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

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Virtual Reality for Tradeshows

First things first: I’m not an expert on virtual reality at tradeshows, known as VR! But there’s a lot of information out there which I’ve absorbed along with some observations on using technology in a tradeshow, so I thought it would be fun to explore the topic from the perspective of using VR at tradeshows as an attractor.

Virtual Reality experience at Expo East. Photo by Jennifer Liu of Hyland's Homeopathic.
Virtual Reality experience at Expo East. Photo by Jennifer Liu of Hyland’s Homeopathic.

In a recent conversation with Jennifer Liu with Hyland’s Homeopathic, a long time client and an attendee at Natural Products Expo East, she mentioned that there were a handful of exhibitors there using VR in their booth.

My first question when it comes to using VR, or any video in a tradeshow is this: what is your content? After all, content is everything. Without the right content, you might as well forget it.

Apparently the content at one of the booths involved spacious outdoors and action video: glaciers, mountains, beaches, and so forth. The idea was for the viewer to experience the full spectrum of virtual reality, regardless of the relationship that content had to the exhibitor’s product or service.

If you’re going to invite people into an engaging and intimate experience using VR in your booth, it would seem to me that you’d want to make some sort of connection between the experience and your product or service. If you’re a company that provides outdoor climbing or hiking gear, for instance, having 360 VR video of hiking or climbing would make sense. But if you produce chocolate bars or headphones, you’d have to ask yourself how that VR experience of hiking or climbing would relate. And while you might be able to find at least a tenuous connection, the stronger the connection, the better.

Starting Up with VR

In Foundry 45’s blog, there’s a discussion of the first step of creating content for VR. Record a bunch of video with the right cameras! This post discusses how to approach using VR for a tradeshow. Without spending a lot of time quoting the article, their advice is sound: do a dry run before the show, be prepared to help newbies, create a safe VR zone, use good sanitation techniques for the headsets, and so on.

Headsets

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Photo by Jennifer Liu

When it comes to how people experience VR, the headset is one item you’ll need to decide on. Wareable has a recent rundown of several sets, including Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, HTC Vive, Gear VR and others. These range in price from about $100 to nearly a thousand bucks. And of course there’s Google Cardboard for just $16.99. And where do you have visitors sit? You might want to give them comfy auto-race car type seats which hold them comfortably and safely while they zoom around a virtual world. You might check out the Roto Interactive Virtual Reality Chair. No doubt it would give you a line of people waiting to get into your booth!

Whether you choose to incorporate VR into your exhibit now or not – or just wait and see, it’s safe to say more and more exhibitors will step into the VR world as time goes by. If you do consider it, make sure it’s a good fit for your product or service, and make sure you have content that is a good match to keep visitors engaged and learn about what your company can do for them.

6 Ways to Step Up Your Tradeshow Game

Competition on the tradeshow floor is fierce, and it’s not going to get any easier. You might say it’s more competitive than ever! Your fellow exhibitors are bringing more people to their booth, giving away more samples, doing more in-booth and doing better in the things you don’t see at the booth, such as pre-show marketing, social media and follow-up.

What are you doing to step up your tradeshow game?

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Here are 7 ways to step up your tradeshow game to at least keep pace with fellow exhibitors.

  • Bring Your “A” Game. You can characterize this a hundred ways, but it really means to step up your performance, do better than the last time, stay disciplined and focused so that almost nothing misses your gaze.
  • Have a better sample for giveaway. This could mean anything from working with your promotional products associate to brainstorm a different giveaway to having a premium gift for those that respond to a pre-show marketing mailer.
  • Catch eyeballs! Every booth is vying for eyeballs. What message is your exhibit saying? Whether it’s a 10×10 booth or a giant island, it still should communicate a clear and concise message and do it in a manner that catches eyeballs. Sometimes that’s graphics, sometimes it’s a compelling and bold statement or question.
  • Give visitors something to do. There are discussions to be had regarding the differences between flashy colorful booths or having something interactive. Both have their valid points. But if you can create an interactive booth and give a visitor something to do that’s engaging, creative and keeps them around for at least five minutes, you’ll definitely be stepping up your tradeshow game beyond many of your competitors.
  • Pay attention to visitors. It’s too easy to slip into ‘silent’ mode by pulling out your phone to check email, ready Facebook or text someone when crowds are light. But it’s at that moment when someone may come by, see that you’re engaged and keep walking.
  • Put on a smile. The only thing more welcoming to someone than a smile is to greet them with their name. If you don’t know their name, at the very least give them a smile!

Want to know all 14 steps to take your tradeshow marketing to the next level? Download a free copy of my book here (opt-in to newsletter).

 

 

You Can’t Hack Your Way to Tradeshow Success

The trick these days is to find a shortcut. You know, the kind of shortcut that allows you to find success without really working on it. One of the most popular sites is LifeHacker which shows many ways to exploit rules to your advantage, survive a wasp attack, build a GoPro mount from a plastic pop bottle and more.

Oddly enough, if you search Lifehacker for “tradeshow” you don’t get any life hacks for tradeshow success.

That’s because almost everyone will tell you that if you want to be successful in tradeshow exhibiting, you have to put in the work.

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Oh, sure, there will be people who will cobble together a creative booth for a few bucks out of bicycle frames or old barn wood or whatever, but it doesn’t really get you to a successful tradeshow experience.

It takes work, planning, execution, review, re-focusing and continual incremental improvement to keep building your track record.

You may find hacks for lots of other parts of your life, but when it comes to business, more so-called hacks aren’t worth the digital ink spilled. Put in the work.

When you do become successful, it’ll be worth much more anyway.

Click Here to Get Your FREE Digital Copy of My New Book “Tradeshow Success”

7 Things to Do Immediately After You Get Back from the Tradeshow

Once the tradeshow is over, it’s easy to let a few things slide because, after all, you’ve been working your fanny off for 12 or 14 hours a day for several days straight! But if your tradeshow followup can manage to do just a few things prior to taking that five minute well-deserved rest, here’s where to start:

  1. Make sure the leads are delivered to the sales crew. Depending on the size of your operation this may be hundreds of leads and 10 or more sales people, but it might be a lot less. Make sure the leads have good contact info, and correct follow up info (who gets what and when), and make sure they’re graded in terms of importance and urgency.
  2. Check the booth crate(s). It’s easy to let this step slide, because the crate may not get back for days, or even weeks. But take a half a day or whatever time you need, make sure the crates were packed properly, make sure all items are there and in good shape. Make a list of what’s missing and what needs repair before the next show.
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    Compile and file all of your reports: travel expenses, products sold, samples given away, booth personnel, comments from the staff, costs of the show, and so on.

  4. Gather photos and videos. These could be useful for social media, your company blog, and checking to make sure that the booth is in good repair, or to document damage.
  5. Gather any social media, media or PR stats. How many tweets and Facebook posts went up during the show? How many retweets or interaction? How many videos were posted on YouTube and how many views did they gather?
  6. Give a report to the boss. Not only will this show them the overall results, it’ll help justify your position (if it needs to be justified). Added benefits include having that information spread throughout the marketing team and management, show trends from show to show, and give you a go-to place for questions about the booth, shows or anything related.
  7. NOW take that break!

Renting Furniture: Good Idea?

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With a multitude of moving parts in tradeshow exhibits, where does furniture play a part in your booth? Do you purchase chairs and tables and ship them with your booth? Or do you simply rent furniture each time you exhibit?

There’s no single right ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer. Life isn’t that way, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately)! Nope, in fact it might be that your exhibiting needs change drastically from show to show, and you have to rent sometimes and other times it makes sense to ship furniture.

So how often to exhibitors actually rent furniture? Surprisingly, it’s over half, according to several I&D companies that were queried at an April event. In fact, it was close to 75% to 90%! So if you’re currently NOT renting furniture, you’re likely one of the few that are either shipping it in your booth crates, or having your clients and staffers stand the entire show. Whew!

The cost of renting furniture can add up, we know. In fact, if you’re new to furniture rental, you might be shocked to see that it will often cost more to rent a nice chair or table than it is to buy. And if it doesn’t cost more, it will likely cost close to the purchase amount. But if you calculate the cost of shipping, drayage, return shipping and storage of the furniture, the cost continues to increase. And even if you own the furniture, you’ll have to replace it at some point due to damage and wear and tear. So how much does it really cost? Unfortunately, tradeshow exhibits – including furniture – take a beating and often have to replaced or repaired frequently. So your cost of owning keeps going up.

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With furniture rental, you are paying not only for the cost of the furniture, which rental companies go to great lengths to make sure are in excellent shape (otherwise they’ll lose customers), your cost typically includes shipping and drayage. So that $300 for a chair is a one-time cost that means it’ll show up at your booth and will vanish once the show is over – all coordinated by show services or your tradeshow coordination company.

TradeshowGuy Exhibits Exhibit Design Search recently added a new strategic partner: Cort Furniture. Here is where you’ll find virtually any furniture item that you’d ever need in a tradeshow booth, from plants to stanchions, from small refrigerators to tablet stands, from bar tables and stools to luxury office chairs and ottomans and much more. And the prices are very competitive, so if you’re looking to rent a furniture item for your next show, just review the selection here and see what works for you.

The Importance of Tradeshow Booth Staff Training [Webinar Replay]

This week I hooked up with Matt Hill of the Hill Group out of San Jose to discuss the importance of booth staff training. It was a fun and engaging but brief 20 minute conversation which hit all the high points of why tradeshow booth staffers will do much better with training on how to specifically work with visitors at tradeshows. We go over questions to ask, how to engage and disengage politely, lead generation, body language and more.

Take a look:


Join our monthly tradeshow webinar featuring marketing tips, ideas and commentary.

Using a Tradeshow to Create Blog Content

If you’re tasked with creating blog content, you know the challenge you’re facing. A blog has a never-ending appetite for content, whether it’s the written word, audio, photos or video.

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Guess what? Your next tradeshow appearance can give you weeks if not months worth of material!

To do so, though, you’re got to be prepared. If you’re involved in the blog in any way, shape or form, you likely already have your ears perked up for content ideas. But at a tradeshow it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos and forget to actually make any notes until the show is over. So the first thing to do is to keep a notepad handy. Or whatever device you use to make notes. Could be your smartphone: just open up the audio recorder, make a few comments, put a label and that’s it.

You can get blog post ideas from prospects, visitors and your competition. Ask questions about problems they’re looking to solve and challenges they’re facing. Ask what specific industry they’re in and jot it down. Ask what the hot items are in your visitor’s world. Note what your competition is promoting and what they’re leaving behind that surprises you. Talk to industry leaders if you can find them, ask about products and services that their customers are asking about, and ask about what problems they also face in serving their clients.

Take photos and videos. If you have a client in your booth, ask them to sit down for a 60-second testimonial and ask what they like about your product. Take photos of booth staffers, managers and visitors (make sure you get names of visitors), and post them on your blog and on social media.

Ask your staffers what they learned – what their takeaways were at the end of the show. Ask what worked, what didn’t.

A tradeshow has oodles of ideas for content. All you have to do it be aware, make notes, record bits and pieces with your camera and write it up back at the hotel as well as when you get back to the office. You’ll have content ideas for weeks or months to come!

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7 Ways a New Tradeshow Exhibit is Worth the Investment

How to determine if your tradeshow exhibit investment is worth it.

What will a new tradeshow exhibit do for you?
What will a new tradeshow exhibit do for you?

Tradeshow exhibits can be expensive. So how do you know if it’s a good investment? Here are seven ways that will help you determine if the money invested in the design and fabrication of a new tradeshow exhibit is well spent.

  1. If it allows your booth staff to function better. A new tradeshow exhibit will look great, but if it helps your team function better at a tradeshow, it’s worth the money.
  2. If it increases your brand awareness at the show. One of the most important reasons to be at a tradeshow is because it can help reach new markets. If your tradeshow booth (bigger, prettier, more eye-catching) is better at attracting attention than your previous booth, it’s worth it.
  3. If you find it easier to generate more leads. A recent client that upgraded their tradeshow booth to a 20×20 island exhibit saw leads increase three-fold as a result. Definitely worth it.
  4. If it gives you more space for presentations. Even if your hired professional presenter says she can do a great presentation in a 10×10 (and they probably can), if you can give them more space, it’ll allow more people to see those presentations and be engaged with your products or services.
  5. If it shows your market that you’re the dominate company in the niche. One client of ours likes their big booth because they feel it gives them bragging rights as the ‘big dog’ in their market. Psychological warfare, indeed!
  6. If it leads to increased profitability. Does it positively impact the bottom line? Then it’s a good investment.
  7. If the new exhibit boosts your staff’s morale. Perhaps this isn’t a cut-and-dried way to determine if the investment is worth it, but I’ve seen first hand many times the impact a new tradeshow exhibit has on a staff’s attitude. It shows them that management believes in the company’s tradeshow efforts.

Can you come up with any other reasons why a brand new tradeshow exhibit is worth the investment? I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below.


Need a quote on a new tradeshow booth project? Click here for a no strings-attached quote request form.

Music-Inspired Tradeshow Blog Posts

It must be because I was a rock-and-roller from about the age of eight. Or maybe it was the first time I sat down at a drumset when I was 11 and knew I had to have one of my own. Or maybe it was when I finally figured out at the age of 16 what a bar chord on a guitar was, and how I could move it up and down the neck of the guitar for different chords.

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How many decades ago was this? What’s up with the goofy hat?

Or maybe it’s just because I gotta have music in my life as much as possible. I listen all day long, and grab my guitar to work on chord progressions, play an old favorite or sit down at the drums often to bash out something.

So you can imagine as my iTunes library’s some 47,412 selections (and counting) is set on shuffle day after day, I hear a lot of music. And that music inspires me in interesting directions.

Like the song I’m listening to now called “The Endless Night” by Return to Forever. I put “tradeshow endless night blog post” the Google box and on the first page was a link to “Ten Very Cool Examples of Experiential Marketing” by David Moth at Ecocunsultancy. Now that’s some inspiration!

Next comes “Red Rain” by Peter Gabriel. Let’s see what happens when I search for “tradeshow blog red rain.” Up came “Running a Live Lab at a Tradeshow” by Redgate on their blog. What an inspired idea for a tradeshow!

Next: “Hidden Treasure” by Traffic. A search for “hidden treasure tradeshow blog” gave me “The 4 Most Annoying Hidden Tradeshow Costs” on the Expo Marketing blog. Hey, saving money on shipping, drayage, deadlines and labor is definitely inspiring!

How about one more? One of my favorite Sixties bands, The Troggs, came along on my computer and played “Girl in Black.” So when I searched for “tradeshow blog girl in black,” on page one was an article from Classic Exhibits’ blog titled “What Not to Wear at a Tradeshow,” which is definitely a good read.

Now that you’re found out the wide diversity of music that inspires me, I want to know – what inspires you?

Let’s roll the Troggs here, just for fun:

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Care and Feeding of Tradeshow Exhibits

You bought a new tradeshow exhibit. You took it to the show, set it up to great fanfare and response, then packed it up and took it back to the office. Now what? Will you wait until the next show, pull it out and think it’ll look exactly the same as the first time?

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Hardly. Unfortunately, tradeshow exhibits are not like the common household items, such as a recliner, TV set or backyard patio table and umbrella. With those items, you can see any rip that needs repaired or gouge that should be covered or food spill that needs cleaning. Nope, a tradeshow exhibit is handled roughly for most of the time it sees daylight. It’s pulled from crates, assembled, used, abused, battered and more prior to being crammed back in the crate by employees who are in a hurry and are thinking ahead to what they can do later in the day. Sometimes a forklift and a tradeshow panel will have a close encounter. Other times an aluminum strut gets a big gouge from who-knows-where.

So how is the best way to handle it?

Cleaning

The first step is to realize that simply, the purchase of a tradeshow exhibit means that you are also responsible for its care and feeding. Much like a pet or child, you have much more responsibility than just making the purchase.

Tradeshow exhibits need care and feeding. To wit, start with each time the tradeshow exhibit is set up. Document the set up with photographs and notes if necessary. Point out areas that are damaged and need repair, or need cleaning. Most exhibits will need some sort of cleaning after each show, especially if you’re in the food industry and have been handing out samples. Take soap and water, scrub counters and shelves and let dry.

Damage Assessment

Once the tradeshow exhibit crates come back, schedule time to open the crates and go through each piece. Again, document the state of the items, and document the way the crates were packed, comparing to the way they were originally packed at the exhibit house, or prior to shipping from your warehouse. In any event, the more you are aware of what shape your exhibit is in, the better off you are.

Does the exhibit need repairs? If so, determine what type of repairs it needs and who will do it. Clients we’ve worked with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits have approached this issue in a couple of ways: some will ship the crates straight to the exhibit house to have it closely examined every three or four shows. Others will make sure they spend time a month or so prior to an upcoming show to pull the exhibit pieces out of the booth and set it up. If it needs repair, and they’re capable of making those repairs, they’ll do it. Sometimes they’ll need to order a specific part or two from their exhibit house that originally fabricated the booth, but often it means doing it themselves.

Storage

How is your exhibit stored? It should ideally be stored in a warehouse that has a consistent temperature, is dry and pest-free. This avoids damage from the changing temperatures, mildew and insects.

Professional I&D and Shipping

Another way to keep your exhibit in top form is to have it handled by professionals who know what they’re doing. This means having it set up and disassembled by professionals, and having it shipped by companies that are used to handling tradeshow freight.

Graphics and more

Other parts of care and feeding of your tradeshow exhibit include making sure all graphics are up to date and fit properly, making sure all the pieces of the booth are returned and in good shape, and making sure the crates are still sturdy and stable enough to endure another shipment.

By taking complete ownership of your tradeshow exhibit, you’ll not only get more life out of your exhibit in terms of years that you are able to use it for tradeshow promotions, you’ll save money by avoiding large repairs due to neglect.

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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