webinar to another. And you might often be called on to host or create your own webinar or other digital presentation. If that’s not something you’re comfortable with, it can create a whole lot of anxiety and challenges. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, we hook up with Lisa Apolinski of 3 Dog Write, Inc., a full-service digital consulting agency and discuss some of the digital challenges of the day.

Find Lisa’s company, 3 Dog Write.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: the novel Island Beneath the Sea by Chilean author Isabel Allende.

What Matters Most

Okay, that’s pretty broad. Too general. What do I mean, “what matters most.” In what? Business? Personal life? Reaching your goals, whatever they might be? Life in general?

I’ve been thinking about what matters most. Lots of people say lots of different things. I’m slowly making my way through James Clear’s Atomic Habits, and I like much of it. Good ideas. Change your habits. Yes, definitely, having control of your habits and creating good habits and getting rid of bad habits is great.

When I say what matters most, I’m really referring to the personal goals you may carry. Those personal goals may relate to business, such as creating a business, or growing a business, or snaring that big client. Or a personal goal may be more, well, personal: losing weight, hiking 100 miles, running a marathon, writing a book. Something that shows you, and perhaps the world, who you really are. But it’s more for yourself, not the world. It’s to show you what you have.

Steve Prefontaine, the famous Oregon runner who died in a car crash at the age of 24 in 1975, famously once said, “Most people run a race to see who’s the fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.” Steve said a lot of things (just put Steve Prefontaine quotes in your search box), but that one resonates a lot. It tells me that everyone has something inside of them, and they may not even know it until they’re challenged.

Let’s say you’re really challenged to do something. Maybe it’s something you’ve never done before, or something you’re familiar with, but at a much higher lever. What does it take? What matters most?

In my opinion and experience, it boils down to three things:




Determination comes from knowing how much you want something. I’ve been telling myself for years that if I just put my mind to it, I could write a novel. Really. It can’t be that hard, right? I kept saying “someday…” Then I ran out of excuses, and finally gave myself permission to proceed. What’s the worst that could happen, right? But determination kicked in, and that was that. I wouldn’t let myself off the hook. It’s astonishing what you can do if you don’t let yourself off the hook, if you’re determined to see it through.

Focus. The flip side of determination is focus. Knowing that you will be laser-focused on the task at hand. To me, that meant, making a decision and keeping that decision. I would write every day. 500 words. 1000 words. An outline. A plot point. A potential scene. A character sketch. I would also find out how it’s really done. And that’s the great thing about this day and age: it’s all there online. You can find advice from people that have done it before. It wasn’t long before I got hooked up with several newsletters from writers who have published dozens, maybe hundreds of books, between them. They had been down that road. Learning what it took, what the process involved, was a big part of the step. It’s part of the focus that comes once you are determined. Focus lets you learn what you need. I’ve watched dozens of videos of successful writers sharing their secrets on Masterclass, I’ve read dozens of blog posts of strong story structure, how to create good characters, to know what motivates them, and so on. It’s all there. Just find it, soak it up and apply it as necessary.

Commitment is another side of the coin of Determination (maybe it’s a three-sided coin). Determination is one thing, but staying committed, knowing that no matter what, you’ll see it through, is a valuable piece of the puzzle. Commitment means you won’t quit. A commitment is an obligation to yourself (or others) that you won’t let yourself (or others) down. In a sense, discipline is

There are many other things that come into play when you try to find the essence of what matters most. Motivation, ambition, desire, the willingness to fail before you succeed. It’s all-important, but to my mind, the combination of the triad is most critical: determination, focus, and commitment.

The great thing is the three are applicable to both personal and business goals, large and small.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 27, 2020: Life In a Day

Life In A Day is a film project that invited people worldwide to submit footage of what they did on July 25, 2020. I kept seeing the hashtag trending online leading up to Saturday, so just for fun, I shot a bunch of video of what I did and assembled it into a short film. That #LifeInADay film is included in this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee.

Given that there is quite a bit of footage without narration, and a lot of background music, I’m not posting the audio version on Soundcloud. Join me next week when I should have a guest.

A Wrap Up of B2B Pandemic Survival Skills

A few recent newsletters that have popped up in my inbox have gotten me to thinking about B2B in the age of a pandemic. The tradeshow world is virtually shut down. Conferences aren’t happening. Events are 99.9% gone. Many of the writers behind these newsletters offer insightful observations about how business is now being done: what’s changing and what’s not.

I’ve compiled several of these thoughts and added a few of my own.

Embracing Digital

“Zoom Fatigue” has become a meme. But connecting via digital is about the only way to connect. Yes, you can pick up the phone – and I do – but a video call is more personal. Of course, there’s an extra step involved: you have to agree on a time and schedule the call and send the link. But taking those steps evinces a commitment to the meeting you might not have otherwise had.

Email: staying in touch is a little harder in this day and age. Many of the contacts I have are either working from home or have been laid off. Others are in the office only part time and their presence at work is not a given. Every company is dealing with the situation in their own way, and if an email isn’t answered in the time it typically would be, try a phone call.

Short videos

Beyond Zoom, email, and phone calls, create short videos that address challenges a typical customer might have. A recent Orbit Media Studios post examined what happened when they added video to their content strategy. It’s led me to create short videos every week to see if they get attention.

Bottom line on Digital

Be present online more than you ever have been before.

Know your priorities.

What’s important for your company? For you? For your employees? I spoke with a handful of distilleries in Oregon this week to see if they were making hand sanitizer, as many of them did at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many had made the product and were still making it but it was not a priority. A handful of them, though realized that there was a market there and it was going to be there awhile and were actually ramping up production. Others felt it was not their core business and they would rather be known for their high-quality distilled products.

Understand your customer’s priorities

Every customer is going through something different. Find out from as many as possible what their biggest challenges are. Segment them. And if you can help them, do it. Some might need to wait another month or two or three.

Find and form valuable partnerships

Partnerships can take you places you couldn’t go on your own. Manufacturers, builders, factories, processing plants. Keep an open mind to what the possibilities are and ask good questions. You might uncover an opportunity that you had no idea existed a few months ago.

Communicate clearly to everyone

It boils down to listening twice as much as you talk. Find out what’s important to other management members, employees, team members, clientele, prospects. But make sure to let them know what’s important to you as well. We’re all in this together, and communication will be the key.

Remove friction whenever possible

Just like forming a new habit, the easier it is, the more likely you’ll form that habit. It’s like saying to yourself that you’ll put on your running shoes each morning and run around the block. There’s not much friction in putting on your shoes. Once you have the shoes on, it’s easy to go around the block. After you do that a few times, it’ll be easier to run a half mile. Then a mile. Then two, five and so on. By reducing the friction to get anything done, both for you and your clients, the easier it will be to get bigger things done. Start small where there is little friction.

Acknowledge that it’s not business as usual

The final piece. We all know that, but many of us are acting as if it’s still 2019. Are you? It’s not. We’re in the future to stay. And it’s a different world. It’s not business as usual.

Here are some of the resources that helped inspire this collection:

Chief Marketer: How B2B Marketers are Embracing Digital During the Pandemic.

Marketing Profs: 5 B2B Marketing Strategies for Pandemic Survival and Beyond, by Mike Seiman.

Orbit Media: Adding Video to Your Content Strategy: The Impact to Traffic and Rankings, by Andy Crestodina

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