I’ve had the pleasure of representing Classic Exhibits, based in Portland, Oregon, for several years. They produce great products and work diligently with customers and end users to give excellent value. They’ve exhibited at Exhibitor in Las Vegas for years, showing off great new exhibits that lead the industry.
This year could be different. When I got wind of their exhibit this year, I just had to investigate. After all, that’s what I do.
The tradeshow exhibit is at least 6 – 8 months away – have you considered your tradeshow marketing strategy? You’d better get started – that’s not that much time!
“Huh? Over half a year and I have to rush things?” you say…
No, I didn’t say RUSH things…I mean you have better get your stuff together because those six months are going to go by pretty quickly. And the last 2 months will go by like an Indy Racer if you haven’t spent the first four months working on it.
Face it: when people visit your tradeshow booth, they expect to see the BEST that your company has to offer. If you’re a manufacturer, your prep time may mean several meetings and coordination with your manufacturing division to make sure you’re showing off the BEST of your BEST.
Why would you want to go to a tradeshow and put anything but the BEST of the BEST you have to offer on display? This is the one time a year that those visitors get a chance to see your goods and services. They’re comparing YOUR BEST with the BEST of several other companies – perhaps dozens of other companies.
So plan to put on your best.
This means your best graphics. Your best exhibit. Your best product. Your best people. Your best lead-capturing system.
When you put your best out there, you’re competing on the same level as the rest of the exhibitors – your competitors. Face it, most of them (but not all) are putting on THEIR best face at the exhibit. So you’d better be putting on YOUR best, too.
The challenge, though, is that we’re all just humans. We all have crazy schedules and incessant demands. And given those demands, when push comes to shove putting on your BEST is often extremely difficult to do. That’s why it takes more effort than you really think it will.
So that gets you back to idea of starting NOW and not waiting another few months on your tradeshow marketing strategy. If you start now and determine WHAT you’ll need to do to put on your best, HOW you’re going to do it, and WHO is going to help you to make sure it’s going to get done, the odds increase that you’ll actually make it happen by the time the show rolls around.
And that gets back to the idea of loving care: if you approach the planning of your next tradeshow with loving care, you’ll cover all the bases you need to cover to ensure that you are putting on your best.
Start now. Give your tradeshow marketing strategy some good old-fashioned love.
Trade show booth flooring is often overlooked as an important trade show accessory. Yet, your exhibit area floor covering can play a vital role in furthering your company brand image, enhancing the overall booth design, and creating a welcoming environment that draws prospects into your booth.
Consider that you have invested a tremendous amount of time and money producing a beautiful, high-impact display. This includes carefully selecting your display layout and graphics, lighting, accessories, and promotional item to help ensure you maximize your effectiveness and achieve your objectives from show participation.
Rather than work with the concrete or other plain utilitarian flooring most exhibit halls feature, it will serve you well to go the extra step to design and order custom flooring that complements your exhibit. Your flooring contributes to making an impression that reflects the quality of your product, as well as plays a role in attracting visitors who want to learn more about your products.
For example, custom carpet with your logo sends a strong message of professionalism and character. Beautiful area rugs create a warm, inviting atmosphere that emanates comfort and service.
Bold colored carpets depict strength and cool colors like blue and gray create a professional and crisp environment. Your flooring also can be crafted with color changes and lines to help the traffic pattern in your booth.
Another consideration with your flooring is the padding beneath your carpets. A good pad adds comfort and makes it less tiring to be on your feet for hours at a time. While attendees may not notice, those working the exhibit will feel the difference and see the difference in the number of leads that are generated from your efforts.
This article was written by Jules Sowder, an executive marketing adviser. For more information, visit her online tradeshow guide designed to help exhibitors maximize success: http://www.Trade-Show-Advisor.com
As a long-time distributor of the Classic Exhibits line-up of tradeshow products, it’s great to see that there is now a ‘deep-well’ way to search out one of their exhibits for your specific exhibiting needs.
Exhibit Design Search (link here and also on the navigation bar above) takes you to the database of hundreds (if not thousands) of varieties of exhibits. These range from small accessories such as round graphic stands (definitely cool!) to large island exhibits – and everything in between.
To use Design Search, just click on the link and head to the site. Here’s where you’ll find the opening page which is designed to let you intuitively and quickly find what you’re looking for. If you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s a great browsing tool.
Along the way you can view the Top 12 exhibits, catch a Photo Gallery, see what exhibits can be quickly shipped if you’re in a hurry, check out the Specials and even browse the dozens of Tradeshow Tip articles.
Beneath each exhibit rendering you’ll see a link labeled “Add to My Gallery” – when you click that you start to create your own line-up of favorites or exhibits you want to save and review closer later. It’s a great way to share with other team members to get their feedback.
The drop-down menus allow you to filter your search using price points, booth size and lead times – as well as give you the opportunity to do a text search.
Now all of that by itself would be pretty damn cool. Almost awesome.
But here’s what takes the Design Search tool to the next level: the burgeoning P_5_D photo gallery. P_5_D stands for ‘Past 5 Days’ and it is an on-going stream of photos of exhibits that go out the door.
Not only does this let you see what other clients are interested in (and have put $$ down on), it allows you to see how each one of them has possibly made adjustments and alterations to a standard exhibit. A great way to help generate ideas, eh? Plus: each photo is of something REAL that was actually created – not just a computer rendering of what something is SUPPOSED to look like. Getting a chance to see the real stuff shows you how it would look in your booth.
And if you check the drop-down navigation under the ‘View By Week’ tab you’ll see that the photo albums go all the way back to late 2006 – almost four years of product that has gone out the door to happy customers.
All in all, Exhibit Design Search is a fun way to waste a bunch of time AND look like you’re working at the same time. So if your boss comes in you can tell her that you’re researching the company’s new exhibit possibilities.
And hey, chances are pretty darn good you’ll find something that will exactly fit what you had in mind!
Bored at the tradeshow? Here’s a list of things to do that will lively up your experience!
I remember in my early days in radio a record promoter once told me that she loved my enthusiasm and willingness to drive 50 miles to see an unknown band that she was promoting. “So many of the other music directors I talk to are getting jaded…”
Whether you’re an exhibit or an attendee and you’ve been doing it for a long time, you might ask yourself: Am I Getting JADED?
Next time you’re at a tradeshow, take this list with you. Maybe by doing a few of these things it’ll help break you out of a rut (okay…some of these will take a little more preparation and execution before the show…but use ’em as inspirational thought-starters if nothing else).
Before leaving your office spend some time on Twitter compiling a list of people at the show that are Tweeters. Make a list of who they are and what booth they’re at. Stop by the booth and tell them you found ‘em on Twitter.
Draw attention to yourself and your company. If appropriate, wear a goofy hat, a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, Homer Simpson slippers. Anything unusual is a conversation starter.
Pick up literature from as many booths as possible. Read it that night in your hotel. Make notes about questions you’d like to ask. Go back to the booth and ask.
Take a Flip video camera and ask visitors to explain why they stopped by your booth. Or take it around the floor on your break and get a few comments from other exhibitors about the show and what their experience is at the show.
Take a camera. Take lots of photos. If you see a cool booth, ask permission for a photo first. If you connect with someone via Facebook or Twitter, be sure to take their photo and post it online.
Bring chocolates and instead of putting them in a bowl at your booth, hand them out as you go from booth to booth to other exhibitors. Tape your business card onto the chocolates.
Buy a half-dozen thumb drives and put your company information – brochures, current press releases, catalogs, website, etc. – on it and have it ready to hand out to a few well-qualified media contacts or potential clients.
Sit down with a professional radio person (!), have them interview you about your company. Create an audio CD with a nice label and title such as “All You Ever Wanted to Know About XYZ Company” or “The Inner Secrets of the XYZ Company Widget” and make a couple of dozen copies. Put a label on them that says “limited edition” and make sure that you qualify anyone you give them to.
If you typically don’t go to seminars, pick at least two and go to them. If you typically attend seminars, find one with an unusual title that you might not attend and go to it.
Make a note immediately on any business card you collect from a person (not a card you just picked up from a table). Write down a pertinent part of the conversation, a future follow-up or an item that will make you remember them. By the time you get back to your hotel, you’ll have forgotten what they even look like.
Are you typically a bit shy? Break that habit. Talk to people in buffet lines, restaurants, elevators. Come up with a few questions you can ask to break the ice. Have fun: these people don’t know you’re shy!
If you typically spend the day working the booth and greeting visitors, arrange your schedule so you get at least an hour or two to walk the show floor and schmooze with other exhibitors, especially those that might be potential partners and those that you would consider competitors.
Talk to a show organizer and ask her how this show compares to previous years…or find some other topic of conversation.
Bring three times as many business cards as you think you might need.
Go to the city’s visitor center and see what kinds of fun things you can do in your off-hours.
See how many booths you can walk by before a booth staffer invites you in.
Look up old friends in the event city using Facebook or Twitter and connect with them.
Smile at everyone. Even if they aren’t smiling at you.
Have a contest with fellow staffers to see if you can get visitors to say the magic word of the day. Those of us old enough might even remember this came from Groucho Marx’s ‘You Bet Your Life.’
Take notes about how much food costs. Hot dog and coke – $14!? Compare notes with fellow staffers. Boo and hiss the high prices.
Ask other exhibitors what they paid for drayage and shipping. Compare notes.
See if you can set up your booth before your neighbor.
Go a whole day without eating restaurant food by taking food snacks such as energy bars, fruit, trail mix, etc.
Bring a small white board. Write a Haiku poem about your company or product on it. Invite your visitors to add their Haiku.
Practice Extreme Customer Service. As if you were a Disney employee.
If the speaker at your seminar or breakout session is boring, create a game where you write down every word he says that begins with the letter M. Or T. Or draw a cartoon of the speaker. Post it on Twitter.
Ask other visitors what they do for fun. Take notes and incorporate their ideas into yours.
What ideas do you have to break those long days into more fun? Share!
The latest issue of Exhibitor Magazine hit my mailbox last week, highlighted by their annual look at industry cost averages.
Now I’m not going to throw all of their numbers out for you. If you want ’em all, check out their website or buy the magazine. They usually release the current online version a few weeks after the paper version has been out.
But I do want to take a gander at a few of the numbers in general terms.
A few of the main figures that we always work with our clients and prospects here at Interpretive Exhibits are: industry average cost for custom booths, inline booths, and design and fabrication.
Several years back I compiled a short list from various sources, and the averages were something like this (figures from 2000 – 2002):
Average cost for new, custom construction:
Island: $130 per square foot
In-Line: $1,230 per linear foot
Average cost for exhibit design (hourly): $80 – $85
Average cost for graphic design (hourly): $70 – $75
According to the figures just released in the November 2009 issue of Exhibitor Magazine, rates are up approximately 25% since the beginning of the decade, or less than 3% per year. According to data from InflationData.com, the yearly average from 2000 – 2008 is 2.89%.
The figures through September of 2009 shows mostly negative inflation, and those figures were not included – but obviously they would pull the 10-year average down.
Conclusion: Nothing really surprising here – actually I would view the figures as somewhat encouraging as some of the basic costs of designing and fabricating a custom booth are in line with inflation.
Without giving out the actual figures compiled by Exhibit Magazine – after all, they did the work and until they post them online I don’t think it’s fair to jump the shark with their specific numbers – it appears that the key figures we track in the exhibit industry have risen in line with other prices.
PS. When Exhibitor releases those numbers online, I’ll look to post a link do you can review all of the figures.
I was in Salt Lake City last Monday the 20th through Friday the 24th attending the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009 show, thanks to Dean and the great guys at Lifelines. Now if I can only convince the powers that be that I need to be there in January to review the same show. Just because I’d…uh…like to see the area with snow on the mountains. That’s it! Got nothing to do with the fact I’ve been a skier since the age of seven…nope.
Unfortunately I was unable to blog during the show, so I made notes to gather my thoughts for a post-show post. Did manage a few tweets from the show from the busy bank of PCs at @tradeshowguy.
First thing at the show was to respond to several of the tweeters that were doing things to draw people to their booths, like Sole Shoes, who were offering a pair of ‘platinum sandals’ to the first dozen people to come to the booth to say ‘It’s Your Sole!’ Which I did, and they did. Also chatted with some great folks at @ENDFootwear from Portland…not sure who is the Tweeter there, though.
Impossible to keep up with all the promotions; you can’t be everywhere at all times. But there were some standout in-booth events/promotions that caught my eye (as well as many of the attendees):
Keen Shoes of Portland: taking photos of people and pinning them to a large bulletin board where they answered the question: where would you like to travel in your Hybrid Life (promoting their hybrid life shoes)? My answer? Jamaica. After collecting names and handing out buttons for three days, Keen gave away $1500 to someone to help them make that trip. No, I didn’t win! During the same time period they gave away the grand prize, Keen also sold a couple of styles of their sandals for $35 (about half price) with all proceeds going to a fund-raiser.
GoPro sport camera did a rather loud promotion several times throughout the show, which I stumbled across twice. The founder of the company (don’t think he mentioned his name!) is a natural promoter, getting his crowds to shout out the product name several times. Of course, handing out a couple of dozen GoPro cameras over the course of a few days doesn’t hurt, either!
Aquapac had several great nature photos on display and ended up giving a handful away on Thursday afternoon before the big run-up to the grand prize of a Baja Mexico whale-watching trip.
Booth size and layout
Not having been to Outdoor Retail before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But after walking the floor for an hour, the most obvious thing is that large companies here like LARGE booths, enclosed walls on 3 or 4 sides, second stories and lots of display space. A 100′ x 60′ was not uncommon.
Green exhibit construction was also at the forefront, with graphics printed or mounted on cardboard; recovered wood used as booth walls (from barns or old houses); cardboard tubes, and even booths cobbled together from wire fencing, bike frames, small trees – you name it, this show has it. I came away with a strong impression that most of the companies involved are very aware of the impact on the environment of their booth-building choices.
Dogs and Kids
Yes, ORSM09 is a dog and kid-friendly show. Lots of dogs and lots of friends. Even ran across a post from @theclimbergirl as she highlighted the ‘Dog of the Day.’
Perhaps no term is more hyped and less understood in the exhibit industry than “Hybrid.” System manufacturers and custom builders are describing their latest and greatest designs as portable hybrids, modular, hybrids, even custom hybrids. Why the emphasis on this term? The answer is simple: value. More than ever, exhibitors are demanding displays that do everything – assemble quickly, look custom, ship light, and reconfigure. Just a few years ago that was impossible, but not now.
If you’ve spent any time walking a trade show recently, you’ve noticed the profusion of aluminum and tension fabric graphics. In a nutshell, those are the building blocks of hybrid displays. Aluminum is attractive, structural, and lightweight. Tension fabric is vibrant, durable, and cost-effective. Together they serve as the creative backbone for displays priced from $4,000 to $250,000.
But what makes them hybrids? Putting them in context with traditional displays will make the explanation clearer. For the past 30 years, the world of portable or modular displays has been dominated by pop ups, panel displays, and modular laminate exhibits. These are “systems” with defined configurations, components, and accessories. Custom exhibits, on the other hand, have offered endless design possibilities since they were built primarily from wood.
Hybrids merge those two worlds and are less systems than concepts. Hybrids start with aluminum extrusion (such as Octonorm or MODUL) and tension fabric. Beyond that, the design can be anything and can include anything. There are portable hybrids consisting of an aluminum extrusion frame and tension fabric graphics, which pack in roto-molded wheeled cases. There are modular hybrids which add modular laminate components and pack in roto-molded tubs or small crates. And there are custom hybrids which combine extrusion with just about anything else – metal, wood, plex, glass, and sometimes even portable or modular systems. As with all custom exhibits, it comes down to whatever fulfills the design and marketing requirements for the client.
Hybrids may not be the ideal for solution for everyone. For many exhibitors, a basic pop up or full custom makes more sense for their exhibit marketing goals. However, hybrid exhibits are here to stay until there is a replacement the versatility of aluminum extrusions and the bold impact of tension fabric graphics.
Ready for a new custom booth, but don’t know where to start? You might consider putting together an RFP (Request for Proposal) and sending it to 3 – 5 exhibit fabricators.
Whatever your approach, make sure you have an internal company discussion that addresses your booth needs: size, branding, budget, function (needs may include display tables, food serving areas, AV equipment, laptop stations, etc.), transportation (what shows will you attend?), storage, extra signage, interactive items, etc.
Since you’re creating a custom exhibit that you’ll use for years, take your time: after every show, make notes about what works and what doesn’t with your current exhibit. Document what your employees and visitors say. Hold project meetings, get staff input and keep a file.
When it’s time to issue the RFP, make it as thorough as possible. Issue the RFP to a handful of exhibit house, be upfront about how many companies you’ve invited to respond, and make sure the budget and timetable are realistic for what you want. If you can pull that off the chances of creating a fabulous exhibit has increased a hundredfold!