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

September 2019

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 30, 2019: Avoidance

Do you avoid things that you shouldn’t? Do you prefer to pretend that something coming up isn’t really important when it is? Avoidance is a challenge all of us face at some point. This week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee looks at avoidance.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING is the BBC Radio 2 Beatles program archive. They have been doing a lot of programs related to the Beatles over the week of the 50th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road. Check out the archive but don’t wait too long – these programs will only be up for 30 days.

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Are you one of those people that gets caught up in bright, new shiny objects? It’s easy to do. We’re all easily distracted.

When it comes to tradeshow success, are you guilty of doing the same? Getting caught up in bright and shiny objects instead of focusing on the prize?

Are you overdoing it with technology, for instance? Yes, technology has a place in tradeshows, more today than ever. At this year’s NAB Show, for example, the video walls were overwhelming. But was it worth it? Not up to me to make that judgment. For some, it might have been the best thing they could have done. For others, it might have been overkill.

Technology also shows up in the use of Virtual Reality in tradeshow booths, although I don’t see an overwhelming presence on the show floor. And the few times I’ve personally experienced VR in a booth, it left me underwhelmed. Does that mean you shouldn’t yes VR? No, what it means is that if you decide to invest in the equipment and a VR experience, make it the best you can. Show your stuff. Tell a great story. Knock people out.

What about swag and other giveaways? Yes, giveaways have their time and place, and I have worked with some astute and insightful promotional products companies. But when I get emails from promotional product companies showing off all of their new swag, I can’t help but think “what’s the point?” Many of the new items don’t seem to be a fit for tradeshows or other branded giveaway opportunities. That’s not to say that you should stick with imprinted pens, printed pads and letter openers. Find the middle ground. Make a judgment about what works best and go with that.

And do you really need the newest, brightest, best tradeshow exhibit that money can buy? Probably not. If you decide to do that, great! All of us tradeshow salespeople and fabricators will applaud! But it’s probably not necessary. A good basic tradeshow exhibit that is built for your specific needs – nothing more, nothing less – means you’re saving money for other ancillary marketing efforts, like pre-show mailers, post-show follow-up, social media engagement and more.

The glitter that catches your eyes could be the best thing, the right thing for you. But before you commit the dollars, ask yourself if it’s going to effectively communicate a message, show off your products, reach the right people and bring in results. Once you’ve determined that, you’re on the right track.

Are You Doing These Things at Your Tradeshow?

Tradeshows are crazy, chaotic and have more moving parts than a Rube Goldberg machine. What, you’re too young to remember Rube Goldberg? Not to worry, I’ll make this as easy as possible.

Basically, there are a lot of moving parts just keeping the machine going. Shipping the exhibit, booking travel, getting the exhibit set up and dismantled, making graphic and other exhibit changes prior to the show. Pre-show marketing. Lead generation. Post-show follow-up. And on and on.

But when you think about it, a tradeshow is a great opportunity to do other things. After all, you have a very specific audience: a focused group of decision makers and influencers that are likely interested in what you’re pitching. Take advantage of that opportunity.

Test things. Do a survey.


Lots of different ways. Let’s start with an easy way: do a survey. What one or two pieces of information would you like to uncover regarding your product? What are the biggest challenges your prospects face regularly?

You can do a survey in a few different ways. First, you can simply create a three or four question survey relating to the situation you’re addressing. Print them up and have one of your staffers simply engage with visitors and ask them to participate. Make it easy by telling them it’ll only take a moment or two. Make it worth their while by offering a bit of swag.

You can also set up a digital survey using an online portal such as Survey Monkey, assuming you have internet access. Make it easily accessible on an iPad or Surface tablet and either let them fill out the form or have one of your staffers just ask the questions and then input the answers.

Demonstrate Something.

Do a hands-on demo. Depending on your product or service, this may be easy, or it may be a challenge. I’ve seen great (and not-so-great) VR experiences at tradeshows. Another tool is a touchscreen video where the visitor chooses from a number of selections to see a video, view a sell sheet, learn how something is made, and so on. While hands-on demos do sound great, in a chaotic tradeshow, visitors often need a little urging and frankly, handholding. But if you can politely engage them, many are willing to give a few moments (ask them if they would like to charge their phone for a few minutes, for example). At this time you can relax and plan on taking a few minutes to have them go through a demo, answer a survey, watch a brief video or something else.

Invite them to do more

Another thing to have them do is ask them if they want to sign up for your newsletter.

Or follow you on social media.

And speaking of social media, that’s another good opportunity. If your booth is large enough, dedicate a small section of it to Instagramming. Invite people to snap a photo of themselves (or you offer to do it). Make it worth their while by offering a product sample, swag, or a chance to win something if they post using your company or show hashtag.

Grab some metrics

Count the visitors. I’m guessing that most companies don’t do this. They may have anecdotal evidence that day one had more visitors then day two or three. But they couldn’t tell you if this year was significantly better or only slightly busier. Or if the show was busier but your booth was not. But if you can dedicate someone to count the visitors as best as possible (have a handful of people trade off – and write it down at the end of each shift), even if the numbers are not 100% accurate, they’re better than just trying to guesstimate.

Tradeshows are a great place to pitch your wares, launch products and talk to buyers face to face. But they’re also a ripe opportunity to do a little market research, make stronger connections and test your suppositions.

Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 23, 2019: Laura Allen

Laura Allen is known as The Pitch Girl, and she teaches clients how to distill the essence of their business into a few concise sentences and confidently present that to potential clients. Laura was a fun interview on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:

Check out Laura at The Pitch Girl.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: the new Lisbeth Salander novel, The Girl Who Lived Twice.

ExhibitDay Launches Free Tradeshow Exhibit Management Tool

One of the big challenges for exhibitors is keeping track of everything: records, travel, budgets, exhibit pieces and more. Now there’s a new tool that looks to address many if not all of those issues.

ExhibitDay launches this week with three models: lite, professional and premium. Lite is free; the others are available on a monthly fee basis depending on the optimum number of users you would want to have access to the tool.

According to the press release, “ExhibitDay has been in Beta since January, 2019. During the Beta period, ExhibitDay worked closely with nearly 1,000 Beta testers across a diverse group of event teams consisting of Trade Show Coordinators, Event Managers, and Exhibitors in order to develop and test its service.”

The release details the various tools:

  1. Tracking and management of information about trade shows and exhibits.
  2. Tracking event attendees and their travel reservations.
  3. Management of booth reservations, booth services, and shipments.
  4. Tracking of event sponsorships, costs, and expenses.
  5. Event team collaboration via tasks and to-do lists.
  6. Coordination of event team schedules before, during, and after each trade show.
  7. Synchronization of events, tasks, and schedules with third-party calendaring apps such as Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, and Outlook.
  8. Event-specific and annual budgeting, fund allocation, ROI measurement, and engagement analytics.
  9. Customizations to the fields and data points tracked for each event.
  10. Granular access-control and robust user management tools.

Take a look at ExhibitDay here. And if you choose to use it, use the discount code TRADESHOWGUY and save a few bucks!

Moving Out of Your Tradeshow Exhibiting Comfort Zone

It’s comforting to stay in your comfort zone. We all know that. No matter what the circumstances. That’s why it’s your comfort zone! If you are more comfortable being a wallflower at social gatherings, it’s difficult to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. If your exercise routine is a daily mile walk, it’s a big step to train for a marathon.

If you’re comfortable in your exhibiting approach to set up a couple of banner stands, and put a branded table throw over the show-provided table, it’s asking a lot to move to a custom exhibit. But many – most – of the clients I work with are doing just that.

For example, a few years ago when I met the great people at Schmidt’s Naturals, they sent me a photo of their current setup, which was a basic back wall and some banner stands. Nothing wrong with it. But they were a growing company and wanted a better look.

Schmidt’s Naturals before doing a custom booth

But doing more meant moving out of their comfort zone. And there are three specific ways in which they were moving out of their comfort zone.

One – the budget goes up. A great-looking custom exhibit will cost more. It’s an investment. That investment comes from a belief that it’s a worthwhile investment, that it will pay off with greater exposure. It’ll pay off with a better-defined brand. It’ll pay off with the ability to take that brand to a wider market and open up markets that were previously difficult to reach.

Two – a custom exhibit won’t ship as airplane luggage or via a UPS package. Nope, odds are that it will fit into a custom-jigged carpeted crate, which ships via a trucking company. And that will take logistic coordination that the company may not have much experience.

Schmidt’s moving up to a 10×20 in 2017

Three – having that custom exhibit usually means hiring a labor management company to setup and dismantle the exhibit. Frankly, the first year with Schmidt’s I joined in and four or five of us set up the 10×20 exhibit on our own. It took between three and four hours. We all learned how to do it, which would have made the next time around a little easier. But they decided to have the pros do it the next time around. So that meant hiring an I&D (installation and dismantle) crew to do the honors. Since we were working with Eagle Management at the time (and still are), we added the Schmidt’s Naturals exhibit to the list.

After a couple of shows, the “new” comfort zone is different from the “old” comfort zone. Many companies decide to take the logistic coordination in-house, others, like Schmidt’s and many of our other clients, have us handle the coordination. No wrong answers – each company does what’s best for their situation and desires.

Schmidt’s Naturals as a 10×40 in 2019 at Expo West

Moving out of a comfort zone is something I’ve seen in almost all of the clients I’ve worked with in the past several years, from Kettle Foods, Nancy’s Yogurt and Bob’s Red Mill 15+ years ago, to Wildbrine, Organixx, Hop Tea, Meduri Farms, Wedderspoon and others in the more recent past. They were all moving up from a smaller, easier to handle exhibit to one that needed more logistic management and was a bigger investment in their marketing. But the end result for all of them was increased presence and positive feedback, and for many of them a significant increase in leads generated.

Every exhibiting company will someday need to come to terms with the prospect of moving through their comfort zone, and having someone to help that process is invaluable.

tradeshow exhibit design search

Tradeshow Exhibit Specials and Lightning Deals

Looking to save money on a tradeshow exhibit? Of course you are! And chances are, throughout the course of the next year, you’ll have a want or need for something that shows up on our regularly updated pages on our Exhibit Design Search. Whether it’s an Exhibit Special or a Lightning Deal, it might be just what you’re looking for.

These are no “close-out” specials that are collecting dust in the warehouse. Nope, these are regular items – either custom or “off the shelf” – that typically sell for full retail price. But on occasion, we grab some of the items and put them into one or of the categories and drop the price.

For example, you might see a custom hybrid 10×20 exhibit that sells for around $30,000. But if it lands in the Lightning Deal, the price might drop ten percent to around $27,000. A $3,000 savings to your bottom line, just like that. Lightning Deals generally last a couple of weeks, so if you see something that is a great fit, grab it fast!

The Exhibit Specials, on the other hand, are more general savings that span a category, such as a specific style (Gravitee or Segue), or a type (light boxes or EcoSmart inlines). On occasion there might be discounts on discontinued models as well.

Saying all of this, it behooves you to visit these categories and return. That means returning to the Lightning Deals every couple of weeks, and visiting the Exhibit Specials every month or so. Even if you’re not currently looking for a new exhibit, you might find great deals on accessories such as lights, counters, shipping cases and so on.

Here’s where to find ’em:

Exhibit Specials

Lightning Deals

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 16, 2019: Jay Gilbert

What’s going on in the music industry? Admittedly, the music world is only tangential to the events world, but they are related. And to learn more about how streaming and technology have changed the music world, especially for up and coming bands that are trying to break in, I sat down with Jay Gilbert of Label Logic to get his take. Jay is a long-time veteran of major labels in the music world, and has run his own company for the past five years. His insight is worth a look:

Find Label Logic here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Roger Steffens’ “The Family Acid: California.” It’s a new coffee table book chock full of great images of the counter-culture, all from California. A one-of-a-kind book.

6 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Custom Tradeshow Exhibit

Let’s face it, when you’re shopping for a custom tradeshow exhibit, the dollar signs can often start spinning so much your head soon follows. Things can get expensive in the tradeshow world, so it makes sense to figure out ways to save money along the way.

Start with the premise that the reason custom tradeshow exhibits can be expensive for any number of reasons. First, there are a lot of people involved: designers, account executives, fabricators, detailers, crate builders and so on. Things are usually hand-crafted in the exhibit world in the sense that each piece has human hands on it several times. Even if a CNC machine is programmed to cut metal or wood, a human still has to make it happen. Building an exhibit is not mass manufacturing. Its individually crafted items designed and built to look spectacular.

How to keep the costs down? Here are six ways:

  1. Consider starting with a kit. Many exhibit builders offer a number of kits to keep costs lower. With a kit, the design is generally pre-determined. But with a good kit, there are always opportunities to customize the kit. In a sense, you’re creating a hybrid between custom and ‘catalog’ designs. Shop the company’s website for kits that might give you a good starting point.
  2. Know exactly what you want and get nothing more. A custom exhibit is great in that, as part of the design process, you can identify what you need – exactly. If you need just three shelves for product display, don’t go for four or five or six. Those can usually be added later. Need a charging table? There are always low budget options that are not custom but can be custom-branded.
  3. Work with lightweight materials. While there still are many heavy wood-built exhibits that appear at shows – usually for a great reason because it’s part of the brand – more exhibits are moving to lightweight materials such as aluminum frames and fabric graphics. Not only are the materials lighter, which means they ship for less, but fabric graphics fold up and ship in a smaller space.
  4. Rent furniture. If you rent the same thing show after show, it’ll add up and eventually you’ll end up paying more for the furniture than it you owned it. But keep in mind, but owning it, you have to pay to ship it, pay to store it, and pay to replace it. And furniture that you own will get scuffed, nicked and damaged over time. With rental furniture, you get brand new or like-new items, you get to choose from the latest styles, and you don’t have to worry about shipping or storing.
  5. Don’t rush it. By planning ahead for a custom designed and fabricated exhibit, you’re avoiding rush fees, last minute glitches and a calendar that is rushing at you like a runaway train. Once you’ve decided on a new exhibit, sit down with your exhibit provider and work out a realistic timeline so that all parties know what’s expected of them and when.
  6. Preview the exhibit. It’s pretty common to do this, but I have seen occasions where it’s not done, and it’s led to having to make expensive fixes on the show floor or have revised graphics printed at a rush fee and shipped using an expensive overnight service. Previews are generally designed to make sure everything works like it’s supposed to, to make sure all the graphics fit, and nothing is left out. Even if you can’t be there, make sure you have lots of photos of the preview.

Whether you’re looking for a custom exhibit, a modular exhibit from a catalog or something in between, most exhibit houses are willing to discuss your budget and what you can realistically expect to get for your money.

All You Need to Know About Tradeshow Planning and Traveling

This is a guest article by Lee Becknell of Pinnacle Promotions.

Trade shows provide companies and marketing professionals with excellent opportunities to grow their brand awareness and generate valuable leads, but there’s a lot of preparation that goes into participating in a trade show. Between budgeting, arranging travel plans, preparing staff members and ordering promotional products, it can be difficult to prioritize all the necessary tasks—especially if you’ve never attended a trade show before.

We’ve compiled some helpful tips to guide you through the trade show process. From determining which conventions to attend to booking your travel plans, you’ll be able to master your first trade show experience and grow your business in the process.

Selecting the right tradeshows

The first of many steps in the trade show preparation process is selecting which events are the best for you to capture the attention of your target demographic. Begin by researching upcoming events in your industry and decide if you’d like to showcase your business on a local, regional, national or even international level. If you’ve never attended a trade show as a professional, you may want to start small with a local or regional event before moving on to national and international events.

Depending on factors like location, other attending vendors and time of year, some trade shows may be more beneficial to your business than others. Ask other experienced business owners in the industry for tips and try to seek out feedback on specific shows for more insight on which events would be the most advantageous to your company. Keep in mind that you should try to plan all events for the year at once to keep yourself organized and provide plenty of time to make arrangements, including enough time to order promotional products.

Book flights and hotels in advance

Determining which tradeshows you want to attend well in advance ensures enough time to plan, prep your employees and purchase travel accommodations before prices begin to rise. Tradeshows typically attract people from across the country, and sometimes even the world, which means everyone will be scrambling for plane tickets and hotel rooms. The earlier you can plan, the better off you’ll be in terms of securing accommodations.

If you’re the one in charge of planning for tradeshows, you should develop a travel protocol to ensure that all employees know how they’ll be arriving at the event and where they’ll be staying. Once the most willing and qualified employees have been selected to participate in the event, you can create a spreadsheet to organize important information such as flight and accommodation details. If the event is close enough to drive to, coordinate groups to carpool.

Many tradeshows are hosted in convention centers, which are usually located inside a hotel. If you can plan the trip in advance, you may be able to secure rooms right at the convention center, saving your employees travel time and the additional costs associated with transportation.

Budgeting for the event

Setting a budget for any given event is an essential part of the trade show planning process. A good rule of thumb for estimating the total cost is to multiply the price of a space at any given event by three. This should give you an accurate guideline on how much you’re likely to spend on all major expenses, including booth rental, display materials, travel and promotional products.

Set objectives for the tradeshow

Tradeshows can provide businesses with many different kinds of opportunities—networking with other influential members of the industry, generating leads, expanding your brand influence and building a reputation for your company. But, before you hit the trade show track, you should set some clear, obtainable goals for your business.

First, determine specifically what you’re hoping to get out of each event and avoid goals that are too vague. Are you looking to expand your brand’s exposure? Generate sales leads? Recruit employees? Announce a new product line? All of these objectives are common reasons to get your company involved with trade shows. By narrowing down your intentions, you allow the business to more accurately create materials and select promotional products that will reflect your goal and lead to your target results.

Order promotional products well in advance to use as trade show giveaways

Promotional products are vital to the success of a company’s display booth. Handing out a unique product that people will actually use will help your business stand out and make an impression at the trade show. Though attendees certainly go to these events to learn more about the vendors and network with other professionals in the industry, people still tend to gravitate towards booths offering some type of trade show giveaway.

Attract more people to your booth by offering useful and interesting trade show giveaway products like customized travel bags or retail-inspired tumblers. Once you’ve attracted people to your booth, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to them about your company and spark their interest in your products or services. Another huge benefit of promotional products is that these items work as usable advertisements. Every time someone reaches for that promotional product with your company’s distinct logo, they’ll be reminded of your business, which can lead to conversions and positive word-of-mouth reviews.

Lee Becknell serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. Lee oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. Lee has been with Pinnacle for over six years. Lee enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever, running and taking naps.

© Copyright 2016 | Oregon Blue Rock, LLC
Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

Call 800-654-6946 for Prompt Service Registered & Protected <br />