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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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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Expo West ’19 Diary: Setup Days

Seeing “backstage” at any tradeshow lets you peek at the chaos of what it takes to put on the show. Backstage at a huge show such as Natural Products Expo West, with over 3500 exhibitors, multiplies that by several factors.

But when you’re personally involved in coordinating and executing the setup of a handful of exhibits for new and veteran clients, it can be exhilarating, exhausting and patience-testing.

But we pulled it off!

We are glad to introduce a handful of new clients this year, including Wildbrine, Organixx, and Hop Tea. We also did a new 10×40 project and coordinated the setup for a veteran client, Schmidt’s, and coordinated the setup of others, including Wedderspoon Manuka Honey and Dave’s Killer Bread. A long-time client that goes back over a dozen years, Hyland’s Homeopathic, finally shed their fabulous but aging Koa wood exhibit for a striking single plant photo blown up to 20′ x 8′. Crazy. Watch this space and our Twitter and Instagram accounts for photos of these and other exhibitors at Expo West.

We knew going into the show that there were opportunities for things to go sideways. That’s not abnormal in the tradeshow world, but this year it seemed to be multiplied. Due to the design and fabrication timeline of many of our new clients, and the coordination of incoming flooring freight from one of our vendors, we ended up shipping most of the new builds straight to show site. Not something we usually do. But it meant that many of the trucks carrying our freight spent hours in line getting crates unloaded. And of course, our last project of the two-day setup day, Schmidt’s Naturals, we weren’t scheduled to start setting up the exhibit until 3 pm on the day before the show opens. Which lead to a crazy chaotic dance with the freight logistics manager getting crates delivered in a timely manner (they weren’t, even though we could see them out the back door of the convention center for a few hours prior to them being delivered).

But as they say, all’s well that ends well. Once the crates were delivered, our crew jumped on the installation and cranked it out in about three hours, pretty impressive given that it was a new 10×40 exhibit with a lot of lightboxes.

Kudos to all of our partners: Classic Exhibits, who designed built most of our new projects (Schmidt’s, Wildbrine, Organixx); TimbrandMoss, who designed and built the Hop Tea exhibit; Eagle Management (and Stacy, our account executive who was relentless in working to make things happen in a timely manner); Brumark, who printed the custom flooring for two exhibits and provided flooring for another; Orbus, who printed the high-quality backdrop for Hyland’s. I also want to give out a shoutout to all of the GES folks I encountered along the way, who were exceedingly patient and proficient and made things happen very quickly.

While this seems like a lot, at least to me, I can only assume that other exhibit houses with many more clients are experiencing the same things on a much larger scale. Having said that, it was pretty substantial for us and helps start what we hope will be a great 2019.

Check out a few backstage photos:

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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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A Word or Two on Tradeshow Crate Shipping

I’ve been chatting and emailing with clients and shipping companies this week to schedule pickups and deliveries of crates for tradeshows. Perhaps it’s time to share some notes and thoughts that have come up in those conversations.

Some of our newer clients have previously worked with shipping cases with wheels that are much smaller and can be maneuvered by a single individual, and shipped via UPS or FedEx, and can often be checked on an airplane. Moving to large, forklift-required crates is a step out of their comfort zone and working with a good shipping company or an experienced tradeshow exhibit house is a must to get questions answered and reduce mystification about the whole process.

One critical piece of information that shipping companies want to know to provide an accurate estimate is the weight and size of the shipping crates. While shipping crates vary in weight and size, most of the crates we work with are approximately 8’ H x 4’ D x 4’ W and weigh between 800 and 1200 pounds. Which means they are expensive to ship and need a forklift to move them around. But if your crate is similar and you don’t know the exact size and weight, if you give them that information you can at least get an estimate that will be in the ballpark.

And what about branding your truck trailer?

When delivering to the advance warehouse, the advantage is that you know your crates have arrived safe and sound and in plenty of time. If you’re shipping direct to show site, many shows have targeted freight move-in which means that the truck must arrive on the right day at the right time to make the delivery. Bigger shows often have a separate marshalling yard where the trucks must first check-in prior to making the delivery to the show site. And when shipping to a show site, your driver may have to sit and wait for several hours while on the clock prior to delivering. Typically that doesn’t happen when shipping to the advance warehouse as they are receiving freight spread out over several weeks.

When delivering to the advance warehouse, you’ll incur material handling (drayage) charges based on the actual weight of the shipment. For example, in Anaheim at the Natural Products Expo West, material handling for booth materials runs to $112.50 per CWT (per hundred pounds) (carpeting is charged at $180 CWT), and if the crates arrive after the deadline, a surcharge of 30% is levied when all is said and done.

Some shipments may incur special handling charges, which include ground loading, side door loading, constricted space loading, designated piece loading, stacked, cubed-out or loose shipments, multiple shipments, mixed shipments, improper delivery receipts, and uncrated shipments.  Having a shipper walk you how to prepare your shipment properly can help avoid additional costs.

Over the last few years I’ve had numerous shipping companies reach out to me to pitch their services. Yes, there are a lot of shippers, and they’re all looking for more business! I’ve gotten quotes at times, and rates vary but not a lot. Some companies ship tradeshow-only goods and tout their higher levels of service. Shipping your tradeshow exhibit crates can run up the bill, but combine materials (send products in a crate with your booth instead of sending a separate crate, for example), make sure it’s all clearly marked, and work with an exhibit house or shipping company that can assist you if need be.

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10 Reasons to Change Exhibit Houses

Most companies we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits work with one exhibit house for several years, and the urge to change doesn’t come around much. Maybe you’ve been comfortable or years, but something changes. Could be minor, could be major. But it does happen. People change, goals change, situations change. Changing vendors can be challenging and pose a set of challenges. Lots of people are uncomfortable with change and prefer to stick with something even though it’s a good idea to at least look around.

When doing your evaluation, look at all options. One option might mean staying with your current vendor. But when evaluating, make one list with those that are considered competent service providers and those that might be looked at as critical partners.

What reasons might you have – valid reasons – for shopping around for another exhibit house? Let’s take a look at some things that might come up.

Your needs and goals have changed. It may be that you’re working with an exhibit house that excels in smaller exhibits, such as inline modular booths, but you want something custom. Turns out that your current vendor may be able to do what you want, but it’s a stretch. Or perhaps you want more, such as a coordinated tradeshow marketing strategy with planning and execution, and all your current vendor does is design and fabricate exhibits.

Their designers aren’t thinking out of the box like you’d like. Exhibits can get really wild and weird, believe me. I’m sure you’ve seen them! But if the exhibit house you currently work with has a group of in-house designers that seem to stick with the tried-and-true, and never really show you something wacky, it might be time to find another designer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to move on from the same fabricator, it may just mean bringing in an outside designer.

Lack of Communication. Do you hear from your exhibit house only when you reach out to them for something? Or do they stay in communication frequently even though a show is not currently pending?

Problems with Delivery. In the tradeshow world, deadlines run the show. Does your exhibit house meet deadlines without breaking a sweat, or do you feel that they’re struggling – which means you’re anxious much of the time? The most reliable vendors can hit a bump in the road on occasion, but if that happens do they communicate that to you? Or is the failure to deliver consistently a trend in the wrong direction?

Change exhibit house

They take you for granted. Big exhibit houses are equipped to handle everything from small in-lines to gigantic island booths that spill out of a show’s floor, it seems. If you’re one of their small customers, it may be that they just assume you’re well-taken care of without really checking. Sometimes a lack of communication tells you that they have other priorities.

Poor Service. If a company really wants and values your business, you’ll see it in their service. There shouldn’t be invoice errors, lack of attention to detail, slow response time.

The person that’s handled your account has moved on. The new person doesn’t really “get” you. It may mean that you have to work to get to know them better. But as the account manager, that falls more heavily on them to retain the business than it does on you.

Personality clash. This could be anything (politics, religion, brusqueness, and so on). It may not mean it’s time to move on. It may just mean you need to deal with another person at the company.

Pricing. Not only what is the price, but what are you getting for the money? Some vendors are great at providing a basic service at a good price. Others may be more skilled with more resources who can creatively collaborate, but that may come at a cost you’re not quite ready for. An unexpected price increase may also spur a change. Price increase happen, everyone does it over time. But if a price increase is coming on things that you normally purchase from your exhibit house (graphics, labor for repairs and upgrades, etc.) and you aren’t informed ahead of time, that is not good business.

Culture. Maybe not as big a deal if you’re not actually working for a company, when it would be a really big deal. But sometimes that culture doesn’t transfer well and if it makes everyone uncomfortable and awkward, it might be time to move on.

There are a lot of reasons that companies are not a good fit. And there’s no wrong answers. There are a lot of exhibit houses out there vying for your business. We hate to turn business down, but it happens because for whatever reason, it’s not a good fit.

free tradeshow exhibit quotes
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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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