I can recall two recent ones at a marketing conference that really stand out.
The first was a full on lounge with free coffee and breakfast, ample seating, and newspapers. It was a genius idea because it flowed so naturally from the event floor. I sat down and didn’t want to leave after a long day. I remember that.
The other one was an AWS exhibit by Amazon. Amazon not only dominated the floor with their main exhibit, but they had a second one with a full on classroom. Yes, this counts as an exhibit, and it was packed the brim the whole show.
Which exhibits do I not remember? Practically everything else.
The truth is, if you’re not one of the top displays at a show, you’re not going to be remembered months later.
Of course more goes into it than just the cosmetic design, but that’s where it begins. You can’t make your awesome connection with attendees, you can’t do the demos, and you can’t collect leads if you can’t even get people to pay attention.
This is especially true for up and coming businesses that don’t have the name to draw a crowd on it’s own.
Between scheduling staff, arranging flights, planning material for the show, and everything else, the trade show exhibit usually ends up being just good enough.
Let’s break out of that together. Starting now.
Joe is the marketing director of Coastal Creative – a San Diego-based design and printing company. He’s always on the look out for the next great marketing strategy – both online and offline. His favorite trade show tip is to make connections with celebrities in your industry that are hard to get ahold of online. Check out the original graphic here.
At TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Classic Exhibits, one of the premier exhibit manufacturers in the country. Over the years, e’ve collaborated with them for a number of great custom builds, including the terrific 30×40 Bob’s Red Mill exhibit that still wows ’em at Natural Products Expo East and Expo West.
But just because they can build great custom designs doesn’t mean that they are not dedicating their creative energies to coming up with new things, like the Gravitee Modular System that doesn’t need any tools. None. Zip. Nada.
Their newest Gravitee creation is the One-Step Lightbox. the Gravitee lightbox attaches to other panels using no tools and no loose part connection. It’ll be available in both curved and flat options. There will be standard sizes, but yes, it’s something that you can customize to various sizes. Let’s take a look at Classic Exhibits’ video introduction, hosted by Kevin Carty:
For more information on Gravitee, click here. To find out more specifically about the Gravitee light box, and it’s soon-to-be announced release dates and pricing, fill out the forms on our contact page and we’ll get back to you!
Where do you stand on the meanings of the terms exhibit vs. booth vs. stand? For years after my entry into the industry in 2002, I was under the impression that a booth was an exhibit and an exhibit was a booth. Since then my take on it has become a little more nuanced. I don’t think I heard the term stand for years.
According to Exhibitor Magazine’s online glossary page, a booth is an “area made up of one or more standard units of exhibit space.” Given that a typical unit is 10′ x 10′, that could mean a booth could be any size: 10×10, 10×20, 30×40, etc.
Exhibit on the other hand, is oddly, not listed in the glossary. The specific term exhibit is a little harder to track down. Some glossaries don’t even list that single word as a descriptive term. Freeman’s listing mentions exhibit booth as an “individual display area constructed to display products or convey a message.” So we’re getting a little closer.
Pulling your hair out yet?
The Freeman listing for booth looks like this: “a display designed to showcase an exhibitor’s products, message and business ideas.”
IExhibita.com has no listing for booth but says that an exhibit is “a display used to convey a message. A specific tool of the communications medium of exhibiting. Also EXHIBIT BOOTH.”
Insta Worldwide Group doesn’t have the single-word booth mentioned in their glossary, but they do say that a “Bis “the amount of floor space assigned to and occupied by an exhibitor.”
So what about the term stand? It’s common in Europe, and doesn’t get much mention in the USA. But does it mean booth as in floor space or exhibit as in the actual fabrication and elements sitting in the space?
Again with the hair-pulling. Oh, wait, I really don’t have much hair to pull.
Exhibitor Magazine says a stand is a European term for booth. The Insta Worldwide Group glossary says a stand is “an area made up of one or more standard units of exhibit space. In U.S.its called a booth.”
Now let’s add one more term to the mix: display. It’s not an uncommon word in the industry, and is often used interchangeably with exhibit, booth and stand. But if you look for a description of the single word term display, you won’t find much. Search for tradeshow display, however, and you’ll have hundreds of exhibit houses and brokers eager to sell you one.
So where do we stand? Oh, sorry. Where do we end up?
My two cents:
A booth is the space that an exhibitor rents from show organizers.
An exhibit is the actual thing that gets set up in the booth space.
A stand will only bite you in Europe so don’t worry about it in the USA.
A display, to my mind, is a smaller exhibit, perhaps an accessory such as a banner stand, or maybe a back wall. But you won’t go wrong if you say you want to set up a tradeshow display. Or a tradeshow exhibit. Or even if you want to set up a tradeshow booth. People will know what you’re talking about.
I’ve been in the tradeshow industry for almost 20 years, and it seems like we’re moving into what may be the Golden Age of Tradeshow Marketing. Usually when you think of the “Golden Age,” you’re thinking of that long-forgotten past. A time of fun, peace and prosperity and good times. Us older folks might think of the Golden Age of Rock and Roll, for example, as the time when Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly were making music and leading the music charts. Or maybe we think of the Sixties as the Golden Age of Rock and Roll, when the Beatles led the British Invasion and with the help of bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Yardbirds and The Searchers dominated the music charts for years.
What about movies? Was the Golden Age the days of great movie stars such as Clark Gable, Dorothy Lamour, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Greta Garbo and others lit up the big screen?
Or is the Golden Age something that might be happening today, and we won’t realize it for decades to come?
Tradeshow marketing may, in fact, be moving into something of a Golden Age. Look at what’s happened in the past decade or so: an influx of a variety of new products and technologies that is impacting the bottom line and exhibiting capabilities and impact in unforeseen ways.
Fabric graphics, for example, have pretty much taken over the tradeshow floor. Sure, you could see fabric graphics ten years ago, but they weren’t much to look at. The printing quality was suspect, and the fabrics were not all that great. But technology has improved fabric printing by leaps and bounds, and the same has happened to the fabric that is used for printing.
And what about light boxes or back lit fabrics? Just a decade ago salesmen would come through our door pitching the next generation of LED lights, which were definitely impressive. But the past ten years have seen a drastic drop in the cost of LED lights, and a sharp uptick in the quality of the lights.
And what about social media? Fifteen years ago, social media frankly didn’t exist. Online promotions were barebones at best. Email marketing was fairly well established, but preshow marketing stuck mainly to traditional channels such as direct mail and advertising. But now, any company that doesn’t engage in using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and add on some elements of their outreach via YouTube and LinkedIn is increasingly rare. All of those social media channels have matured greatly and can be used to drive traffic and move people around a tradeshow floor.
Video is also part of the renaissance of tradeshow marketing which contributes to the idea that we’re experiencing a Golden Age. More and more exhibits show off one or more video monitors, and you’ll increasingly see video walls, which grabs visitors’ eyeballs with a visual impact that was previously unobtainable, or only at an ungodly price. Video production has also come down drastically in price and obtaining great footage to go with your video messaging at a lower cost means more exhibitors can show off a lot more of their brand for less. Drones, for one example, have given anyone the ability to drop in aerial footage into their brand videos for a few dollars, instead of the thousands of dollars it used to cost. Most brand videos I see at tradeshows have at least some drone footage, and I suspect that most people don’t even give it a second thought (I do – drone footage is freaking cool, man!).
Add to all of that the coming-of-age of Virtual Reality, which will open doors to creative people getting involved to do more fantastic VR for tradeshows. The VR I’ve seen so far has been disappointing, as were the first few VR games and programs I’ve seen. But lately the bar has been raised, and the quality and creativity will come up.
What about data tracking and electronic product showcases, such as ShowcaseXD? This and similar programs will not only allow exhibitors to show off products in an easy format, the data that comes out of these systems proves to be extremely useful to companies. Didn’t have anything as sophisticated as that only a decade ago.
Automated email has been around for perhaps a couple of decades, but that also gets more and more sophisticated, and combined with a data entry, product catalog or context on a tablet, marketers can send out detailed, personalized responses based on visitors’ interests.
All of these – and more technologies that I’ve either missed or are in their infancy – are having a great impact on tradeshows and giving exhibitors the ability to maximize their dollars, create a bigger splash, take home more data and find an edge in a very competitive marketplace.
If not a new Golden Age of Tradeshow Marketing, at least a Renaissance or resurgence.
How do you find great information – tradeshow tips – from people that go to a lot of shows and see a lot of exhibits? The first ting most of us do is fire up your favorite search engine and just plug in “tradeshow tip” or “tradeshow marketing tips” or something similar and see what comes up. If you’re lucky, you might find a link to an article on this blog (it happens a lot!).
Which beings me to this: you may not know about the great batch of tradeshow tips on our Exhibit Design Search. Seriously. You can find any exhibit or accessory that you’re looking for – and a bunch that you may not have thought about – but you can also find
The tips are grouped together for easy browsing in the following subheadings:
USA Tradeshow Regulations and Photos
Humor (always important when exhibiting at tradeshows!)
Becoming an Exhibit Marketing Expert
Displays and Exhibits
Design, Lighting and Graphic Tips
Fine-Tune Your Tradeshow Knowledge
General (But Important) Stuff
Something for Everyone
Easy to browse, easy to find something useful for your next show or exhibit. For example, under the heading Getting Started, you’ll find Ten Common Tradeshow Myths, which knocks down some rather daunting ideas that many people think about tradeshows. Like tradeshows are just a big party. Or tradeshows are a waste of time. Or tradeshows are just flat-out expensive.
One more thing before you head on over to check out the selection of Tradeshow and Event Tips. On each article, on the upper-left black bar above the article, you’ll see “+ My Gallery.” If you click on this link, you’ll add that article to your gallery, which you can access at the upper left navigation bar at the top of every page. Not only can you add articles, but you’ll find that +My Gallery button an each and every exhibit in the entire Exhibit Design Search site. After you’ve added articles, exhibit, accessories or whatever, you can share them with colleagues by clicking on the My Gallery link, find the Send My Selections tab and follow the instructions to share that collection you’ve created.
If you have the perfect tradeshow exhibit, you probably don’t need accessories. After all, how do you improve on ‘perfect’? But if you’re a little short of perfection, here are a handful of exhibit accessories that will help out.
LED lights. Yes, it’s true. There are actually some exhibits out there that do not have good lighting. Ambient lighting in many exhibit halls leaves a lot to be desired, so adding some LED arm lights that can deliver high quality wall washing illumination or spot lighting will go a long way to making your exhibit stand out. And yes, LED lights deliver great lighting at a good price without the heat that comes with an older style Halogen lamp. You can also add smaller highlights such as an LED Surface Mount Puck Light, LED flex tape or Linear slim line LED lights.
Video monitors. Again, not every exhibit has a video monitor, but more and more make use of this visual communication medium. Video monitors have come down in pricing so much so that it’s easy to add a monitor or two or three depending on the size of your exhibit. If you prefer not to purchase monitors and keep them packed away most of the time, consider renting.
Custom counter. Even without having something custom designed, it’s easy to add a custom-looking counter that will serve almost any tradeshow exhibiting purpose, from being a place to put brochures, store personal items, samples or giveaways, or even a demo station.
Charging table. These will serve a double purpose of give you a place to sit around and meet prospects and give them a chance to easily charge up their phones and other devices. Either purchase it outright if you’re going to use it at many shows or get a custom-branded rental charging table.
Tablet Kiosk. Whether you use a Surface tablet or an iPad there is a table kiosk that will suit your needs. Free-standing or mounted to a larger table or greeting counter, a tablet kiosk invites visitors to interact – and stay longer in your booth!
Literature stands. Literature stands can be free-standing or attached to an aluminum strut on an exhibit and make an attractive location to hand out product brochures or sell sheets.
Hanging sign. Any large island will be enhanced with a hanging sign, making it easier to spot your booth location from as much as a few hundred feet away. Hanging signs offer a great branding opportunity and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including square, circular, tapered, triangle and more.
In the world of custom exhibit design, there are so many possibilities that any good exhibit designer will never run out of ways to put things together. Companies want a lot of the same things, such as product demo or display areas, meeting and storage areas and generous branding space.
We often have conference calls with prospects and clients with our designers, and from those discussions come mockup designs. Once a potential design is reviewed, changes are often made to accommodate functional needs and create more graphic branding opportunities. Or whatever. Designs, until they are built, are always a work in progress. Even after a custom exhibit design is built and used at a tradeshow, companies will often make changes between shows to flooring, graphics, and add storage, tables or chairs based on their experience with the exhibit at a show.
Given all of that, I have a ton of design mockups lurking on my hard drive. Many are from-scratch custom designs and others are modifications of kits that exist in Exhibit Design Search.
Let’s take a look at a handful of them and see what issues might have come up.
Tintri: Invited to submit a design for a 30×30 rental booth at a Las Vegas tradeshow this summer. Challenges: need 6 demo stations, a meeting area, and use an existing hanging sign.
Sweetleaf: invited to respond to an RFP for a 20×20 design that would use elements of the larger design for a 10×20 to appear at smaller shows. Needs: some sample areas, but not too many, and modest product display. Partly private meeting areas desired.
Fasoo: another RFP we were invited to respond to. Client was looking for a 20×30 design with a large A/V area, small staging area for in-booth presentations, and three double-sided demo stations, also a separate meeting area for clients and prospects. Hanging sign optional but desired if it fit the budget.
Hyland’s: a current client was interested in upgrading their current exhibit and was looking to streamline the older wood look with smaller product display area, a single meeting area, and a greeting counter with some storage.
Stahbush Farms: wanted an exhibit that could have elements that would set up as a 10×10, 10×20 or 10×30 depending on the show. Needed sampling areas, storage and large branding graphic. Wanted a wooden, ‘farm-like’ image, but should be able to break down to smaller pieces for shipping.
Unnamed company: we were invited to respond to an RFP for a company that made those little pull handles for beer taps. It was a larger island of 30×60 that would leave a lot of room for people to congregate and give ample space for showing off the pull handles. Also wanted a bar-like area, and if possible, a private storage closet or meeting area. This is an unbranded concept that the potential client chose to keep anonymous, but the unused design is certainly up for grabs if you want to stick your name on it!
These are all great designs and for one reason or another, remain unbuilt. But they’re up for grabs if they intrigue you and your marketing team and feel that they could be modified to fit your needs. What do you think?
There are many reasons to explore bare-bones or low budget tradeshow design. Budget is probably a big motivator to many exhibitors to have a simple design, but it’s not the only reason. Having an extremely simplified exhibit can attract attention you might not otherwise get.
One recent example comes to mind: Kashi, at the Natural Products Expo West. For the past couple of years, Kashi has made a statement with a very simply exhibit. The large island exhibit consisted of a tall “1%” icon that engaged visitors, driving them to curiosity to stop and see what it meant. The explanation was shown on a small posted sign and was reinforced by a few staffers. The exhibit captured people by its very simplicity.
Of course, there are numerous ways to save bucks when exhibiting: instead of printing brochures, make them available only via PDF downloads. Rent an exhibit instead of owning. Promote through social media. Avoid promotional giveaways unless it really nails your brand. And so on.
But with a simple design, you can catch eyeballs and turn heads and keep to low budget tradeshow design. Large simple graphics with very little text can often to the trick. Using a pop-up internally lit graphic in a smaller booth is one good way to stand out. Having a creative design brief that directs your exhibit house to think in terms of stark simplicity. If your brand lends itself to simplicity, all the better. If not, a creative 3D exhibit designer and a creative graphic designer can work to simplify.
Another reason to simplify: if you have a simpler booth, you have fewer pieces to ship, which reduces shipping and drayage costs, and presumably, I&D costs. It also gives you more space to welcome visitors. A more open space is often more inviting.
What can you do with the design of your booth to simplify and reduce costs?
Welcome to the (perhaps) annual TradeshowGuy Expo West 2018 Exhibit Awards, where I totally (almost) at random, pick out a handful of the 3600+ exhibits at the Natural Products Expo West show and give them a little notoriety here on the TradeshowGuy Blog!
A couple of caveats: I’m not including any current clients of TradeshowGuy Exhibits – they’re already award winners in our book, and we don’t want this fun post to be biased towards, you know, clients! Besides, we’ve already posted photos of those exhibits.
So, let’s get started!
Best Big Brand Makeover: Kettle Foods
Kettle Foods started out as a small nut and chip maker in Salem, Oregon. In the past ten years or so the company has been bought and sold a handful of times and is currently operated as one of the major brands of the Snyder’s-Lance product suite. The island exhibit shows great color and ingenuity in piecing together many elements of the Kettle Brand.
Best Client-Made Exhibit: Stahlbush Farms
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with the good folks at Stahlbush Farms, near Corvallis, Oregon, for several years. But when it came time to do a new booth, it finally came down to having their own fabrication shop create it. It’s built using crates that double as counters, and everything fits neatly into a couple of crates. Nicely done!
Best Kitchen Sink Exhibit – DanoneWave
I think they used to be White Wave, but now it’s DanoneWave, still offering brands under the Silk, Dannon, Oikos, SoDelicious, Wallaby Organic and many others. I’ve always stopped by their booths over the years and chatted and tasted and this year was no exception. There’s a lot going on here: carts, hot air balloons, colorful images, detailed woodwork, a random vehicle or three – seriously, you can just walk around the thing for fifteen minutes taking it in!
Best Retro Motor Vehicle Use – Hansen’s
A cool psychedelically painted hippie van? Ff course! There are a lot of vehicles that show up in booth spaces at Expo West, but this one catches your eyes like no other.
Best Photo Op – Enjoy Life
Enjoy Life has seen their exhibit grow significantly in the last few years, from a small inline to a dominating island. This year they showed of a pseudo-underwater photo alley that invited people to shoot and share. Yes, there were a lot of photo ops throughout the show, but this made the biggest impression.
Best Rustic Exhibit – Kodiak Cakes
Kodiak Cakes of Park City, Utah, also had a great photo op section of their booth space, but I felt that the rest of the exhibit was more impressive. Beyond the photo op section was a forest, a lookout-like building and a wall of photos of booth visitors. A fun-loving and lively crew, too, passing out samples like crazy.
Best Simple Yet Powerful Statement Exhibit – Kashi
Last year, Kashi caught eyes with a simple statement with no brand ambassadors, no sampling – just a simple statement to support farmers in their transition to organic farming. This year they made a similar statement with a slightly modified exhibit. Powerful stuff.
Best Split Exhibit – Aqua Carpatica
Downstairs in the busy ballroom at Expo West, it’s a little hard to stand out. But Aqua Carpatica of Romania booked two 10×20 spaces across the aisle from each other and dominated the space with a spare, almost ascetic approach to pitch the cleanliness of their water. It was capped by a giant video screen, around 8 x 12 feet, and some tables and chairs – but not much else. Very attention-getting!
Best Tribute to a Fallen Comrade – Clif Bar
I met John Anthony over a decade ago when Kettle Foods was a client, and John worked for them. A fun and engaging guy to talk to, he moved to Clif Bar, Nature’s Path, UNFI and CLIF’s White Road Investments. I was having lunch with an old Kettle Foods friend a few months prior to Expo West and mentioned that I’d run into John at the 2017 show. He said he’d heard that John had died unexpectedly in the fall of 2017. Clif Bar did a nice job in their tribute:
All right – on that note, we’ll wrap up this year’s TradeshowGuy Expo West Exhibit Awards. Hope you enjoyed. Sorry if we missed your booth – but hey, there were over 3,600 exhibitors this year. Maybe next year!
It used to be that the tradeshow exhibit classic was the curved pop-up back wall. It was quick and easy to setup, looked good and did what you wanted it to: gave you a respectable presence at a tradeshow booth in a 10×10 space.
That’s old. Now the new tradeshow exhibit classic booth is the LED fabric back wall, or light box. Dang, they look good. Here’s why.
First, a fabric back wall is dominated by the SEG – silicone edge graphics – that are gorgeously printed using dye-sublimation. Then a thin silicone stop is sewn around the edge of the graphic, which is installed by inserting the silicone strip into a small channel in the facing edge of the frame. The SEG graphic is the main part of the new tradeshow exhibit classic, and the flexibility that comes with it makes it the new classic.
For starters, the graphic can be printed at any size. The frame can be made at virtually any size that fits in your booth space. The beauty of the flexibility is that you can add counters, closets, shelves, monitors or other items in and around the fabric back wall to create a unique exhibit.
But wait, there’s more!
The SEG graphic can be a free-standing unit, or it can mount to a wall, such as in a corporate conference or entrance, or it can be hung from the ceiling.
Now, let’s add another great feature: LED backlighting. The technology of LED lighting has improved drastically in the past decade, and the cost has plummeted, it seems that hardly anyone ever uses halogen lighting at tradeshows any more. The LED lights are inserted into the aluminum extrusion frame and, with the addition of an opaque white backside “blocker,” the light is spread evenly throughout the graphic.
With the technological advance in fabrics and printing, the printers who are keeping up with the current wave are able to offer extremely high-quality printing (blacks are BLACK, reds are RED!) on high-quality fabric to give you printing that is hard to distinguish from printing on paper.
Depending on your printing vendor, you can create giant fabric graphics up to 16’ high and as wide as you’d like with no seam. Finally, fabric (and the aluminum frame) can be recycled, and it will store and ship in small containers, saving you money all down the line.