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

September 2009

Tradeshow De-Briefing Questions


You’ve just returned from a tradeshow. You’re exhausted. Gotta get the expense sheets done and get any leads or contacts to the right folks. Send out thank-you notes.

But wait! While the show is still fresh in your mind, take some time for a quick de-briefing. Ask yourself – and perhaps your staff – several questions:

  • What did I learn about the booth?
  • What did I learn about the people I worked with?
  • What was most important to the visitors?
  • What did NOT work about the booth?
  • What was NOT important to attendees?
  • What failed?
  • What succeeded?
  • What questions got the best response from visitors?
  • What was the visitors’ most telling question?
  • How can I use what I learned for the next show?
  • How much time do I reasonable need to prepare for any significant changes?
  • Do small changes work, or should I incorporate large-scale changes?

When you get rolling with these questions, no doubt you’ll have your own questions that apply to your company, the booth and how the whole effort unfolded.

After hashing  it over, make notes and stick them in your tradeshow file. Share the goods with your team members.

By spending some time talking through the various aspects of the show with your colleagues, you’re doing a couple of things.

First, you’re remembering key elements and important situations that arose while they’re fresh in your mind. When something goes right or wrong, you’ll want to make either a mental or written note (write it down if you really think it’s important to remember!).

Secondly, by articulating the experiences you had and getting your team members’ perspectives, you’re imprinting those experiences in your mind. By doing so, they’ll mean more and will therefore be of more use at the next tradeshow.

Learn from this show and make the next show better. Then make a plan to do it again.


Click here to grab my Tradeshow Follow-up Checklist

Top Ten Tradeshow Superheroes

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane…no it’s — it’s a guy on a ladder that’s about to fall!

All tradeshows have their cast of characters – both heroes and villains – but you may be so engrossed that you don’t recognize the hero (or the villain) working right beside you.

Holy Giant Graphic, Batman! It’s time for our list of the Top Ten Tradeshow Superheroes:

10. The Flash: If you want something done, ask a busy person. There’s always someone on the booth staff that has the ability to get things done, no matter what it takes. They look ordinary, and in fact, wear no special costume, but when an issue or problem arises, this person makes it happen.
Weakness: Burnout. Moving so fast for so long will definitely take its toll. In fact, the friction caused by moving so fast through Earth’s atmosphere may actually cause smoke or minor burning.

9. Captain America: Always fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way, Captain America seeks out wrong and strives to make it right. Whether it’s a banner that’s crooked, a small piece of dirt on the carpet, this super hero will go the distance to make everything perfect.
Weakness: Perfection is impossible. That’ll probably drive Captain America bonkers some day.

8. The Incredible Hulk: Okay, he’s typically mild-mannered, but suddenly during set-up of the booth, he turns into a behemoth able to lift large light fixtures, trusses or graphics to make set-up go easier. Be sure to buy the guy a drink after set-up. He’s earned it.
Weakness: Low self-image; needs emotional reinforcement.

7. Iron Man: No doubt you’ve met this super hero, but may not have recognized him. According to comic book mythology, Iron Man wears a suit of armor, yet underneath it all he battles demons such as alcoholism and a broken heart (literally, with a piece of threatening shrapnel), but is a brilliant businessman.
Weakness: So yeah, a flawed hero (aren’t they all?).

6. Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl: One minute she’s there, the next she’s gone. In the blink of an eye. Sometimes when you’re looking right at her. Disappears at certain hours only to reappear in the lounge.
Weakness: Tends to like the handsome nerdy type. Especially those with a rubber personality.

5. Politeness Man (from National Lampoon): Perhaps not a real super hero, still he does exist. No matter how rude people are to him or his staff, Politeness Man always manages to keep a smile pasted on his face, and treats people exceedingly nice.
Weakness: Can slip into a pithy condescending tone when his pals are not looking.

4. Johnny Storm, The Human Torch: A hothead at heart, all he needs is to encounter some small inconvenience and it’s all “Flame On!” Stand back or you’ll get burned.
Weakness: Water of course. Prefers something shaken, not stirred.

3. The Joker: Okay, not really a super hero, but the nemesis of all that is good about tradeshows. Constantly looking for ways to party harder, play practical jokes, make fun of people, but he vanishes when the going gets tough. Always returns to claim some sort of victory.
Weakness: I think Batman has his number. Right?

2. The Silver Surfer: Exiled to Earth by Galactus after saving the planet from destruction, the Silver Surfer….uh, wait. The Silver Surfer of the tradeshow floor is the aloof yet powerful entity (often a CEO or upper level management guru) that is visible for brief moments, then disappears into high-level conferences to discuss saving the company or aligning with another all-powerful entity. Or something like that.
Weakness: Still has a problem relating to the citizens of Earth. Would rather take that surfboard to parts unknown (Barbados, Jamaica, Maui, etc.).

1. Wonder Woman: No further description necessary – she’s a wonder and she’s a woman. Does it all. Unfortunately, she only exists on another company’s booth staff. A perfect 10, and often thought of as a vanishing species.
Weakness: None discovered so far.

Have you spotted any of these Superheroes lately? Did you thank them for the good work they do (except the Joker)?  Did they vanish to their secret lair as soon as the work was finished?

Or – and this may be a tough question to answer – are YOU a superhero? If so, hurry up and change back into your disguise…or be prepared to sign autographs the next time you stop slow down for coffee.

Whew! Where’s the nearest phone booth?

Spy. Vs. Spy

spy vs spy

Next time you’re at a tradeshow, throw on your trenchcoat, dapper hat and shades and go undercover.

The name? “Bond. James Bond.”

Admittedly, playing spy can be fun. And it’s something you should certainly be doing at your next tradeshow.

According to Ruth Stevens, author of ‘Trade Show and Event Marketing,’ you should be spying on your competition: “Whether you exhibit or not, trade shows can be a valuable source of competitive intelligence.”

You can check out new products and promotions, competitor target audiences and even talk to them about marketing strategies if you manage to strike up a conversation with the right person. In fact, you could go all out and compile a small dossier (there’s that spy stuff again!) on your various competitors.

Once you’ve gathered the information, be sure to use it: discuss it with your company managers when you return to determine how or if any of the information you’ve compiled affects you.

You probably won’t get into as much action as 007, but the information you bring back from the ‘enemy’ may be priceless.

What’s Your Social Media Mix?

When it comes to participating in Social Media (what we used to call Web 2.0, but gee that’s soo passe now), what are your choices?

Too many, obviously. And you can’t do them all.


Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Flickr, Ning, MySpace, Orkut, YouTube. Blogging, podcasting, video podcasting, social tagging (bookmarking), video livecasting….

Whew! The mind boggles at the possibilities. Even if you were involved 24/7/365 there would still be more that you could do. I know, I know, even if you didn’t take time out to sleep or eat or shower (heavens!).

So the question comes down to this: what is the mix of social media that fits you?

The answer depends on you, and it can keep changing depending on your skills, needs, wants and what your network is plugged into.

Because it all boils down to your network and your goals. What are they involved with? How do they interact?

If you’re just hanging out on Facebook and Twitter for fun – and not for any business purpose – have at it. Have fun!

But if you want to reach people with information about your products and services, you’ll need to set some parameters and some goals.


For instance, if you want to draw readers to your blog, you can do that by posting on Twitter or Facebook or even LinkedIn. I find that roughly a third of the traffic to this blog comes from those three platforms. When I post a new podcast or video, or a new blog post, I create a tracking link and send out a Tweet. A few minutes later I’ll put something similar up on Facebook to update my status. I’m just getting into a new ‘page’ on Facebook for the Tradeshowguy Blog, so I may make note of it there. Although I have it set up to automatically populate the Facebook page with my blog posts, so I may put something shorter and more ‘chatty’ there.


Podcasts, blog posts and videos are all bait for readers, listeners and viewers. Post a quick catchy headline with a tracking link and watch folks come to check it out. If it’s good enough or interesting enough to someone else, the post may be re-tweeted. This happened to me on one post a couple of months ago: a Twitter user with over 200,000 followers re-tweeted my link and I suddenly had a spike of a couple of hundred visitors to the blog.

If you like to write short pieces, you should be blogging.

If you are comfortable in front of a video camera, you should post short informational or fun videos on both YouTube (or Vimeo or another similar service) and imbed them in your blog.

Like to talk into a microphone and are handy with audio recording software? Learn to podcast.

I look at LinkedIn as a strictly business networking site. It’s great for joining groups and discussions that interest you.

Facebook is like the block party where you meet folks from both your business and personal life.

Twitter is more like a world party where you can follow the musings of virtually anyone.

Just out of curiosity, I thought I’d look at where the traffic has been coming from the past month:


As you can see, 25% of traffic comes from the combination of Twitter and Facebook. At times in the past LinkedIn has pointed visitors here, but not so much recently. I think it’s great, too, that over a third of the traffic comes from searches on Google.

But – I see I need to work on getting people to stay:


While lots of folks are coming (at least to my mind!), a lot are not sticking around. The ‘bounce’ rate is an indicator of people that come by the site take a look around, and leave quickly. If 3 out of 4 ‘bounce’ away, that’s certainly something to improve upon!

However, with an average time spent of over a minute, that means most people are taking a good look to see what’s here. I pick up on average about ten new newsletter subscribers per week, thanks to the free e-book offering (and the video at the top right that invites them to pick it up).

I find that when I promote the e-books on Twitter and Facebook – particularly Twitter – the subscription rate picks up. But I don’t want to JUST promote the newsletter on Twitter. Nope, gotta have fun; have a conversation, respond to people, re-tweet other posts, send out links to posts besides your own blog.

Keep experimenting. Keep trying new things. Read blogs like or, which are blogs about blogging and social media. You’ll find tons of great ideas.

And keep inviting people to your site.

The ‘Big Picture’ of Tradeshow Marketing

You’re heard the saying ‘it’s all in the details.’ Details are important. People notice them. Don’t leave details to chance; you can be derailed by forgetting details (hey I just made that up!).

Tradeshow Exhibit

But what about the BIG PICTURE? Most marketers assume that tradeshow marketing is an effective method for marketing your product or service. But that’s not necessarily the truth.

First, figure out IF it’s something that will work for your company. That may mean asking other similar companies (even competitors) about their experiences. If possible, find out if they succeeded or failed and WHY. Their failure to get a good response does not necessarily reflect on your results. Until you know details about why the failed, their results won’t mean anything to you.

Get information on the specific show. Who’s exhibiting, who attends, how the show is marketed, and are the folks in your target market attending the show in significant numbers?

Next, make a marketing plan for each show. That’s right, EACH SHOW. After all, each show has a different audience and a different group of exhibitors. Examine how you’ll draw attendees to your booth; what’s your follow-up methodology; who’s going to staff the booth, what specific products/services you intend to promote at the show. The more accurate your plan, the more likely the plan will play out the way it’s supposed to.

Another part of the Big Picture is: what does management really want to happen? Often a company will decide to attend a tradeshow but the reason and strategy behind are not communicated effectively to the tradeshow team.

Finally, part of your plan should include a show debriefing. What’s the ROI? How many leads? How many follow up sales or real prospects? And most of all – what can you do better the next time?

While there are a lot of details to managing tradeshow marketing (tradeshow marketing directors MUST be detail-oriented people!), before you get too deep, get a view from 30,000 feet. Know the big picture. It’ll help you to pursue the right details when you hit the trenches.

Facebook Blog Page Up and Running

It’s not that hard to set up a Facebook ‘page’ where you can feed your blog, promote your business, service or product and invite folks to come by – so I finally did.

Although it’s not that hard, Facebook manages to make it a bit difficult to find answers to easy questions. After puzzling over some aspects of how to publish a page, how to find the page after (or before) you publish it, and dredging through several dozen comments from users in the help section, I’ve come to the conclusion that Facebook is not that interested in providing prompt, courteous service to their users.

Given that they currently have over 250 MILLION users, it doesn’t surprise me that help-line response would be slow.

Find us on Facebook

So check out my Facebook Tradeshow Guy Blog page. Yes, it has a lot of the same posts, but I’ll add more of the typical shorter conversation-like comments that are common on Facebook, in addition to the article-like blog posts and podcasts you see here.

Quickie Tutorial to finding and publishing pages on Facebook (after you’ve created it):

1. When you’re on Facebook, after you’ve created a page, it seems the most challenging thing is to actually get back to the page. Facebook doesn’t make it easy. Here’s what to do: click on the “F” icon at the lower left corner of your Facebook page. When your mouse is over the “F” it’ll say “Ads and Pages.” Click Pages.

2. Now that you’ve found your page, the second most pressing question I’ve seen is “How do I publish it? Is it already visible to the world?” Open the page by clicking ‘edit page’, then click on the pen icon; then click on ‘edit.’  The third option shown tells you whether it’s ‘published’ or ‘unpublished.’

3. Finally, how do you steer people to your page? Go to Browse All Pages, type in the name of your page and it should show up. Click on the page; you’re now seeing the page. Copy the URL from your browser, spread it around! Create a Facebook ‘badge’ like I’ve done on the right column of this page. Or download their logo from the badge page, add it to your website (like I’ve done with this post) and use the page URL as a link.

And of course…keep feeding the Status update. After all, you DO want people to think you’re involved in it, don’t you?

Free Report: 9 Things to Know When Buying a Custom Booth

Trying to decide if you should invest in a custom tradeshow exhibit? Don’t know if it’s worth the money? How about downloading our free report “9 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Custom Tradeshow Exhibit.”

You’ll find a brief comparison of the pros and cons of custom vs. pop-up or modular, as well a look at other considerations such as drayage and shipping.

Click here and it’s yours (PDF – approx 400 KB).

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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