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

October 2009

Using Social Media at Tradeshows to Close More Business: Win One Hour Consulting

It’s our observation that Social Media is a great fit to promote events: it’s a focused time-frame; social media is extremely mobile (something like 70% of tweets are from mobile platforms) which fosters on-site interaction; and tweets and Facebook page posts can bring people to your booth in real time for contests, plugs, etc.

Putting a strong Social Media Plan into place can help you:

  • build your opt-in marketing lists
  • get on the list of ‘must-see’ show booths
  • create product awareness
  • create buzz around new products
  • add to the company’s sales leads
  • identify your company’s brand champions
  • accelerate the sales cycle
  • deepen the relationship with customers

You may recall the e-book I put out earlier this year “Twittering Your Way to Tradeshow Success.”

With minimal promotion (read: no budget) and nearly 500 downloads later, I’m ready to take a whack at updating the book to include all Social Media, not just Twitter. We’d want to include at least the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and a good argument could be made to include Flickr and YouTube.

Thanks to a suggestion from a recent social media compadre I met, Steve Farnsworth, I’m launching a mini-contest to get some of your ideas for how you have used Social Media to promote your appearance at tradeshows, events or conferences – and thanks to Steve’s generosity we’re teaming up to offer an hour of consulting on how to get your Social Media plan together:


So…here’s the deal: submit either an idea or anecdote you may have on how to use Social Media to promote your appearance at an event, conference or tradeshow. Easy to do: either post the idea as a comment below, or join my Facebook Page and make a post there.

Then, once we close the mini-contest down on the night of Thursday, November 5th, I’ll put all the names of the submitters in a hat and draw a random winner for a one-hour consulting session.

You would be able to consult with me on a number of things:

*Any aspect of tradeshow marketing: planning, booth design, staff training, etc.
*Social Media: marketing, setting up a blog, podcasting, video blogging, how to best use Twitter or Facebook, setting up a Facebook company ‘fan’ page, getting traffic, what to Tweet about, etc.

And yes, I look to include many of these ideas into the re-vamped e-book. Naturally we would include your name and links back to your company or blog.

So…what’s your best story or idea on using Social Media with Tradeshows, Conferences and Events?

Leave a Comment below, or zip to the Facebook page and post an idea there.

Cruising the Tradeshow Blogosphere

I recently posted this query on LinkedIn’s Trade Show Marketing Group discussion page:

I’m looking for blogs that focus on tradeshow or event marketing. I’d like to create a blog post with a list of useful related blogs. Any suggestions?

The best blogs (to my mind) are the ones that have useful information, insight into industry happenings, active readers participating with comments and are updated at least once a week. A good blog also features a mix of media: audio and video and photo collections are a plus. Guest bloggers also add new blood to the cauldron of posts. Variety is indeed the spice that draws more readers.

I do not want to know of corporate blogs that are basically a platform for pitching products and services.

Would love to hear what blogs you’re reading event/tradeshow/conference industry!

I did get some responses – enough to put together a short post to look at the blogs and make a few comments:

Nick Kuppers

Hi Tim,
I recently started a blog at I agree with your description of a good blog. My blog may not have all the ingredients yet you describe, but I am learning… like so many of us who started leveraging social media. Good luck with your blog.

As Nick said, his blog is brand new – just four posts as of this reading. However, his posts are informative and worth reading if you’re in the tradeshow industry. Nick, I’d urge you to try and post a few times a week. By doing that, you’re telling the world a few things. First, it shows you’re active. The more active you are, the more interested your readers will be. Secondly, it’ll give Google and the other search engines some content to crunch and log – and that will start sending more traffic your way.

Nick’s also getting started on Twitter. Keep it up Nick…always good to see relevant, worthwhile content.


I enjoy your blog as well as the following:

We also now have a blog dedicated to exhibit and event marketing called Total Solutions Marketing, written by the TS2 show team at

Shauna Peters, Marketing Manager at National Trade Productions, Inc

lets talk tradeshows

Let’s Talk Trade Shows is hosted by Joyce McKee, a tradeshow marketing expert and consultant that I met years ago before blogs and podcasts were a ‘thing.’ I even had her on a phone interview at one point.

Joyce’s blog has a lot of good stuff, including audience ‘attractors’ like free e-books, papers, and lots of relevant posts. She also has started doing more video, which I always recommend because, let’s face it, some people just like to watch short videos. Not only that, but having a video shows your audience who you are, how you act, and how you talk. It humanizes you. As a result, it tends to attract people that like what you do, so they’ll come back more often.

Tradeshow Scoop, on the other hand, looks like a de-humanized blog. Yes, it has a lot of information about various aspects of tradeshow marketing. But there’s no face to it, no human element. The archive listing shows that it’s been on since March 2007. But there’s no information on the “About” page. After running across a few grammatical errors (‘there’ for ‘their’), and seeing no graphics, videos or other ‘eye-candy’ I realized that I would probably never return to this blog.

total solutions logo

Finally, Shauna, I liked the Total Solutions Marketing blog. Good information posts, added graphics and photos to break up the copy, and at least a couple of posts a month for the past several months. It appears that the blog is taken seriously by the owners, and I would encourage more posts – and hey, get out that little Flip video camera and get on-screen for a few short informative posts!

Hi Tim,
We just started a blog that has a focus on face-to-face marketing.
We will be adding a wealth of content moving forward.

Valerie Hurst, Inspires GALLO Clients with Effective Trade Show Exhibit Marketing, Events & Environments in Cleveland & Beyond

Again, a new blog with just a handful of posts since launching in mid-September. This blog looks to have a more ‘human’ element with one post titled “Musings of a Guy Who Used to Play Football…Without a Helmet.” With a title like that, you’re drawn in to find answer the question ‘what the hell?’

I’ll check back and see how the new blog develops – thanks for the tip!

Hi Tim—
You asked for some trade show related blogs awhile back. Here are a few:

–Mel White, Classic Exhibits

Let’s look at the Optima Graphics Blog first. At first glance, I can see there’s a pretty high level of fun and creativity here. They took the time to put together a video which – in ‘old-time’ fashion – showed what a ‘rapid response’ is. Yes, it’s just a commercial, but clever.

After looking a little deeper, it appears that the blog – while definitely a corporate blog – is set up to show the human side of Optima Graphics, while still pitching products and service. They have so far managed to walk the line between pushing products and having fun and showing their human side.

On the downside, I noticed a lack of ‘widgets’ or further information in the right-hand sidebar. This is a good opportunity to put link listings, previous post listings, free e-book downloads, links to graphic templates, and links to other pages where we could learn who’s actually behind the blog. The more human face we see, the more inclined we are to want to do business with someone.

Display Diva, hosted by Tracey Lindsay, is certainly an active blog. It’s fun to read, with off-topic posts such as quotes from Mad Men’s Don Draper, complaints about Twitter and more. Tracey does get in tradeshow and exhibit-related articles and posts, but doesn’t flinch at putting something up just because she finds it amusing or entertaining.

I would also give her high marks for having her Twitter feed displayed (in spite of her dissing Twitter in a recent post!). There are a few points of dissonance, such as the upper-right hand “Archive” header, which then offers links to her Twitter account and the main page at LinkedIn (where’s the link to Tracey’s LinkedIn page?). I also feel that she’s missing an opportunity to put previous post links, free e-books, etc., in the sidebar instead of leaving it mostly blank.

classic exhibits logo

Finally, I wanted to take a quick look at the blog from Classic Exhibits. Mel was too humble to ask me to review it, but to my mind, it’s the epitome of what a ‘corporate’ blog should be. It has useful information and articles posted regularly; it offers opinions on the state of the tradeshow industry, and it showcases new company products. Most of the articles are posted by Mel White, Classic Exhibit’s VP of Marketing and Business Development or Kevin Carty, the VP of Sales at CE.

The blog has a distinct personality which makes it fun to read – and to even get a little riled up about if you’re an exhibitor. Kevin and Mel have obviously made a decision to call ’em as they see ’em by posting opinions on various aspects of the industry. It makes for engaging reading.

I also like that the blog is seamless integrated into the overall Classic Exhibits website, making navigation back and forth effortless. Kudos to Kevin and Mel and their C.E. team for continuing to stay on the leading edge of online marketing and social media.

And a few final thoughts on blogging and social media in general…

A blog is a living, active thing; an online extension of who you or are, or what your company is. It needs to be fed regularly, like any living thing. Articles, quick posts, videos, audio podcasts, guest posts…whatever you can come up with to keep readers coming back.

And if you’re going to have a blog, make sure you’re doing all you can to drive traffic to it. I find that a third of my traffic comes from Twitter, a third comes from Google organic searches, and the rest from a variety of sources. Click-throughs are increasing from both Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you don’t have a Facebook page yet, look into setting one up. If you’re on LinkedIn, join some groups and start discussions. Nothing wrong with asking a question based on a recent blog, podcast or video that you posted and pointing people to your page. Some topics hit a hot button and the next thing you know you’ve got a few dozen more visitors.

Offer freebies – things of value – on your site. Write an e-book, put together a special report or other download. You’ll notice I have a page set aside on this site with a series of PDFs intended to help tradeshow marketers. Publish a regular newsletter. Contribute to other blogs.

Remember, in this world where social media is drawing millions of people, you are what you publish.

What are you publishing?

23 Pre-Show Marketing Promotions, Tactics and Ideas

Sure, your booth looks great. Your tradeshow staff is tip-top, trained and raring to go. The next step in your overall tradeshow marketing plan is to get people to come to your booth WANTING to do business with you. You want them lined up when the doors open each day, raring to hoof it to YOUR booth for something special.

Don’t leave it to chance. A modest investment in time, energy and dollars will pay off. In your pre-show planning, determine your show objectives and shape your promotions accordingly.

Here are some ideas for promotions that should inspire you to put pre-show marketing on to your ‘must do’ list.

  1. “Missing glove” promotion: one of the older ways of getting people to come to your booth is to send them one glove,
    promo items

    and ask them to come to the booth to get a matching glove for the other hand. You could use a key and lock, travel coffee mugs/lids, etc. The incentive is to get your visitor to make a point of coming by your booth to get the missing item.

  2. Direct Mailer: Target your own house list, last year’s show attendees; who ever you think might benefit from being able to do business with you. Create a postcard or other mailer and send out a few weeks before the show.
  3. E-mail: Remind your newsletter list (you do have a newsletter, right?) about the show. Mention any incentives you have in place for show attendees.
  4. Online on your own website: put mentions of the show on the front page and other relevent pages on your company website.
  5. Newsletter: whether you have an e-mail or snail mail newsletter, be sure to mention to your recipients that you’re going to be at the show.
  6. Online on the show website. By becoming a show sponsor, you’ll get your company branded consistently on the show website. Make sure your banner ads mention the booth number and any promotion you’ll be doing at the show.
  7. Radio – if appropriate (for a consumer show, for instance), radio advertising can bring people to the show. ALWAYS have a call to action in your radio ads: ‘come to booth XX to register to win a blank,’ etc.
  8. TV – same with Radio.
  9. Social Media: Twitter: for your social media marketing, the goal is to bring people to your booth and create awareness about your company and products. Tweet out about specific prizes, offers, products, etc.
  10. Social Media: Facebook page. On your company Facebook page, set aside a special area to let people know about your show appearance and any special events, offers, products, etc. that might be of interest.
  11. Social Media: LinkedIn mentions. Post show updates in your status box, and get your sales people and other show attendees to do the same. YOu can also join a related group and pose a question about a specific problem or challenge in your industry. Include a link to your tradeshow landing page online, or minisite if you’re created one.
  12. Create small stickers with your booth #, date, city, etc. Put it on all correspondence that goes out to clients or prospects: invoices, letters, packages, etc.
  13. Send out map of show floor with your booth highlighted. Mention any freebies you’re giving away, or new products your launching.
  14. Limited time incentive: first 50 people at the booth get a free prize.
  15. Target CEO’s with a ‘dimensional’ mailed package. For instance, as a SendOutCards member, I can easily send cookies, brownies, gourmet foods, books, DVDs. This will get the attention of the target! Personalize the message with a special invitation to come by the booth and learn about your products or services.
  16. Fax-blast reminders to business that you already have a relationship with (fax marketing has various restrictions, so make sure you are following those rules).
  17. Have your sales people drop off invitations in person.
  18. Starting about 5 – 6 weeks before the show, have your sales team start making appointments at the trade show.
  19. Your PR department should be making arrangements with key media players and outlets to make sure they know of new products, new features on older products, etc. Anything that gives you a bit of a hook to get airtime or mentions in the media.
  20. Send a coupon for a free gift that your prospect can pick up at your booth.
  21. Create a ‘show appointment’ book, and book appointments with your key customers or prospects. As part of your confirmation, send a copy of the book page to your clients with the appointment hand-written in.
  22. Have all of your sales reps and anyone else that regularly communicates with clients and prospect via email to add a show mention (with booth and show location and date) to their e-mail signature file.
  23. Create a mini-site where all of your show-related documents would reside. Have a special password-protected area for your employees and ‘premium’ clients where they can find contact info for all your tradeshow staff, staff schedule, and other pertinent information. Mention the site in all your outgoing correspondence (remember the sticker? put the URL on it!)

Bravo! Show Hits 15 Years in Portland

I spent a couple of hours this week at the Bravo! Live Tradeshow in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center yesterday, produced by

The event features businesses that focus on event production, including caterers, event design and production, entertainment, event planning, transportation and tours and venues. Bravo! founder Mary Lou Burton conceived the idea for the show after her wedding in which she couldn’t find a central source for planning such an event. The tradeshow itself is about fifteen years old, held every October in Portland.

I’ve been to the show perhaps half a dozen times and always find it a friendly, moderately-sized regional show that has a lot to offer. This year I connected with a lot of exhibitors from my old hometowns of Sisters and Bend in Central Oregon. Always great to chat with people who are living where I grew up – especially the folks at The Lodge at Suttle Lake, just a short jaunt from the small Scout Lake where I learned to swim as a kid, in the upper Cascades.

Some 150 exhibitors showed their stuff. Of course the most popular are the caterers and brewpubs who sampled crab-cakes, ales, sweets, and yummy snacks.


The most interesting booths to me included the Portland Photo Booth, The Lodge at Suttle Lake (probably because I grew up near there and was interested to see how they were progressing), Wanderlust Tours, DWA Trade Show and Exposition, Astoria/Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, A Majestic Mountain Retreat, and Tickets Oregon.

My attraction to the booths, interestingly enough, were not because of how the booth looked, but with what they had to offer and how the folks staffing the booth interacted.

For example, the photo booth at Portland Photo Booth is a big attractor: you’re invited to sit in the booth and take a series of photos – just like you used to as a kid! The booth is available for rent for parties, corporate events, shows, etc. at a flat fee for unlimited usage during the rental time. Great way to get your guests involved.

The Lodge at Suttle Lake is a magnificent resort on the east end of Suttle Lake on the Santiam Pass in the Central Oregon Cascades. I told Becca at the booth that I grew up learning to swim at Scout Lake, just a mile or so up and over the hill from Suttle Lake, and that I had camped with my family several times at Suttle Lake. So we hit it off great. Always nice to connect with someone from your home town!

Pat Conlon at Wanderlust Tours went into a passionate description of what his company offered and I kept thinking “I need a job like that!”  Patrick and the company spend their time taking folks on canoe, kayak, cave, volcano and GPS Eco-Challenge tours among other things. Neat.

But I think I was most impressed by Patrick Lamb’s Tickets Oregon, a new company that handles online ticket sales for Oregon events. Patrick is a Grammy-nominated musician who has toured the world and played with such folks as Lionel Hampton, Diane Schuur, Bobby Caldwell, Gino Vannelli, Jeff Lorber, ‘Little John’ Roberts, Curt Bisquera, Herman Jackson, Mel Brown, Marlon McClain, Nate Philips, The Crazy 8s, Dan Balmer, Paul Delay, Norman Sylvester….(okay, it’s an impressive list). In person Patrick is gregarious, passionate and knowledgeable. He’s the owner/founder of Tickets Oregon and as he told the story of why he started the company I couldn’t help get caught up in his tale. It also occurred to me that this is the way to get people involved in your endeavors: tell them a story about why you are involved. If it resonates, they’ll want to get involved.

Bravo! in Portland

In public speaking I always teach that personal stories are powerful. They hook people and draw them in. It’s the same in tradeshow marketing. Tell a powerful tale and you’ll hook your visitors.

As tradeshows go, Bravo! is a small regional show – and the organizers pulled it off very nicely. The exhibitors are extremely high quality, the registration process is nearly seamless (okay, a slight bump in getting a badge but they had a ready-made Plan B), and best of all the show was free to industry types.

And the crab-cakes were outasite!

Increasing Tradeshow ROI

Here’s a guest post by Kevin Ehlers of Event Technologies of Long Beach, California


In today’s economic climate, increasing tradeshow ROI is as important as ever.  While we can get very in depth on how to do this, I’d like to throw out a few quick trade show strategies that can help your company close more deals from your trade show leads.

Trade Show Lead Qualification – Being face to face with prospects is the main benefit of exhibiting at a trade show.  The conversations that take place on the show floor determine which leads are good opportunities.  The challenge is recording that conversation.  Just scanning their badge with an exhibitor lead retrieval system doesn’t cut it.  You need to either have to use a trade show scanner with custom qualifiers or use lead retrieval software with custom surveying capabilities.

Lead Rating – Once you have the trade show leads qualified you can use a lead scoring system to rate the leads (hot, warm, or cold – A, B, or C, etc.).  There is no need to waste the sales reps’ time with the cold leads, so only send out the good leads.  This will keep the reps engaged in your program, save them time, allow them to put more energy into the quality leads and, as a result, increase trade show ROI.

Sales Lead Distribution – With each day that passes, the trade show leads get colder and colder.  You ideally want to get the leads to the reps within 2 or 3 days after the show.  This gives the reps a week or so to contact all of their leads before they turn cold.  Rapid sales lead distribution will increase your sales reps’ success rates.

Trade Show Lead Follow Up – As I just mentioned, the leads get cold quickly after a show.  Trade show lead follow up needs to happen while the show (your company) is fresh in the prospect’s mind.  Industry studies show that the leads are cold about 2 weeks after the show ends.  A good idea is to send out an email immediately after the show to every lead saying “thank you.”  This will keep your message fresh in their mind while you go through your lead rating and distribution processes.

I hope this post will help you rethink your trade show strategy.  While these tips will take a little of your time to research and implement, they will reap rewards in the form of increased trade show ROI.

Event Technologies provides custom solutions for exhibitors that want to employ technology to improve the means by which they collect, distribute, follow-up and report on the leads that they generate at their tradeshows and events.  Kevin Ehlers is the VP of Sales and Marketing and can be contacted at or

7 Ways Your Tradeshow Staff Can Sabotage a Deal

Tradeshow consultants and trainers sound like a broken record when they harp on how important it is for your front line people – the tradeshow staff – to be “on” all the time. To put their best face and effort forward. To respond with a smile. Etcetera.

In spite of how fast information spreads (like wildfire!), some tradeshow managers just don’t get it! So here’s a quick list of ways your staff can blow the next deal that may be walking into your booth. Pay close attention now and see if they’re making any of these mistakes:

  1. Eating in the booth. Yup, it’s a giant turn-off.
  2. Talking or texting on the cell phone. It tells your visitors that they’re second rate – behind someone who’s not even in the booth!
  3. Not finding answers to a visitor’s questions. If you don’t know the answer, take their card and jot the question down on the back of it – then tell them you’ll get back to them as soon as you can. Then do it.
  4. Talking amongst yourselves. On a lightly-traveled show floor, you can probably get away with talking a lot. But if the floor is thick with visitors, any sign that you’re not paying attention to a possible visitor is perceived as disinterest. And perception is reality.
  5. Answering a question incorrectly. Could be worse than having no answer.
  6. Significantly bad body odor. Nothing like forgetting to shower to drive away a big customer.
  7. Showing a bad attitude. Having a bad attitude is one thing – a bad thing. But a true pro can shift from a bad frame of mind. Showing a truly bad attitude is grounds for dismissal and having the ticket to the tradeshow permanently revoked.

Do your staffers show any of these symptoms of sabotage? You can teach them how to do things correctly (they might learn and pay attention – good). You can show them (better). Or you can get them to buy in to the whole marketing effort and mission of the company. When they believe – and understand a few common sense rules – they’ll happily become true ambassadors of your company.

And at that point they’ll be the best ‘front line’ people you can have.

Customer Profile: Jason Graham-Nye of gDiapers


Interpretive Exhibits designed and fabricated a shelving back wall with signage (photo below) for gDiapers a year or two ago, and since then have gotten to know several of the great folks in the company.

Just last week gDiapers had a grand opening of their new location on MLK Jr Blvd in Portland. One reason we love working with gDiapers is because they expend a lot of effort doing good things in the world: they have a family-like atmosphere at their office where kids come to daycare; strong pro-environmental policies are a way of life, and its obvious that a lot of love and passion is floating through the building.

Business Name: gDiapers

Jason Graham-Nye

Person responding to questionnaire: Jason Graham-Nye

Title: Dad/ CEO / co-founder

Years in business: 5

Location: Portland, Oregon

Approx number of employees: 15

gDiapers booth fabricated by Interpretive Exhibits

Website Address:

Main target market: Mums and Dads and whoever has stores who cater to them.

Most successful marketing strategy/tactic or method: Tapping out most passionate customers and let them tell the story.

What is the best thing you get out of tradeshow marketing? It’s the one place where you can have conversations with key buyers in a compact period of time. The booth tells the brand story succinctly.

Biggest complaint? It is often hard to nail down appointment times at a trade show.

Favorite Quote: Whatever you focus on grows.

Biggest Lesson Learned: Everything takes twice as much time and twice as much money as you originally thought. And it’s all about the people.

Most extreme thing you ever did? 7 marathons completed.

Inspiring movie you’d recommend? Chariots of Fire.

Thanks to Jason and his awesome crew at gDiapers for participating in our Customer Profile!

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