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

October 2015

Starting a Conversation with Booth Visitors

Questions are powerful. Asking the right questions in the right situation can open doors to more business, to gathering critical information and to getting someone interested in your product or service.

At a tradeshow, questions are your superpower. It’s a busy, chaotic environment and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other exhibitors and booths competing for your visitor’s attention. What are you doing to differentiate yourself from the competition?

You’re asking powerful questions.


Given the situation that time is of the essence, unfortunately you can’t necessarily spend a lot of time with rapport-building questions. A typical sales call may allow you time to ask about how their business is going, what they’re doing this weekend, and to get into details of their company’s short and long-term goals.

But you can ask impactful questions that get people thinking.

Ask about Goals and Objectives: What are you hoping to accomplish in the next 6 to 12 months? The next 2 – 5 years? Or ask about a specific project: what does this particular project mean to the company?

Ask about Problems and Challenges: What’s missing in your challenge to reach Goal A? Is there anything in particular that’s holding you back? What solutions are you considering?

Ask questions that position your company: If you were to work with us, what are you hoping will be different from what you’re currently doing? What does success look like for you in this project, or in how we work together?

A few simple questions will make it clear that you should pursue the situation further, or not. Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to sit down at a private table and hash out all of the details, or it may mean setting up an appointment to follow up.

Asking open-ended questions lets the visitor respond with as much information as they like. Asking too many questions, though, makes you sound like an automaton. In other words, don’t’ overdo it. Sometimes the right response is simply to say “Tell me more” or “How so?”

Just keep in mind that on the tradeshow floor your goal is to qualify and disqualify visitors quickly. Don’t waste time with a non-prospect and don’t spend an inordinate amount of time with a prospect. Make sure you have a proper and agreed-upon follow up sequence in place before he or she leaves the booth.


Tradeshow Logistics Play a Critical Part of Your Success

This is a guest post by Valerie McSween.

Your company has invested substantial capital to purchase an exhibit, you’ve spent thousands of dollars to secure floor space at an upcoming tradeshow and your marketing team developed a thorough marketing campaign to make the show as successful as possible. You will also incur important travelling expenditures. You are looking forward to flying in with your team for the event.

You arrive at the show with excitement of meeting quality people over the next few days and discover that your booth’s delivery missed the receiving deadline at the marshalling yard. Your floor space has a lovely carpet, which you also paid for, however your booth didn’t make it on time and the show must go on…


Tradeshow logistics plays a vital role in delivering a successful event. When efficiently orchestrated, it implies getting the booth and events material delivered to the tradeshow venue on time, and in perfect condition. We’ve listed a few general rules of thumb to help mitigate the risks involved in not delivering – or recovering – your exhibit material on time.

  • Time permitting, ship early. Most transportation providers won’t charge storage to hold your goods near the tradeshow venue for a few days. You can also use the show’s advance warehousing option. You will be billed higher handling fees by the show organizer yet this ensures you are on time for the move-in.
  •  Hire a transportation provider familiar with tradeshow logistics and make sure they can easily be reached 24 /7. Communicate the marshalling yard location and the check-in time you have been assigned. Be prepared to pay for waiting time and negotiate the hourly rate ahead of time with your transportation provider to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  •  Detail as much information as possible on the bill of lading: name of the show & exhibitor, booth number, on-site contact name, telephone number, number of pieces and weight.
  •  Label each shipping unit with all pertinent information, including the number of pieces (i.e. 1 of 5, 2 of 5, etc.). Insert your business card in every package to ensure any items that get separated from the shipment make it back to you after the dismantling.
  •  Wrap your crates/pallets with coloured stretch wrap to help your team locate the shipment more easily at the venue’s receiving dock if need be.
  •  Stacking crates/pallets inside the delivery truck may reduce your shipping costs, however you will be billed additional handling fees to have the exhibit offloaded at the show (more or less 25% greater). Be sure to weigh the trade-offs between reduced shipping costs and resulting higher handling fees before deciding how to package and ship your material.

There are a few key issues you want to address before leaving the premises once the show concludes. To mitigate the risks of penalties and resulting costs for not recovering your shipment on time:

  • Confirm outbound shipping arrangements with your transportation provider and with the show’s service desk. Confirm your assigned check-in time for the recovery of your exhibit material.
  •  Remove old labels and affix new ones with the outbound information to each package. Attach copies of the return bill of lading to your shipment. Indicate the name of your transportation provider and their 24/7 telephone number and contact name.
  •  Turn in the material handling form (MHA) and the bill of lading to the general service contractor of the show. The MHA authorizes the show contractor to transfer your shipment from the booth location to the designated carrier. Both forms need to be turned in to avoid your shipment being “forced”.
  •  Make sure your carrier’s name is clearly specified in the designated area on the MHA.
  •  Ensure that all payment arrangements have been made with the show organizer. Your shipment may otherwise not be released to your carrier and consequently ‘’forced”.
  • When a booth remains on the show floor after the scheduled move out, it gets “forced” out. This implies that your exhibit will ship from the tradeshow venue via the show’s designated carrier. Unless that carrier happens to be the one you booked for the move-out, you will have exorbitant fees to pay to recover your shipment.

Understanding the importance that transportation plays in tradeshow logistics will help you make the right choice when hiring a transportation provider for your next tradeshow exhibit. Your day-to-day carrier may offer competitive pricing for non-time-sensitive orders, however they may lack knowledge and experience with tradeshow logistics. To help you reach your tradeshow objectives, choose a carrier who will give you the peace of mind and let you focus on the reason you are exhibiting at the show to begin with.

Whichever transportation provider you hire to carry your exhibit material, request references and reach out to clients who swear by them when it comes to events and tradeshow logistics.

Valerie McSween, CCLP is the Vice President, Eastern Region at Mactrans Logistics Inc. She is also the Vice Chair Finance for the CITT Board of Directors. Over the last 20 years, Valerie has worked with both asset based and non-asset based transportation providers in various strategic business development functions. She holds her CCLP designation as well as an Executive MBA in Logistics.


Developing Your Annual Tradeshow Marketing Plan


By definition, a marketing plan details your current approach to spreading the word to the marketplace about your products or services. A tradeshow marketing plan is designed to coordinate your overall marketing plan with the various tradeshow appearances you have planned during the year.

Things are always changing. People come and go, as do customers. If you can focus on a calendar year, you can map out strategies and tactics that will then drop actions into quarters, months and particular shows.

Your tradeshow marketing plan should give each member of your marketing team an understanding of what steps will be handled by them to achieve your company’s objectives during the year.

By breaking the plan down into the following areas, your approach to planning each year’s tradeshow marketing plan should be easier and make sense.

  • By show – determine exactly what the overall goals are for each show. List the shows, the booth size, the expected booth personnel and potential audience. List the products and services that you’ll be promoting at that show.
  • Tactics – what will you be doing around the following areas for each show: pre-show marketing, public relations outreach, social media engagement and related content creation such as photos and videos.
  • Measureable results – what do you want out of the following areas? Samples given out, demos performed, in-booth attendance, leads generated.
  • Parameters set – create a plan that is focused and has realistic expectations.
  • Buy-in – once the plan is complete, have all staff and management sign off on the plan so that everyone knows what the expectations are.

A tradeshow marketing plan is an addendum of sorts to an overall marketing plan. Even if you have a good, solid marketing plan, breaking out your tradeshow marketing tasks and goals will help to make your overall marketing plan more effective.

Once the plan is in place, it can be used as a go-to source to make sure that you’re not forgetting something in the chaos of executing a tradeshow. So often it’s easy to let things slip away or be put aside when the show is underway. Then when you’re back in the office and you don’t have a particular piece of information, such as the number of booth visitors or how many people attended your demos, you’ll be kicking yourself for not making that happen. A plan will increase the chances of fully executing all the important tasks ahead of you at the tradeshow.


Evaluating your Tradeshow Competitors

There are a hundred reasons to exhibit at a tradeshow, and one of the best is to see what your competitors are doing. Everything they have for public consumption is on display and it’s a great thing!


Play spy and learn what you can from their appearance.

Not only are they showing off their new products and services, but their brand and people are all on display as well. If you put together a checklist it’s an easy task to rate those competitors and size them in relation to your company, as well as other competitors.

Prior to the show, create a list of those companies that you want to evaluate. This should be easy enough to do by examining the show website. Once you have your list, determine what you’d like to evaluate.

First, find out if the company did any pre-show marketing. If so, can you quantify or track it?

Next, rank their booth on a scale of 1-5, A-F, or whatever you’d like. Stand back from the booth so you can take it all in. Evaluate things such as:

  • Overall visual impact
  • Brand
  • Graphic messaging
  • Booth layout and functionability (did I just make that word up?)
  • Product(s) displayed
  • Meeting space

Make note of any activity in the booth. Are they doing anything in particular to draw traffic, such as a spinning wheel, special guest, or an interactive and engaging activity? Ask yourself if you think these activities are actually engaging potential customers or if it’s just gathering names and addresses that are ultimately not very useful, such as collecting business cards in a fishbowl for an iPad giveaway or something similar.

Are they giving anything away, such as imprinted pens, buttons, squish balls or flash drives?

Are the staffers branded in any way, such as branded shirts or silkscreened tee’s? Do those branded items clearly represent the brand and are they easily identifiable?

Are they giving away any samples or product materials?

If you are the kind of person that finds it easy to talk to other people (yeah, some of us are and some are not – I get it!), see what kind of corporate intel you can gather by chatting either with one of their employees, or with one of their competitors. This is where you might find out about personnel movement, corporate decisions, new products in the pipeline, or other pertinent information. Tradeshows are often rife with gossip.

Before wrapping up your competitor evaluation, check to see if any of their management is involved in any of the show presentations. If so, make a note of the topic and time and date.

Once the show is over, sit down with marketing and management and share the information. It may be an informal sharing over coffee, or it could be a formal report on what competitors you evaluated and what you learned. In any event, tradeshows are a great place to learn as much as you can about the market – so plan on using that opportunity to its greatest advantage.


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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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