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

November 2019

9 Things All First Time Event Promoters Wish They Did Before Their First Exhibition

This is a guest post by Ben Llewellyn of Ultimate Banners.

There’s no shortage of benefits that come with attending an exhibition, which is why it is something that a lot of event promoters and businesses do. However, that’s not to say that a successful exhibition is guaranteed without a level of planning and hard work. There are certain things that everyone should do before attending an exhibition, many of which first time event promoters don’t realise.

Things Everyone Should Do Before Their First Exhibition

There’s a lot to think about before attending your first exhibition, which can make the entire lead up stressful. It’s never a case of turning up and hoping for the best because organizing and planning is key. Here are ten things everyone should do before going to their first industry exhibition.

1. Invest in Branded Freebies – A lot of businesses make the mistake of trying to keep the cost of attending an exhibition as low as possible and though this does make sense, it is often beneficial to spend a little. After all, spending a little can often lead to you making more in the long run. Investing in branded freebies is a great way to impress potential customers and it reflects well on the business as a whole, as branded freebies are usually associated with successful brands. Giving someone a branded freebie, such as a pen or portable charger, is also an effective way to boost brand awareness. Once the event has finished, people are still going to remember who you are and the business name will be seen by more people.

2. Set Clear Goals – Before attending any exhibition, you should be sure on what your business goals are for the day. Think about whether you are aiming to sell a product, whether you are hoping to network with other businesses or whether you are simply trying to get the brand name out there. This is especially important before attending your first exhibition, as the entire day is likely to be busy and having a plan can keep you organized and on task. Make sure that your goals are realistic and that everyone is working towards the same thing.

3. Research Competitors – It’s hugely important to stand out at an exhibition, but this can be difficult when you have an abundance of competitors to contend with. Looking at competitors and seeing what they are doing is a good way to find out what works, what doesn’t and what you could do differently. Though you will want to stand out and should avoid copying them, you should always work to industry standards and showcase yourself in a similar way. If you are new to a specific industry, researching competitors is a great way to know what’s expected of you.

4. Prepare and Plan Their Exhibition Space – Attending an exhibition can be stressful, especially when you are doing so for the first time. However, planning ahead can help massively. Consider what you will need for your exhibition space and allow adequate time to source everything before the big day. You will also want to make sure you have reserved the space, allowed enough time to set everything up and have advertising materials printed ahead of time.

5. Design Fantastic Artwork – With so many competitors at an exhibition, it’s important that you make a statement and stand out. There are a few different ways to do this, but starting with designing fantastic artwork is key. It’s important for banners and advertising materials to stand out from the rest, which is why standard or generic banner artwork isn’t good enough. There’s a lot of help out there and pull up banners ten signs they are working | ultimatebanners.co has a lot of advice on creating designs that work. Artwork should grab attention, create intrigue and provide information.

6. Allow Enough Time for Banner Printing – The turnaround for banner printed is extremely quick, which means that last minute orders aren’t usually a problem. However, it’s always best to avoid leaving it to the last minute if possible. When you leave banner printing to the last minute, you’re not leaving any room for error or delays. This could mean that you are left without the banner needed for an exhibition and no way to solve the problem. Reduce the stress of your banner printing by organising everything the moment you have the artwork. It’s better to be ready too early, than too late.

7. Spread the Word About Attendance – Once you know that you are attending an exhibition and have confirmed everything, spread the word and let everyone know. You could have existing customers attending the same event, in which case they can look out for you. There could be people there who have heard about the business and want to know more, in which case an exhibition is a great opportunity for them to do so. It’s also helpful for other businesses to know that you will be there, as they may be interested in networking.

8. Think About First Impressions – There is no doubt going to be a lot of people attending any exhibition, so it’s important to think about first impressions before going as making a good first impression is key. This includes ensuring that your display looks great, that staff know what to say to passersby and that you are ready to answer any complicated questions. You should aim to appear friendly, professional and knowledgeable about the industry. Though an individual may not take you up on a service or product then and there, you will want them to have a position opinion of you for future reference.

9. Get Staff On Board – A lot of hard work and energy goes into attending an exhibition, which is why getting other staff members on board is key. Not only does this allow for work to be delegated, but it reduces stress throughout the day. Rather than one or two people attempting to do everything, a large team provides more free time for networking and building a relationship with potential customers.


Ben Llewellyn is co-founder of Ultimate Banners in Birmingham (United Kingdom). Ben loves cycling and everything tech. He works as a designer and developer working with clients in the exhibition advertising and digital services sector. Find Ben on LinkedIn.

Why Don’t Tradeshows Work for All Exhibitors?

It’s a common refrain: tradeshows don’t work for me. They’re too expensive. I don’t get enough leads.

And unfortunately, it’s true for too many exhibitors. It’s easy to look at the exhibitor list of a show year after year and point to companies that give it a try once or twice never to return.

Look at the flip side, though: there are thousands of exhibitors that go back to the same few shows year after year, take home a stack of leads, create more business and firmly believe that tradeshows are the most powerful marketing tool they have at hand.

I know that’s true because I work with those kinds of exhibitors. Now, not every single exhibitor I’ve worked with is successful. Some have fallen off the wagon along the way. Others have shifted their marketing efforts. Some have taken a step back from tradeshows and reassessed their program, but eventually make it back bigger and better.

What’s the difference?

We could point to any number of things: their booth space is lousy and doesn’t have enough traffic; their booth is small and nondescript; their staff is bored (and boring) and so on. But it all boils down to just two things:

Having a good plan and being committed to that plan.

Plans are great. Everyone should have one. But what about having a bad plan? Bad plans do certainly exist. And having a bad plan is not a good thing.

Back to that “good plan” and “being committed” to the plan. A good plan can come from knowing your goals, your budget, your people; knowing the show and your competitors, and knowing what you really want out of the show. That good plan can be enhanced by having a well-trained booth staff, having a standout exhibit and having the most popular products in the show. But those last three things, the staff, exhibit and best products, are not completely necessary to have a good result. They’re important, sure, but they’re more like frosting on the cake. You gotta build a good cake first.

Answer these questions:

  • What do you want out of the show? In other words, why are you there?
  • How are you going to know if you got what you wanted? How are you going to measure your results?
  • What are the steps you need to take to get what you want? What will it take to get exactly what you want?

Sometimes it takes a little brainstorming and communication with the various members of the team. Sometimes it means knowing what worked at your last show and knowing what didn’t work. Be honest. Sometimes you have to be brutally honest to say that having that crazy mascot uniform didn’t really work, or that having the general manager do the in-booth presentations didn’t draw that many people. There are lots of reasons why things don’t work and assessing and understanding those ideas will help you move forward.

Another way to look at it is to ask yourself: When I get back in the office the morning after the show and say, Man that was a great show! What does that mean to you?

It’s not the same for every company.

Once you’ve defined the main goal of your tradeshow appearance, break it up into pieces. If you want 300 leads over a three-day show, you’ll need 100 a day. If the show is open from 10 am to 5 pm, that’s 8 hours. You’ll need to average 12.5 leads per hour, or one about every five minutes. If you’re doing demos, for example, and you know that for every demo you do there are 15 people on average standing there, and three of them are good leads, that means you’ll need to do a demo about four times an hour. If, on the other hand, you get six leads for every demo, that means you only need two demos an hour. Or, you could try to double your projected leads by doing demos four times and hour.

Run the numbers. If you want to give away 1,000 product samples or sign up 200 people for lengthier demos in the next three months, you know what that will break down to by just doing the math.

If your goals are not so straightforward, you can still look at it from an angle that will help. Maybe you want to make solid connections with only three distributors that, if you can get them to carry your products, would double your company revenue in the next two years, figure out what organizations are the best and most likely candidates. Make whatever effort you need to set and confirm appointments at the show. Yes, tradeshow success is all in the numbers, and it’s all in the ability to show off your products and make sales. So do the math, do the outreach. But don’t forget that we’re all humans – you and your prospects – and there’s often not a straight line to success. Make allowances for that, learn from your missteps and do better the next time. That’s what it’s all about.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 11, 2019: Dominic Rubino

Business coach and business owner Dominic Rubino joins me today to discuss, among other things, an easy formula for difficult conversations. Check it out – it’s a good one:

Find Dominic here: BizStratPlan.com.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: The new Arkady Renko novel by Martin Cruz Smith, The Siberian Dilemma. It’s a good one.

7 Ways That Fiction Can Help Your Tradeshow Marketing

A good piece of fiction is surprisingly like a good tradeshow marketing effort. You don’t believe me? Let’s take a look. What happens when you read a good piece of fiction?

1. Create a unique world.

Fiction allows an author to create a world that exists only in one place: the reader’s mind. A good tradeshow exhibit and marketing plan creates a world that exists only in your booth. Whether it’s a unique display, a professional presentation or a one-of-a-kind activity, creating a unique world for your visitor is a good way to make sure they remember you. Having a great product that no one else offers is also a good way.

2. Create tension.

A good story has tension that pulls the reader further into the story. A good tradeshow exhibit can create a good kind of tension. Maybe it’s a compelling and challenging statement on their graphic, or maybe it’s a challenging question that makes you stop and want to know more. That tension creates a kind of desire to learn more.

3. Know who your story is for.

I like to read detective page-turners and mysteries. I don’t like to read romance novels or fantasy. A good tradeshow marketing plan knows exactly what audience is attracted to their type or product or service and they don’t try to bring in anyone that isn’t interested.

4. The main character in a story has a “super objective.” What’s yours?

I recently heard this concept about a character’s super objective. You may not actually see this super objective detailed in the story, but it drives the main character. Jack Reacher, for example, is compelled to do what he can to right the wrongs that he sees. Harry Bosch believes that ‘if anybody counts, everybody counts,’ when it comes to solving a murder. No one gets more or less attention simply because of their place in society.

5. There’s always an objection (or a hurdle).

Know your prospect’s objections. Any novel where the protagonist has no hardships or obstacles is a boring novel. Expect your potential clients to have tough questions. If they do, it shows they’re interested and want to know more. Identify the most common objectives and make sure your booth staffers know how to answer those questions.

6. Keep the page turning.

Have you ever gotten part way through a book and just decided that you couldn’t finish it? Maybe it was boring. Maybe it wasn’t your type of book. Maybe you bogged down in too many unrelated bunny trails and lost the main story. In a tradeshow booth, show your attendees enough compelling evidence – the storyline, as it were – to stay until they learn enough to know if they’re going to buy from you or not. Depending on your product, this might mean that you’re giving in-booth demonstrations or training sessions, or your professional presenter is sharing enough information in a lively and engaging manner that compels the visitor to want to find out more.

7. Deliver the goods: make it a great ending.

Every novel has a wrap up where you find out what happened to the character, the storyline. It’s the payoff. Does your product or service make that same delivery? Are they the great payoff, the great ending that your prospect is looking for?

Yes, I think fiction can be a good inspiration for tradeshow marketing. By using the various elements contained in a good novel, you can create a template for showing your visitors all of the best of your products or services in a compelling and intriguing manner.

Design a Great Exhibit by Knowing Who Buys Your Products and Where they Shop

I’m no expert on exhibit design or figuring out the potential customers for a specific product – let’s leave that to the people who have a lot of experience in that area and it’s not me – but I’ve picked up a few things along the way by talking to a lot of experts.

One thing that seems clear is that if you know who your audience is, what kind of products they buy, what kinds of stores they like to shop at, and why they buy your products, all of that information can be assimilated in a synergistic way to help determine the look and feel of your tradeshow exhibit so that your potential customers feel a familiarity; they feel at home when they see your exhibit.

What do I mean by that? Let’s say you’ve determined that the people who buy your products the most are a specific type of person: maybe they shop at Target a lot, but also like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Or they like Applebee’s but not Pizza Hut. They like Urban outfitters and J. Crew but not The Gap. And so on. The more information you can distill about your products’ appeal – and who is buying those products from you, the more you have to help design your tradeshow exhibit.

Whole Food Market Richmond Branch.:  Commercial Spaces by Garnett + Partners LLP, Eclectic
Are you trying to echo the look of a specific store interior?

Let’s say, for example, that your products attract people who shop at Whole Foods for groceries. If you are selling a food product, it probably makes sense to incorporate some design elements that are popular at Whole Foods into your exhibit design. Not to copy the design, but to echo the design elements. Do they use recycled wood? Do they use a pastel color on counters or product shelves? Then consider incorporating those elements in the exhibit design.

Exhibit designers have the experience and the skill to not only create a three-dimensional model complete with floor plans, traffic flows, height restrictions and sensibilities, but they know how to take those colors and patterns and textures and incorporate them into product displays, greeting counters, light boxes and flooring patterns.

If done right, your potential customer will take one look at your exhibit and even if they’re not familiar with your brand (yet), they will feel at home because you’ve done your homework and created an exhibit that understands them and what they like.

You just need to know who your ideal customer is and what brands or stores they’re already comfortable shopping at.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 4, 2019: Seth Kramer

Seth Kramer has been doing tradeshow and corporate magic presentations for decades, so he knows a thing or two about how it works. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, he share some of his experiences and hands out a tip or two:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Science Fiction from the Golden Era (and beyond!).

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