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

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Top 5 Most-Viewed Podcast Interviews of the Past Year

I thought it might be fun to see what people have gravitated to on this blog when it comes to the weekly vlog/podcast I do under the title TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. The podcast is more or less a diary of my business and more broadly, the event and tradeshow industry, and beyond that, the business world. Or at least what interests me on any given day.

I don’t always have interviews on the show, but they’re always fun. I love speaking with industry colleagues and getting to know them, even though most of them are only “Zoom” friends, and we aren’t sitting down across a table for coffee!

Still, they’re enlightening and fun. Here are the top five most-viewed based on analytics looking back twelve months.

Number Five (we’re counting down to Number One!): Dominic Rubino of BizStratPlan.com talked about an easy formula for difficult business conversations.

Number Four: Phil Gorski of Ava-Nee Productions and his company’s VR approach to tradeshow exhibits (and other fun things).

Number Three: Danny Orleans is a tradeshow entertainer and Chief Magic Officer at Corporate Magic LTD.

Number Two: Joan Stewart, the Publicity Hound, offered numerous tips on creating publicity at tradeshows. Worth another look. Bring your notepad.

Number One: a long-ranging discussion from March with Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits, Marcus Vahle of Share Experience Company and Andy Saks of Spark Presentations.

Grab our free report “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House” – click here!

The Workplace is Shifting. Are You Ready?

In the past few weeks, new stories have popped up on the New York Times, Reuters, National Geographic, and others about the COVID-19 Pandemic affecting the feasibility of an open office format in workplaces. It’s a good question and there are no easy answers.

An open office puts people, sometimes dozens of them (or more) into an environment where people work within a few feet of other. In today’s social distancing world, even as states and businesses work to get back to some semblance of normal, many employees will not be as enthusiastic about the open office as their managers might be.

Employee Anxiety Levels

A good manager will likely realize that the anxiety of their employees will range from one end of the spectrum to the other, and will go to lengths to provide safety, both physical and emotional, to their employees.

What does that mean on a practical level? For one, it might mean that many people continue to work from home. If it works, it may be the thing to do.

But other companies and other employees may be itching to get back to the office. Yeah, working from home has its bennies, but it also has its challenges: kids, neighborhood noises, spouses also working from home. Juggling all of those elements can’t be easy (I know from personal experience), and that may mean employees are leaning towards getting back to the workplace, where a more normal reality awaits.

Or does it?

Meeting New Needs

Companies and managers that are sensitive to the needs of the employees will no doubt be looking at ready-made solutions to separate employees. The old “cubicle” may come back in some form.

You may not be surprised to learn that what works to build a great, easy-to set-up and dismantle exhibit also works to form functional and efficient office dividers, or if you like, office pods. The manufacturer we most often work with, Classic Exhibits in Portland, has been working with architects and space planners for several weeks now to come up with appropriate office dividers at a competitive price.

They’ve even named the product PlaceLyft and have a number of options that range from simple and economical to more complex. Lyft One, Lyft Two, Lyft Three and Custom Solutions. Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we have at least fifteen years of working hand-in-hand with Classic Exhibits, so we know the level of quality and commitment that they bring to any endeavor.

Cleaning the Dividers

Fabric or cloth-covered cubicle walls are difficult to clean. There’s no getting around that. How would that work? Steam-cleaning? Time-consuming and perhaps not that effective. But when faced with cleaning various optional divider materials with these Office Pods, all are easy to clean:

  • Sintra and Dibond: a clean look available in many color options. You can print to it if you want. Both are easy to clean; just spray and wipe it down.
  • Grease board (dibond): metal versions as well as standard which you can put magnets on. Available in at least eight standard colors.
  • Acrylics: available in clear or color. Some of the acrylics are not suitable for frequent cleaning, so the right cleaner is needed. Peroxide based cleaners are best for Acrylics.

Learn More

These panels have a lot going for them: adjustable wire management, adjustable feet for leveling and running wire underneath, custom heights, option to put a thin panel in the middle of the Gravitee frame for potential sound-proofing, removable fabric graphics that are easily laundered for cleaning and much more.

We have a number of informational sell sheets available on the Office Pods here. Take a look and please contact us for more information if you have questions.

Download PDFs:

View PDF Images:

Introducing Symphony

Every now and then a new exhibit modification comes along that sucks the air out of the room, so to speak. Gravitee, a tool-less exhibit designed and manufactured by Classic Exhibits, came along offering full-size fully-assembled panels that pull from the crate and lock together without tools. Clients love it. Show labor loves it, too, because it goes up quickly and easily.

Now we have Symphony, the first portable display to blend easy tool-less assembly with elegant design and clever accessories. Symphony can be dressed up with all kinds of add-ons and accessories, including counters, workstations, floating graphics, tablet, and monitor mounts. Additional options include wireless/wired charging pads, locking storage, brochure holders, and LED lighting.

Lots of 10x10s and 10x20s, great counters, and priced to sell and/or rent. Check out these great looks here and visit TradeshowBuy.com for the complete selection.

Download the Symphony Summary Sheet and Accessory Guide.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, March 2, 2020: Marcus Vahle and John Pugh

Share Experience is a new company formed late last year by Marcus Vahle and John Pugh, both with long experience in the event and tradeshow world. Given what looks to be a unique approach to carving out their niche in the event world, I thought it might be fun to catch up with them for a conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:

Check out Marcus and John’s new company Share Experience.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Dean Koontz’s “The Forbidden Door.”


The Pros and Cons of Giving Out Free Gifts

This is a guest post by Rodney Laws, Editor at Ecommerce Platforms.

We’re all familiar with tradeshow swag. If you’ve been through a hectic stretch of tradeshow attendance, you’ve surely lurched back to your vehicle of choice with a heavy bag of assorted items — and if you’ve ever presented at such a show, you’ve most likely opted, or been told, to hand out some products (free of charge).

It’s a long-standing staple of the industry, so you might think it’s inevitable, but you have a choice in the matter. Don’t want to offer free gifts? You don’t have to. If you’re on the fence, though, you might be looking for a nudge in one direction or the other. So what should you do? Cover your stall in tempting swag, or leave it bare and focus on the reason why you’re there?

To borrow from ecommerce parlance (it is my industry, after all), it’s like the delicate matter of landing page development: you can have a generic landing page that doesn’t impress or offend, or you can build a custom landing page that differs from the competition in ways that may delight or frustrate. Neither option is perfect. Either can go wrong.

To help you decide what’s best for you, here are the pros and cons of giving out free gifts. Consider them my gifts for you (have I tipped my hand there?).

Why you should give out free gifts

All those tradeshow presenters can’t be totally misguided in breaking out the swag bags. Here are the main reasons why you should dish out the goods:

  • They can easily be branded. You don’t need to hand out generic items that will get thrown in bags and immediately lose any association with you. If you do it well, you can give out branded gifts that get across your brand identity and possibly your brand message too (it depends on how much space you have for text and visuals).
  • Tradeshows can be dry. As much as professionals will get hyped-up ahead of a tradeshow, the energy can run out quickly if exhibits are dull and they drank too much the previous evening. But free gifts will always get attention — and even if that attention is brief, it’s better than no attention at all.
  • You can get quite creative. Pens are always useful, but you don’t need to offer pens. If you can think of something portable and not overly expensive, you can make it a free gift, and that gives you a lot of creative scope. Look at what others are doing, and come up with something different.
  • People often expect them. Unfortunately, the precedent of free gifts at tradeshows can make life hard for those exhibitors who don’t have any. It might be viewed as indicative of a lack of effort, or even a cheapness that bodes poorly.

Why you shouldn’t give out free gifts

That something is popular doesn’t mean it’s sensible. Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t give out free gifts at tradeshows:

  • The ROI might not be there. While it’s great to get plaudits for the quality of your swag, you need meaningful ROI for the process to be worthwhile. If you keep handing out products and getting less value in return than you spend on them, then you’d be better served not giving out any gifts at all. Sometimes there isn’t much point.
  • You can make it a selling point. If you just have an empty stall, no one will care, but if you make a point of your lack of free gifts — you could make it a stand against plastic use, for instance, or simply explain that your brand is so good that you don’t need gimmicks (this is itself a gimmick, of course, but don’t mention that) — then you can get the same kind of attention at no cost.

Overall, then, should you bother giving out free gifts? Well, it depends on whether you think there’s ROI to be yielded. If you can choose the gifts well and make them actionable somehow, they can prove quite fruitful. Here’s my suggestion: try to come up with a smart free gift strategy. If you devise one, use it. If you don’t, forget the gifts. Simple!

Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.

Guest Appearance on Power Up For Profits Podcast

I’ve known Kathleen Gage of PowerUp for Profits for years and she recently asked me to be on her podcast. Like me, she posts both audio on her podcast page and video on her YouTube channel. Kathleen knows how to get to the center of what is helpful to listeners, and this time was no different:

If you’d like to click through to the post that is specific to this interview, click here. She has broken down the conversation into the topics we covered, including Foundation for Success, Follow Up, Make Your Booth Time Engaging, Pre-Show Marketing, Swag and more. We covered a lot of ground in a short conversation.

Visit Power Up For Profits here.

5 Must-Do’s for Successful Tradeshow Marketing

I sat down with a long-time colleague to be interviewed this week and to prepare I put a list together of the 5 must-do’s for successful tradeshow marketing. We didn’t go over the whole list because the conversation took its own path. But I thought – hey, it’s a good list! Here it is:

  1. Have an exhibit that draws people in.
    1. We could go into this in detail, but your graphics and messaging should clearly tell people at a glance:
      1. Who you are
      1. What you do
      1. What problem you solve for them
  2. Have a goal. Share that goal with your staff.
    1. Brand awareness
    1. Sales
    1. Generate leads
    1. Add distributors
    1. Reach new markets
    1. Launch new products or services
    1. Find new hires
    1. Meet current customers, partners and distributors
  3. Have a well-trained staff
    1. Your staff should know how to greet people
    1. Your staff should know the products or services
    1. Know how to gather the proper information for a good lead…which leads to…
  4. Know what a lead is…
    1. A lead is NOT a card in a fishbowl
    1. A lead is someone who qualifies
      1. They’re looking to buy what you’re selling
      1. They have a budget
      1. They know when they’re going to buy
      1. They have the power to make a decision
    1. Once a lead is qualified, the follow up is critical
  5. Follow-up:
    1. Gather the right information
      1. Name and contact
      1. When is the follow up
      1. Where is the follow up
      1. Who is doing the follow up
      1. What is the follow up: sending a brochure, sample, in-person meeting?

We did get to a few of these, and they were good talking points throughout the conversation. One she produces the interview and gives me a link, I’ll make sure to include it in a blog post soon!


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House (Free Report)

Shake it Up

Seth Godin’s go-to phrase is “Go make a ruckus.”

Webster’s defines “ruckus” as “a disturbance or a commotion.”

A disturbance can be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint and the circumstances. The word “disturbance” is non-judgmental. “Commotion” is the same. It’s not necessarily inherently good or bad; positive or negative.

But you can insert your judgment into your ruckus, into the disturbance or commotion you make.

Nick Woodman at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009

At tradeshows, GoPro’s Nick Woodman used to famously create a commotion by standing on a table, hooting and hollering, gathering people around, showing off the GoPro camera and give away prizes. The company’s market cap zoomed to almost ten billion dollars before coming down to earth. Along the way GoPro created a new category in the digital camera world. Now that’s a ruckus. That’s one way to shake it up.

Meduri Farms decided to invest in a new island exhibit and double the size of their footprint at the International Food Technicians Show. Their first time with the new exhibit they tripled their leads. That’s another way to shake it up.

Meduri Farms at IFT 2017

Dave’s Killer Bread dedicated much of their branding space at 2019’s Natural Products Expo West exhibit to the idea of giving felons a second chance. That’s yet another way to shake it up.

Dave’s Killer Bread at Natural Products Expo West 2019

There are plenty of ways to use your tradeshow space to shake it up, to make a ruckus, to cause a disturbance or commotion for a good cause. Or to double your leads. Or to grow a company.

What can you do?


Tradeshows Are a Mix of Precision and Experimentation

When it comes to tradeshow marketing, anything goes. Right? Well, maybe not everything, but certainly it’s a time to try things. Do things differently. Experiment.

Or. Maybe not. Tradeshows are fraught with risk. You’re putting a lot of money on the line. Generally speaking, the cost of tradeshow marketing is about a third of a company’s overall marketing budget. Which means that it’s a lot of money in play, making it hard for a company to risk much.

In a sense, tradeshows can be an interesting mix of the precise and the experimental.

The precision is important, to be sure. Your tradeshow staff is your front line. The most important piece of the puzzle. They need to know what they’re doing and why. If mistakes are made, or if your staff isn’t as well-trained as they could be, your company might miss out on a good amount of potential business.

Your exhibit is important. It’s the 3D representation of your brand, and if it’s not spot-on, it’ll send mixed messages to your audience.

Your products, demos and sampling have to be well-thought out and well-executed. Make some mistakes in these areas, and again, you’re leaving potential money on the table.

Capture someone’s attention!

Precision is important in these areas.

But tradeshows are also ripe for experimentation. You have opportunities to do surveys, market research, unusual activities, oddball booth items and much more that will grab eyeballs and attention without impacting the precision needed in other areas. VR, smoothie bikes, live music, projection mapping, unusual use of video….the list is endless as to how creative you can get at tradeshows and still do all of the precise things that you need to do to engage with attendees, capture leads, have an exhibit that captures your brand precisely.

Tradeshows are a balancing act no matter what you’re trying to balance. Adding some experimentation along with the precision gives you flexibility, a little tension (which makes people stop and look), and keeps you, your visitors and your competitors on your toes.


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House (Free Report)

What’s New in the New Year?

It’s 2020. Seems like everyone wants something new. After all, this century is no longer a teenager! Hey, if the century were a human, it could almost drink!

So…what’s new in the tradeshow industry?

At TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we work with a handful of vendors: designers, manufacturers and other suppliers in the tradeshow industry.

Classic Exhibits

Our main partner since we started this business has been Classic Exhibits. If not for them, we wouldn’t be in business. Classic Exhibits is a ‘white label’ manufacturer that designs and sells products through a network of distributors. They’ve gone from kind of a kit designer and manufacturer to doing a lot of custom work. It’s where the industry is going, and Classic Exhibits is among the companies leading the way.

And when they introduce something new, it’s good. More than good. It’s groundbreaking. In the last couple of years, they introduced Gravitee, a tool-less exhibit system that sets up easily, breaks down quickly and ships flat. It’s made a difference to clients of ours at Classic Exhibits. In fact, the first time we set up a Gravitee wall with an installation and dismantle crew, they were impressed with how easy and quickly it went up.

Now Classic is introducing Tool-Less SuperNova Lightboxes. Check out their blog post here, and then look through the selection on Exhibit Design Search. Let me quote:

Our new Tool-less SuperNova Lightboxes achieves all of those goals. While there may be more “complicated” solutions, there are none stronger or easier. We estimate the new tool-less connectors reduce assembly by 70-80%. Plus, the splines and the corner connectors can stay on the extrusion reducing the possibility of lost parts. Even the translucent knobs are innovative since they eliminate shadows and reflections.

Can’t wait to see these in action.


Orbus

We also work with Orbus, which provides numerous – maybe countless – options for popups, banner stands, table throws and more. They have high quality combined with budget pricing – a good combination.

And they’re kicking off 2020 by introducing a variety of new products, including digital banners, outdoor tents, shaped signs, smaller (and larger) HopUp fabric stands, and more. Many of these are lightweight, easy to set up by just a person or two, and priced right. See the selection of new designs and products here.

We’ve enjoyed working with other manufacturers and vendors through the years, but when it comes to something new, both Classic Exhibits and Orbus have taken the initiative to keep bringing the “NEW” to the New Year.

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