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

June 2010

Ways to Attract a Crowd at Trade Show Exhibits

Guest post by Chris A. Harmen


When it comes to standing out among all of the other trade show booths, having something that catches visitors’ attention is key. At trade events, attendees don’t have time to visit each and every booth. They are there on a mission – to seek out the best of the best and give their business to the companies they feel match their organizations’ goals and needs. Some businesses may carry a highly superior product or service as compared to most of their competitors, but they simply do not have the attention-getting gimmick to attract business. Make sure your company does not fall into this category by choosing one of the many exciting ways to catch the attention of attendees at trade show booths.

Entice Trade Show Booths’ Visitors With Giveaways

One of the simplest ways to attract people to your trade show exhibits is to offer something free. Everyone likes the prospect of free things, and the bigger the better. If your company has the budget for it, offer something like a couple of nights free at a luxury resort. If you do not quite have the financial capability to offer something that glamorous, consider a free visit to a day spa or massage parlor, or something as simple as a free meal at a nearby restaurant – maybe one that offers or utilizes your company’s products or services. For smaller companies, even a bowl of candy will bring people into your booth. Position the candy display a little ways into the trade show booths, so it is harder for visitors to just grab the candy and keep walking.

Demonstrations And Technology

There are many basic ideas that can be overlooked when trying to attract and retain potential clients. Product demonstrations at trade show exhibits are always a great way to show off your product and build up a crowd. Consider wearing a microphone with a small speaker to really draw attention.

Make use of technology like internet access, lights, a DVD player/projection screen, or even lasers. Display your company’s professionally designed website in the background, and use spotlights, like colored, moving ones, to draw attention to areas of your booth. If your business has a workshop video or DVD demonstrating what you do, have it play in the background. Lasers can flicker in the background to make your trade show booths seem exciting and tech-savvy.

Hire Show Stoppers And Stay Friendly

Again, if your company has the budget for it, hire whoever you can who will attract attention to your exhibits. Celebrities, athletes, musicians, and comics are all options. Clowns on stilts, jugglers, celebrity look-a-likes, and even attractive models with marketing backgrounds can help bring over potential clients.

Even your own sales staff and booth exhibitors can be showstoppers if trained correctly. Be sure to project energy at all times. Have a couple people manning the booth, so if someone gets tired they can switch positions. Remember to smile and mingle with the crowd. Don’t just remain in the booth’s background.

By enticing attendees with giveaways, demonstrations, technology, and special guests who may stop visitors in their tracks, you will see more traffic and, consequently, more sales after trade show exhibits.

Chris Harmen writes for the leading provider of trade show exhibits Canada Skyline. They offer professional consulting and advice as well as a complete line of Canada trade show booths.

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photo credit: AskDaveTaylor

Tradeshow Marketing Bucket List


What is on your Tradeshow Marketing Bucket List?

What? Why would that matter? Compiling a list of things that might be fun to do – in tradeshow marketing, no less – before you kick the bucket?

And again, why not?

By putting together a Bucket List for your tradeshow marketing efforts, you will begin to form larger ideas and put meat on the skeleton of tradeshow marketing ideas that already exist in your mind. But those ideas may be limited by the reality of your budget, schedule, availabilities and staff.

But wouldn’t it be get a little inspiration from the movies and have fun to play a “What If?” game?

So – suspend the constraints of your current reality and ask: what might go on your Tradeshow Marketing Bucket List?

  • Shows that you’d love to attend
  • Promotions you want to do
  • People you want to meet
  • Locations where you’d like to go to a show
  • Tradeshow booths that you’d like to purchase
  • Graphic artists or designers you’d love to work with
  • Products you’d like to promote

Can you see where this is going? Imagine all of the possibilities that you can come up with using those ideas as thought-starters. Undoubtedly you can come up with more kickstarters with a little more thought.

Create a Tradeshow Marketing Bucket List. Then keep it handy and start ticking off the items as you do them.

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photo credit: the paessels

Health of the Booth Staff

Guest post by Darryl Noble

Trade shows take a lot of money to invest in. Getting a return on investment makes it an imperative that everything at show goes well. There is a lot of books and advice available for displays, giveaways, traffic, and even which shows to attend. There is help on who to choose to man a booth and what they should do while in at the exhibit. What is most often ignored is the staff’s health. It would not take much to disrupt all the plans with a booth staff member taken out by sickness. A lackluster performance by staff could also torpedo all plans for a good return on the trade show investment.

Most everybody has general knowledge about healthcare make sure they follow it.

When the booth is set-up pre-show, have staff wipe it down with anti-bacterial cleaning wipes. The same during slow times of a show or at the end of the day. While talking about antibacterial, they should also use hand sanitizer often throughout the day, as they will be shaking a lot of hands.

If the trade show will be out of area, make sure they are prepared for a new geography or climate. If the staff is from Phoenix and use to a desert spring, taking a trip to the Pacific Northwest could require warmer and staying dry attire. Also, consider if one is staying at the conference hotel or staff has to travel to the exhibit area everyday. Staying in air conditioning all day and then having to take a hot twenty-minute bus ride can be hard on people. Places like Phoenix and Las Vegas can be above 100 degrees during all the summer months.

Then there is good scheduling of staff. The schedule should rotate staff often unless they are able to go somewhere and rest their legs. Also, they should have a place and rest their minds. Having rooms at the host hotel is always good, unless the trade show is far separated from the hotels. Regardless, the staff should be able to stay alert and lively. Also, if the trade show or conference has an active nightlife to it, account for it. Staff that is entertaining clients late into the night should not be working the morning shift in a booth.

With a little planning on everybody’s part, an entire exhibit staff can stay healthy and be able to bring the company a lot more money than it put out. Really, it comes down to remembering the little things along with the big things of a trade show event.

There is more help available for small businesses and entrepreneurs looking at exhibiting at expos and conferences. Here is information about using a used trade show display. One can also look at which trade show product options are available for an event. Visit now to learn more.

Introducing Interpretive Exhibits Design Search

As a long-time distributor of the Classic Exhibits line-up of tradeshow products, it’s great to see that there is now a ‘deep-well’ way to search out one of their exhibits for your specific exhibiting needs.

Exhibit Design Search (link here and also on the navigation bar above) takes you to the database of hundreds (if not thousands) of varieties of exhibits. These range from small accessories such as round graphic stands (definitely cool!) to large island exhibits – and everything in between.

To use Design Search, just click on the link and head to the site. Here’s where you’ll find the opening page which is designed to let you intuitively and quickly find what you’re looking for. If you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s a great browsing tool.

Along the way you can view the Top 12 exhibits, catch a Photo Gallery, see what exhibits can be quickly shipped if you’re in a hurry, check out the Specials and even browse the dozens of Tradeshow Tip articles.

Beneath each exhibit rendering you’ll see a link labeled “Add to My Gallery” – when you click that you start to create your own line-up of favorites or exhibits you want to save and review closer later. It’s a great way to share with other team members to get their feedback.

The drop-down menus allow you to filter your search using price points, booth size and lead times – as well as give you the opportunity to do a text search.

Now all of that by itself would be pretty damn cool. Almost awesome.

But here’s what takes the Design Search tool to the next level: the burgeoning P_5_D photo gallery. P_5_D stands for ‘Past 5 Days’ and it is an on-going stream of photos of exhibits that go out the door.

Not only does this let you see what other clients are interested in (and have put $$ down on), it allows you to see how each one of them has possibly made adjustments and alterations to a standard exhibit. A great way to help generate ideas, eh? Plus: each photo is of something REAL that was actually created – not just a computer rendering of what something is SUPPOSED to look like. Getting a chance to see the real stuff shows you how it would look in your booth.

And if you check the drop-down navigation under the ‘View By Week’ tab you’ll see that the photo albums go all the way back to late 2006 – almost four years of product that has gone out the door to happy customers.

All in all, Exhibit Design Search is a fun way to waste a bunch of time AND look like you’re working at the same time. So if your boss comes in you can tell her that you’re researching the company’s new exhibit possibilities.

And hey, chances are pretty darn good you’ll find something that will exactly fit what you had in mind!

Product Training from Classic Exhibits

Mel White, Classic Exhibits VP of Marketing & Business Development

Classic Exhibits invited me to attend a day-long training of their new products and services this week. Interpretive Exhibits has been a distributor for Classic Exhibits for several years – probably our longest association with an exhibit manufacturer. We like Classic Exhibits for several reasons, not the least of which is that they’re right up the road in the Portland, Oregon metro area and easy to visit.

The training also included a small group of exhibit folks from the San Francisco Bay area, who were up for the day to get the skinny on what C.E. has to offer.

And yes, they have a lot to offer; in fact, the list seems to continue to grow. Classic Exhibits has recently added a number of eco-friendly and sustainable products to their line. They also have created a number of unique exhibit designs in the past few years that have proven to be winners with their clients. Competitors, too, it appears, as some of the designs have been ‘knocked off’ by other companies.

We spent some time learning about the awesome (yes, I really said awesome) Design Search tool available to Classic Exhibits’ distributors. It allows buyers or browsers a chance to go through hundreds of designs and configurations and see mock-ups and actual photos of several versions of each design. For years Classic Exhibits has photographed every exhibit that goes out the door and keeps adding the photos to the mix, giving you as a buyer a chance to see how other people have adapted a particular exhibit to their use.

Even if you’re not in the market for a new exhibit right now, you might be interested in spending some time going through the Design Search tool – just to see what the possibilities are. Check out Design Search here.

Beyond that we all got a chance to touch, feel, hold and eventually dismantle some of their exhibits, including the Perfect Ten hybrid, Sacagawea hybrid and the Magellan hybrid displays. So easy to dismantle. Like butta…

Finally a look at the tough old bird; the standard pop-up exhibit that has built a reputation over the years as the toughest little pop-up in the industry: the Quadro S pop-ups. These babies are so sturdy that Mel White, the VP of Marketing & Business Development, described one meeting demo that he started by standing on top of the exhibit. Yeah, that’s tough and sturdy.

All in all, great to see what new things are coming out, and getting reacquainted with the old stand-bys. Need an exhibit? Check out Classic Exhibits Design Search here.

From Disappointment to Success: How a Trade Show Exhibit Changed the Fate and Direction of a Company

This is a guest post written by Bev Gray, CEO of Exhibit Edge, a full-service trade show exhibit and consultation company serving the Virginia, Maryland, DC areas and beyond.

With 18 years of being a provide


r for the exhibit industry, I have seen many clients exhibit at many types of trade shows. I have also seen many opportunities for expansion of company brand, products, or services and to build relationships. What I hadn’t seen, until recently, is a company complete change its market and direction as a result of their exhibiting. I’d like to share with you this recent experience.

Scott and his partner, Tim, had developed a jump suit for the hunting industry that, with the help of their patented machine, removed all human scent odors. The machine changed the structure of molecules that create the human scent. How it works for the hunter is, before going into the woods, he or she hooks the machine up to the suit for 5 minutes to completely remove the human scent. If you know anyone who hunts, you know how obsessive they can be over hiding their scent and covering their tracks – so this seemed to be a great product for hunters!

This company received some financial backing to bring their product to market. One of the marketing methods that they chose to pursue was exhibiting at a hunting trade show. They approached us about designing a custom booth and receiving consultation to make the most of their presence… as the SHOT Show in Las Vegas approached, they had very high hopes for their public debut.

Their product and their 10’ booth didn’t disappoint, drawing crowds and attention throughout the duration of the show. Some key aspects of their exhibit as well as some important actions they took were:

  • Their booth displayed a technology feel, just like their product.
  • They displayed a video explaining the product technology.
  • They conducted live demonstrations involving attendees and creating buzz on the floor.
  • They distributed brochures about their product.
  • They were highly prepared to answer questions about their product; not with just off-the-cuff answers, but with carefully thought out, researched responses that painted the product in the best light possible.
  • They checked out their competition and made comprehensive notes for their next shows.
  • They let themselves be compared to their competitor and talked about the differences to the attendees.
  • They offered show discounts to hunting store owners who showed interest in carrying the product.
  • They conducted a couple of sales meeting during non-show hours.
  • They collected and took detailed notes about their qualified leads promising to follow-up within the next two weeks.
  • They attempted to set up future sales meetings with leads, rather than talking to them but not putting a date on the calendar.
  • They sought out additional potential partners who were interested in the technology.

After the show, Scott and Tim felt confident that they would be taking sales orders. They followed up on all of their leads within the promised two week period. Despite all of this hard work, and doing the little things that really make you succeed, sales just did not take off as they expected. As the months passed, they began to get discouraged by the steady, but not rapidly-growing results. We’ve all been here before and know this feeling – it takes persistence and determination to push through this, and they did just that.

One of their sales calls, which was generated from a trade show lead, was to a man who was a hunter but also worked in the healthcare industry. He explained to Scott and Tim that he had been thinking about their product and their show presentation quite a bit. He said he envisioned an application in hospital and lab environments where sanitization is critical and wanted to talk further about the product with his connections in the healthcare industry. Nine months and many phone calls and meetings later, Jim & Scott have just been awarded a sizeable grant to do the research and modifications necessary so that their unique product can be utilized in the healthcare industry. They are currently in this R&D phase and hope to have a revised product within six months. Through this grant they have already come across some very interesting findings; for instance, they have also discovered that when they run their product for several hours without the suit, it will remove odors from a room.

While the partners were confident about their original hunting application for their technology product, a single, memorable meeting at their first trade show opened the door to a potentially much-more lucrative product. It was their repeated phone calls and tenacity that assisted them in their pursuit of success.

Bev Gray is CEO of Exhibit Edge, a full-service trade show exhibit and consultation company serving the Virginia, Maryland, DC areas and beyond. Bev has been involved in the trade show industry for over 15 years.

Check out Exhibit Edge here.

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photo credit: armyengineersnorfolk

It’s Not About You

Maxi Trusso

It doesn’t matter whether you’re exhibiting at a tradeshow, writing on a blog, making a sales call or trying to get a date.


Even though we understand this intellectually, it somehow seems that we grapple with this in real life.

Your visitor doesn’t care about you. They only care about how what you do affects them.

After all, when you’re putting up a tradeshow booth, your inclination is to show what’s NEW, what’s COOL and what’s RELEVANT about your company.

Often that doesn’t matter to the visitor as they just want to know what’s relevant to them.

But the good news is that as often as not the two competing tasks – telling your story vs. making your story relevant to your visitor – are in congruency.

If you’re trying to sell a new food product, you may be interested in pushing that product to your customers because if they buy a lot of it, or a lot of people buy a lot, it’ll be good news to your bottom line.

Your visitor doesn’t care. Instead, she is interested in its taste, calorie count, cost and how her family might like it. Those things are important to her, not your company’s bottom line.

Now of course you say – YES! That’s elemental. Of course you create a tradeshow booth and tradeshow marketing campaign based on what the customer wants.

But do you? Really?

If your company is unknown in the marketplace, yet the first thing a visitor sees is your company’s name in light at the top of the booth, you’re thinking of you – not your customer.

Your name isn’t relevant to them. Yes, you’d like to MAKE it relevant, but you do that by inviting them in with something compelling to THEM. The top graphical imagery in your booth should be what’s most important to THEM. In some cases that may be a compelling question or bold statement. Your company name’s impact and meaning with them will grow over time.

If you’re Apple, Microsoft or Wii, the name is sufficient and relevant, because the visitor has an impression of your brand and are interested in your new products. They have history with customers.

A new company doesn’t, so your task is to think about what’s most important to THEM: draw them in with a statement, graphic or question that addresses that specifically in regards to your product or service.

Sales calls are often the same. If I had a quarter for every sales person that called me weekly and did an ‘information dump’ on me before even asking any questions, I’d be able to buy both of us a nice cuppa joe. Weekly. In those cases, it’s about them. Not me.

In your relationships with friends, partners, clients and prospects, make it about THEM.

You’ll do better than most of your competition.

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photo credit: il_Morta

What I Learned From Talking Dogs


In cartoons and movies, dogs can talk. All the time. They must think we’re not listening. Or maybe they’re smart enough to know that we puny humans don’t understand dog-talk.


I don’t mind talking dogs. In fact, I like them just fine. My 10-year old son watches Scooby-Doo and movies like ‘Cats and Dogs’ and ‘Homeward Bound’ that feature talking dogs.

As far as he knows that’s the way it should be. Dogs and cats talking, and if they’re on screen we can hear and understand them.

It’s as if someone magically transformed those run-of-the-mill pets into super-beings that now are able to converse in languages not common to their species.

I wonder if we humans can do that….

Let’s say that we’re able to…uh…read minds, for instance. What would your booth visitors be saying if you could read the thought balloons above their heads?

“My, that booth needs cleaning.”

“Jeez, that guy’s on the cell phone again!”

“Hmmph, he should have at least used a breath mint to cover up that onion breath!”

Or what if all cell phone conversations within ten feet were beamed right to your head?

“Yeah, uh…let’s meet at the street…no, never mind, let’s do it after lunch. No, wait. Can you meet me here?”

“What’s your problem? I mean, what’s your freakin’ problem, man?”

“Yeah, I know, I know, but I really DO have to go out to dinner with her…it’s business…the boss told me I had to…”

I’m sure you’d hear a lot of idiotic and innocuous chatter. Maybe every 100th phone call you were eavesdropping on contained a nugget of information about your competitor or industry that made you rich.

Hey, since we’ve already established that dogs can talk, it’s not much of a leap to tell ourselves that we can hear private cell phone calls, right? Or read minds?

By imagining talking dogs, you can imagine a lot of wild and crazy things. Like making your booth from orange peels (what a smell!). Or creating a booth back wall of tires. Or teaching your visitors to juggle. Or sending visitors home with a Polaroid photo of themselves. I dunno – creativity comes in many forms. Are you being creative in your booth?

Are you being creative – I mean, really creative – in the important areas of tradeshow marketing?

  • lead gathering
  • lead follow up
  • booth design
  • visitor interaction
  • staff training
  • schmoozing with clients
  • putting on a demo
  • enticing visitors to your booth

If you can be more creative and interesting than a majority of your fellow exhibitors you’ll find yourself with more traffic.

The whole talking dog approach to this blog post was to draw you in and make you say ‘what the hell?’

Did it work? Did you wonder what the hell I was writing about?

If you’ve made it this far you should check out my new favorite book on creativity, ThinkerToys by Michael Michalko. I just finished it today and am already planning a number of ways to use it for future endeavors: sales, writing, brainstorming, planning, creating…so many ideas have come out of just READING the book that I can’t wait until I actually start to implement and use his ideas.

Check it out here (affiliate link): Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition)

Also check out a funny talking dog joke.

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photo credit: raggio(ALL4HIM)productions

Tradeshow Time: Class is in Session


What did you learn from your last tradeshow appearance? Did you learn that you, well, perhaps shouldn’t have even been there?

Sometimes that’s the best lesson you can learn: that the money you spent on the show was wasted and you won’t do that show again.

Or will you? Maybe the lessons you learned included the fact that this particular show was wasted, but that you learned enough about the show to make adjustments and refocus for the next go-round.

Let’s face it: even the most expensive marketing mistake comes with a lesson. Sometimes it’s hard to find, and other times it’s staring you in the face.

It could be that you learned that the show’s audience is not for you.

I recently teamed up with the Salem Business Network and Communication Steroids for the Salem Chamber of Commerce’s ShowBiz 2010, a business-focused day-long tradeshow. We prepped and planned, created and executed. And when it was over, we evaluated the results.

First, we couldn’t point to more than a handful of actual leads for Communication Steroids. And we had about 20 sign-ups for the Salem Business Network. As it turns out, signing people up via our laptop in a busy, chaotic show was more time-consuming than anticipated. So even had everything gone according to plan, the sign-ups would have been fewer than desired.

But luring people to sign up for something FREE isn’t always easy. You’d think so, but it’s counter-intuitive. When people hear that something is FREE, they often thing there’s a hidden catch or that the service is not worth much anyway. After all, they must reason, if it’s free what value can it have?

We also didn’t quite understand the audience that showed up to the show: instead of business folks, it was mostly (probably 90%) people ‘trick-or-treating’ to grab free samples and handouts at a lot of the booths. To their credit, the Salem Chamber of Commerce has tried to dampen that portion of the crowd by charging $5 entrance fee – but it still didn’t seem to have much effect. So there were few people at the show that we could actually describe as serious prospects.

Given all that, it’s hard to know how things will unfold over the next year. We did have a handful of folks we met who liked the offerings, and if any of them develop into a good client in the next 12 months we can say the minimal investment in booth space rental and graphics was worth it. But we can’t say it yet.

Every opportunity to get out into the marketplace is a chance to learn; to understand your market better, to research the wants and needs of your market, to understand the show better, to see how your people work in a chaotic sales situation.

Given that tradeshow marketing is not cheap, your best approach is to learn as many lessons as you can on as many different fronts as you can.

Doors are open: Class is in session!

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photo credit: Christina Spicuzza

Questions to Ask Before You Start Tradeshow Marketing

A recent LinkedIn discussion focused on ‘What questions do you ask yourself when deciding on an exhibit for a tradeshow event?’

There were a lot of answers and discussion on the topic, and after I chimed in with my two pennies’ worth, it got me to thinking: what does it take to even commit to a tradeshow marketing effort?

If you’re a new company looking for marketing opportunities and markets to tap, or a company that’s never done a tradeshow, it’s an interesting question to ponder.

In other words, what is the lead-up to the question asked in the LinkedIn discussion?

To my mind, the decision to even get into tradeshow marketing should begin with a handful of questions:

  • Can we reach a valuable market via tradeshows?
  • What will it cost us in terms of money and resources?
  • Is it a short-term or long-term effort?
  • How will it affect our image in the industry? In our market?
  • If we get involved, who’s going to do it?

After this, you’ll evolve to questions that may be particular to your company, but those are good questions to kick off your internal discussion.

Tradeshow marketing can be an incredible boon – or bust – depending on how well you do it.

You’re laying a lot on the line. Take time to examine it from all angles before jumping in the pond.

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