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

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Is a Post-Pandemic Tradeshow Boom on the Horizon?

With the pandemic slowly winding down (fingers crossed), what does the future hold? I’m no prognosticator and I’m definitely not an economist, although I pay attention to a lot of what’s going on in the economy. Last summer, in a conversation with a colleague, we wondered aloud what it would mean for the tradeshow and exhibit industry when “normal” returned. At that time, we were only looking ahead a few months, but here it is at least two seasons later, and we’re still waiting for the new normal to return.

The country and much of the world are still slogging through high unemployment, many stores closing, restaurants on life support and little to no job growth. In monthly calls with tradeshow exhibit producers, sellers, and project managers, it’s clear that most vendors in the tradeshow world are still operating at a fraction of their full capabilities. And most still think that they won’t reach their full capabilities until sometime in 2022. Yes, Q3 and Q4 in 2021 should show some improvement, but it’ll be a slow go for months to come.

But, once things return, people are comfortable traveling and setting up exhibits and attending shows, what does that mean?

A recent article in the New York Times tagged a few economic markers they’re following, including a prediction by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia that US output will increase 4.5% this year, which if it happened, would be the best since 1999.

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Optimism is growing because of a number of things: coronavirus cases are dropping, vaccine rates are increasing, and oh, yeah, there are a few trillion dollars sloshing around in the economy and if the current administration wrangles their bill through Congress, another couple of trillion dollars will follow. Consumers are also sitting on trillions of dollars thanks to lockdown spending dips and more stimulus payments.

But what does that mean for the business world or, more specifically, the tradeshow world? It’s hard to get a handle on exact outcomes, no surprise, but experts point to the fact that in many industries – tradeshow world likely included – a number of companies simply haven’t survived, or they’ve been gobbled up by stronger competitors. Which means that there may not be as much competition.

The world of shows, events and conferences is also changing. Floor plans may change, especially if social distancing remains in effect in at least parts of the country, meaning different shapes and size availabilities for booth placement. Does that mean revised exhibits? New exhibits? Downsizing or upsizing? Who can say? Any change will likely mean exhibitors be willing to spend money for either revisions or brand-new properties. Fingers crossed for all of us in the supply side of the industry.

One final note: Marly Arnold of Image Specialist does a biweekly live 30-minute show that appears on her YouTube channel, and a recent conversation with Jim Wurm of Exhibit Designers and Producers Association talked about this very topic. On the YouTube page here, she lists a number of links that are worth looking at. Let me share just a couple:

From TSNN, ten predictions for meetings and events in 2021. Some of the predictions include: virtual isn’t going away once shows return to live venues; Las Vegas is coming back strong (no surprise); it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Northstar Meetings Group looks at which convention centers are open.

TSNN with another look at how bad the US hospitality and travel industries were pummeled since COVID-19 took hold.

Beyond the links from Marlys’ YouTube page, TSNN also posted this piece on how momentum is building in the tradeshow world.

From this vantage point, it seems like a boom is coming. The question is how big, how long and how much of it will reach us here in the tradeshow, event, and conference world.

Tradeshow Exhibit Customization Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

When I first speak with a new client about what they want in a new tradeshow exhibit, it usually comes down to one of two approaches. Either they want to start from scratch, in a sense, and have a good idea of the potential layout and scope of the exhibit, and they have a budget number in mind. Or, and this is the other extreme, they want to pick out a kit from our catalog and make do, mainly to save budget dollars.

There’s nothing wrong with either approach. Every company has a different agenda when it comes to a new exhibit.

The former approach means everything is custom from the git-go. A designer is brought in, conversations are had about brand attributes and guidelines, and the designer is basically turned loose. These are typically the bigger budget projects where, from the start, the designer is encouraged to cut loose, to try several approaches and show a number of structures with different traffic flow patterns, demo areas, meeting areas and so on. From that, the client decides on one (or two) that work best for them, and the design is refined until it’s ready.

The other approach, where the client is typically working with a more limited budget, starts with a kit from our Exhibit Design Search at TradeshowBuy.com. More often than not, the client believes that the kit as shown in the renderings is the final design.

That rarely happens. Once the conversation starts, the questions begin. Can we add a counter? What about shelves? We need shelves. And something to sit at. And that panel isn’t big enough, what if we made it bigger.

The answers are yes, yes, and yes. Kits get customized, almost all the time. With new clients, there is a bit of a learning curve, but once they realize that even if they start with a kit, that doesn’t mean they’re stuck with everything that’s show. Kits are good starting points to get what clients really want, which is most often a customized version.

A good thing to keep in mind when starting from scratch, especially if your budget is pointing you in the direction of a kit. That kit can be revised, reduced or enlarged in size, configured to fit in more than one final setup (10×10, 10×20, 10×30 for example). Accessories can be added, freestanding graphics or tables can become a part. And those additions don’t have to be out of the catalog, either. Often a client will have custom-built tables that include their logo and additional lighting effects to make them stand out.

If you’re shopping for a new exhibit in 2021 and your budget is pointing you towards something out of a catalog, starting with a kit makes sense. But you don’t have to (and probably won’t) stay there.


End of Year Price Drops

The tradeshow and event industry has been gasping for air for months and months. Exhibitors are putting off investing in new exhibits while wondering if they’re even going to appear at any shows in 2021.

In steps Classic Exhibits, our main exhibit manufacturer, with a little help: a price drop on safety dividers and rental! Not to mention, a trio of eco-friendly sustainable exhibits: a 10×10, a 10×20 and a 2020 island. Let’s take a look. Click to enlarge. Find the links below to download the PDFs.


10 Reasons to Change Tradeshow Exhibit Houses: Video:

Hiring an exhibit house is a big task. It’s a commitment to a business relationship that, ideally, you’d like to keep in place for years. But everything must come to an end, and there may come a time when it makes sense to consider changing exhibit houses. Here’s my quick video that looks at ten situations that may warrant that consideration:


16 Things You Can Do in a Virtual Tradeshow Exhibit

The use of virtual tradeshow exhibits may not be exploding, although my sense is that it is increasing. Some big tradeshows have gone completely virtual for the next year or so, maybe longer, depending on the depth and breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Which leaves exhibitors in a bit of a quandary: what to do about virtual exhibits. Should you invest in one? Should you just wait out the pandemic and hope you can get back to live tradeshows in the next six to twelve months?

And if you are seriously considering a virtual exhibit, it’s important to consider all of the various things you can do in the exhibit. I’ve seen a few virtual exhibits lately, and there is a wide variety in the approach. Some exhibitors have chosen the simple, let’s-keep-the-cost-down approach. Others have tried to throw everything in but the kitchen sink.

As an aside, one exhibit maker I spoke with recently said that a recent client of theirs did a virtual exhibit and found that at the virtual tradeshow, they experienced a 700% increase in leads for a fraction of the cost of appearing at a live show. My eyes opened at that stat, and while it’s impressive, it’s likely not going to be a common experience for every virtual exhibitor. But it does demonstrate that there is a lot of potential in virtual tradeshows if you plan ane execute well.

Having said that, there are a number of ways to get engagement at virtual tradeshows. The first is crucial: make sure that potential visitors know about your virtual tradeshow exhibit so that they are prepared, put it on their calendar, and have expectations.

The second is to build the expectations and prepare for them by putting specific things in your virtual tradeshow booth that visitors want. Things they’ll respond to, interact with, and share with others.

From that starting point, the question remains: what should be in your virtual exhibit? There are many answers, and your company’s specific needs should help frame the answer. Here are a lot of the things, perhaps not all, that could go into your exhibit. Keep in mind that each piece will add to your overall cost, much like a 3D real world exhibit, and that each piece of content, such as videos or white papers or PDF reports, all will take time and money to create. Before finalizing your plan, create a budget based on all of the pieces you think are necessary to make your virtual tradeshow booth a success.

Here are a number of things you can and should consider:

  1. Product Demos
  2. A place to collect visitor’s contact information
  3. Download Center (PDFs, coupons, sales sheets, special reports, etc.)
  4. Archived video
  5. Live stream video
  6. Live chat
  7. Booth tour
  8. Schedule a meeting
  9. Learn about your company
  10. Learn about new products
  11. Give people the ability to share things on social media
  12. Steer people to your social media outlets
  13. Leave an audio or video message

No doubt if you put your mind to it, you can come up with more. What am I missing?


14 Dumb Things Tradeshow Exhibitors Do: Video

Are you guilty of any of these? Don’t feel bad. We’re only human, but if we know ahead of time what things to know, what to avoid and how to prepare, we can have a much better and more successful tradeshow exhibiting experience.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 21, 2020: Kevin Carty – Virtual Exhibits

I’ve had Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits on a handful of times this year for various discussions related to dealing with the COVID Pandemic, how they’re dealing with it and more. But this week I wanted to catch up with Kevin to learn more about virtual exhibits: how they’re working their way into designing and implementing exhibits for clients, and how exhibitors can think about and approach a possible virtual exhibit for their own use:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Rain. Sorely needed here on the west coast with all the forest fires still burning. We got a good dose of rain late last week and while it didn’t put the fires out, it gave firefighters a good helping hand.


Subscribe to TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee on Apple Podcasts here.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Tradeshow Marketing here, where the vlog version of the podcast appears weekly.

Awareness Can Lead to Tradeshow Success: Video

The simple act of being aware of what’s going on can transform an average exhibiting experience into a successful one. Here’s a quick video on what you things you might want to be more aware of next time you’re exhibiting.


http://tradeshowbuy.com

How Personal is Your Tradeshow Exhibit?

What kind of question is that, anyway? How personal is your tradeshow exhibit? An exhibit should be the best representation of a brand, which is aimed at a broad market. Isn’t that correct? If that’s the case, it has to have the right graphics with the right messaging. Any images should be chosen to reflect the best your product and brand have to offer. And if all that is true – and I suppose it is – how can your exhibit be personal?

Selling is Personal

Except…selling today is personal. People want to know that you care about them. The challenge is that people don’t really care about your product or service. When it comes to your products, they care about themselves, and themselves only. How do your products or services affect them – personally? The messaging should relate to what they’re going through. As we slowly move back to the tradeshow world with exhibits and face-to-face meetings and larger gatherings, every person is going to have a slightly – or perhaps significantly – different perception of what they need or want. And they’ll have some level of anxiety or distress or challenge in moving forward.

So how do you help them…now? How does your product or service help them…now? What do they need…now?

Your challenge isn’t that you don’t know how to present your products or services. No, your challenge is that you need to understand what’s going on in the mind of your customers and prospects. And the only way to learn that is to ask. In a sense, your tradeshow exhibit should be an invitation to join them. An invitation to walk into their space. Make them feel safe and wanted. There are a million ways to do that. I’m do designer, but I do know how I feel when I walk into a space that welcomes me. With people around that want to see me, and not just to sell me something, but to understand where I’m coming from. And frankly, that’s kind of rare. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee, or a warm smile. Maybe it’s an image that they can relate to that doesn’t look like it’s been chosen out of a stock photo library. Or if it has, it resonates with them.

What makes people buy?

When they finally get to a place where they feel understood. Where they feel you “get” them. Where they feel comfortable and wanted. It’s a bit like belonging to a tribe, but it’s more than that. And less.

It’s personal. What is it your customer wants?

Be creative in how you interact with people. Be creative in how you uncover what’s important to your clients. Learn from them. Then design your next tradeshow exhibit based on what you learned.

It’s not going to be easy. But it’ll be worth it.


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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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