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

December 2015

People’s Choice Awards: Vote Today and Again Tomorrow!


One of our recent booth projects over the summer was a custom portable modular booth for the Toronto-based company SoYoung. The project turned out so great and people loved the look, that the design and fabrication team at Classic Exhibits thought it should be entered in the Exhibitor Portable/Modular, which recognizes design excellence. So it was. And it made the finals round where you, the public, get to vote!

Classic Exhibits also had two other projects make it to the finals round: Philadelphia Commercial and Nationwide.

The rules for the voting are simple: you can vote only once a day, but you can vote every day.

To vote, simply go here. To learn more about the awards, check this page.

Thanks to SoYoung for letting us design and fabricate their exhibit, and for letting us enter it in the design excellence contest.

And to see a full gallery of photos of the SoYoung booth, check it out here.

9 Things to Measure on the Tradeshow Floor

Take some measurements!

A tradeshow is a perfect opportunity to track stuff: sales, leads, visitors, and so on. Here’s a quick list of things you might consider measuring at each show. It’ll give you a chance to not only compare different shows, but it’ll help you track trends at different appearances at the same show year after year.

  1. Sales. The key indicator of your success. The challenge with tracking sales from tradeshows is that you may get a sale in another 6 months, year or two years as a result of a single appearance. Be aware of where sales come from and track them to their source if you’re able.
  2. Leads. Not quite as critical as sales, but a key indicator of the success of your overall tradeshow program. Identify cool, warm and hot leads and follow up appropriately.
  3. New customers. Sales are great, but what percentage came from new customers?
  4. Visitors. While many exhibitors don’t normally track booth visitors, if you can get a handle on at least an accurate ballpark number of booth visitors from show to show, that information will come in handy.
  5. Samples. Do you give away samples, such as food or flash drives or swag? Keep track.
  6. Demonstrations and attendance. Do you have a professional presenter at your booth? Keep track of how many are given each day and make a headcount of attendees.
  7. Social media content. How many tweets, photos, videos and blog posts are you generating as a result of your appearance? Check things such as how many times your tweets were re-tweeted, or how many times your hashtag was mentioned, the numner of times you received an @ reply. If you saw a spike in Twitter followers or Facebook fans or Instagram followers during the show appearance, track that information.
  8. Other online engagement. Do you steer people to your website during tradeshows? Did social media engagement drive traffic to your site? If you create a specific landing page for visitors, track the traffic on that. If you give away digital assets such as downloadable PDFs, white papers or product sell sheets, track that.
  9. Finally, track the ROI. To calculate the ROI, divide the gross profit minus the cost of the show by the cost of the show. It will look like this:

ROI = (Gross Profit – Cost of the show) / Cost of the show.

For example, if it cost you $200,000 for the booth, travel, lodging, salaries, food, parties, transportation, etc., and you know that six months later the business generated as a direct result of the show was $359,000, you’d write the equation like this:

ROI = ($359,000 – $200,000) / $200,000

ROI = $159,000 / $200,000 = 79.5%

Measure as much as you can. You’ll be glad you did!

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What does it MEAN to your clients?

To really stick in someone’s mind, you must be meaningful to him or her.

From “Meaningful: The Story of Ideas that Fly” by Bernadette Jiwa:

“It’s easy to believe that ‘meaningful’ applies only to the businesses in what some people might call the ‘do-good’ sector of non-profits, sustainability and so on. But every one of us, from a software company to a cab driver, is in the meaning business. Without meaning, products and services are just commodities and nobody wants to be in the commodities business.”

So how does that apply to the tradeshow floor? What does it take to create enough meaning for a visitor that will stay with them long after the show is over?


It boils down to the people. Creating the product is comparatively easy. Getting attention is not all that hard. But sticking in someone’s mind means that the people you employ must understand what it is that is important to the visitors, and what affects them: what about your product or service means something to them?

It’s not an easy answer. And if you don’t know the moment you walk onto a tradeshow floor, you probably haven’t spent any time discussing it with your team prior to the show.

However, a tradeshow is a good opportunity to explore that meaning with your visitors. Think of it: there are thousands of visitors to the show. When they stop at your booth, take time to ask questions. By looking a customer in the eye, you have an opportunity that isn’t available when you’re just talking on the phone or asking people to fill out an online survey.

A tradeshow is an intimate encounter in the sense that you are talking to someone face to face. Yes, there are hundreds of conversations over the course of a three or four day show. As Bernadette put it in the book:

“Bricks-and-mortar businesses have the advantage of intimacy, online businesses, which must collect a ton of (often valuable) data to learn more about their customers and determine how to give them what they want….but the waiter sees the wrinkle nose, the barista remembers the regular and the doctor hears the stories that inputs from the keyboard can never fully communicate.”

Use that face-to-face opportunity to talk with people and really understand what they like and don’t like about your products and services. And make it formal to the extent that when you’re asking questions, you’re writing the answers down. Share that data with others in the company.

Ultimately, your job is to make people happy. If your clients find true meaning in the services and products you provide – enough to make them happy with your company – you’ve done your job.

The Number One Tradeshow Booth Staff Skill


That’s it. If you are a good listener, you’ll do well.

So many booth staffers I meet at shows seem to think it’s all about them. They will stop me while I’m walking by, try to hand me something, ask me a quick question, and (without really hearing my answer) launch into a spiel about their product or service that is supposed to wow me, get me to stop what I’m doing and sign up immediately!

Well, it doesn’t really work that way.

As a booth staffer, if you are a good listener, you’ll hear things from your visitors that other people may not hear. Sure, you need to ask questions – good questions – but if you don’t have the flip side of that coin, the listening skill to go with those good questions, it won’t matter.

Ask your questions.

Then shut up and listen.

Stephen Covey Listening







Want a digital copy of my new book? Click here.

How Do People See Your Tradeshow Exhibit?


Your tradeshow booth is, hopefully, a thing of beauty. You spent days, weeks, and maybe months working with a designer, then a graphic designer, then a marketing team, then a fabricator to create the perfect big booth.

Then you set it up at a tradeshow where you paid tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of bringing your crew and the booth to show it (along with your products or services, of course) to thousands of people.

And Joe the Attendee and Jill the Attendee walk by at a brisk clip, take a 4 or 5 second glance, or don’t even look up, and keep walking.

What happened? You think the booth is beautiful!

They didn’t give it a second glance.

There are many reasons why this might be.

The real challenge for you is this: how do people outside of your world see your exhibit?

When you’re considering what your booth is saying about you, consider as well what the attendee sees when they walk by. What does it mean to them? How do they react to what they see?

Look at it from their perspective. Is the messaging clear to people who have never heard of you? Does your brand ring clear and deliver itself without misunderstanding?

If your brand is strongly communicated and your messaging is clear enough for those who have never heard of you to easily understand it, your designers and fabricators have done their jobs.

25 Ways to Cut Costs at Your Next Trade Show [Webinar Replay]

What’s the single most important thing you can do prior to your next show to save money? You might be surprised.

Tradeshow exhibiting can be expensive. So as an exhibitor, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs!

Just in time for 2016 planning, Mel White of Classic Exhibits recently teamed up with and gave a webinar aimed directly at you if you’re trying to cut costs in your tradeshow marketing.

From rental exhibits, to non-hanging-hanging signs (yes!), to cost-cutting in your graphic production, Mel gives you two dozen-plus items to consider.

Well worth your time:


If you’d like to download the slide deck, get it here.

Oh, BTW..the single most important thing? It has to do with filling our forms. Yeah, boring, but very critical.


Can’t-Miss Tradeshow Newsletters

Doesn’t every Tom, Joe and Susie have a newsletter these days? After all, they can be very useful in getting your message in front of eyeballs on a consistent basis.


The fact is, my inbox is filled daily with dozens of newsletters of all sorts: news, marketing, comic strips, social media engagement, big biz, small biz, and so on.

I tend to open about one in ten if I’m in a generous mood. More like one in twenty or one in fifty. In other words, it’s hard to get my attention (or anybody’s) these days with just a newsletter. There’s got to be something in there that makes it worthwhile to click and open. And read.

But there are several newsletters that I read frequently. Some I open every single time right when I see it and stop what I’m doing. Others get put on the ‘later’ list and I usually make it back to them.

These are the tradeshow industry-related email newsletters that I read almost every time they arrive. I say almost because, hey, even I have to take a day off now and then! There are others out there – some are closed to the public and others don’t arrive frequently enough to warrant attention, and some I just don’t know about – but here are the tops in my book.

Exhibitor Magazine: a companion to their monthly print magazine, the newsletter is a useful and professional addition to your inbox.

TSNN: The Tradeshow News Network: between this and Exhibitor Magazine, you will have your pulse on the beat of the tradeshow industry news and happenings. Bonus: they have several editions available.

Classic Exhibits Tradeshow Tales: Mel and Kevin at Classic Exhibits in Portland, Oregon, offer great insight, humor and passion on a regular basis.

Andy Saks, Spark Presentations: Andy is a tradeshow presenter, Emcee, Staff Trainer and Auctioneer. In other words, he gets up in front of people. A lot. And his now-and-then newsletter is always a good read.

Anders Boulanger, the Infotainers: I enjoy this newsletter as much as any. Anders is a solid writer and communicator and always has thoughtful, meaty – and useful – pieces.

Marlys Arnold, Tradeshow Insights: Marly has been a show organizer and an exhibitor and comes at the topic from a unique perspective. A worthwhile read anytime.

Susan Friedmann, Tradeshow Tips: Susan is a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) who has written many tradeshow related books and publishes a weekly tip sheet for exhibitors.

Skyline Tradeshow Tips: Friendly and useful, this newsletter doesn’t seem to show up a lot but when it does it’s good.


Here are some non-related business/marketing/sales newsletters that I read all the time. I think you’ll love ’em:

Monday Morning Memo: Roy H. Williams of Austin, Texas, author of the Wizard of Ads and a former radio ad salesman, rings my Monday morning with a loud and clear bell every week. I look forward to this.

Sales Tips for the Aspiring Rock Star: Paul Castain, sales trainer and marketing enthusiast is always a fun read.

Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Work Week and the 4 Hour Body, publishes a newsletter every Friday (and at other random times) of stuff that has caught his eye. Good stuff.

Dave Pell’s Next Draft, billed as ‘The Day’s Most Fascinating News,’ is all of that and more.

What is a GREEN Exhibit?

Lots of things are green today, but what does it really take to make a green exhibit?

First, let’s agree on what ‘green’ means.

Most agree that it means moving away from standard business-as-usual fabrication methods by replacing traditional materials and/or ensuring that the chain of incoming products and outgoing materials is as eco-friendly as possible. Ultimately it means as many methods as possible are used to design and fabrication environmentally sustainable exhibits.

How to be Green

In a recent chat with Matt Wish, the Marketing Director of Eco-Sustainable Exhibits (HQ in Grand Rapids, MI; Manufacturing in Portland, OR), we went over what it takes to design and produce a green exhibit.

“Compare it to what people are used to in the construction world: LEED Certification. It’s a great buzzword. What we’ve done is take what we think the LEED Certification would be for a tradeshow exhibit and applied it,” said Matt.

ECO-2054-V1.1 green exhibit

Everything from materials that are being used to the substrates that graphics are printed on, down to the inks used are all combined to assemble what could be called a green exhibit. This includes recycled aluminum extrusions, LED lighting, Paradise Fabric Graphics made from 100% recycled soda bottles, eco-glass, bamboo plywood, FSC certified wood, eco-board and even stains and finishes using water-based low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) and VOC Free.

“We do all we can to hold our company accountable to keep things eco-friendly and green,” said Matt.

Eco-Sustainable Exhibits works closely with Classic Exhibits, their manufacturer, and that has been fruitful for both, as Classic Exhibits adheres to a very sustainable model, using recycled materials and recycling as many leftovers as possible. Another partner, Optima Graphics, also works diligently to recycle materials and use sustainable materials, which means that exhibits nowadays from these companies are about as green as can be.

Classic Exhibits is also in a unique position of being right next to a set of railroad tracks where recycled aluminum can be loaded easily and transported just a few miles to an aluminum recycler that has the capability of extruding many of the Classic Modul aluminum shapes. Being able to transport materials only a short distance instead of hundreds or thousands of miles is yet another way to keep the carbon footprint down on a green exhibit.

What about cost?

“Virtually identical,” says Matt. Which means that a few years ago what used to be more expensive than materials from the mainstream now costs virtually the same.

What about the quality?

“Most people can’t tell the difference,” says Matt. Some of the materials are better than typical building materials, some others may not be quite as good, but in any case, it’s a tossup. When it comes to the recycled plastic that goes into shipping cases, you’re actually getting a case that is more durable than those made from traditional cases in the industry.

Rentals are Eco-Friendly

A company can buy an exhibit and use it 5, 6, 7 years or more and get a lot of mileage out of that new purchase. This contributes to the greening of the exhibit because you’re not buying very often. And when you finally outgrow the exhibit, as you transition to something new, those old materials can likely be recycled or repurposed.

But what about renting? By renting you’re continuing to use the same materials over and over, which also contributes to the greening and the sustainability of the industry.

Final words?

As Matt put it, “so many people have a negative approach, saying that you shouldn’t drive so much, or waste so much, and so on, but we like to take the positive approach and say that even a little bit of green is a great step in the right direction.” Whether renting or buying, asking your exhibit house what kinds of sustainable materials they have, or what kind of sustainability practices they incorporate, lets them know that you, as an exhibit purchaser, are interested in the greening of tradeshow exhibits.

By making small changes where they make sense, that small change can add to the overall effect that we, as planet inhabitants, need to consider when we get out our checkbook to put a new exhibit into place.

Want to browse green exhibits? Many of Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits are found here on the Exhibit Design Search.

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