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

All posts by: Tim Patterson

Tradeshow Marketing Expert & Dynamic Public Speaker/Trainer

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!


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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
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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


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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.

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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.


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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.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 9, 2019: Control

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:

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: Clockwise, starring John Cleese of Monty Python.

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Essential Tools & Tips for Your First Tradeshow Event

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 stopping.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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It’s September: Do You Know Where Your New March 2020 Tradeshow Exhibit is?

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?

First Questions

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!


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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 2, 2019: Holly Paige

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:

Check out Wave One Films.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: Meshell Ndegeocello’s “Ventriloquism,” from last year. (NPR review)

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