Infographics do a great job of quickly communicating information in a fun and effective way, especially if you’re like me (and 65% of the rest of the population) and are a visual learner. So let’s sift through some of the great tradeshow infographics floating around on Pinterest these days.Click through to the Pinterest posts, or browse the infographics below.
I had the pleasure to attend the International Food Technologists 2017 show in Las Vegas this week, thanks to our client Meduri Farms, who set up their 20×20 custom island booth for the second time. In walking the floor, I ran across a lot of fun exhibits that should be highlighted for one reason or another. So, let’s jump into another edition of TradeshowGuy Exhibit Awards – the #IFT17 Version! Let’s start with a look at the Meduri Farms booth, just because, well, to show off the exhibit:
Best Client Representation: Meduri Farms
It’s a custom 20×20 island designed by Greg Garrett Designs and fabricated by Classic Exhibits. Private meeting area, generous sampling and product display areas, and a nearly 16′ tall center tower that draws eyeballs from halfway across the floor:
Best “Booth-In-A-Box:” Ardent Farms
There’s no easy way to view this exhibit in a single photo, so I’ll include a couple. Ardent Mills, of Denver, Colorado, simply drove in a trailer from an 18-wheeler, complete with kitchen and fold-down serving areas. Throw in some seating areas and signage and voila – you have a classy exhibit:
Best Exhibit Using Stuff We Build: International Paper
Nothing quite like showing off your stuff by having a booth built out of the stuff that you sell. In this case, International Paper bills themselves as one of the leading producers of fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper. So of course many of their booth elements were created using corrugated cardboard and related materials. Especially eye-catching: the custom charging table built from corrugated material:
Simplest and Most Effective Backdrop: Bulk Supplements.com
Simple like being able to read and understand a billboard a 65 MPH. I spoke with Keven, the owner, and he said his purpose was to communicate what the company does loudly and simply. And that exactly what this 20′ wide back drop does, very effectively.
Best Use of Grape Balloons: Welch’s
Well, it may be the only use of grape balloons, but in this case, they caught my eye from a good three aisle over. A great way to stand out from the crowd, indeed:
The “Let’s Get Their Attention NOW!” Exhibit: S&D Coffee and Tea
This large hanging sign close to one of the main entrances was designed to capture your eyeballs within a second or two – and it worked. The juxtaposition of the woman in a stocking cap with gloves, the “COLD BRRRRRRREW” statement and the experience of visitors walking in from the 105-degree Las Vegas heat drew a crowd.
Best Branding from Top to Bottom: Morton Salt
You could quibble on this award as there were a lot of exhibits at IFT that were exceptionally executed from communicating a brand. But Morton’s booth was well-thought out from side-to-side and top-to-bottom, down to the display of the different types of salts that you could actually put your hands on and feel and touch. Even the conference room had great information to communicate.
Best BluePrint for Ingredients and Innovation: Watson
From Connecticut, Watson Inc diagrams and displays more information than most people will bother to stop and read. But maybe that’s the point: the graphic design, displayed as if it were a blueprint, showcases information from infant formula to pet foods and leaves us impressed with the depth and breadth of their reach – all in a two-story exhibit that had plenty of room for meetings, storage and product display:
Best Use of Really Large Test-Tube Like Displays: Alquimia USA
More than eye-catching, this row of some 16 grains, beans, seeds and more also created a unique wall-off side of the booth.
And finally, a double/shared award to…
Best Use of the Periodoc Table: Asenzya and Land O’ Lakes
There may have been other uses of the periodic table of elements, but these two companies used the table to great effect, so show off the flavor elements and the seasons ingredients respectively. It’s a lot to digest (no pun intended), but great fun to take a look and see how they plotted out the display. Well done!
A couple of other observations from walking the floor…
There were a LOT of big monitors at the show, on the order of 60″ to 72″. Some exhibits had several of them. In speaking with on exhibitor, I suggested that in his next version of the video, that he added closed-captioning, since the ambient noise on the show floor made it nearly impossible to understand what was being said. “Good idea!”
I ran across a few exhibitors touting Virtual Reality: sit down, put a headset on and enjoy some virtual reality – mainly a quick interactive look at a company’s production process. Frankly, I’m still waiting to be impressed with VR at a tradsehow. Having said that, I’ve only tried it a few times, so no doubt someone is ready with a really good VR experience somewhere. I watched some people sit down, try the headset on while wearing glasses (didn’t work for them, didn’t work for me, either), and then go through the experience. If you wear glasses, taking them off to slip the headset on means that things are not clear and sharp, although it didn’t keep me from comprehending what was going on. The best ones are those that show off the company’s production process, or give a tour through a field or something related to the company. But with more and more VR coming to tradeshows, they’re going to have to step up with a great experience, or it’ll be hard to justify the use of VR headsets and the accompanying cost of creating the program.
I really liked the larger 20′ wide center aisles that were spread in a few places on the floor, complete with park benches. A nice place to grab a quick respite from walking and talking without having to leave the hall:
Well, actually, you can probably narrow it down to the one most important reason to exhibit at a tradeshow: to build your business! To grow! To see your bottom line increase!
Sure, but in a sense, pretty much any good reason you can think of to exhibit has a chance to fall into the top three of any list, depending on your company’s overall goals. And remember that your specific goals can, and probably will, change from show to show.
So let’s start with reason Number One. To generate leads. Not just any leads, but qualified leads. The definition can vary from business to business, but it boils down to this: a prospect who has shown interest to buy, is qualified to buy, and is planning on making a decision in the near future to purchase whatever it is you’re selling. So let’s be clear on what a lead is NOT. A lead is not a business card that lands in a fishbowl where you’re giving away a par if Bluetooth speakers. A lead is NOT scanning a badge of virtually anyone who passes through. No, a lead is ONLY someone who has passed the tests of being interested, having the ability to pay your price and are in the process of making a decision soon. And by exhibiting at the right shows, your company is reaching markets and new leads that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to reach.
The second most important reason to exhibit at a tradeshow is to show off your brand. A damn fine exhibit can do that in the most eloquent and engaging way. But your exhibit is not the only thing that represents your brand, although it’s critical. First impressions are imprinted on visitors’ minds, and they carry that impression with them for a long time. But beyond that, the impression your people leave is as important than your exhibit, and probably more so. Is your booth staff friendly, prepared and trained to handle the onslaught of visitors and the chaos of a tradeshow floor?
The third most important reason to exhibit at tradeshows? I hinted at it in reason number one: the expansion of your market reach. Bob Moore, the iconic Bob of Bob’s Red Mill, has stated in more than one interview that their consistent exhibiting at tradeshows gives them access to markets they could not otherwise reach. Period. When you exhibit at tradeshows, be prepared to interact with potential clients that are in a position to either purchase your products or services, or help you bring them to new audiences that will help grow your sales.
There are other reasons to exhibit at tradeshows, but by focusing on these three items, all other reasons will almost take care of themselves.
Many companies I work with are in the process of increasing the size of their booth, is that the right move for you? Perhaps downsizing is a better choice. So what comes into play when you consider the decision?
Often the choice is strategic. You may know that some of your major competitors are either not going to be exhibiting at a specific show where you want a presence, yet you don’t want to do the full exhibit that you’ve done in the past. Or it’s a show where the attendance is down, so having a smaller presence doesn’t hurt you.
Your brand is morphing into something different, and investing in a new exhibit doesn’t make sense. In this case, you can go for a smaller presence for less money. You might also consider renting an exhibit, which can give you significant savings in the short term.
You need to show a better ROI to the powers-that-be. Investing less in an exhibit is one way to cut up-front expenses and increase the overall ROI.
You’re planning to invest more heavily in pre-show marketing. This is a simple re-focusing of your marketing tactics. Putting more emphasis on reaching visitors prior to the show with direct mail, for instance, can bring people directly to your booth with an appointment and plan in hand that is congruent with your goals.
The bigger shows get even more expensive, and yet you still need a presence there. One way to keep your presence at the show is to have a smaller exhibit. Smaller booth space may also mean you don’t have to send as many people to staff the booth, saving yet more money.
You’re reassessing your overall tradeshow marketing plan. I’ve seen some companies simply pull out of a show for a year or two. They’ve had a major presence for years, yet taking stock of the value of the show was important enough to them to not exhibit and to rather just send several members of management to meet with other exhibitors and partners offsite.
Having decided to downsize your exhibit, make sure that the smaller version of your brand is still impactful. This means that graphics have to be well-designed and of high quality, your exhibit structure should be of high quality, the booth space needs to be kept clean, your staff should be well-trained and well-prepared and your products and service offerings should be your latest and greatest.
Video monitors are ubiquitous at tradeshows as exhibitors by the thousands display video in their exhibiting space. But is any of it making an impact?
Video crafted for in-booth display is different than other uses. It’s easy to just grab content you already have lying around. After all, leveraging current assets is usually good practice and saves money.
But keep in mind that the tradeshow floor is a unique beast. Don’t just grab a 30 or 60 commercial that’s on file, or string a reel together of various items just to put something up. Instead, the content should be focused on the visitor. In particular, it should be designed to capture eyeballs as quickly as possible, and deliver a message that can be understood in just a few seconds. Which means that if you’re not shooting new video, you should take a digital razor to your content to make it as quick and flashy and concise as possible.
Unlike a well-made corporate online video that can capture attention for a couple of minutes before eyes wander, or a video made for a corporate conference room which may keep people watching for 5 or 6 minutes, the tradeshow video must address the situation: the tradeshow floor.
On the floor, there are hundreds or thousands of people walking by, with thousands of other exhibits and colorful distractions designed to capture attention – just like your video. It’s noisy, people are bumping into each other, or trying not to bump into each other, and other exhibitors are hawking their wares in a lusty competition. Just as it should be.
So what makes the tradeshow video stand out on the floor in that situation?
Video created for the tradeshow floor should be fast-paced: quick cuts, different scenes piled one after the other. It it’s repetitive and visually engaging, it’ll keep eyeballs for a few seconds longer. Got someone talking on screen or using a voiceover narrator? Make sure you include closed captioning or text overlays as the audio will likely get lost in the ambient noise, as will virtually any music you use as background.
Size of screen should be appropriate for the situation. Are you in a small booth, such as a 10×10? A 40 – 42” screen should be sufficient. A larger exhibit space will require a larger screen, especially if it’s buried deep within the booth. Any text on the screen should be able to be easily read while standing 10-15 feet away.
Types of content can range from showing off new products, to your CEO or other notable company executive introducing the products or services (with captions), to lifestyle video that reflects the use of your products. Short testimonials work well. Behind-the-scenes clips taken in your factory or plants or office are also good ways to show the people behind the brand. If you have great professional video of your products, you might also find a place to include them.
Finally, remember that however long your video is, most people won’t stand there and watch it all, unless it’s just a minute or two. And with the ease of plugging a thumb drive into the back of the monitor and setting the video on “loop” means most visitors will have a chance to see most, if not all of the video at one point or another.
In case you hadn’t noticed social media video is exploding, driving traffic and eyeballs both on and offline. So it makes sense to strongly consider making video a part of your tradeshow strategy. Posting videos or going live from the show gives followers a sense of the show without actually being there, and if done correctly can help paint a picture of the people behind your brand.
If you’re going to put some videos together to promote your tradeshow appearance, it helps to color inside the lines as it were. Unless you’re a creative genius like Scorsese. So let’s take a look at some of those guidelines you might follow.
Facebook: Go Live from the show floor from your phone or laptop or tablet. Keep it short, but look to connect with viewers using short product demos, in-booth interviews with clients or visitors, interacting with booth staffers and more. Give your followers an intimate look at the people behind the products and services.
YouTube: Great for longer-form videos, but don’t overdo the length. You can go live, but it’s not a simple one-click from your page as it is with Facebook. Create videos that give information: product demonstrations, how-tos, and stories that build your brand.
Instagram: Now that you can combine stills and videos into short stories, capture several items and publish together as a single post. Aim for collections that demonstrate a lifestyle that relates to your brand. And of course, with a click you can go live on Instagram.
Twitter: Short videos are the rule on Twitter, as the stream is going so fast. One or two minutes is all you really need to capture someone’s attention. To the best of my knowledge, you can’t go live on Twitter (is Periscope still a thing?), so you’ll have to upload to YouTube or Vimeo or some other video platform and post a link.
Regardless of the platform you’re on, plan on posting multiple times during the day. If you’re going to do video from a tradeshow at all, make a full-on commitment so that your followers that are not at the show are able to anticipate your videos and join in the fun from a distance. Be sure to use show hashtags so that people outside of your company social media followers can find your video posts. And have fun – it’s just video! Everybody’s doing it! You’ll learn and get better as time goes on.
“Does your tradeshow exhibit evoke emotion in the mind of a visitor?” might be a funny question. The better question might be: “HOW and WHAT emotion does your tradeshow exhibit bring out in your visitors’ hearts and minds?” But by asking it, you’re pulling on the string of branding, high-impact motivators such as confidence, sense of well-being, protecting the environment, being who you want to be and a litany of other emotions that pull in one direction or another.
Let’s use one of our clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, Bob’s Red Mill, as an example. Their foods are mean to inspire good eating with high-quality grains, oats, cereals, mixes and more. Good eating equals longer life and better health. Better health equals a positive feeling. Hence, just seeing the Bob’s Red Mill exhibit can evoke an emotion that gives people familiar with the brand a sense of well-being and comfort. All without them even thinking about it. As long as the visitor has a familiarity with the brand and products, their brain will make a quick connection with a positive result.
Let’s try another brand, say, United Airlines. With the recent debacle of having a booked passenger dragged off the airplane with smartphone video cameras in action that spread quickly throughout social media and mainstream news outlets, many visitors to a tradeshow with a United Airlines exhibit might have a different feeling today than they did just a month prior.
According to Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon, writing in the Harvard Business Review, “On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.” Gaining that emotional connection pays off in numerous ways as they buy more, visit you online or in your store more, are less concerned about price in favor of quality, and listen more to what you’re saying, whether on a TV or radio ad, in a magazine, or in a weekly newsletter.
When it comes to evoking that positive emotion when visitors at a tradeshow come upon your booth, your branding and costumer experience already has to be in place, at least to a certain degree. A visitor that’s familiar with your brand and has a positive feeling upon seeing your exhibit has internalized that – but beyond that, she recognizes the key elements of the brand successfully executed in the design and fabrication, down to the small details.
A visitor that’s not familiar with your brand will still experience a gut feeling upon seeing your booth. The accuracy of that evocation has everything to do with how skillfully your 3D exhibit designer and your graphic designer have understood and communicated the elements of your brand. Once they inhale that look, as it were, they’ll make a decision on whether to more closely check out your products or services. If all is done right, your visitor will get an accurate emotion of the brand that you’re hoping to disseminate.
This is all not precise, of course. You can’t just plug in a color or texture or design or graphic and provoke a predictable reaction. Even ugly and unplanned exhibits can still have a successful tradeshow experience, which may be due to other factors, such as the competition, the specific product, the enthusiasm and charisma of a particular booth staffer or some other unknown element.
But the better your exhibit reflects your true brand, the more powerful it becomes in the heart and soul of your visitor. And they’ll take that home with them.
The natural inclination for most exhibitors is to get the most money out of their booth, so it’s important to consider ways to update that tradeshow exhibit. What options do you have?
The first and most obvious is to change the graphics. Products and services change, and you can show that change with new graphics, and still keep the old frame of the booth.
Add to your exhibit by including things such as iPad kiosks, banner stands or interactive elements that previously were not there. The challenge, especially in smaller booths, is to keep from adding items that clutter up the booth but don’t really add to your overall effectiveness.
Rent something, such as a charging table and furniture. Your original exhibit may not have come with a budget big enough to do all that you wanted, so after using it a few times, instead of purchasing new items, you can rent them.
Add space. If you’ve been exhibiting with a 10×20, you could upgrade to a 10×30, which would give you 50% more booth space. Then, add something like a meeting area, a theater viewing space or something similar.
Hang a sign. If you’re in an island booth, or some other space that allows you to hang a sign from the ceiling, but you’ve never done it, this is one way to draw more eyeballs from a longer distance. And with the idea that perception is important, having a hanging sign gives you a big upgrade in people’s minds.
Custom flooring. One way to set your exhibit apart from neighbors is to add custom flooring. We recently did a custom booth for Schmidt’s Naturals of Portland, and as part of their exhibit, the flooring was custom. Several people in the company, as well as visitors, commented that the flooring really went a long way to set them apart from other exhibitors.
Hire a pro. Even in a 10×10, the presence of a professional presenter can draw a crowd, and really set you apart from competitors. In a larger space, having regular professional presentations is often a good investment that more than pays for the investment – without a single change to your booth other than making sure you have the space for the crowd.
How do you create tradeshow buzz? You know the one: the exhibit that keeps getting talked about. Don’t you want to be that exhibit? Don’t you want to be working at that one location where everyone seems to be heading?
Buzz is not something you can automatically turn on like a light switch. And even the best-laid plans to create buzz don’t always work, especially if some other company has gotten a plan afoot to outbuzz you!
A few things to consider that may get you to the place where you are creating buzz:
Giveaways: do you have that one thing that people want to have? Do you have that one game that everyone wants to play?
Interactivity: what is it people are doing in your booth that draws a crowd. Is it a virtual reality station? Is it a hands-on demo that leaves people talking?
In-booth demos: with the right pitch man or woman pitching the right product or service at the right show, a crowd can magically appear. Is it because the demonstrator is doing baffling magic along with a pitch? Is it because of their charisma and stage presence?
Celebrities: face it – most celebrities at shows are not the top name draws, such as Brad Pitt, Will Smith or Jennifer Lawrence. But there are a lot of second-tier celebrities (and third and fourth) that may mean something to your target market.
Beyond the in-booth activities, or the exhibit itself (which, is a stunner, can create buzz), look beyond:
Public Relations: Prior to the show, connect with influencers who might be interested in your products or services. Media, bloggers, industry wags and more can help build advance buzz.
Advance planning: get the word out before the show using pre-show advertising, social media engagement, direct mail, email, broadcast and internet opportunities as you see fit.
Press conference: if your product launch is truly newsworthy (and you should confirm that with industry media folks), throw a press conference. If you’re not used to putting on a good press conference, hire a pro.
Be crazy: this takes chutzpah and frankly, most companies probably don’t have it. But if your CEO is a leading edge person with an outlandish outlook, maybe saying something crazy about your product or service will bring people to your exhibit.
Unusual promotions: Spy at Moz was a promotion that invited attendees to track down ‘spies’ at the conference who were waring special red stickers, take a picture and then tweet it out. If you can co-promote with a couple of other exhibitors, the word will spread quickly.
It may be somewhat trite as an expression, but thinking out of the box can go a long way to generating tradeshow buzz. What are you willing to try next time?
When you are going out on a date, my guess is you dress up. If you’re a guy, you’ll put on some nice clothes, fuss with your hair a bit, brush your teeth and maybe put on a dab of cologne. If you’re a girl, you’ll do much the same, only probably spend longer (is that a sexist remark or just an observation of reality?). In either case, the intent is to put your best “YOU” forward. You want to give a good impression.
It’s the same at a tradeshow. You want to put your best look forward. And in probably almost more than any other marketing medium, tradeshows are critical to putting out a good impression.
The perception visitors have of you is what they’ll take away. And while there are many elements, from the exhibit to the booth staff and how they interact, to the products or services you offer, the bottom line is: what the visitors thinks they see is the impression they’ll take home.
And while this often means bigger is better and more impressive, that’s not always the case. And in fact, smaller exhibitors can often make a big impression by doing thing differently with booth activities, a ‘must-see’ product, a special guest in the booth, an unusual exhibit or giveaway or more.
If your visitors leave with the perception that your company is sharp, the product is great/cutting edge/marketing leading or whatever, and your exhibit is top-notch regardless of the size, you’ve accomplished your mission.
If those visitors see an old and tired exhibit, lazy or uninterested booth staffers, products and services that don’t inspire, that’s what they’ll remember.
Regardless of what your company or employees or products are really like, the perception is the reality. So put out the best impression you can. And if for some reason the perception is more impressive than the reality, you know you’ve got some work to do behind the scenes. But on stage – out where everyone can see you and make up their own minds based on what they see – that’s where you’ll leave a lasting impression.