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

July 2019

The Surprising Evolution of Table Top Exhibit Displays

When I first got into the tradeshow industry back in ’02, table top exhibits were pretty cheap and boring. They were often small suitcase affairs that could be easily transported by one person and set up in just a couple of minutes. You’d fold it out, set it on a table, and often attach laminated images using Velcro tape. Or some exhibitors would cobble together small sample packs of their products with sell sheets or small ads in acrylic holders.

It wasn’t impressive or inspiring. But they were cheap, and easy to transport. So in a sense, they served a purpose.

Today, you can no doubt use much of those same table top exhibits. But there are a wide variety of table top exhibits that take things to the next level. Or three. Many of the new designs use materials such as fabric graphics (often backlit) that are more common in in-line and island exhibits. Prices have gone up, but so has quality and impact. Each exhibitor that’s sticking with a table top presentation has to decide if the extra cost is worth the impact.

Let’s take a look at a few table top exhibits:

Starting with what are called hybrids, the VK-1853 uses ‘to-the-edge’ silicon-edged graphics, an engineered aluminum frame and can pack in a small rollable case.

The VK-1853 table top exhibit (click image for full details)

Another example of the hybrid exhibit is the VK-0005, which is essentially a SuperNova tool-less lightbox with shelves for product display.

The VK-0005 table top exhibit (click image for full details)

On to the lightweight tension fabric, there are many examples, including the TF-403 and TF-405, both featuring lightweight metal frames and large format tension fabric. The TF-405 comes with an S-shaped frame which, because of its unusual shape, tends to catch the eye.

The TF-403 table top exhibit (click image for full details)

Moving on, there are a number of sustainably-engineered and produced table tops. One that catches the eye is the ECO-104T. And confirming that these are often shrunken versions of full-size in-lines, there are both 10×10 and 10×20 versions of this particular exhibit.

The ECO-104T (click image for full details)

Another example of a sustainable exhibit is the TF-409, an Aero freestanding table top, which stands out with its double-circle design.

Folding table tops are probably associated with the vintage table tops, and the FT-05 is a good example of them. They are economical and easy to set up (as are all of these), and give a solid look.

The FT-05 table top exhibit (click image for full details)

And finally, the FGS (Floating Graphic System) pop-ups come in a variety of configurations, all of which offer a variety of graphic placements for products and branding. Here’s the FG-03:

The FG-03 table top exhibit (click image for full details)

Table top exhibits come in all shapes and varieties and in a wide price range. Many shows that exhibitors want to go to are smaller and they don’t need a big exhibit, or even an in-line, which is a great opportunity to show off your company in an impressive light for a price that is light on your wallet.

Check our full line of table top exhibits here.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 29, 2019: Jack Hale

3D Exhibit Designer and Graphic Designer Jack Hale sits down to discuss the ins and outs of tradeshow exhibit design and graphic design on this week’s edition of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. Take a look:

Check out Jack’s work and website at JB Hale Design.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Last year’s Sting and Shaggy release, 44/876.

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Checking Your Tradeshow Marketing Results

You can have the best booth, a well-trained staff, good products and more, but what about your tradeshow marketing results? How did you really do at the show?

Here are a handful of results and outcomes you can gauge.

Certainly, the most important two metrics to know and understand are leads generated and business generated from those leads. How many sales did you make?

And not only at the show, but in the months to follow. Many shows allow you to sell direct at the show, or strike deals for later delivery, but almost all shows will generate leads for follow up, which is where the money lies. To accurately track the Return on Investment, you’ll probably want to calculate a new ROI every so often, perhaps every quarter, to see how many leads converted to clients along the way. While you may still be tracking new customers from a tradeshow for as much as a year (or longer), I would think that knowing the ROI a year out is sufficient. And assuming you are going back to the same shows, you can start tracking ROI from that show separate from the previous show.

Beyond leads and sales, there are a number of “softer” items to track which can affect your tradeshow marketing results:

Feedback on various things. How did people react to your new exhibit, for example? Did it wow people, or was the reaction a little more ‘ho-hum’? Or is your older exhibit still impressing people?

Feedback on your products. Depending on what you’re pitching or launching, gauging people’s reactions to those items can be very valuable. If it’s a complicated piece of software, for example, is it easily understood? Does it spur a number of unexpected questions? If you’re test-tasting new flavors of your food, what does the look on people’s faces look like when they’re first biting in? If you’re pitching a new service, is it easily understood?

Feedback on your marketing message and graphics. Do visitors immediately understand what you’re trying to do? Do they ‘get it’?

Booth staff: does your booth staff know how to engage for positive results? Do they know how to approach people, or are they sitting in the back of the booth on their phone or eating? These actions can affect your results in a positive or negative way.

Finally, look around at other exhibitors: how do you compare to them? Are your products similar or do they stand apart? Does your exhibit compare favorably to direct competitors (size, layout, attraction, function) or does it look a little pale in comparison?

There are so many things you can measure to check your tradeshow marketing results. The great thing about tracking so many things, even informally, is that you can more easily compare those results year to year, show to show and determine if tradeshow marketing is working really well, or if you need to focus on some specific things to improve.


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Capturing a Tradeshow Attendee’s Attention

You have literally a few seconds to catch a tradeshow attendee’s attention. You’ve been there: walking the show floor, heading across the hall. You see someone you know; you get distracted, you spill your coffee on your pants. There’s always something that keeps you from paying attention to the tradeshow exhibits around you.

Even highway billboards sometimes get more attention than your booth.

Which means that people are ignoring you. Not because you don’t have something good to offer. Not because you are slacking in the ‘look at us’ department. But if you’re doing just the average approach to getting attention, you’ll be, well, average when it comes to having people stop. What are some of the top ways to get attention?

Do something different. Unexpected. Unusual. I often point to the Kashi island exhibit that’s shown up at Natural Products Expo West in at least a couple of iterations the past few years. It’s simple, and it delivers a simple message. It invites people to stop and find out what it is. The design itself is unusual enough that it stops visitors.

Simple and bold. Deliver an important message, maybe something that’s more important then your products or servies.

Hire a pro. A professional presenter knows how to stop people in their tracks, entertain them and deliver a powerful message in just a few moments.

Have something for them to do. Interactivity means, if the activity appeals to them (chance to win a prize or get a little mental engagement), they’ll stop. And of course a small crowd draws a bigger crowd.

Ask a great question. Take a tip from our pal Andy, who specializes in teaching this to his clients, there’s a lot to be said for knowing how to immediately engage with someone in a positive manner.

Offer a space for people to sit and charge their phones. This usually takes a bigger booth than just a small inline, which means you need a little space to spare. But if you can get random visitors to sit for ten minutes, offer them something valuable: a bottle of water, a chance to view a video about your company or product.

Lots of ways to capture a tradeshow attendee’s attention – it just takes a little planning and execution and you can be drawing them in.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 22, 2019: Howard Berg

This is one episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee where you’ll definitely learn something! Howard Berg, known as the world’s fastest reader, teaches us a few things about reading and learning. Fun and worth your time – take a look/listen:

Check out BergLearning.com and save ten percent with the code TRADESHOW10.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: summer fairs, art fairs, music under the stars…

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10 Great 60s Oldies to Help With Your Tradeshow Marketing

Yes, I love oldies. Spent a lot of time on the radio at an oldies station playing them and shouting over the top of the intro, which was basically required for Oldies radio. Which great oldies of the Sixties might we apply to tradeshow marketing here in the ‘teens of the new century? Let’s go year by year through the Sixties:

1960: Money (That’s What I Want) by Barrett Strong. Yes, it’s all about the money. How much you spend, how much you make from the leads you gather, and most of all about the Return On Investment.

1961: Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles. As tradeshow marketers, we spend a lot of time on the road. We become road warriors. Sing this little tune to stay in the road warrior groove.

1962: The Loco-Motion by Little Eva. Written by Carole King, this tune knows all about the movement. And tradeshows are all about the movement. How many shows a year? How many different cities? How many people do you talk to at each show? You’re always on the move, always in motion.

1963: Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. Grabbing a snack on the road? Why does it always seem to be a donut, or maybe a piece of banana bread, or perhaps a Frappucino? Whatever it is, it’s probably loaded with sugar.

1964: People by Barbra Streisand. Yes, as a song it’s a little downtempo, but tradeshows are all about the people. By the thousands! Ya gotta be able to get along with people when you’re in the tradeshow world!

1965: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. As hard as we try at tradeshow marketing and as successful as we are, most people I speak with feel that they could have done better if only they did something a little different. We’re never satisfied, are we?

1966: Summer in the City by the Lovin’ Spoonful. It seems there’s always at least one tradeshow on the schedule that takes place in a hot city in the middle of summer. This one is a perfect soundtrack for that show.

1967: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by the Hombres. A goofy sort of song, but important when it comes to interacting with visitors. Don’t hold back. Be open, be willing to give plenty of your time and energy. Let it all hang out.

1968: Tighten Up by Archie Bell and the Drells. On the showroom floor, there’s chaos and confusion. There’s pitching and sampling and demos. And it’s easy among all of the activity to just let things go. But pay attention and tighten up in your presentations, your conversations, your booth.

1969: I Can’t Get Next to You by the Temptations. In every show there’s that one client that you’d like to catch. But for some reason they remain elusive. Keep trying. The Temptations are doing their best to urge you on!

Now that the Sixties are over as far as the top ten oldies to help with your tradeshow marketing, are there any songs we missed? Or should we move on to the Seventies?

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What Story is Your Tradeshow Exhibit Telling Potential Partners?

Yes, we know that your tradeshow exhibit tells a story. Often, a great exhibit design will capture the brand so accurately that the design is often all that is needed. But frankly, that’s the exception more than the rule. But even without an iconic design that broadcasts what your company is about, your tradeshow exhibit tells a story anyway.

Here’s how:

Design: even an average design can be executed well and tell a big part of your story. But a compelling story can come to life. Tell the story of how you created the soft drink because your Grandma used to make something similar when you were a kid. Or how you invented something to help a friend. Doesn’t really matter, your product or service likely came from some inspiration. Can you tell the story of that inspiration in a concise way using graphics and 3D elements?

Graphics: here’s where most of the story is told, and the weight of this rests on your graphic designer and marketing team that is communicating the correct message to the designer. Get it right and you’ve done better than most of your competitors. Get it wrong…?

Craftsmanship: not all exhibits are built from scratch. Depending on where you purchase your exhibit, it may be something that’s designed and built from scratch in the USA. Or it may be from an overseas manufacturer and it came direct from a catalog showing thousands of similar designs. With an overseas manufacturer involved, you will be hard-pressed to know the quality of the materials used for the exhibit.

Cleanliness: at least this is something you have quite a bit of control over during the show. But a clean booth tells a story. So does a dirty booth.

People: the booth staffers are your front line. Are they well-trained in how to engage with visitors? How to ask the right questions? How to politely disengage? How to act in a booth (stay off their phone, don’t eat, etc.)? Whether you like it or not, visitors will forget a lot of things. But they’re very likely to remember an unpleasant or below-average encounter with a booth staffer. Just like they’d probably remember an encounter that impressed them.

Stories are told with every piece of your marketing and your prospect’s interaction with your company. What story are your prospects being told, and what are they remembering? And is that story in line with your goals?

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 15, 2019: Ken Newman

On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, a lively interview with Ken Newman of Magnet Productions, a professional tradeshow presentation company based in San Francisco. I’ve had Ken on the show before, although it’s been awhile, and I wanted to catch up and talk about three things: what’s up with Magnet Productions; his involvement in music and how that music involvement led to his involvement with Blanket the Homeless, a SF non-profit.

Find Ken’s Magnet Productions.

Blanket the Homeless in San Francisco.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: summer bicycling!

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Learning to Ride a Bicycle

I recall the moment I learned how a bicycle works, and how I learned to ride a bicycle. I must have been 6 or 7 when I first tried. It was about the same time I first got on skis, but that’s a different story. I was reminded of that feeling when I saw a young bicycler with her mother this morning. The youngster was dressed in a unicorn mohawk bicycle helmet, colorful clothes and a unicorn back pack. I complimented her on the outfit – it really was stunning. Her mom said, “Say thank you!” which the young girl did.

Now there’s a bike helmet!

Her bicycle had training wheels, which made me think of when I was about that age and learning. I didn’t have the luxury of training wheels (an aside: maybe kids really shouldn’t have training wheels, after all).

In any event, that feeling of accomplishment, of empowerment, is overwhelming. I remember that feeling after riding 50 feet on a bicycle without crashing or falling.

YOU DID IT! I told myself.

And while that feeling was powerful, it comes around again and again in life when you learn more skills. I felt the same thing at times when learning to ski. Or learning to play the drums. Or the guitar. Or give a speech. Or publish a book. And so on.

Feeling that powerful emotion that’s tied into grasping and then learning a new skill is valuable. It reaffirms your sense of belonging. This works for me. I can do this.

It tells you that you’re on the right track. And it can apply to learning interpersonal communication skills, business skills, physical skills.

It reminds you that being human is a good thing. A great thing.

And ultimately, it tells you let’s learn something more. Now.

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Applying the Modern Business Plan to Tradeshow Marketing

The ‘modern business plan’ was hatched on a blog post by Seth Godin. I was a recent enrollee in Godin’s The Marketing Seminar, where at one point we were referred to the post which breaks down the five elements of what he feels are the important parts of a modern business plan: truth, assertions, alternatives, people and money.

It’s also possible to apply that thinking to how you approach tradeshow marketing.

The truth of tradeshow marketing would be the facts and figures of the specific show(s) that you plan to participate in. How many people attend? What percentage of decision-makers and influencers are among the attendees? Who are the competitors/exhibitors?

Assertions might include your thoughts on what you believe you know that is not necessarily supported by data. What new products are you launching that might be similar to new products from competitors? What types of marketing tactics and strategies are those competitors using? This is where you state what you believe to be true, although you might not be able to prove it.

Alternatives: ­This is where you play the “what if” game. What if things go wrong? What is your plan B? What if you get lucky by meeting the exact prospect that you didn’t anticipate? What if your top salesperson is poached by a competitor? Hey, anything can happen. At least opening your mind to some of those possibilities gives you a chance to chew them over.

People: who are your best people and how can you best use them? Where are your weak spots and how can you improve with them? Do you need to acquire people to get your tradeshow department to run like a clock and not like a Rube Goldberg machine?

Finally, money: Budgeting, logistical costs, personnel costs. Return on investment, cost of samples. You know the drill. But are your numbers accurate? And did you run the calculations a year later after the show so that you actually know what your return on investment really is?

What is your Return on Objective? Thanks to the Exhibition Guy Stephan Murtagh!

There are any number of ways of looking at your business or marketing plan, but taking this approach helps to clarify several issues at once. Give it a try!

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