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

Custom exhibit

A Single Big Tradeshow is Still a Year-Round Event

I’m guilty of sometimes thinking that once a tradeshow is over for the year, it’s over. For a long time. Until next year! But that’s not really the case, no matter how much I’d like to be done!

As a tradeshow manager, or someone who attends or exhibits at tradeshows on a regular basis, it’s easy to compartmentalize each show:

“Got another show in two months, but it’s a small regional one. I can wait another couple of weeks to make sure I get it all together in time.”

“Well, that big expo is done! Don’t have to worry about that for another year! Or maybe ten months if I’m lucky.”

But now that the show is over, it’s a good time to start planning – or at least thinking about – the next time you’ll exhibit at the show. Look at your preparation time from how much of a splash you want to make, how much “new” stuff you’ll implement in your exhibit, and of course, budget. Budget drives everything. Almost.

If the biggest show of the year just ended, and you’re back in the office, you have another 11.5 months before you pack up and head to the airport again (and that doesn’t take into account another half-dozen smaller shows that may keep you on the road).

What now?

Relax for a Few Moments

Give yourself time to breath. There’s still follow-up and record-keeping to be done from the last show. File and share data such as photos, visitor comments, leads, etc. with the proper people. Go over the metrics you collected, identify important information that will help you make decisions for next year’s show. Whatever you chose to document, make sure it’s archived and available for your team to review, digest and understand. As they say, if you didn’t write it down or document it, it didn’t happen.

What’s New Next Year?

But before too much time passes, look at the show from a new angle: if you’re going to do something new, exciting and impactful (and why wouldn’t you?), you need time to brainstorm, plan, research, talk with partners such as exhibit houses, tech and AV vendors and more.

Most of your time will go into planning and design. Once the plan is set, the implementation starts. Depending on your plan, that could mean working with a designer or exhibit house to create a new exhibit from scratch, or it could mean adding some unique element to your current booth (like we did with our client Bob’s Red Mill when they wanted a 42” touchscreen with several videos that visitors can pull up with a touch of a finger).


Bob’s Red Mill’s exhibit alcove featuring 42″ touch screen with directional speakers

During the planning phase, you might be addressing the launch of new products, new branding, redefining your objectives and goals, and identifying how you’ll communicate your messaging, capture new leads and so on. It’s a long process, and you should give it the time it deserves.

Many companies approach a new exhibit project as just that: a new exhibit and nothing more. Which means they don’t give all of the other items enough time and space. The exhibit is not a standalone item; it’s integral to everything else that your company is doing for the show. New products require proper display space, adequate space for graphics, and perhaps space to sample or demo them.

Social Media

If you have a social media marketing director, make sure you bring her into the mix during the process. They can pass along photos and videos from the recent show and use them to build interest in next year’s show. During the lead-up to next year’s show, focus on building interest in the event, building interest in your appearance at the event, and finally on building interest in the products or services you’ll debut or feature. Yes, this deserves a much longer discussion, but don’t let this element slip away. Make sure, as a tradeshow manager, that you’re involved in the discussions on how this will unfold.

Booth Staff Training

This subject could be the topic of a complete book (maybe I’ll make this my next book!), but suffice it to say at this point that, all other things being equal, a well-trained dynamite booth staff will perform head and shoulders above a staff that isn’t properly trained. Your staff should be outgoing without being pushy, engaging without being trite. Know what questions work and what don’t. Always have a smile. Don’t take rejection personally. If you haven’t trained your booth for a while, consider how good of an investment it can be.

Get Everyone On Board

Before undertaking a new large project, make sure you are communicating properly with all of the various entities: management, marketing team, sales team, production team, outside vendors and partners. They should all be aware of the project from the beginning and what their potential part in the dance might be. Communicate often and do it well. It’s hard to over-state the importance of your ability to communicate!

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Expo West ’19 Diary: Last Full Day of Exhibiting and Re-Cap

The exhibit halls at the Natural Products Expo West closed Saturday at 4 pm. By then, exhibitors were handing our their remaining samples, packing up things they could and getting ready to grab flights home. The last day of a big show like this one is always a bit different. Not as many attendees as the first couple of days (although still very busy), which left staffers with a little more time to chat in a relaxed mode.

Which is a great opportunity to meet people. Which I did. Even though I was pretty much dead on my feet by mid-day, I kept pushing through, knowing the end was in sight. I spent some of the day checking in with all of our clients that we had scheduled for dismantle the next day to make sure paperwork was all in place. Things don’t move in a tradeshow without the right paperwork!

Saturday started early by assisting in the dismantling of a new exhibit for a new client, Hop Tea, from Boulder, Colorado. They were set up in the hot new products section of the Hilton Ballroom, which meant that their exhibiting schedule ended a day earlier than the main halls in the convention center. I’m told they won a Nexty Award for new products, and their business – less than a year old – is off to a quick start. Glad to be able to be a part!

By the end of the day, I was done. Beat. Exhausted. So it was back to the Airbnb for a relaxing night, the only one of my 6-day trip. Friday night it was fun to spend nearly two hours at the Oregon Business gathering at McCormick and Schmick’s near the convention center. It’s a gathering that has happened for several years, and is designed to show off Oregon products from companies that may not necessarily be exhibiting at the show. Food and libations and good conversations flowed.

Hop Tea custom reclaimed barn wood exhibit, built by TimbrandMoss

Sunday morning it was the dismantling. I was overseeing the takedowns of five booths by Eagle Management, which has proven to be a good partner: resourceful, efficient and generally quick to get things done. My job was mainly to make sure things were happening in a timely manner, and taking care of the paperwork: shipping BOL’s, printing shipping labels, etc. I admit I find it fascinating to see the before and after (and the during) of big shows. Once the show is over, hundreds of union workers come in and dismantle things quickly. It’s a helluva sight, really. Even though our truck was in line to pick up crates by the check-in time of 8 am, they weren’t able to load freight and leave until after midnight. Crazy, I know. Yes, it’s a busy show and hundreds if not thousands of trucks are all in a queue awaiting their call.

Overall impressions this year? It seemed busier than last year, if that is possible. New Hope usually posts their press release with exhibitor and attendee numbers within a few days of show close, so it’ll be interesting to review this this week.

From the list of exhibitors I visited last year, 25-30% of them were not at this year’s show. Big shows like this are expensive, and not all companies are ready to hit the big time and try to connect with thousands of buyers, brokers and retailers. That doesn’t keep younger, smaller companies from trying, though. Often the difference between success and failure at this level is having and executing a good plan, no matter what type of exhibit you have.

Later in the week, I’ll post photos of our clients at this show. Meantime, here are a few more clicks from the last day or so of Expo West:

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Why Rent Tradeshow Furniture?

Renting furnishings at a tradeshow may or may not be a good fit for you. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Rental Furniture is new, and in top-notch condition
  • Lots of choices – you’re not stuck with the same furniture show after show
  • Cost is less than purchasing it new
  • You don’t have to pay to ship it – cost is all-inclusive
  • It’s delivered right to your booth space – when the show is over, just leave it there
  • You don’t have to store the furniture
  • Furniture you own will degrade, become damaged or dinged over time, and go out of fashion
  • By owning furniture, you have to pay to ship and pay to store

Cons:

  • Renting furniture might seem expensive to you; owning cuts costs in the long run
  • If you rent furniture 2, 3, or 4 times, you will likely have paid the full cost and don’t have anything to show for it except old bills
  • You own it, you only pay for it once and can use it as many times as you like
  • Less hassle – you own it, you have one less subcontractor and bill to deal with

Depending on what appeals to you, or to your financial or storage situation, renting furniture may be the right thing. Or not!


Take a look at some of the possibilities of rental furniture here.

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What do Visitors See in Your Booth That Makes Them Stop – or Keep Walking?

When people walk by your booth, they make a subconscious (or unconscious) choice on whether or not to stop and visit. In an instant, that choice is made. Much of what they base that choice in never really registers as a solid thought, but the choice is made regardless. They stop to visit and check out your booth. Or they keep on going.

What makes them stop? What makes them keep walking? Let’s take a look.

Brand: if they know the brand, they already have an impression. They have an emotion tied to the brand. It may be positive or negative. Or it may be neutral. In any case, the brand itself is part of that judgment.

Size of booth/how many people are already there: if a couple of dozen people are crowded into an island booth and they are all engaged in comes activity, or they are all paying attention to a single activity such as a professional presenter, they may decide to join. Nothing draws a larger crowd like a small crowd.

attract or repel tradeshow visitors

Newness or uniqueness of exhibit: if they come around a corner and see something they’re not used to seeing, that may impact their decision on whether to stop. The exhibit itself can be a big part of that subconscious process. Newness counts to a degree. New graphics, clean look, something different than they’ve seen before.

What’s happening in the booth: something interactive, something hands-on can spur people to impulsively stop to find out more. VR headsets. Spinning wheel. Quiz. Anything that lets people get involved, even if only briefly.

Familiarity: of course, familiarity can count, too, especially if that familiarity is of a positive nature. If they’re familiar and fond of a brand, that can draw them in.

Cleanliness (or lack): clean floors, fresh and wrinkle-free graphics, garbage cans that aren’t overflowing all create a positive impression. Clutter, grimy, broken, old or frayed exhibit pieces can put people in the mind of being repelled. They may not even know why, but they’ll subconsciously steer clear of something that their mind recognizes as distasteful. Something that’s not clean can repel.

People: your booth staff is critical in getting tradeshow floorwalkers to stop or not. A well-trained staff knows how to ask a good opening question, and how to engage. A great staffer will override other flaws in your booth, such as an older exhibit, minor lack of cleanliness, unfamiliarity with your brand and so on.

With thousands of people walking the floor at a tradeshow, everything you do and everything that they can see in your booth space can influence their decision on whether or not they will stop. A small change can add up to a significant difference in your response rate. If you could increase your visitor rate by 20% just by having a clean booth, would that make a difference? If you could triple your leads by doubling the size of your booth space and installing a new exhibit, would that be worth it? I’ve seen it happen. Every little thing counts. So does every big thing. What is drawing visitors to your booth? And what is repelling them without you knowing? Take a closer look next time.


This blog post came thanks to an idea from Mel White at Classic Exhibits. Thanks!

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Gravitee “No Tools” Tradeshow Exhibit Demo

I got a chance to play a little with the new Classic Exhibits Gravitee “No Tools” Tradeshow Exhibit. Having a hands-on experience is better than reading about it. And if you can’t get a hands-on experience, you can at least see mine:

What about the type of graphics you might consider putting on Gravitee? Gravitee accepts both SEG Fabric and Direct Print Graphics, so take your pick.

Check out Gravitee at TradeshowGuy Exhibits’ Exhibit Design Search.

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Planning Your Tradeshow Booth: The Ultimate Checklist

This is a guest post by Marla Bracco.

Preparing for a tradeshow takes time and effort, which you may already know if you’ve participated in a tradeshow in the past. That being said, it helps to have a checklist on hand to make sure you get everything just right before the big day.

Below we’ve outlined the ultimate tradeshow booth checklist for you to use before your next show to boost your efficiency and marketing ROI.

Tradeshow exhibition space

Research the exhibitor space and show beforehand.

Do you know where your booth is located at the event? If you have the opportunity to pick your spot, think about selecting an area near the entrance where you can meet and greet people as soon as they walk in. Once you have your booth location nailed down, don’t forget to promote it. Advertising your presence at the event can drive more foot traffic.

Plan out your booth ahead of time.

You and your team should have a good idea of what type of graphics you will be using and how the space will be set up before the event. Will you have a custom exhibit or table top with a table cover? Will you have a booth backdrop? What about signage? These are all factors you’ll want to consider beforehand.

In addition, don’t forget about your marketing collateral. Your marketing team should have informational materials to give out to those who come by your booth and want to learn more about your products and services. After deciding on the right pieces, feature pamphlets prominently in literature stands or on tabletops so potential customers can easily grab them.

Engage in pre-show promotion.

Emails, social media, and direct mail are all ways you can drive traffic to your booth when the big day comes. Think about creating a marketing campaign centered around the trade show to raise awareness of your presence at the event before it officially kicks off. You can also often promote your presence with the organizers of the show itself whether that be via email or an advertisement in the conference agenda.

Come up with a plan to drive traffic to your booth.

Think about creating a giveaway program to encourage attendees to stop by your booth. Consider a raffle where you give away a prize on display at the actual event. An acrylic locked box can be used to hold the prize safely until it’s time to award it to the raffle winner.

You may also want to use tradeshow banners to drive traffic to your booth. If you want to go the extra mile, think about hosting a small event at your booth, such as a coffee hour, for networking with people who stop by your area. Finally, don’t forget about offering freebies to those who come by your booth. Marketing materials, such as branded pens and keychains, can help you stick out in the mind of booth visitors long after they drop by your stand.

Create a plan for collecting leads.

Will your team have lead scanners or will you be simply collecting business cards? These are questions you’ll want to have answered before the big day. Think about using a tablet to collect attendee information with a form that connects directly to your CRM system to streamline the lead collection process. Tablet stands and holders can be beneficial at your booth for this reason.

Final Thoughts

While planning a tradeshow does require a certain amount of flexibility, having this checklist on hand can give you the best chance at making the most of your marketing opportunity. Follow these tips and you’re sure to be off to a good start for your next show.


Marla Bracco is the content marketing manager for shopPOPdisplays where she focuses on content strategy and search engine marketing, designed to help the organization shape their web content around digital marketing objectives and priorities.


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

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Infographic: 9 Creative Tradeshow Exhibit Ideas

This is a guest post by Joe Robinson.

What’s the most memorable trade show exhibit you’ve ever seen?

I can recall two recent ones at a marketing conference that really stand out.

The first was a full on lounge with free coffee and breakfast, ample seating, and newspapers. It was a genius idea because it flowed so naturally from the event floor. I sat down and didn’t want to leave after a long day. I remember that.

The other one was an AWS exhibit by Amazon. Amazon not only dominated the floor with their main exhibit, but they had a second one with a full on classroom. Yes, this counts as an exhibit, and it was packed the brim the whole show.

Which exhibits do I not remember? Practically everything else.

The truth is, if you’re not one of the top displays at a show, you’re not going to be remembered months later.

Of course more goes into it than just the cosmetic design, but that’s where it begins. You can’t make your awesome connection with attendees, you can’t do the demos, and you can’t collect leads if you can’t even get people to pay attention.

This is especially true for up and coming businesses that don’t have the name to draw a crowd on it’s own.

The thing is, while cost is certainly a factor, many booths are boring due to corporate procedures and lack of time.

Your average event organizer is doing an awesome job – but quite frankly, just doesn’t have enough time.

Between scheduling staff, arranging flights, planning material for the show, and everything else, the trade show exhibit usually ends up being just good enough.

Let’s break out of that together. Starting now.

infographic - 9 creative tradeshow exhibit ideas
Tradeshow Exhibit Infographic: 9 Creative Booth Ideas


Joe is the marketing director of Coastal Creative – a San Diego-based design and printing company. He’s always on the look out for the next great marketing strategy – both online and offline. His favorite trade show tip is to make connections with celebrities in your industry that are hard to get ahold of online. Check out the original graphic here. 


 

7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 1, 2018: Jim Shelman

TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson and Jim Shelman, General Manager of Classic Rental Solutions, tackle the topic of #tradeshow #exhibit rentals: how they’ve changed, how to customize and much more on this week’s edition of the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee.

 

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Showtime’s documentary series The Trade.

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BizCommunication Guy Bill Lampton, Ph. D. Interviews TradeshowGuy

One of my favorite newsletters comes from Bill Lampton, Ph. D., otherwise known as the BizComunication Guy. When I invited him on to the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee several weeks ago, he offered to interview me for his weekly show as well. It was a pleasure to reciprocate. Bill is great interviewer and as you might imagine a professional communicator.

Check out Bill here.

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There’s Always a Tradeoff

When I first got into the exhibit industry in the early ‘00s, the company I was hired by, Interpretive Exhibits in Salem, was heavily involved in an exhibit for the Army Corps of Engineers. It was a permanent installation (still there) at The Dalles Dam in The Dalles, Oregon. The theme of the exhibit was “Tradeoffs” and it addresses the various parties involved in the needs and desires of the Columbia River. For every group that had in interest in utilizing the Columbia River as a resource, there was a tradeoff

of sorts. Sports fishermen, Native Americans and their fishing rights, shipping and transportation, recreation and so on – there were all sorts of groups that wanted something out of the river. The exhibit went into detail to explain each group’s interests and how they had to compromise, in a sense, to get a lot (but not all) of what they wanted.

That concept – the tradeoff – comes up in my mind frequently, and it can be applied to virtually anything that you are involved in.

Apply it to the tradeshow world: if you are willing to spend the money on a larger exhibit, the tradeoff is often that you must also be willing to hire a crew to setup and dismantle the exhibit, and you must be willing to pay more for shipping.

If you want an exhibit that can quickly be setup by one or two people, the tradeoff is that you must be willing to settle for a very simple design with limited bells and whistles and perhaps a lesser impact than something more complex.

If you want to have a professional presenter in your booth space pitching attendees several times an hour, the tradeoff is that not only do you need to invest in hiring that presenter, but you’ll need to make sure you have enough staff on hand to engage as many of those attendees as possible before they slip away.

It seems like we’re always giving up one thing to get another. We don’t live in a world where we have it all. Or a world where we have nothing at all.

We live in a world where we’re always calculating a tradeoff that works best for us.

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