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

March 2019

Expo West ’19 Diary: Second Full Exhibiting Day

I didn’t think the halls at the Anaheim Convention Center could get busier and more crowded than the previous day here at the Natural Products Expo West, but I guess I’m wrong.

It was really busy, and my FitBit says I’m at about 23,000 steps as I write this around 8:30pm. So not only did I walk a lot, bump into a lot of people, ingest about a billion food samples, but my feet hurt like jiminy cricket. Or whatever expletive you want to insert.

The day started with a referral from a present client. This is what’s so great about having your company’s exhibits on display at such a big show. Someone will inevitably see a booth, inquire as to what company designed and built it, and voila, a connection is made. It doesn’t mean any business will come out of it, but at least, from a sales standpoint, you’re working with a warm lead. So I tracked down the other exhibitor and we had a good introductory conversation. Who knows where it will lead.

Which is how I approach the whole walking-the-show-floor bit. During a long and busy day, you end up standing in front of a booth and someone in the space will ask a question, which starts a conversation. What do you do? Where are you from? Questions lead to answers, which lead to more questions. I’ve learned to be patient, and be open. Since my natural inclination is to be mostly introverted, putting myself out there isn’t natural. It requires more focus and energy. But good things usually come from it. No expectations, no real agenda other than meeting people.

With such a big show, one must make a conscious choice to move from one hall to another, from one floor to another, from one building to another. Otherwise you just won’t see everything. And even when you do that, there’s no way in hell one person can engage with 3500 exhibitors in three or four days. Do the math: that’s about 1000 a day, and with the halls open 8 hours, that’s about 125 an hour, or one booth every 30 seconds. Ain’t gonna happen!

Since that’s the case, I spend a lot of time working to reconnect with people I’ve met in the past, so we can make a brief reacquaintance, which is always good for business. During this process, you find out changes: companies bought or sold, employees promoted or changing jobs, or leaving the company. That’s what makes the world go around: change. It’s what leads to new business. What worked a year ago may not work next year. Any business owner or salesperson should be prepared for those opportunities.

During the day I had opportunities to take photos of exhibits, exhibitors, mascots and get my photo taken. Lots got posted on social media – always fun to give a shoutout to exhibitors to make the whole thing more fun. Let me close the day with a few more photos!

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Expo West ’19 Diary: First Full Exhibiting Day

I shouldn’t be surprised, but every year when the full exhibit floors are open, I am still a bit astonished at how many people are walking the floors. With over 80,000 attendees, Natural Products Expo West is a huge show. Not as big as the Consumer Electronics Show, but still mighty big.

So I spent the day walking, walking, walking and then walking some more. 19,221 steps according to my Fitbit! One major goal of the day was to make sure all of our clients were taken care of, so that meant making a stop at Target for requested supplies from a couple of them. Later in the day another client asked if I could track down a stapler, so after a few back-and-forth texts, another client was willing to lend their. I love when everybody helps out!

The second major goal was to drop by and say hello to exhibitors that I’ve met previously. As you may know, I’ve published two books on tradeshow marketing (here and here), and they are great calling introductory cards to start a brief conversation. Having been attending the show for almost two decades, lots of them recall me from previous years, so it’s good to reconnect, if only briefly. My main question to them is “how is the show going this year for you?” and 95% are very positive. One person said they weren’t coming back next year – they are just not getting the audience they want. The complaint is that the attendees in their booth were either other exhibitors or brokers and not retailers, which is what they want. I understand that not everyone has a great experience. I checked my list from last year and found that about a third of them are not here this year. From my perspective (anecdotal, not backed up by any data), there is a lot of turnover. But companies are still chomping at the bit to get into the show.

Since I’m Oregon-based, I lean towards finding Oregon or Northwest exhibitors. Many of them see me year after year, so even though we may never do business, it’s always good to make a brief reconnection. No selling, no pitching, not even a hint. Conversations usually revolve around (again) how the show is for them, and how their business is doing. So many businesses that I speak with are growing quickly, expanding product lines, and occasionally expanding their exhibit space. So I know that the industry as a whole is doing very well.

Trends:

Over the years it’s been interesting to see some of the things that pop out and get your attention. A couple of years ago I couldn’t turn more than 90 degrees without seeing another bone broth product! This year, I see a lot of CBD-related products. I also see a lot of oat milk and keto-related products as well.

I’ve probably made this observation before, but it’s hard to walk the show floor without eating a fair amount of food. Most exhibitors offer samples, and many are literally pushing them on you. A bite here and a bit there, and after a couple of hours, you’ve had the equivalent of a meal. And it’s all (well, almost all) really good!

Let’s close out today’s diary with a few photos of some of the exhibits at the show. Backlit fabric graphics are still popular, as are eye-catching one-of-a-kind items in booths. Exhibit designers never cease to impress me with ways to capture eyeballs, communication messages in a 3D format and attention to detail.

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Expo West ’19 Diary: Setup Days

Seeing “backstage” at any tradeshow lets you peek at the chaos of what it takes to put on the show. Backstage at a huge show such as Natural Products Expo West, with over 3500 exhibitors, multiplies that by several factors.

But when you’re personally involved in coordinating and executing the setup of a handful of exhibits for new and veteran clients, it can be exhilarating, exhausting and patience-testing.

But we pulled it off!

We are glad to introduce a handful of new clients this year, including Wildbrine, Organixx, and Hop Tea. We also did a new 10×40 project and coordinated the setup for a veteran client, Schmidt’s, and coordinated the setup of others, including Wedderspoon Manuka Honey and Dave’s Killer Bread. A long-time client that goes back over a dozen years, Hyland’s Homeopathic, finally shed their fabulous but aging Koa wood exhibit for a striking single plant photo blown up to 20′ x 8′. Crazy. Watch this space and our Twitter and Instagram accounts for photos of these and other exhibitors at Expo West.

We knew going into the show that there were opportunities for things to go sideways. That’s not abnormal in the tradeshow world, but this year it seemed to be multiplied. Due to the design and fabrication timeline of many of our new clients, and the coordination of incoming flooring freight from one of our vendors, we ended up shipping most of the new builds straight to show site. Not something we usually do. But it meant that many of the trucks carrying our freight spent hours in line getting crates unloaded. And of course, our last project of the two-day setup day, Schmidt’s Naturals, we weren’t scheduled to start setting up the exhibit until 3 pm on the day before the show opens. Which lead to a crazy chaotic dance with the freight logistics manager getting crates delivered in a timely manner (they weren’t, even though we could see them out the back door of the convention center for a few hours prior to them being delivered).

But as they say, all’s well that ends well. Once the crates were delivered, our crew jumped on the installation and cranked it out in about three hours, pretty impressive given that it was a new 10×40 exhibit with a lot of lightboxes.

Kudos to all of our partners: Classic Exhibits, who designed built most of our new projects (Schmidt’s, Wildbrine, Organixx); TimbrandMoss, who designed and built the Hop Tea exhibit; Eagle Management (and Stacy, our account executive who was relentless in working to make things happen in a timely manner); Brumark, who printed the custom flooring for two exhibits and provided flooring for another; Orbus, who printed the high-quality backdrop for Hyland’s. I also want to give out a shoutout to all of the GES folks I encountered along the way, who were exceedingly patient and proficient and made things happen very quickly.

While this seems like a lot, at least to me, I can only assume that other exhibit houses with many more clients are experiencing the same things on a much larger scale. Having said that, it was pretty substantial for us and helps start what we hope will be a great 2019.

Check out a few backstage photos:

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, March 4, 2019: Expo West 2019 Preview

Natural Products Expo West kicks off this week in Anaheim, California. I’ve had the opportunity to experience this show for the past 16 years, so I think I can safely say I have a pretty good perspective on the show. What will the 17th consecutive year bring?

We have a total of nine clients that we’re active with at this show (with other older clients standing pat on their current exhibits), including 4 new custom-design builds.

Stay tuned to my Instagram and Twitter accounts this week to follow, and see photos of our new projects!

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Air Travel. What would we do without it?

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