When Natural Products Expo West was cancelled on March 2, just a couple of days before the doors were to have opened to 80,000+ attendees and 3500+ exhibitors, there was a sense of “what did we miss by not being able to exhibit, by not being able to attend?”
And it happened for everyone. Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we had several clients who had done modest upgrades to their exhibits. Upgrades that would have showed off new products, new brands, you name it.
But I thought they should see the light of day, so that followers could at least get an idea of what they missed. Plus, knowing that companies often change year over year, there’s a good chance that none of these exhibit revisions would be used in 2021. We worked with several other clients at the show, mainly to assist in installation and dismantle, so there was nothing new to show. I reached out to the clients involved, and many of them said, YES, please share those concepts; the artwork and revisions that we would have shown our visitors at Expo West. And one client declined to show off their new look, opting instead to save it for the future. Here’s a short video of those changes:
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.
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:
Cruising Twitter is always an entertaining proposition. Sometimes
because you find some really interesting stuff. Other times because you end up
wanting to pull your hair out. But it’s never boring!
In search of some #tradeshow ideas, I entered that search term in the box on Twitter. Lots of companies use Twitter to push out advertisements and come-ons, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you mix it up with good useful information. But I looked and came up with a handful of good articles. Let’s take a look.
Fortunate PR guy (his words) Jim Bianchi tweeted out a link to a post called “Top Lessons Learned for Automotive and Mobility Suppliers from CES2020.” Much of the lessons had to do with how beneficial CES is to exhibitors (which it certainly should be), but it illustrates how many traditional auto suppliers are finding their way into one of the world’s biggest shows. Another tip had to do with navigating around Las Vegas during show time, given that the public transit systems can be overwhelmed by an additional 175,000 people. Yeah, no kidding!
And finally, a list from Architectural Digest on Tradeshows You Should Consider Attending in 2020, assuming you’re in the architectural world. Most of the shows are stateside, but there are mentions of the London Design Festival, Heimtextil in Frankfurt and others. Lots of details on each show for the serious planner. This was shared by Skyline out of South Carolina.
Yes, Twitter has its detractors and it can be a little overwhelming if crazy politics are going on at that moment (okay, that’s always going on), but it’s also a good source for good information if you just know where to look.
If you’re sitting on an airplane, there are certain rules
that need to be followed. First and foremost, the attendants and the captain
are in charge. In fact, on each and every flight I’ve been on, they remind you
that federal law dictates that you must obey any instructions from flight
If you’re playing golf, there are rules upon rules about addressing the ball, putting, where you can take a drop and so on. Same with basketball, climbing a mountain, lifting weights. Some of the rules are well-thought out and dictated by organizations that manage the sport. The NBA, for example, can have different basketball rules than the NCAA. Or different football rules. Some rules are just plain common sense but aren’t written down.
When it comes to tradeshows, as an exhibitor or an attendee,
as part of the agreement that allows you access to the hall, you agree to
certain rules. If you’re an exhibitor, there are dozens and dozens of rules
about the exhibit you are allowed to set up, heights, fees, and so on and so
What about rules that may not be written down, but are just
common sense? No doubt most of these are just rules of polite society: don’t be
a jerk, treat people as you would like to be treated, and so on.
There also several unwritten rules of etiquette that you should adhere to. No eating in the booth, no sitting in the booth, greet visitors with a smile and a great engaging question, being on time when you’re scheduled to work.
But about the tradeshow floor itself, rules are again often
unspoken. Let’s check in on a few.
Suitcasing is a term for someone who is walking from exhibit
to exhibit and trying to pitch their product or services. Or they occupy space
where people are coming in and out and hand out flyers or brochures. It’s considered
unethical because the visitor didn’t pay for being there. They have no money
Outboarding is when a company doesn’t exhibit, but they’re
willing to rent a suite at a nearby hotel and invite attendees to see their
wares. I’ve read that it’s less common than it used to be simply because show
managers now often reserve blocks of rooms for exhibitors and if someone that
is not exhibiting tries to reserve a room or a suite the hotel just refuses.
Extending beyond the booth confines is not something I see a
lot, but I do see. This is when exhibitors will push things like banner stands
or literature stands outside of their booth dimensions.
Using music in your booth. Unless you hire the musician, and
the musician is playing his own unpublished music (rare, but it could happen),
you’ll be liable for paying licensing fees. And they ain’t cheap.
After hours a good rule to follow is limit your alcohol
intake, don’t stay up late, make sure you’re well-fed and hydrated. If you’re
hosting a client dinner or event, let the visitors eat or drink first. Be a
There are literally hundreds of other rules we could get
into, and no doubt you could come up with your own. Rules about marketing
strategy, collecting and following up on leads, attracting key prospects, graphic
design and so on.
The final rule I’ll offer, though, is this:
You’re going to be on your feet for hours at a time. Wear
In three weeks, Natural Products Expo West will be launching
in Anaheim California. It’s a show that TradeshowGuy Exhibits is most involved
with of all the shows our clients go to each year. For the past couple of
months, we’ve been working with new and current clients to finalize artwork,
shipping and logistic schedules and more. It’s a crazy wonderful show. I’ve met
hundreds of people there over the years and gained clients with almost every
appearance. And of course, I’ve met people from companies that seemed to think
they’d become clients, but it never happened. Maybe next year!
The preparation for a big show for many clients goes well
beyond making sure the tradeshow exhibit is up to snuff and sporting new
graphics or furniture or counters or new AV elements or lights. It’s about making
sure they’re positioned right with new products and services. It’s about making
connections with old colleagues and meeting new ones. It’s about seeing what
your competitors are launching.
It’s also about all of the details and all the moving parts:
scheduling labor, electrical, shipping, flooring, furniture, you name it. There
are endless details when it comes to tradeshow marketing. Handling it each year
and making adjustments at the next show to improve is not uncommon.
We’ll report more from the show during and after, but if you want to see how last year went for us, well, it went pretty well. I don’t think we’ll be quite as busy this year as a few of those clients are not making changes to last year’s presentations. But yeah, we’ll be busy.
I look forward to walking the floor for a few days, seeing
what people are doing, talking with exhibitors, learning their challenges. I
look forward to being in warmer climes than Oregon during early March! I look
forward to connecting with an old friend in LA and catching up on a spare night
(there aren’t many).
But most of all, I look forward to seeing the clients we’ve
worked with, whether for decades, years, or even a few months. I look forward
to seeing how all of the hard work is received. It’s great to make clients look
good, not only to their immediate supervisors who may not have been intimately
involved in the new exhibit or upgrades, but also the clients who come away
impressed with the exhibit.
When it comes to tradeshow marketing, anything goes. Right?
Well, maybe not everything, but certainly it’s a time to try things. Do things
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back from Thanksgiving week, a nice few days away from work.
Sit down at the computer Monday morning.
Hundreds of emails piled up in my in-box. 785 to be precise. Lots of them with pitches on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I mean, a ton of pitches.
Delete them all: delete, delete, delete. Don’t bother to
read them. They do nothing for me.
On a few, I decide to unsubscribe. But that takes longer.
And with most of the newsletters I unsubscribe from, I feel like they keep
sending me stuff. So what’s a guy to do?
It’s obvious that none of those emails stood out. They did nothing for me (I think I said that already). I’m not looking for any Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, I have work to do. I’m not looking for Christmas presents for anyone, or to save money on things that I probably would not buy at any point. I’m busy and want to get these off of my to-do list as soon as possible, which means I’m scanning quickly and deleting almost everything once I determine it’s not a client, or a potential client.
I’m not their target market.
Email is one thing. Let’s move from email to other venues, such as retail, or online ads, or, hey, tradeshows!
When people walk by your retail store in a shopping mall, are you doing anything to stand out?
When you advertise online, what makes your ad stand out?
When people walk by your tradeshow booth, are you doing
anything to stand out in a crowd?
It’s easy to ignore and delete an email. It’s easy to walk by a retail store without stopping. It’s a piece of cake to ignore ads on your screen.
It’s pretty easy to walk by a tradeshow booth, too, unless something really outstanding is going on at the booth. Maybe it’s a unique booth. Maybe it’s a presentation that draws you in, entertains you and informs you of the company’s products and services. Maybe it’s a unique food sample. Could be anything.
Tradeshows have a distinct advantage over emails, and here’s
why: emails go out to people who have (supposedly) opted-in to a company’s
pitches. But over time, it’s not uncommon for that company – which is often
owned by another entity – to share that email address with another company, and
soon you’re getting pitches from (somewhat) related companies or products or
services. Has that happened to you? Happens all the time to me.
The difference that tradeshows have is that you have spent
handsomely to be at the show. But the show is targeted, the audience is
specialized. The people walking the show floor have also paid to be there, and
they are usually there for specific reasons, the main one being that they are
SHOPPING for something, and since you’re exhibiting there, chances are they’re
SHOPPING FOR SOMETHING YOU ARE SELLING.
Still, you have to stand out in a crowd. Tradeshows have a
lot of competition. Your biggest and best competitors are doing all they can to
make their best pitch to the same people you’re pitching. That’s the name of
Which means that whatever you do, it had better be good. It
had better be worth your time and money.
It had better be something that stands out in a crowd.
I’m no expert on exhibit design or figuring out the
potential customers for a specific product – let’s leave that to the people who
have a lot of experience in that area and it’s not me – but I’ve picked up a
few things along the way by talking to a lot of experts.
One thing that seems clear is that if you know who your
audience is, what kind of products they buy, what kinds of stores they like to
shop at, and why they buy your products, all of that information can be assimilated
in a synergistic way to help determine the look and feel of your tradeshow
exhibit so that your potential customers feel a familiarity; they feel at home
when they see your exhibit.
What do I mean by that? Let’s say you’ve determined that the
people who buy your products the most are a specific type of person: maybe they
shop at Target a lot, but also like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Or they like Applebee’s
but not Pizza Hut. They like Urban outfitters and J. Crew but not The Gap. And
so on. The more information you can distill about your products’ appeal – and who
is buying those products from you, the more you have to help design your tradeshow
Let’s say, for example, that your products attract people who
shop at Whole Foods for groceries. If you are selling a food product, it
probably makes sense to incorporate some design elements that are popular at
Whole Foods into your exhibit design. Not to copy the design, but to echo the
design elements. Do they use recycled wood? Do they use a pastel color on
counters or product shelves? Then consider incorporating those elements in the exhibit
Exhibit designers have the experience and the skill to not
only create a three-dimensional model complete with floor plans, traffic flows,
height restrictions and sensibilities, but they know how to take those colors
and patterns and textures and incorporate them into product displays, greeting
counters, light boxes and flooring patterns.
If done right, your potential customer will take one look at
your exhibit and even if they’re not familiar with your brand (yet), they will
feel at home because you’ve done your homework and created an exhibit that
understands them and what they like.
You just need to know who your ideal customer is and what
brands or stores they’re already comfortable shopping at.