At this year’s ExhibitorLIVE conference and tradeshow in Las Vegas, the annual Portable/Modular Design award were handed out. Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits (formerly) Communication One Exhibits, we snared a design award for last summer’s SoYoung 10×10 portable booth.
Keep in mind, this was not the popularity contest where everyone got to vote on their favorite design. No, this was the juried design award.
The goal of the competition was to “recognize the vendors and designers responsible for these remarkable exhibits, while also spotlight what’s possible in this realm.” It was the third annual version of this competition. While it appears that all of the awards have yet to be posted online, you’re welcome to review winners of the first and second years.
When we were contacted by SoYoung last summer, owner Catherine Choi indicated that they were looking to upgrade their current booth, which was a bit of a mishmash of hanging shelves and display units which didn’t work as well as they liked. Working with Classic Exhibits and designer Katina Rigall, we created an attractive and functional booth with a large backlit graphic, product display shelves and a unique aluminum CNC-cut display tree (which is what we think knocked it out of the park and got the judges’ attention).
The booth made its debut at Expo East last fall in Baltimore and will continue its work at Expo West in Anaheim this winter and beyond.
Exhibitor Magazine made the announcement of all of the award winners on March 1st, starting with the SoYoung booth. Many thanks to Classic Exhibits and Katina for creating a beautiful, creative and functional design, and of course to SoYoung for reaching out to us for the project.
One of our recent booth projects over the summer was a custom portable modular booth for the Toronto-based company SoYoung. The project turned out so great and people loved the look, that the design and fabrication team at Classic Exhibits thought it should be entered in the Exhibitor Portable/Modular, which recognizes design excellence. So it was. And it made the finals round where you, the public, get to vote!
Classic Exhibits also had two other projects make it to the finals round: Philadelphia Commercial and Nationwide.
The rules for the voting are simple: you can vote only once a day, but you can vote every day.
This week is the launch of my new book “Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level.” I’m doing a lot of the normal launch things an author would do: sending copies to industry media and bloggers, along with industry colleagues. Creating a list of clients and potential clients that I’d like to get the book into. And much more!
Beyond that, I’ve created a series of 14 videos, with each one relating to one of the chapters in the book. Those videos are appearing, about one a day, at my YouTube Tradeshow Marketingchannel. Check ’em out!
You can also read the book for free here at TradeshowSuccessBook.com. You’ll be asked to opt-in to a mailing list (which, if you gotta, you can always unsubscribe from).
What do you get in the book? As mentioned in the subtitle, I’ve detailed 14 steps that are critical to tradeshow success. Not every successful tradeshow marketer uses all of these steps with utmost efficiency, but most of them make very good use of many of the steps.
So what are the steps?
Let’s take a look at the 14 Steps:
Step One: Going with or without a Map? Are you doing enough planning and organizing around your tradeshows?
Step Two: Dollars, Pounds, Euros: How Much Do You Really Need to Make This Work? A breakdown of the budgeting process for tradeshows and what it takes to budget for a new exhibit.
Step Three: Getting Ready for the Big Dance: Pre-show planning and marketing.
Step Four: Did You Come to the Right Dance? Just make sure that your target market is at the show you’re going to dump all of that money into.
Step Five: Home is Where the Booth Is: Booth design essentials, including function, traffic flow, graphics and more.
Step Six: Is Your Frontline Team Up to Snuff? Booth staff training!
Step Seven: What Do I Do With All of These People in the Booth? Now that you’ve drawn a crowd, what do you do with them?
Step Eight: Tweeting, Posting and Instagramming Like a King or Queen: Putting social media to work for you in a creative way.
Step Nine: Who’s Keeping Track of Those Damn Tweets? Someone needs to create videos, blog posts, tweets, etc. Here’s a great look at some online content ideas.
Step Ten: Got a Stack of Leads: Now What? Lead generation and follow up.
Step Eleven: Becoming the Zen Master of Stats and Records: Record-keeping is the secret sauce to tracking your success.
Step Twelve: Stirring the Public Relations and Media Pot: Working with industry media.
Step Thirteen: Do QR Codes Still Kill Kittens? And Other Tech Questions: A quick examination of technology in tradeshows.
Step Fourteen: Out Of Your Nest: Time to Fly! Your call to action!
Want to grab your own copy? Use the links above to own your own. Or if you want the digital version (PDF download), try this:
One of our newest clients, SoYoung from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, unveiled their new custom 10×10 booth to the public earlier this month at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD to great reviews.
“The show has been hopping and the booth is fantastic!” was the text I got from company owner Catherine Choi on day two of the show. She had a photographer come by to document the booth and products. Check out the gallery. And thanks to SoYoung – glad to have you as a new client!
If you got a chance to see the webinar I did recently with Handshake, thanks! I hope you got something useful out of it. I’ve had a handful of requests for the slide deck so people can review it closer. Here’s the deck:
What are the indicators that tell you when it’s time to invest in a new tradeshow exhibit? What does it take to justify the expense, which can often be very large?
Naturally, there’s no single answer that applies across the board. However, if you, as a tradeshow marketing manager, feel it’s time to make a major upgrade, you’re put in a position of having to sell the investment to management. Here are a few things that you might consider in the process.
1. Can you point to tradeshow marketing as a consistent method of bringing in leads? And are you turning those leads into clients? If that’s true, the question may be: why do you need to fix it? Isn’t it already working?
It may indeed be working. But if you’re consistently running into issues such as growth, lack of space, too many visitors in such a small space, it may be that you are in need of a bigger space and hence, a bigger booth. One way to determine this is to track visitors by counting, or by anecdotal evidence from your booth staff.
If tradeshow marketing is a solid and consistent business driver, it’s likely that the people with the purse strings may be sympathetic to the request.
2. Consider the prospect of NOT doing anything. What would happen if you did NOT invest in a new booth? Are you satisfied with holding firm with the current booth property? The questions that come up around this question include how old the current assets are, and how is being perceived by your staff and clients at the show.
Another part of this conundrum is this: what are your most direct competitors doing? If the top three competitors in your market have upgraded and upsized their booth properties in the last two or three years, the perception will be that you’re losing ground to them. And in a competitive market, perception is critical.
3. Do your research. What are your competitors doing? What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats from within and without? A simple SWOT analysis can tell you a lot about where you are and where you might go from here.
4. Ask yourself if a new booth is really the answer. What about investing in your booth staff instead or in pre-show marketing and post-show follow up? Support your staff with training and education that allows them to more properly interact on the show floor with attendees by asking the right questions. Maybe a booth isn’t really right yet, but a smaller investment in the staff may yield good results without the larger booth investment, which can then be put off a year or two or three.
5. If a new booth is the answer, spend some time assessing how to understand the investment of capital, what’s involved and when it will be delivered and how it will happen. This will likely mean talking with booth designers and fabricators to get an idea of how much time and money it would cost to develop a design and construct the booth.
6. Once these items are assembled, they should be presented in the context of the life of the booth. Do you plan to use the booth for three, five, or seven years before considering major upgrades? In the case of one client who had committed to a 30×30 island booth in 2012, they had an opportunity to upgrade the space and the booth in 2015 to a 30×40, and decided the investment was worth it.
7. Determine how the new booth will change those who are tasked with the logistics of setting up and dismantling the booth, staffing it for the shows and inviting more clients for one-on-one meetings. In my experience, upgrading to a larger booth will modestly impact the marketing staff, giving them more opportunities to meet more clients and spread the word about the booth. Costs for set-up and dismantle will rise. Shipping costs will rise. Stepping up to a new booth is a major commitment, but it can often be well worth it in the return on that investment.
8. Now it’s time to present the final proposed cost. You’ve assembled a design and fabrication team that is capable. You have a reasonable price range for the project. While the bean-counters will want to justify the case in a hard dollars won vs. dollars spent, in addition to showing how the cost will be justified by the return with new business, detail the ‘soft’ return. These soft reasons to spend the money may include increased business opportunities due to a larger booth, more visibility at the shows, easier and quicker set-up times, perception of being bigger and better than your competitors, better branding opportunities in your booth, and so on. Be as specific as possible. For instance: “our new booth will give us a 300% increase in visible graphic display area to show off our brand and products compared with our current display.”
Use whatever combination of these methods you deem appropriate for your situation. Need help? Give me a call or drop a note and I’ll be glad to chat!
After 62,219 steps, a couple of achy legs and a few foot blisters in four days of Expo West, it came to me: “Tradeshows ain’t for wimps!” Certainly not if you’re walking the floor, nor if you’re an exhibitor who’s shepherding a booth (and staff) from the home office location to the show floor, through day(s) of set-up, three days of visitors, then dismantling and shipping it back. Thanks to Fitbit’s tracking device that’s 28.96 miles, give or take…
Tradeshows ain’t for wimps. I know it, and every year I say the same thing: I should have gone into training for this about six weeks ago.
Depending on whom you listen to and believe and what rumors are flying, this year’s Expo West, held at the Anaheim Convention Center, drew around 80,000 visitors, a one-third boost from last year. Or, as one exhibitor confided, a New Hope rep told her that the total attendance (attendees and exhibitors) was north of 110,000 and growth was so substantial that they were looking to demand some more space and concessions from the convention center, or within a few years it could be ‘Sayonara, Anaheim, hello Las Vegas!’
Like I said, rumors.
Flash Drives: @Tradeshowguy Exhibitor Toolkit
My calling card this year wasn’t a card; it was a flashdrive that contained a lotta stuff to help exhibitors. I took six dozen and they all found a home, except for the one that stayed in the bottom of my backpack. I loved that they were quite well-received by those I offered them to: “You’re showing me how to bring home more leads, get more PR and have a better-trained booth staff? I’ve been waiting for this!” Did you get one? Would you like one? It’s available now online: download your toolkit here.
As always, I keep abreast of happenings on the show floor via Twitter, and, increasingly, via Instagram. It’s easy to post photos to either, but from the Instagram platform, you can also post directly to Facebook and Twitter, so that makes it an easy choice to start there. Loads of exhibitors and attendees are hanging out on both platforms, and it’s easy to follow them by tracking the hashtags #expowest and #expowest2015. Hey, I got some freebies this way, and also entered a few contests that I previously would not have run across. (Hey NutraSumma, call me when I win that mountain bike, okay?)
This year’s show was, as usual, quite the extravaganza. And the booths (and attendees) ranged from ghastly to elegant to stunning. Let’s hand out a few awards, shall we?
While there were certainly a lot of companies looking to find ways to get visitors to interact with their booth, the So Delicious booth found a nice way to get people involved by ‘sharing the love’ with chalk on a large chalkboard at the back of their booth.
Most Unsubtle Header
Boomchickapop decided to go all in. I can hear the discussion now: “Hey, let’s take the name of the product, make it as big as possible and add a lot of PINK! Whaddaya say, gang?” Well, it works. It gets you to stop, take a look and see what they’re all about.
Most Iconic Cut-Outs
A year or two ago, the new Pope was featured in a cut-out. I didn’t see him this year, but I did see Will Ferrell, The Queen of England and Dr. Thayer. I probably missed some others.
Big Ass Colorful Graphic
Natrol’s booth sat up front at the entrance to the hall, and to grab people’s attention, they installed a graphic that must have measured about 8’ x 30’. Big. Colorful. And not the only one. The booth had big ass graphics on all sides, so you couldn’t miss ‘em.
A large pair of coconuts on the back wall of Zico’s booth caught my eye and drew me in for a taste of chilled juice blend.
A tough battle between Bamboobies (the girls with the pink hair) and the giant walking boobs of milkmakers, who were promoting their product with the hashtag #hoorayforboobies, and I think the boobs from milkmakers won out.
Best Stairway to Heaven (or at least the second floor)
Nature’s Path showed up with a clever booth that showed a layered look from the floor to the 16 foot level, including a stairway up the middle to a private meeting area.
Busiest Graphic Backwall
Not always a good award to win because people don’t often stop to read the whole damn thing; nonetheless, this one from Powercrunch was arresting.
Best Iconic Brand Knockoff
While Beyond Meat will never be mistaken for McDonald’s, they did work hard to pull the look and feel of Mickey D’s into their booth to show how their meatless product compares. Nicely done!
Most Elegant Look
Simplicity and function are their own reward. This was accomplished by the designers of the new booth for Portland’s Pacifica.
I look forward to Expo West every year; this was my 13th consecutive year at the Anaheim gathering. It’s had astonishing growth in that time (and it was big back then!), and it appears to be anticipating even more growth in the next half-decade. The Natural Products Industry has done well of late with healthy and intriguing products, dramatic competition and an increasing market for those products.
Our company, Communication One Exhibits, has about a dozen current and former clients at Expo West this year, and we’d love to add more. Want a booth for your next show? Click here. We love making you look good, whether it’s at Expo West or any other show.
Let’s tackle the BIGGEST part of your tradeshow strategy – at least in terms of potential cost.
We can agree that booths come in all shapes and sizes. We can also agree that they usually cost a LOT MORE than you anticipated, right?
Let’s leave the cost and size up to your particular company’s available budget, goals and marketing presence. For some companies, a 20×30 booth would be a huge investment, more than they could possibly justify. For others, a 70×100 might be smaller than they’re used to. So for now we’ll dispense with the actual size and cost and focus on other important elements.
Let’s start with the BRAND. Your booth should convey, at a glance, the look and feel of your brand. For some, that’s a natural wood look. For others, it means a high-tech look straight out of Star Trek. That doesn’t mean that a rootsy, earth-mama brand couldn’t get away with an aluminum structure with fabric graphics. Those decisions are typically made through long and detailed conversations with a 3D booth designer, the company’s marketing team and a booth fabricator. But still, the goal should be that when a visitor sees the booth and the company’s name, it evokes a FEELING that is in congruence with what the company wants the visitor to feel. If not, somebody messed up.
Secondly, your GRAPHICS MESSAGING should be planned so that a visitor’s eyeballs will follow it to its proper conclusion. Usually this means the hierarchy works like this:
Company Name or Logo
Positioning Statement or Bold Challenge
However, if your company is not well know, this typical hierarchy might change a bit:
Bold Statement or Challenging Question
Company Name or Logo
And on somewhat rare occasions, the company name might drop all the way to third place, if it’s an unknown company or if the company name is really insignificant:
Bold Statement of Challenging Question
Company Name or Logo
If your company name is unimportant in the sense that a product or brand is important or more recognizable than the company name, that might go first:
Tagline or Positioning Statement
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for graphics on tradeshow booths that covers all companies or situations. Instead, your goals, products and objectives should help determine how the graphic hierarchy is displayed. The main thing to keep in mind is that visitors pass by booths quickly and they all become a blur. Imagine your booth is a freeway billboard and you have 2 – 3 seconds to catch someone’s attention.
Next up: BOOTH FUNCTION.
From a 10×10 booth to the larger island booths, the function of a booth must be carefully thought out and discussed, and it will be determined largely by your show goals and objectives, the number of booth staff and how you want to interact with visitors. If you’re doing product demonstrations, for example, you’ll need to make sure the booth is big enough to accommodate the presenter or demonstrator and a small audience. If you’re sampling edibles, perhaps all you need is an easy-to-reach sampling table.
Every booth is different, every show is different and every company’s goals and objectives are different. Other questions to settle: Do you have enough storage? How many meeting areas do you need? Should the meeting areas be completely private or only semi-private? What products and/or services are you promoting at this show? Do you need video monitors, or an iPad kiosk to help visitors interact?
Take the time to address all of the functions that your booth needs. Those needs can be determined by the experience you’ve had at past shows as well as conversations with company staff that are involved.
And no matter what functions you detail and prepare for in your booth, chances are good that once you’ve lived in the booth for a few days, you’ll notice things that need to be changed for the next time. For example, one of our clients wanted a meeting space for their clients in a 20×30 booth, so one end of the booth – about a 10×20 space – was covered and mostly inaccessible to the casual visitor. However, after 2 – 3 times exhibiting in the booth, it became apparent that client meetings didn’t happen as often as they thought, and booth staffers found it to be a quick and easy place to hide out. So the covered meeting space was removed and the space was better utilized as product display and visitor interaction.
Of course BOOTH FUNCTION also includes things such as storage, meeting areas and traffic flow. While planning a booth you’ll want to take into account these three critical things. Not to say that they’re often – or ever – overlooked, but it’s not out of the ordinary for them to be miscalculated. For instance, traffic flow: do visitors have easy access to the booth? Or do you even want them to have easy access? Some companies design booths so that only desired visitors are allowed inside, limiting access to casual passers-by. Others want any and all visitors to step inside the line.
Storage needs to be considered: personal items (coats, purses, laptops, briefcases, etc.), products so samples can be replenished and more. Do you have enough space? Make sure you have enough, but try not to overdo it: space is at a premium at tradeshows and every cubic inch needs to be considered.
Finally: meeting areas. How many staffers will be meeting with clients or media types at the booth? How often? How many meetings are already scheduled ahead of time? How many do you anticipate to happen randomly?
Truthfully, it’s quite possible that the needs of each show will shift slightly from previous shows. The best approach seems to be to pay attention to how the booth is used at each show and make adjustments as budget and goals shift.
Finally, let’s touch on LOGISTICS, SET-UP AND DISMANTLE. In recent talks with a new client, they first mentioned the most important aspect of their new booth: it HAS to ship in a case small enough to go by UPS of FedEx. The large 4x4x8 wooden crates were a big NO-NO. So every possibility that came up from then on had to ultimately meet that objective.
To them, set up meant having a couple of booth staffers arrive a day or two early at the show, set it up with a minimum of fuss and tools, and avoid the double-whammy costs of pre-show staging and arrival at the advance warehouse, and having to hire show help to set up the booth.
Other companies don’t mind the extra cost – they try to minimize it, of course – but it’s more important to show their audience a great booth. Even if it means the booth is a 40×40 that requires a day to set up with hired help, and takes a dozen crates to ship.
Any good company will be aware of your desires in these areas, and determine what’s most important.
Best Case Scenario: having a booth that a) immediately conveys your company’s BRAND, 2) your GRAPHIC MESSAGING is clear and relates to this show’s goals and objectives, 3) is built to FUNCTION properly with room for meetings, storage, product/service display and 4) meets your company’s objectives when it comes to SET-UP and DISMANTLE.
Outdoor Retailer is so big sometimes I wonder why it’s not in Vegas. But no, Salt Lake City is the perfect setting for this fun, extravagant and energetic national tradeshow. With mountains only a short drive away, SLC is positioned perfectly to host this confab of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country (and around the world). There’s so much going on in the outdoor industry that they hold the show twice a year: once in winter and once in summer.
The recent OR Summer Market took place the week of August 4th at the Salt Palace Convention Center. On Tuesday, attendees were invited to an Open Air Demo at Huntsville, Utah’s Pineview Reservoir, tucked neatly in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest just down the road from Snowbasin Ski Resort. The OAD was packed with 100-plus small exhibitors crouched under branded canopies, many of them offering free tryouts on kayaks, paddleboards and more. After a brief downpour mid-morning, the rest of the day turned into a fun, engaging and playful event.
As for the tradeshow itself, several acres of floor space at the convention center are occupied by the biggest show of the year in Salt Lake City, resplendent with top-notch exhibits, some as large as 100’ x 70’ that dominate the area. Keen, Merrell, Thule, Timberland, The North Face, Cascade Designs, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia and more came to Outdoor Retailer ready to show off their new goods – and no doubt spent a pretty penny with HUGE exhibits.
So what caught attendee’s eyes? For me, it was solar power. Lots of solar chargers: foldable, portable and powerful. Solar power is coming into it’s own and in the next half a decade or so it should explode as the cost of creating a kilowatt of power via solar will continue to plunge below that of the cost of typical energy. It seems that every time I turned a corner there was another solar-powered gizmo.
And the booths? Well, let’s have a little fun with some awards, shall we?
Best brand representation: Keen Shoes. Yes, this is a category with a lot of tough competition, but Keen is so over-the-top with recycled pallets for walls, recycled windows, hand-made booth elements and funky swagger that how can you NOT give this award to Keen?
Walking Dead Re-birth: Kelty. Yes, the Walking Dead were used as inspiration for having to carry around a crappy backpack, so you’d better get fit with a really good Kelty Pack!
Best Use of Stuffed Dogs to Show Off Your Products: Ruffwear. You might be surprised, but there were a LOT of stuffed dogs used to show off gear. Ruffwear managed to do it with style with gear made exclusively for dogs. Talk about focus!
Best Tent Campground. Lots of tents at OR, but The North Face took over nearly a quarter of an acre with tents. Lots of tents. It felt vaguely like a Grateful Dead concert, missing just the tie-dye and herb.
Best use of Brick: Carhartt. The faux brick surface made it look like the two-story booth that represented a storefront had been built one brick at a time. Beautiful.
Best ‘Stop Dead in Your Tracks’ Booth: Brunton. Use of bright colors, back lit panels and shapes that grab your attention did indeed stop people in their tracks. Hard to capture in a photo, but I gave it a try.
Best Product Demo Video: Coast Portland. It took a little patience, but after viewing the video shot near Oregon’s Coos Bay showing off the company’s flashlights, you came away convinced that they were the best you could buy.
And finally, Most Iconic Use of an Icon: Leave No Trace’s Bigfoot, who posed for photos and invited attendees to tweet selfies for a chance to win footwear!
I spent two days of the show jotting notes on my clipboard, doing booth assessments: subjecting almost two dozen booths to a closer exam that I call the Tradeshow Booth Performance Test. I’ll be sharing that information with those companies in the few weeks – always a great learning experience for both (I hope!).
I first encountered GoPro at the 2009 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show in Salt Lake City. Nick Woodman was making a spectacle of himself. About once an hour, he would get on top of a platform and start yelling at the top of his lungs. He would exhort visitors to check out the brand-new product – a small HD camera that captured crazy video with a wideangle lens. It was small enough to strap to a helmet, chest, end of a ski pole, wherever.
During these hourly exhortation’s Nick would regale his audience with examples of how great his product, the GoPro camera – and how it captures extreme sports videos – is. It also engaged eager visitors with the chance of winning one.
The story of GoPro is one that happened very quickly. It didn’t take long for the combination of trade shows, social media, and virtually giving away the store every single day to create a rabid following.
If you follow GoPro on Facebook, you’ll notice that they give away everything they make to one person every single day. I’ve signed up hundreds of times and never won. But it doesn’t keep me from signing up again and again and again. That’s how much I’d like to get my hands on their latest and great HD sports-action toy.
Early in 2013, Nick Woodman, the CEO and main figurehead of GoPro was featured on the cover of Inc. magazine. The story was about how he had grown the company to a multi-million dollar enterprise and created a new camera niche virtually out of nothing. The company had done it with a great product that is groundbreaking, and the combination of tradeshow marketing, social media and pure moxie.
Since I saw them at the 2009 outdoor retailer when a market in salt Lake city, I’ve been a big fan of GoPro. They offered $100 off of a camera if you purchased at that time and a coupon for discount on a future purchase when their new HD camera came out. I bought one of their early cameras and have had fun with it ever since.
In January 2013 I attended Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and it didn’t take me long to find the GoPro trade show booth. It wasn’t large compared to many other booths at the show, about 30 x 30, but it was plastered with a dozen or so large screen video monitors. As you enter the booth you were given a chance to sign up and possibly win a new HD camera. They also indicated that with the sign up, you would be emailed a coupon for a $100 discount on their new HD camera. So in effect, they’re giving you a chance to win something and they’re capturing your information so they can stay in contact with you.
I talked to one of the girls working the booth and discovered that Nick was not there, but it didn’t matter by this point because the company was too big for Nick to go to every tradeshow. GoPro has quickly proven itself to be a serious player in the camera industry, and has been called ‘the fastest growing company in the world.’
Several times a day a GoPro booth staffer stands up to give away T-shirts, swag and of course that coveted GoPro HD model camera. Hundreds of people yelled, screamed, waved arms and otherwise made fools of themselves hoping their name would get called.
Go Pro’s custom tradeshow booth matched their brand’s look, feel and style. It looked a bit brash and with the multiple video screens your eyes were drawn to action, action, action as the sports action videos played in an endless loop.
Suffice it to say that with the combination of savvy social media, aggressive trade show marketing and a groundbreaking product, GoPro dominates their niche. They certainly have new competitors – with any new product that carves out a big share of the market, someone will come in and try to catch to the leader. And someone may yet catch up with GoPro. But GoPro’s excellent marketing – including tradeshow marketing – is proving to be all they need right now to be the leader of the pack.