What is control? Lack of control? What about being a control freak? Turns out we all have some relationship to control, whether it’s our own or someone else’s. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee I take a look at control:
This is a guest article by Halle Summers of Fastenation.
If you are planning on attending or setting up a booth at a tradeshow for the first time, you probably already know how valuable these events are for growing a business. They offer numerous opportunities for increasing awareness of your brand, making sales, and networking with prospective customers and clients. While business is increasingly being conducted online, trade shows provide an opportunity for business owners and consumers to meet face to face, forge relationships, and learn about new products.
If you have ever attended a tradeshow, it should come as no surprise that exhibiting at one requires a lot of work and careful planning. It’s often necessary to start planning several months in advance to ensure that you have everything you need by the time the event makes its way into town. There is a massive amount of competition at these events, and, if you just show up and hope for the best, your booth will likely get lost and be overlooked by most attendees. If you are gearing up to be an exhibitor for the first time, here are a few essential tools and tips to ensure the success of your first trade show event.
Make Assembling an Eye-Catching Display
Your Top Priority
The human attention span tends to be pretty short. When
people are surrounded by all sorts of exciting things to see and do, it can be
even shorter. This means that you only have a few seconds to capture the
attention of event attendees and draw them into your booth. If your display
isn’t eye-catching, a lot of people will likely pass by your booth without even
The good news is that assembling an eye-catching tradeshow display doesn’t have to be difficult. Use attention-grabbing images instead of words. Make use of bright (but appealing) colors. Have products on display. Make your booth feel welcoming. There are all sorts of things that you can do to put together an amazing display. When you’re packing up to head to the event, make sure you have the right tools and supplies for setting up your display. Things like gaffers tape and VELCRO® brand hook and loop tape are lifesavers when it comes to hanging banners, putting up signs, and assembling the various parts of trade show booths. Table skirting clips are great for trade shows, too, as are cable hangers. Trust us; few things are worse than showing up at a tradeshow with an awesome display but lacking the tools and supplies needed to set it up!
Prepare Your “A” Team
The people you have working at your booth can have a
huge impact on how well the trade show goes for your business. There are a few
different options when it comes to staffing. You can bring your own employees,
or you can work with an event staffing agency. The downside to working with an
agency, though, is that you will need to put a lot of effort into training your
team and ensuring that they know all of the ins and outs of your business. When
you have your own employees working the booth, they already have a lot of
knowledge about your products and services.
Make sure that the team you assemble is made of people
who are friendly, motivated, professional, and outgoing. You don’t want someone
who is going to sulk behind the table and make zero effort to engage with
attendees! Choose team members who work well together and complement each
other’s knowledge and skills. Ensure that everyone is prepared to handle
questions. Trade show attendees tend to have a lot of questions about
businesses and their products and services. Every single person who is working
the booth and acting as a representative of your company needs to be an expert
on your product and business, and they need to be able to handle inquiries with
confidence and ease.
If your business sells a product, your team needs to be prepared to give product demos, too. Tradeshow attendees want to be able to experience products for themselves before committing to buy, so doing product demos and allowing potential customers to try out your merchandise is a great way to build relationships and make sales. If your company provides a service, you should figure out a way to demonstrate that, too. Show event attendees what you do. Don’t just tell them about it.
Give Stuff Away When you set up a booth at a tradeshow, making money is probably one of your ultimate goals. That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t give away some freebies. For event attendees, free swag is one of the best parts about going to a trade show. People love free stuff, and they expect to get a lot of it at tradeshows. Promotional items, such as branded notebooks, pens, hats, tote bags, or water bottles, are always big hits. Any type of freebie works, though. You can draw a pretty big crowd by simply handing out some tasty fresh-baked cookies. Get creative and be generous. Doing so gets people talking about your booth and entices attendees to stop by.
Setting up a booth at a tradeshow offers numerous benefits for business owners. If you want to make the most of the event, though, you need to be prepared. Start planning several months in advance to ensure that you have time to order banners, tools, and other supplies, assemble your event team, and provide adequate training. The more you put into planning for your first trade show, the more you will likely get out of it.
When the big day arrives, stick to your game plan, and have fun! Exhibiting at a tradeshow requires a lot of hard work, but there is no reason why it can’t be enjoyable, too.
Halle Summers is a Marketing Coordinator for FASTENation Inc., a premier global manufacturer, technical converter, distributor, and designer of adhesive based fasteners and tapes. Halle enjoys sharing her unique perspective and knowledge through her blog writing. When she isn’t writing articles, she enjoys spending time in downtown Charleston, South Carolina and all the amazing food her hometown has to offer.
Let’s say your company is looking ahead about six months to a show in March and you’re considering a new custom exhibit for the show. If the show is in the early part of March, you have less than six months before seeing the new exhibit leave the loading docks.
So what has to be done between now and then to ensure that you have the exhibit you want for the price you can pay?
There are many things that have to be done in the next few months to make the process work well. Let’s start with the basic questions:
What size booth space are you going to need?
What is a realistic budget for the exhibit you want?
What company is going to guide you through the process and earn the business?
The first question, about booth size, is already set. Unless you’re upsizing from last year’s show, it’ll be the same as it was.
The budget question is a more difficult question, and there are any number of ways to look at it. First, when you say “realistic,” does that number come from what the accounting department told you? Does it come from a thorough research into what exhibit properties cost all the way through concept, design and fabrication? And does the budget figure include everything, or only the exhibit itself?
Industry Average Pricing
A couple of good places to start would be to understand what the industry, on average, charges for the various items. Do your research and find out what a typical custom exhibit costs. For example, recent figures show that inline construction can average about $1,340 per linear foot, give or take 10-15%. Which means a typical 10×20 custom inline booth will land somewhere close to $26,000 – $28,000. Could be more, could be less, but that’s a good number to start the discussion.
A recent industry average for custom island construction comes in a bit more – around $160 – $180 per square foot. If you’re looking at a 20×20, multiply 20×20 (400 sf) by $160 and you’ll get a rough budget of about $64,000. At least you’ll have a number in mind when you start getting prices back from exhibit houses.
Exhibit Function Needs
Next, look at the other factors that affect price, the pieces you want in the exhibit. What exactly do you need for the exhibit to function well to show off your products and services? Do you need demo stations? A stage for a professional presenter? Sample tables? Meeting spaces? All those will push the final price one way or another.
Choosing an Exhibit Company
The last question – what company you should work with – is a big one. After all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of exhibit houses ready, willing and able to do the job. Unless you’re a huge exhibitor (think Microsoft or Nike), you don’t need one of those big exhibit houses. If your company is a small or medium-sized company, going to a big exhibit house has some benefits – and some drawbacks. The benefits are that they are more than capable of handling your job, and they may offer you some very creative designers as part of the mix. The drawbacks might be that if you’re a small client, it’s easy to get lost among all their big clients, which demand a lot of attention. Another drawback is that a larger company has a lot more overhead than a smaller company. They have to pay for a larger space, they have more employees, and so on. It’s a bigger business that they have to keep going.
Smaller exhibit houses also have tradeoffs, but in my experience, the smaller houses – with fewer clients – value those clients like gold and work hard to keep them. They make sure nothing goes wrong, or if something does, they will fix it as quickly as possible. Any business is built on relationships, but with fewer relationships, the importance of each client is paramount. Which would you rather work with? No wrong answers.
Another aspect to consider about which exhibit house to work with: location. Some exhibitors want to be able to stop by and see the progress on a new build. Or once the exhibit has been built, to be able to have the staff nearby to do any repairs or upgrades, or even store the exhibit. But many exhibitors don’t see not having the exhibit house nearby as a negative thing. We do much of our business online and via email and phone that distance is irrelevant. Again, no wrong answers – different people have different needs and priorities.
Timeline from Design to Fabrication
The next question to ask is how long will this take? Hence the title of the blog post.
Again, there are general guidelines, but each exhibit house will have their own schedule and availabilities. Fabrication is often the most straightforward part of the process. In other words, once everything has been decided, there are few surprises. But getting to the final design is what can take time. But it’s time well-spent. The sooner you start the conversation with a 3D exhibit designer, the better off you’ll be.
A good 3D exhibit designer is the key. She’ll know what questions to ask, how to draw out more details of what you want, and finally produce a mockup design for review and revision. This process can take what you might think is a lot of time. Prior to going into the first meeting, make a list of all of the items you need: meeting space, demo space, demo stations, stage, graphic display areas, etc. I’ve had clients bring us 2D “flat” graphic representations of what they wanted in an exhibit and it was a simple matter to convert that to a 3D rendering. I’ve had clients start with nothing, which meant we talked everything through in detail and let the designer take the lead and produce the first rendering, or a couple of options to choose from.
Different sized exhibits take varying amounts of time, as you might imagine. Custom takes longer than something “off the shelf.” If you want something simple, it’s often a matter of picking something from an online catalog, doing a little customizing and getting it in-hand in a month or two, not the five or size months you’d like for a larger custom island exhibit.
But if you’ve got a show on your calendar that’s six months out, no matter what size exhibit you have, if you’re targeting the show for a new one, it’s time to schedule that first conversation!
It seems like almost every tradeshow exhibit has a big video screen these days. But what about the content? How do you create content that is actually seen and delivers a message that’s critical to your brand amidst the chaos of a tradeshow floor? On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I chat with Holly Paige of Wave One Films in the Portland area about how to approach creating video for tradeshows: