Heading to a tradeshow later this summer or fall? Maybe early in 2022? Probably the last thing you tend to think about is swag. Promotional products. Giveaways. Whether small imprinted items such as pens, letter openers, flash drives, lip stuff (what’s that stuff called, anyway??), or whatever, you probably used to wait until the last moment to order. And the promotional products company would jump into action and before you know it, boxes arrive full of customized and imprinted stuff.
Hold up. That may not be that easy this time around.
What’s going on? Supply lines are bottlenecked, shipping is difficult and expensive, and it’s harder for production companies to keep supplies in stock. What’s on warehouse shelves one day may be gone next week, leaving companies scrambling to identify second and third choices for tradeshow giveaways.
Rama Beerfas of Lev Promotions, in a recent podcast interview, discussed some of the issues regarding challenges in the industry torn by the pandemic. In a recent newsletter, she outlined a few challenges still preventing the smooth acquisition and production of customized giveaways.
Inventories are low, products are selling out.
Production times are longer (this isn’t limited to the promotional products industry; many vendors in the event/conference/tradeshow world are seeing similar situations). This is often due to staffing shortages.
Shipping costs, particularly overseas, have increased. As Rama put it in her newsletter, “A contracted rate of $$3,000 per container rental has skyrocketed to $10,000 or more and bidding wars are happening.”
All I can say is “YIKES!” Well, that and be prepared for increased costs and production time if you’re planning on acquiring branded promotional items to spread around at your next event.
Yeah, it’s only June but somehow I’ve managed to get through two dozen books since we ticked over into 2021. I tend to read mostly fiction, but now and then I’ll make it through a nonfiction work that was worth the time. So let me start with one of the two nonfiction books I’ve read this year.
The Wim Hof Method, Wim Hof. Suggested by a tradeshow colleague several months ago, I picked it up and let it sit on my shelf for a few months before finally getting around to it. Glad I did. Wim’s story is fascinating, as is his method of deep breathing and cold immersion or cold showers as a way of improving or maintaining your health. I think my initial resistance was, ‘nah, not gonna take cold showers. Not gonna happen.’ Funny thing, I read the book, gave it a try, along with the daily round of deep breaths which also incorporates holding your breath, have now done those basic practices for nearly two months. I’ll probably keep them up because they make me feel good and they’re easy to do. I’m up to 2-3 minutes of cold water showers at the end of a regular shower, and I’ve managed to hold my breath after deep oxygenation practice for up to two-and-a-half minutes, which kind of blows my mind. Highly recommended.
“Love Me Do: The Beatles Progress” by Michael Braun was originally published in the early 60s and then went out of print for some time. It’s a fascinating look at the six-week 1963 tour by the Beatles written by someone who had access to the group before they became world famous. It’s an unvarnished look at the Fab Four as they smoked, drank, swore and tried to make their way through a hectic music world before everything changed. If you’re a Beatle fan, don’t miss it.
Lots of fiction:
Jack Reacher by Lee Child and Andrew Child. I finished “The Sentinel” a couple of months ago. Last I checked, it’s the most recent book, number 25, in the series. Written by Lee Child and his younger brother, who is planning to take over the franchise character, it’s a well-done potboiler in the same vein as the others.
“The Night Fire,” by Michael Connelly is a Harry Bosch / Renee Ballard detective book. I’m nearing the end of this series as well, although Connelly is so prolific with his main characters – Bosch, Renee Ballard and Mickey Haller, Jack McEvoy , Terry McCaleb and more – that it’s hard to keep up. He’s a good and enjoyable writer.
David Baldacci’s “The Innocent” and “Zero Day.” Thrillers that keep you turning the pages, mostly in the legal or suspense world. He wrote “Absolute Power,” published in 1996 that was turned into a Clint Eastwood movie, which kicked his writing career into high gear. I’ve only read these two books by Baldacci and look forward to reading more.
Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes” trilogy, which includes “Finders Keepers” and “End of Watch.” Just wrapped up the last book this week and am quite in awe of how imaginative of a storyteller King is. He burrows into characters’ psyches more effectively than most writers, which makes them good page-turners as well. After viewing the two seasons of the TV series based on “Mr. Mercedes,” I decided to read the trilogy. Glad I did, really enjoyed them.
Dean Koontz is another prolific writer with so many books out there that it’s hard to figure out which to read. I picked up one of the Jane Hawk series and ended up reading a couple of them and plan to read more. Another fascinating writer that is great at setting a scene and the inner workings of his characters. “The Night Window” and “The Forbidden Door” sizzled all the way through.
“2034: A Novel of the Next World War” was mentioned on a TV show, and I was so intrigued by the concept I picked it up. It doesn’t disappoint. Written by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis, it portrays a future world where China and the US butt heads in cyberspace and with nukes. Not pretty, but extremely realistic and plausible that something like this could happen. Worth a read.
“Tell No One” By Harlan Coben. Picked this up at a garage sale. I’ve read one other book by Coben, and seen at least one or two TV series based on his books. Thriller to the max, well worth it.
I also read several Kindle books. As an Amazon Prime member, you get to choose a few Kindle books for free each month. These tend to be a little shorter and off the beaten path, so it doesn’t take me long to get through them. But I’ve stumbled onto several well-written and worthwhile books, including the following:
“Her Last Breath” by Hillary Davidson: a fraught family is falling apart after one of the girls dies under mysterious circumstances. This brought several OMG moments. Extraordinarily well-written.
“The Girl Beneath the Sea” by Andrew Payne. One of a series of a diver cop in Florida that stumbles on the body of a young girl dumped in a waterway.
“The Eighth Sister” by Robert Dugoni. Russia vs US spy novel.
“Beneath Devil’s Bridge” by Loreth Anne White. A thriller about a true crime podcaster that follows a man who two decades previously had confessed to a brutal killing. Lots of twists and surprises. Also very well written.
“True Fiction” by Lee Goldberg. An author is pursued by the FBI and criminals after his fictional scenario about crashing a plane into Waikiki actually comes about. Clever and fast-paced.
“The Tracker” by Chad Zunker. A young political ‘tracker,’ someone who follows a candidate and videotapes everything they do hoping to catch them in a gaffe or worse, is in the crosshairs of criminals and law enforcement after he witnesses a murder. Fun read.
“Water Memory” by Daniel Pyne. A black ops specialist happens to be vacationing on a cargo ship when it’s captured by pirates. Crazy and entertaining.
“Blame Atlas Save Atlas” by Angelo Lytle. Kind of a paranormal thriller with misfit kids at the center of a mystery. Cool little story, well done.
Even though the pandemic is supposedly waning, events, conferences and tradeshows are still dealing with how to handle crowds in a pandemic era. Here comes Crowdpass, with a unique look at the situation and how they’re looking to handle it digitally. I caught up with Marketing Director Quinn Zsido to go over their approach:
Inflation is kicking in, have you noticed? Have you recently tried to price a piece of plywood, for example? And no doubt you’re feeling it at the pump, too.
It’s affecting the cost of tradeshow exhibits and tradeshow marketing, too. In a recent Classic Conversation – where Classic Exhibits distributors gather monthly to share info and chat – much of the conversation was about rising prices. And it’s apparently affecting a lot of the marketplace. Prices are moving up, and time frames are also changing.
For example, when the pandemic hit, companies had to shed employees. Many were furloughed indefinitely, many were simply let go. Now that things are moving in the other direction, albeit slowly in many instances, companies are having to staff up again. And many are finding it challenging to get dependable people back into the workforce.
Also, supply lines are either clogged or pinched, or negatively affected, meaning that it takes longer to get the materials that you need. There’s a high demand where there was recently very little demand, which means that the ramping up of production is happening, and it doesn’t happen overnight. And shipping is taking longer than it used to. Much longer, depending on where things are coming from. If materials are coming from Asia, for instance, the broad stroke take is that shipping containers cost more and are harder to find, making shipping not only more expensive, but things are taking longer.
In the states, shipping times are expanding by a few days in some instances. Again, these are general observations, but people who handle shipping logistics agree that it’s taking longer to get things from Point A to Point B.
Other things to watch for
It’s been noted that in some locales, show services are being impacted. In a quick addendum to our regular monthly chat, someone observed that GES was allowing only their rental exhibits to be set up, and not allowing any EACs (Exhibitor Approved Contractors) onto the floor. Again, this seemed to be only in a few places, but it raises flags about how you should approach planning for your next show.
What to do:
Talk to your exhibit house: find out prices ahead of time; find out how long the quote will be good for (expect that 30 days is a likely limit).
Talk to your labor and show services contractors well ahead of the show so you are prepared for any changes that you may have to deal with for the upcoming show.
Download and read the show manuals from top to bottom and if you notice changes or have questions, take the time to reach out and get clarity on anything you’re uncertain about.
Finally, don’t wait until the last minute for any booth changes. Plan on adding an extra week or two or three to your design and production schedule. Show dates won’t move, and if you want any significant changes to your tradeshow booth, make sure your planning includes the extra time needed.
Tradeshows are a great place to bring in more sales. But to bring in sales and grow your company, tradeshows are also a perfect place for setting secondary and tertiary goals. Here are some you might want to consider:
On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee (now published bi-weekly!), Kenji Haroutunian of the Big Gear Show joins me to chat about the outdoors world, the tradeshow world and much more. Great to reconnect with Kenji:
Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve worked with Classic Exhibits in Portland as our main fabricator for many years and they continually impress us with their skill and creativity. Last year at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, they posted a thorough look at the Symphony No Tools Portable Display, going through each element one at a time. It’s a great look at an elegantly functional portable display: