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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Stranger in a Strange Land: the New World of Tradeshows

If you’re a fan of Robert Heinlein’s classic science fiction book “Stranger in a Strange Land,” you know the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who was born on Mars, raised by Martians, and comes to Earth in early adulthood. He ends up in a political power struggle and as the title suggests, he’s a little lost in the whole thing.

I sense that many people are feeling a similar way when it comes to returning to the tradeshow floor. Exhibit designers, builders and exhibitors are looking to the future when things will return to normal and they can get back to the action of exhibiting and all that entails.

Except…

This morning I see a post in a tradeshow group on Facebook that a client has canceled an appearance in an upcoming show in early August. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the resurgence of the delta variant of the virus and the continued resistance by a significant portion of the population to getting vaccinated.

Another commented that they also had a cancellation at the same show, and a second cancellation by another client at another show in October. Also due to uncertainty of the virus numbers.

But for some exhibitors who are looking at shows in late October, the assumption is that everything will be fine and they’re proceeding with plans for new exhibits. So they’re forging ahead on designs and are getting ready to put significant money down on new exhibits.

I get the sense that with all the players involved – organizers, exhibitors, attendees, designers, fabricators, labor and support services – no one is sure of which way to jump, and unfortunately we’ll all have to jump several times before we learn where we’re going to land.

In the TV show “Billions,” one of the questions that come up now and then is: “Are you certain?” And the response is meant to be “I am not uncertain.”

But I don’t think anyone has much certainty right now about the tradeshow world and when it might return to normal. Or even settle into a “new normal,” which will be different but at least predictable.


The “If I Get Hit By a Bus” List for Tradeshow Marketing Managers

I tend to make a lot of lists. Not as many as I used to (maybe I think I have enough lists by now!), but I still write things down. You’d think this makes me organized, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Several years ago, not long after I got married, I sat down and wrote out a comprehensive emergency “If I Get Hit By a Bus” list. It’s self-explanatory: it’s where my wife can find all of those things she needs if the worst were to happen: passwords for phones, computers, websites and more; will, important papers, all of that stuff.

I realized over the weekend that I should probably update the list soon because things change. Some old info drops off, new stuff is added. But then I thought: should tradeshow managers do the same thing? After all, there are a lot of moving parts in tradeshow marketing.

Hey, life is unpredictable. Things happen that you haven’t planned for. Most of us really don’t spend much time thinking about the worst thing that could happen. And subsequently, that means we really aren’t prepared for it, at least not as much as we could be.

What should be on your list? It may vary from person to person, and company to company, but here are a number of things that come to mind:

  • List of shows: Include booth sizes, dates, locations.
  • Vendors: who handles your exhibit; who designs graphic updates, who prints them? Who fixes your exhibit when it needs repairs?
  • Service providers at the show: while many companies use show services at the venue, many also bring in outside exhibitor-approved contractors to set up and dismantle the booth. Or print something on demand in a quick turnaround.
  • Personnel: Who went to what shows, what their duties were. Who’s still with you, who might have left. Contact information.
  • Where files are kept: tradeshows generate paperwork, either digitally or actual paper. If they’re kept on a server, note the location. Same with your work computer. Same with your file drawers.
  • How much things cost: similar to keeping track of paperwork, but building a spreadsheet to track costs from show to show and year to year can also be of great use.
  • Exhibit details: size of booth at particular shows. Size of graphics (you’ll be updating them frequently); number of crates, storage location, what shipper you generally use, along with contact information on those various entities. Names and phone numbers are always a good thing.
  • Social Media access credentials: whether you handle these personally or not, if you’re involved or if there is to be social media engagement from the show floor, add those login details to your list.

Once you have your list, give a copy to your immediate boss, or to someone on your team you trust that will use it if necessary. You should be good to go for another year or so before updating it.

Eco-Smart Sustainable Tradeshow Exhibits via TradeshowGuy Exhibits

Not only do exhibitors care about the environment, but they also want to have exhibits fabricated in an eco-friendly way – AND let their clientele know about their commitment to the environment.

That’s why here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve partnered with Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits for years. Many of our clients have requested eco-friendly exhibits, and we thought we should share this friendly and informative video to show you exactly what an ex-friendly exhibit is all about:


Find our selection of Eco-Systems exhibits here at TradeshowBuy.com.

And check the latest sell sheets (click to enlarge; then right-click to save):

Preparing for the Return of Tradeshows: What it Means to Your Wallet and Schedule

Inflation is kicking in, have you noticed? Have you recently tried to price a piece of plywood, for example? And no doubt you’re feeling it at the pump, too.

It’s affecting the cost of tradeshow exhibits and tradeshow marketing, too. In a recent Classic Conversation – where Classic Exhibits distributors gather monthly to share info and chat – much of the conversation was about rising prices. And it’s apparently affecting a lot of the marketplace. Prices are moving up, and time frames are also changing.

The Supply Line Blues

For example, when the pandemic hit, companies had to shed employees. Many were furloughed indefinitely, many were simply let go. Now that things are moving in the other direction, albeit slowly in many instances, companies are having to staff up again. And many are finding it challenging to get dependable people back into the workforce.

Also, supply lines are either clogged or pinched, or negatively affected, meaning that it takes longer to get the materials that you need. There’s a high demand where there was recently very little demand, which means that the ramping up of production is happening, and it doesn’t happen overnight. And shipping is taking longer than it used to. Much longer, depending on where things are coming from. If materials are coming from Asia, for instance, the broad stroke take is that shipping containers cost more and are harder to find, making shipping not only more expensive, but things are taking longer.

In the states, shipping times are expanding by a few days in some instances. Again, these are general observations, but people who handle shipping logistics agree that it’s taking longer to get things from Point A to Point B.

Other things to watch for

It’s been noted that in some locales, show services are being impacted. In a quick addendum to our regular monthly chat, someone observed that GES was allowing only their rental exhibits to be set up, and not allowing any EACs (Exhibitor Approved Contractors) onto the floor. Again, this seemed to be only in a few places, but it raises flags about how you should approach planning for your next show.

What to do:

Talk to your exhibit house: find out prices ahead of time; find out how long the quote will be good for (expect that 30 days is a likely limit).

Talk to your labor and show services contractors well ahead of the show so you are prepared for any changes that you may have to deal with for the upcoming show.

Download and read the show manuals from top to bottom and if you notice changes or have questions, take the time to reach out and get clarity on anything you’re uncertain about.

Finally, don’t wait until the last minute for any booth changes. Plan on adding an extra week or two or three to your design and production schedule. Show dates won’t move, and if you want any significant changes to your tradeshow booth, make sure your planning includes the extra time needed.


Symphony Portable Display Means No-Tool Elegance

Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve worked with Classic Exhibits in Portland as our main fabricator for many years and they continually impress us with their skill and creativity. Last year at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, they posted a thorough look at the Symphony No Tools Portable Display, going through each element one at a time. It’s a great look at an elegantly functional portable display:

Click to go straight to our Symphony Portable Display Selection!

Tradeshow Island Exhibit Conference and Meeting Area Suggestions

When you step up to a larger island booth and get away from the shorter inline configurations, your options for a private or semi-secluded conference or meeting area increase dramatically. You can go all the way from a private, enclosed space with opaque walls to more open meeting areas that, while open to the aisle, have a barrier of some sort, whether it’s a see-through wall such as a milk-plex or some arrangement of foliage or barrier that tells people “this is private.”

This topic came up recently during an initial conversation with a client who stated they wanted a private meeting area in the booth. That led to a discussion about what exactly they meant by “private.” Opaque walls? An area that is clearly delineated as a meeting area by invitation only? A second floor that would also clearly mean “invitation only”?

There are many approaches to creating a private or semi-private meeting area for you and your clients or prospects in a tradeshow exhibit, limited only by your imagination and budget. Here are a smattering of exhibits I’ve seen over the years that have various iterations of what a meeting area can look like.

Roadmap to Tradeshow Success

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Famous words, no doubt, and they certainly apply to any marketing endeavor you’re undertaking. If your goal is to simply appear at a tradeshow, you don’t have much of a roadmap. It might look something like this: rent a booth space, get an exhibit (doesn’t really matter what size or what it looks like); bring a few people from the office and talk to people that stumble across your booth.

Success! Of course, since you didn’t really have much of a plan, how could you fail?

On the other hand…

If you want to talk to bring home 300 leads, that requires a longer plan and a better road map. Setting a goal – any goal – immediately puts restrictions on your map. It forces you to go in a certain direction. And the good thing is that it makes you ask questions, such as:

  • How do we get enough people to our booth to collect 300 leads?
  • What kinds of leads do we want?
  • How do we qualify the leads?
  • What information do we want?
  • Do we need to do pre-show marketing to bring people to our booth? If so, what will that take?
  • How many people should we have in our booth?
  • How big of a booth do we need to support those people?
  • What will it cost to create that exhibit?

And so you. You get the idea. Sure, you can simply set up a booth, hand out a few brochures and samples and cross your fingers, but if you really want to bring home the bacon with a bagload of new prospects, it takes more than that.

It takes a roadmap that only you can put together, based only on what’s important to you.

If you want a little help, you could do worse than picking up my book Tradeshow Success. It’s got a pretty good roadmap planning guide, chapter by chapter.

But whatever you use, if you want to get somewhere, you need a map.

© Copyright 2016 | Oregon Blue Rock, LLC
Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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