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.
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.
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.
Yes, tradeshows are going virtual. They have been for some time, and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many shows into the digital world that might not have done so as quickly. Just a cursory search on Twitter with the hashtag #tradeshow gives you a bunch of shows that are moving to online.
The Consumer Electronics Show recently announced they’re going virtual for the next go-around. Others are following suit. In discussion with industry managers and exhibitors, the feeling is that, frankly, no one knows when “normal” will return and exactly what it will look like. There are certainly efforts to get things off the ground, like the recent Together Again Expo, a tradeshow industry event in Orlando last month.
But overall, shows are still being cancelled and / or postponed.
For example, the Snow & Ice Symposium (there’s such a thing?) has gone all virtual. Just add ice to your glass! (Click the images below: it’ll take you to the original tweet in a new tab).
Here’s another virtual expo that I’m not sure about:
Even shows overseas are going by the wayside thanks to the pandemic:
And many more, to be sure. The state of the events, conference and tradeshow industry is upside down, but it looks like many shows are going digital as best as they can. It’ll be interesting to see how the shows unfold and to see how, even when face-to-face shows return, how virtual aspects will remain. And how many exhibits and attendees will show up. And when.
What’s it like to be a tradeshow exhibit manufacturer in the age of a COVID-19 pandemic? Turns out there are a number of creative things that can be done with exhibit building blocks. Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits joins me on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee to discuss the world of exhibits:
In speaking with industry veterans, consultants and experts, I’m starting to get the feeling that normal may not return for a long time, if ever, on the tradeshow floor.
First, let’s admit that the tradeshow world is a continuously evolving entity, and that what’s normal in one year may look a little odd just a year or two later.
Social media exploded over a couple of years. Now it’s common for companies to post photos and videos of their tradeshow experiences on social media. In fact, it’s just one of many ways that exhibitors leverage online presence.
In 2019 at NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), an experiment was under way to shift how exhibitors understood and paid for show labor and drayage. For all we know, that might have been the start of a new way of looking at tradeshow logistic costs and how they are calculated. Time will tell.
Now with social distancing appearing to be the norm for the foreseeable future, some show locations may insist (as might the exhibitors and attendees) that new protocols come into play, such as temperature checks, masks, distancing, limited attendance, greater space between booths, wider aisles. All of this will put pressure on profits and incomes; with fewer people and fewer exhibitors, it’ll be harder to show a profit.
And it’ll also put pressure on marketers, those creative types that are competing for attention along with every other exhibitor. Just showing up, setting up your exhibit, doing a few in-booth activities and giveaways, like many exhibitors have been doing for years, simply won’t cut it. In a recent interview with Marlys Arnold of Exhibit Marketer’s Café, she observed that disruptors will be the ones who get noticed. She also said that with shows coming back and audience attendance down, it’s likely that the quality of the visitors will increase. They’ll absolutely want to be there because it’s important. There’ll a higher percentage of buyers than in the past. And one other change that Marlys felt was important is that pre-show marketing will be even more critical than before.
Virtual tradeshows have blossomed in the past few months. Keynotes, break-out sessions, exhibitor presentations and more are taking the place, at least temporarily, of physical shows. And most observers I’ve talked to seem to believe that the virtual aspects of shows will stick around, even when we’re back to the physical world.
But here in the interim, marketers and tradeshow industry companies have time on their hands – time that is likely being used to adapt, learn new skills and reinvent themselves. With COVID-19 still coursing through the world, physical tradeshows will come back in fits and starts. Some observers have said that “normal” business may not be back until 2022 or 2023. We hope that is not the case. Sooner is better than later, because many people’s livelihoods are on the line.
Our main exhibit design and fabricator, Classic Exhibits, offers up four new galleries with what looks like a significant addition to Exhibit Design Search. Here are the four new galleries:
PlaceLyft Office Solutions
Hand Sanitizer Stands
There’s also a new Interactive Gallery, further down the front page. I asked Mel White, VP of Marketing and Business Development with Classic Exhibits, to characterize the changes:
COVID-19 has forced most businesses to review their work environments as they plan for their employees to return. What they’ve realized is that most, if not all offices or retail spaces, do not protect employees from airborne or surface viruses. Deciding on next steps, however, can be confusing (and expensive) for many organizations.
The Contemporary Office and Retail Solutions galleries in EDS are designed to make those decisions easier. The four galleries show attractive and cost-effective solutions for any office or retail environment. They include office partitions with easily sanitize-able surfaces, protective safety barriers, durable hand sanitizer stands, and customizable LED lightboxes. There are no hidden prices, and the designs can be customized to any situation.
All the products are designed, engineered, and manufactured in the USA by a 27-year old Portland-based company.