I’ve had Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits on a handful of times this year for various discussions related to dealing with the COVID Pandemic, how they’re dealing with it and more. But this week I wanted to catch up with Kevin to learn more about virtual exhibits: how they’re working their way into designing and implementing exhibits for clients, and how exhibitors can think about and approach a possible virtual exhibit for their own use:
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Rain. Sorely needed here on the west coast with all the forest fires still burning. We got a good dose of rain late last week and while it didn’t put the fires out, it gave firefighters a good helping hand.
After viewing Exhibitor Magazine‘s latest survey data last week from the exhibitor and supply side of the tradeshow world, it got me to thinking about what exhibitors should do now. Here’s a short video:
Yes, tradeshows are going virtual. They have been for some time, and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many shows into the digital world that might not have done so as quickly. Just a cursory search on Twitter with the hashtag #tradeshow gives you a bunch of shows that are moving to online.
The Consumer Electronics Show recently announced they’re going virtual for the next go-around. Others are following suit. In discussion with industry managers and exhibitors, the feeling is that, frankly, no one knows when “normal” will return and exactly what it will look like. There are certainly efforts to get things off the ground, like the recent Together Again Expo, a tradeshow industry event in Orlando last month.
But overall, shows are still being cancelled and / or postponed.
For example, the Snow & Ice Symposium (there’s such a thing?) has gone all virtual. Just add ice to your glass! (Click the images below: it’ll take you to the original tweet in a new tab).
Here’s another virtual expo that I’m not sure about:
Even shows overseas are going by the wayside thanks to the pandemic:
And many more, to be sure. The state of the events, conference and tradeshow industry is upside down, but it looks like many shows are going digital as best as they can. It’ll be interesting to see how the shows unfold and to see how, even when face-to-face shows return, how virtual aspects will remain. And how many exhibits and attendees will show up. And when.
A few recent newsletters that have popped up in my inbox have gotten me to thinking about B2B in the age of a pandemic. The tradeshow world is virtually shut down. Conferences aren’t happening. Events are 99.9% gone. Many of the writers behind these newsletters offer insightful observations about how business is now being done: what’s changing and what’s not.
I’ve compiled several of these thoughts and added a few of my own.
“Zoom Fatigue” has become a meme. But connecting via digital is about the only way to connect. Yes, you can pick up the phone – and I do – but a video call is more personal. Of course, there’s an extra step involved: you have to agree on a time and schedule the call and send the link. But taking those steps evinces a commitment to the meeting you might not have otherwise had.
Email: staying in touch is a little harder in this day and age. Many of the contacts I have are either working from home or have been laid off. Others are in the office only part time and their presence at work is not a given. Every company is dealing with the situation in their own way, and if an email isn’t answered in the time it typically would be, try a phone call.
Beyond Zoom, email, and phone calls, create shortvideos that address challenges a typical customer might have. A recent Orbit Media Studios post examined what happened when they added video to their content strategy. It’s led me to create short videos every week to see if they get attention.
Bottom line on Digital
Be present online more than you ever have been before.
Know your priorities.
What’s important for your company? For you? For your employees? I spoke with a handful of distilleries in Oregon this week to see if they were making hand sanitizer, as many of them did at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many had made the product and were still making it but it was not a priority. A handful of them, though realized that there was a market there and it was going to be there awhile and were actually ramping up production. Others felt it was not their core business and they would rather be known for their high-quality distilled products.
Understand your customer’s priorities
Every customer is going through something different. Find out from as many as possible what their biggest challenges are. Segment them. And if you can help them, do it. Some might need to wait another month or two or three.
Find and form valuable partnerships
Partnerships can take you places you couldn’t go on your own. Manufacturers, builders, factories, processing plants. Keep an open mind to what the possibilities are and ask good questions. You might uncover an opportunity that you had no idea existed a few months ago.
Communicate clearly to everyone
It boils down to listening twice as much as you talk. Find out what’s important to other management members, employees, team members, clientele, prospects. But make sure to let them know what’s important to you as well. We’re all in this together, and communication will be the key.
Remove friction whenever possible
Just like forming a new habit, the easier it is, the more likely you’ll form that habit. It’s like saying to yourself that you’ll put on your running shoes each morning and run around the block. There’s not much friction in putting on your shoes. Once you have the shoes on, it’s easy to go around the block. After you do that a few times, it’ll be easier to run a half mile. Then a mile. Then two, five and so on. By reducing the friction to get anything done, both for you and your clients, the easier it will be to get bigger things done. Start small where there is little friction.
Acknowledge that it’s not business as usual
The final piece. We all know that, but many of us are acting as if it’s still 2019. Are you? It’s not. We’re in the future to stay. And it’s a different world. It’s not business as usual.
Here are some of the resources that helped inspire this collection:
In speaking with industry veterans, consultants and experts, I’m starting to get the feeling that normal may not return for a long time, if ever, on the tradeshow floor.
First, let’s admit that the tradeshow world is a continuously evolving entity, and that what’s normal in one year may look a little odd just a year or two later.
Social media exploded over a couple of years. Now it’s common for companies to post photos and videos of their tradeshow experiences on social media. In fact, it’s just one of many ways that exhibitors leverage online presence.
In 2019 at NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), an experiment was under way to shift how exhibitors understood and paid for show labor and drayage. For all we know, that might have been the start of a new way of looking at tradeshow logistic costs and how they are calculated. Time will tell.
Now with social distancing appearing to be the norm for the foreseeable future, some show locations may insist (as might the exhibitors and attendees) that new protocols come into play, such as temperature checks, masks, distancing, limited attendance, greater space between booths, wider aisles. All of this will put pressure on profits and incomes; with fewer people and fewer exhibitors, it’ll be harder to show a profit.
And it’ll also put pressure on marketers, those creative types that are competing for attention along with every other exhibitor. Just showing up, setting up your exhibit, doing a few in-booth activities and giveaways, like many exhibitors have been doing for years, simply won’t cut it. In a recent interview with Marlys Arnold of Exhibit Marketer’s Café, she observed that disruptors will be the ones who get noticed. She also said that with shows coming back and audience attendance down, it’s likely that the quality of the visitors will increase. They’ll absolutely want to be there because it’s important. There’ll a higher percentage of buyers than in the past. And one other change that Marlys felt was important is that pre-show marketing will be even more critical than before.
Virtual tradeshows have blossomed in the past few months. Keynotes, break-out sessions, exhibitor presentations and more are taking the place, at least temporarily, of physical shows. And most observers I’ve talked to seem to believe that the virtual aspects of shows will stick around, even when we’re back to the physical world.
But here in the interim, marketers and tradeshow industry companies have time on their hands – time that is likely being used to adapt, learn new skills and reinvent themselves. With COVID-19 still coursing through the world, physical tradeshows will come back in fits and starts. Some observers have said that “normal” business may not be back until 2022 or 2023. We hope that is not the case. Sooner is better than later, because many people’s livelihoods are on the line.
Yes, tradeshow marketing takes more than five days. Of course it does! It’s an ongoing process that keeps tradeshow managers up at night, especially when shows are impending. Some shows last about that long! So, what do I mean by the five day tradeshow marketing challenge?
Instead of trying to handle preparing for a show all at once, take five days. Perhaps in just a few moments a day you can line things up, get them prepared and be ready once tradeshows get back to normal.
Or whatever normal will look like.
Let’s assume the next big show is still several months away. Far enough away to not really worry if you start your Five-Day Tradeshow Marketing Challenge this week or next. But close enough so that you shouldn’t put it off too much longer!
Actually, every day is planning of some sort, but today, plan the basics:
What shows you’re going to.
What shows you’d love to go to at some point, but maybe not this year or next year.
What kind of presence you’d like at the show: size of booth; number of people. Perhaps what you’d like to spend on sponsorships or advertising at the show itself to help build awareness and move people to your booth.
This is also a good day to review past year tradeshow costs to assemble realistic budgets for the next series of shows. Pull out copies of documents that show actual costs vs. estimates. Build spreadsheets to give you a good sense of what you’ll have to invest to exhibit this time around.
Exhibit Changes / Additions
If you need a new exhibit, and it’s time to have that chat with management, that’s a longer process. But if you have a good exhibit and all you need is to make upgrades, today is a good day to start sketching out those changes. At this point, you don’t have all the information you’ll eventually need such as product launches, what products you’ll be promoting and so on. But it’s a good time to make a list of the number of graphic changes you’ll make, if any; the dimensions of the graphics and any other particulars you’ll want before design and production. Make notes about who you need to talk to to know what those product launches and so on will be. And give a heads up, if appropriate, to the designer who will be making the new graphics.
Promotions can take almost any shape, from creating online videos to crafting a social media campaign, to coming up with a clever way to dress up your booth. Here on Day Three, you’ll just want to make lists with broad strokes of the top promotion ideas and concepts that will eventually flower.
How many people are going, where are they staying, who’s booking travel, who’s making the schedule for the booth and so on. Getting a firm grasp on this a few months ahead of time will reduce headaches as you get closer.
Shipping and Exhibit Installation/Dismantle Logistics
If you have worked with the same I&D crews and shipping companies for years, this is usually nothing more than giving them advance notice that you’re on board again this year. If you need to find someone new for these areas, now’s the time to determine who you’re going to work with, and how to find the right people for the tasks.
Now that you’ve spent an hour or two a day for five days, you should have a much better grasp on what’s coming and be more prepared for when you’re thrown a curveball. Which you probably will be!
Tradeshows and events have been running since 1851, the 1st one being “The Great Exhibition” in London. It’s safe to say the exhibition world has drastically grown since the 1800’s, as have the price tags that are part and parcel of today’s exhibition experience.
Organising an event takes time, patience
and some form of budget to support the design of an exhibition stand or display
accessory. Within the industry you’ll be faced with many questions regarding
the costs and the necessities.
To create an understanding of what you
need, along with the tradeshow essentials, take a look at a list of costs to
consider before booking your event: –
Booking your stand space
The Exhibition Stand
Stand accessories, such as
banners and displays counters
Promotional items – Leaflet,
pens and lanyards
Transportation for you and your
full stand design
Additional extras such as
seating, lighting and interactive monitors
With all costs considered, it can appear
daunting. Yes, it is an investment, but when tackled correctly a successful
event can help towards business growth and place you on the right path to build
new relationships and gain potential customers.
If you’re still searching for the reason to
attend your first event, we’ve listed 4 benefits that you’ll be able to take
away from the experience.
Attending a tradeshow puts you in the best
place possible to build new relationships. Your brand and stand will attract
potential customers, therefore leading to conversations with other industry
It doesn’t have to stop there. Use your
time wisely and explore the exhibition floor. Take it upon yourself to visit
other business spaces. Doing so, presents another opportunity to strike up
Outside of social media and online
platforms, exhibitions offer amazing brand exposure. Your selected displays
will home in on what your brand has to offer and your unique selling points.
All of which will be visible through custom artwork and promotional items.
The blank canvas that a stand or display
product provides is priceless. Use the space to promote, intrigue and capture
Learn and Expand on Industry Knowledge
Whether you have been in the industry 1 year or 50, there’s always something new to discover. Use the time to find out about new competitors, up and coming trends, innovative design and alternate display options.
Networking with other businesses allows you
to ask new questions and educate yourself. As a brand, to learn and to grow is
to develop new ideas and progress with new trends.
From the relationship building, brand
exposure and the want to expand your knowledge, you’ll be able to begin further
growth within the business. Be sure to take business cards and contact details,
so when the shows over, you’ll have the correct point of contact.
Use the new found information and contacts
you have gained to your advantage. Connect on LinkedIn, send follow up emails
and keep your brand relevant and current so your details are at the forefront
of their mind.
Extra Tips on How to Make Exhibiting
Do your research and ensure you
are attending the right show for YOU
Check your stand position and
Use social media and email
marketing to promote your attendance
On the day, take contact
details from those who you speak with and make contact the following week
Make your brand memorable by
choosing the right stand design and delivering a presence
Create a list of goals to
achieve on the day
Position the co-workers with
the greatest knowledge and understanding of the business on the stand space
Vicky Peat is a Marketing Executive for Go Displays based in Peterborough, UK. As a content marketing writer within the Exhibition and Tradeshow industry, Vicky enjoys sharing industry knowledge to encourage and educate new and experienced exhibitors.
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:
Tracking and management of information about trade shows and exhibits.
Tracking event attendees and their travel reservations.
Management of booth reservations, booth services, and shipments.
Tracking of event sponsorships, costs, and expenses.
Event team collaboration via tasks and to-do lists.
Coordination of event team schedules before, during, and after each trade show.
Synchronization of events, tasks, and schedules with third-party calendaring apps such as Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, and Outlook.
Event-specific and annual budgeting, fund allocation, ROI measurement, and engagement analytics.
Customizations to the fields and data points tracked for each event.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.