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

Custom tradeshow booth

6 Cool Custom Exhibit Designs up for Grabs

In the world of custom exhibit design, there are so many possibilities that any good exhibit designer will never run out of ways to put things together. Companies want a lot of the same things, such as product demo or display areas, meeting and storage areas and generous branding space.

We often have conference calls with prospects and clients with our designers, and from those discussions come mockup designs. Once a potential design is reviewed, changes are often made to accommodate functional needs and create more graphic branding opportunities. Or whatever. Designs, until they are built, are always a work in progress. Even after a custom exhibit design is built and used at a tradeshow, companies will often make changes between shows to flooring, graphics, and add storage, tables or chairs based on their experience with the exhibit at a show.

Given all of that, I have a ton of design mockups lurking on my hard drive. Many are from-scratch custom designs and others are modifications of kits that exist in Exhibit Design Search.

Let’s take a look at a handful of them and see what issues might have come up.

Starting with:

Tintri: Invited to submit a design for a 30×30 rental booth at a Las Vegas tradeshow this summer. Challenges: need 6 demo stations, a meeting area, and use an existing hanging sign.

Sweetleaf: invited to respond to an RFP for a 20×20 design that would use elements of the larger design for a 10×20 to appear at smaller shows. Needs: some sample areas, but not too many, and modest product display. Partly private meeting areas desired.

Fasoo: another RFP we were invited to respond to. Client was looking for a 20×30 design with a large A/V area, small staging area for in-booth presentations, and three double-sided demo stations, also a separate meeting area for clients and prospects. Hanging sign optional but desired if it fit the budget.

Hyland’s: a current client was interested in upgrading their current exhibit and was looking to streamline the older wood look with smaller product display area, a single meeting area, and a greeting counter with some storage.

Stahbush Farms: wanted an exhibit that could have elements that would set up as a 10×10, 10×20 or 10×30 depending on the show. Needed sampling areas, storage and large branding graphic. Wanted a wooden, ‘farm-like’ image, but should be able to break down to smaller pieces for shipping.

Unnamed company: we were invited to respond to an RFP for a company that made those little pull handles for beer taps. It was a larger island of 30×60 that would leave a lot of room for people to congregate and give ample space for showing off the pull handles. Also wanted a bar-like area, and if possible, a private storage closet or meeting area. This is an unbranded concept that the potential client chose to keep anonymous, but the unused design is certainly up for grabs if you want to stick your name on it!

These are all great designs and for one reason or another, remain unbuilt. But they’re up for grabs if they intrigue you and your marketing team and feel that they could be modified to fit your needs. What do you think?


Designs by Classic Exhibits and Greg Garrett Designs

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Tradeshow Exhibit Flooring: The Answer You Seek is at Your Feet

When it comes to standing out in a crowd, don’t look up, look at the flooring under your feet. Look down. Have you ever walked a tradeshow floor and did nothing for fifteen minutes but look at the flooring an exhibitor is using in their booth? In many cases, you can’t ignore the floor. It’s quite an education on the use of a variety of flooring options for today’s exhibitors. If you’re not taking advantage of any of them, it’s a sure bet that many of your competitors are.

One example of a client we work with, Schmidt’s Naturals, has used custom printed flooring in both of their recent Expo West presentations, and to say it helped their exhibit stand out is an understatement. With the ability to print custom graphics and messaging on the floor gives you a (no pun intended) leg up on the competition.

Another client, Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley, didn’t use custom printed flooring, but instead chose to separate the two brands in a 10×30 space by using one type of flooring (printed vinyl) for one brand and another type (black carpet) for the other brand. Great way to distinguish the two brands in a single space.

Printed carpet is also available, using the dye-sub technology to add branding to the soft carpet below your feet.

Another approach that draws attention to your booth space is to raise the floor by two or three inches. I hear this is very common in Europe. The edges in this case will often have a slanted walkway or entry to help visitors avoid tripping hazards. Raised flooring also lets you take care of all wire management underneath the flooring, and it’s easy to change out the surface from show to show.

Whatever you decide on flooring, there are multiple opportunities that should be considered to give yourself a visual edge in drawing attention of attendees.

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TradeshowGuy Expo West 2018 Exhibit Awards

Welcome to the (perhaps) annual TradeshowGuy Expo West 2018 Exhibit Awards, where I totally (almost) at random, pick out a handful of the 3600+ exhibits at the Natural Products Expo West show and give them a little notoriety here on the TradeshowGuy Blog!

A couple of caveats: I’m not including any current clients of TradeshowGuy Exhibits – they’re already award winners in our book, and we don’t want this fun post to be biased towards, you know, clients! Besides, we’ve already posted photos of those exhibits.

So, let’s get started!

Best Big Brand Makeover: Kettle Foods

Kettle Foods started out as a small nut and chip maker in Salem, Oregon. In the past ten years or so the company has been bought and sold a handful of times and is currently operated as one of the major brands of the Snyder’s-Lance product suite. The island exhibit shows great color and ingenuity in piecing together many elements of the Kettle Brand.

Best Client-Made Exhibit: Stahlbush Farms

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with the good folks at Stahlbush Farms, near Corvallis, Oregon, for several years. But when it came time to do a new booth, it finally came down to having their own fabrication shop create it. It’s built using crates that double as counters, and everything fits neatly into a couple of crates. Nicely done!

Best Kitchen Sink Exhibit – DanoneWave

I think they used to be White Wave, but now it’s DanoneWave, still offering brands under the Silk, Dannon, Oikos, SoDelicious, Wallaby Organic and many others. I’ve always stopped by their booths over the years and chatted and tasted and this year was no exception. There’s a lot going on here: carts, hot air balloons, colorful images, detailed woodwork, a random vehicle or three – seriously, you can just walk around the thing for fifteen minutes taking it in!

Best Retro Motor Vehicle Use – Hansen’s

A cool psychedelically painted hippie van? Ff course! There are a lot of vehicles that show up in booth spaces at Expo West, but this one catches your eyes like no other.

Best Photo Op – Enjoy Life

Enjoy Life has seen their exhibit grow significantly in the last few years, from a small inline to a dominating island. This year they showed of a pseudo-underwater photo alley that invited people to shoot and share. Yes, there were a lot of photo ops throughout the show, but this made the biggest impression.

Best Rustic Exhibit – Kodiak Cakes

Kodiak Cakes of Park City, Utah, also had a great photo op section of their booth space, but I felt that the rest of the exhibit was more impressive. Beyond the photo op section was a forest, a lookout-like building and a wall of photos of booth visitors. A fun-loving and lively crew, too, passing out samples like crazy.

Best Simple Yet Powerful Statement Exhibit – Kashi

Last year, Kashi caught eyes with a simple statement with no brand ambassadors, no sampling – just a simple statement to support farmers in their transition to organic farming. This year they made a similar statement with a slightly modified exhibit. Powerful stuff.

Best Split Exhibit – Aqua Carpatica

Downstairs in the busy ballroom at Expo West, it’s a little hard to stand out. But Aqua Carpatica of Romania booked two 10×20 spaces across the aisle from each other and dominated the space with a spare, almost ascetic approach to pitch the cleanliness of their water. It was capped by a giant video screen, around 8 x 12 feet, and some tables and chairs – but not much else. Very attention-getting!

Best Tribute to a Fallen Comrade – Clif Bar

I met John Anthony over a decade ago when Kettle Foods was a client, and John worked for them. A fun and engaging guy to talk to, he moved to Clif Bar, Nature’s Path, UNFI and CLIF’s White Road Investments. I was having lunch with an old Kettle Foods friend a few months prior to Expo West and mentioned that I’d run into John at the 2017 show. He said he’d heard that John had died unexpectedly in the fall of 2017. Clif Bar did a nice job in their tribute:

All right – on that note, we’ll wrap up this year’s TradeshowGuy Expo West Exhibit Awards. Hope you enjoyed. Sorry if we missed your booth – but hey, there were over 3,600 exhibitors this year. Maybe next year!

Check last year’s awards here.

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The New Tradeshow Exhibit Classic: the LED Fabric Back Wall

It used to be that the tradeshow exhibit classic was the curved pop-up back wall. It was quick and easy to setup, looked good and did what you wanted it to: gave you a respectable presence at a tradeshow booth in a 10×10 space.

That’s old. Now the new tradeshow exhibit classic booth is the LED fabric back wall, or light box. Dang, they look good. Here’s why.

tradeshow exhibit classic
SEG backlit fabric back walls in Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley 10×40 custom tradeshow exhibit.

First, a fabric back wall is dominated by the SEG – silicone edge graphics – that are gorgeously printed using dye-sublimation. Then a thin silicone stop is sewn around the edge of the graphic, which is installed by inserting the silicone strip into a small channel in the facing edge of the frame. The SEG graphic is the main part of the new tradeshow exhibit classic, and the flexibility that comes with it makes it the new classic.

For starters, the graphic can be printed at any size. The frame can be made at virtually any size that fits in your booth space. The beauty of the flexibility is that you can add counters, closets, shelves, monitors or other items in and around the fabric back wall to create a unique exhibit.

But wait, there’s more!

The SEG graphic can be a free-standing unit, or it can mount to a wall, such as in a corporate conference or entrance, or it can be hung from the ceiling.

Now, let’s add another great feature: LED backlighting. The technology of LED lighting has improved drastically in the past decade, and the cost has plummeted, it seems that hardly anyone ever uses halogen lighting at tradeshows any more. The LED lights are inserted into the aluminum extrusion frame and, with the addition of an opaque white backside “blocker,” the light is spread evenly throughout the graphic.

With the technological advance in fabrics and printing, the printers who are keeping up with the current wave are able to offer extremely high-quality printing (blacks are BLACK, reds are RED!) on high-quality fabric to give you printing that is hard to distinguish from printing on paper.

tradeshow exhibit classic

Depending on your printing vendor, you can create giant fabric graphics up to 16’ high and as wide as you’d like with no seam. Finally, fabric (and the aluminum frame) can be recycled, and it will store and ship in small containers, saving you money all down the line.


Take a look at SEG options here.

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TradeshowGuy Exhibits at Expo West

Fifteen years ago, my very first client, Kettle Foods, made an appearance at Natural Products Expo West with a custom 20×20 exhibit. Since then, I’ve been back every year, many times with new clients, and updated exhibits with current clients. Kettle Foods, by the way, has been sold at least three times since the old days and the brand is now owned and managed by Snyder’s-Lance.

A few years after that, I worked with Bob’s Red Mill to debut a new 20×20 island. Since then, we’ve created a new 30×30 exhibit, which has since increased to a 30×40. The Bob’s Red Mill marketing team is on top of updates every year with new graphics to promote new products.

This year we saw expanded and/or upgraded versions of current clients. Schmidt’s Naturals of Portland (recently acquired by Unilever), kept the same size, but added some custom product display units, and washed away the previous gray-ish look and brought forward their new array of stunning colors.

Schmidt's Naturals

Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley increased the size of their exhibit from 10×30 to 10×40, adding new backlit graphics and a new custom greeting counter with LED-highlights.

Dave's Killer Bread at Expo West

Wedderspoon Manuka Honey increased the size of their exhibit from 10×20 to 10×30, adding in new fabric graphics to their wooden display shelving units. We also fabricated a new hexagon shaped, LED highlighted, charging table (reportedly it was loved by visitors as they sat and talked business). A new 60″ monitor capped it off.

Wedderspoon Manuka Honey at Expo West

 


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Natural Products Expo West: Day Two

Random thoughts, observations and photos from walking the floor, test-tasting the products, and chatting with people on day two of the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim:

It’s a mental thing. But as much as I feel I should restrain myself from eating too many samples, you seriously can’t hold back. There are so damn many good foods on display for test-tasting that you just can’t not try them. I’m a sucker for great chocolates, sweets, and similar concoctions. Frankly, it’s overwhelming. Having said that, I’m getting tired of energy bars.  I stopped eating them on a regular basis a couple of years ago (too many calories for my diet!), and it’s hard to find ones that I really want. There are also a lot of prepared foods that I bypass. We don’t eat microwave foods at my house, and none of those types of foods really appeal to me after so much good home-cooking.

Non-food items – skin care, hair care, supplements and the like – all are very popular, and many caught my eye. One of our clients, Wedderspoon, added to their line of New Zealand Manuka Honey tasty treats by introducing cleansers, hand creams, body lotion and more – all very good stuff.

This is also the first year that I paid much attention to pet products. It’s because, for the first time in decades, I’m able to live with a pet (say Hi, Scruffy!). So yes, I grabbed a couple of samples for the four-legged member of our household. We’ll see how he likes them!

Speaking of our clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we love supporting them and showing them off. Bob’s Red Mill, Schmidt’s Naturals, Wedderspoon Manuka Honey, Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley, and Hyland’s are all off to a great show. So many of the companies we’ve worked with are at an interesting spot in their growth: new products, growing bottom line, expanding exhibits means an expanding and more mature presence at Expo West. It also means, in a sense, moving out of their comfort zone. It means hiring installation/dismantle crews now to set up the exhibit when a previous smaller exhibit was set up by company employees. More complexity also means a more powerful presence and impact. But the end result in all cases has been a client that’s pleased with how the exhibit looks to their customers – which is the most important things to us.

Also got a chance to meet and chat with Nicky Omoundro of Little Family Adventure who is one of the official Expo West bloggers – and who will be on the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee vlog/podcast in the not too distant future to talk about her experiences here!

Ready for Day Three! Thanks, but I’ll bypass the yoga in the plaza this morning (I already did my ten minutes upon arising) and head straight for the coffee.

 

 

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How to Stand Out at a Tradeshow

One of your biggest tradeshow marketing challenges is how to stand out at a tradeshow. Every other exhibitor is vying for the attention of visitors, so not only are you trying to grab the attention of the eyeballs and mind of a visitor, but every other exhibitor there is looking to do the same thing.

To stand out, you have to be unique. Or if not unique, you have to execute the various properties of your exhibit in such a way that you catch eyeballs.

What is unique? It’s something that no one has thought of before. An exhibit that I saw in the last year at Expo West in Anaheim was nothing more than a large “1%” that dominated the entirety of the booth. In the booth, by Kashi, there was a small sign that explained that the 1% referred to the amount of organic farmland in the US. That unique approach, along with well-informed booth staff, made for a presence that really stood out.

stand out at the tradeshow

Another way is to have an exhibit that represents your brand so well that frankly, no other exhibitor could have that exhibit. If you’re familiar with Bob’s Red Mill, you know that their brand is the iconic face of Bob Moore, and a red mill. Their exhibit shows that red mill down to the T. Bob Moore, in his late 80s, still represents the brand at the bigger shows, signs books, gives them away, and poses for pictures. Another way the company stands out at Expo West is when Bob and a small Dixieland band make an entrance every morning, marching throughout the show floor, finally ending at the booth.

stand out at the tradeshow

Other exhibitors stand out by having unique hands-on activities, mascots, celebrities (in the industry), unusual giveaways and more.

Standing out is critical to getting attention. What can you do to stand out?

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Nine Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Custom Tradeshow Exhibit

It’s a big commitment, investing in a custom tradeshow exhibit. Maybe not as much as getting married or buying a new house, but it’s more than deciding who should accompany you to the prom. It’s a big deal – buying a new custom exhibit. If you haven’t been through the process before, or in a while, it’s not a bad idea to review the steps.

What are the pros and cons of the decision? What about budget, logistics, staff preparation and more? They’ll all be impacted by the purchase of a custom tradeshow exhibit.

Some of the pros and cons to weigh before choosing between purchasing a custom tradeshow exhibit or a more standard, modular or manufactured exhibit.

  1. Uniqueness: A custom tradeshow exhibit means that your company will have a unique, one-of-a-kind presentation. No one else will look like (if the designer does his job!). Your designer starts with a blank slate and before doing anything on the slate they should ask a lot of questions. They should ask so many that you may wish they’d stop! But it’s all good – it means they care about creating an exhibit that you really want; one that works well for your company from many aspects: the look and feel, the branding, and the functionality.
  2. Flexibility: A custom exhibit can be designed and fabricated form the outset to accommodate a variety of needs and intended uses. For instance, if you have an exhibit schedule that demands you exhibit in a 10×20 space in one show, a 10×20 space in another show, and a 20×20 in yet another show, your exhibit components can be designed to work in all three configurations.
    Custom Tradeshow Exhibit
  3. Pride of Ownership: A custom exhibit will give you those intangibles: pride of ownership, unique corporate identity and a feeling that can’t be beat, from the CEO to the front-line staffers!
  4. Other Options: Of course, you have options other than custom, especially when it comes to smaller exhibits, such as 10×10 or 10×20 inline exhibits. There is pop-up, modular, flat-panel, fabric panels, fabric back-lit walls, monitor inset options and more. There are custom hybrids that take elements of modular designs and add unique twists that help you stand out – maybe for less money than designing and fabricating a custom exhibit from scratch.
  5. Logistics: Drayage, Shipping and Installation & Dismantle: It seems that nothing can torpedo your tradeshow marketing budget faster than logistics. Shipping, show drayage and the costs to install and dismantle your exhibit are often seen as nothing short of highway robbery. But in the tradeshow world, it’s a cost of playing the game. So, what can you do from the design and fabrication standpoint to keep these costs as low as possible? Using lightweight materials such as fabric graphics and aluminum framing can help. Knowing how to set up your own small exhibit can help you avoid having to pay an I&D company, but there are tradeoffs. You’re either paying your own crew for their time, or you’re paying the pros.
  6. Custom Look, Function and Branding: The main reason to consider a custom exhibit is that, after all is said and done, you want a booth that looks like no other. If your company handcrafts potato chips, for example, uses biodiesel fuel, donates to charitable causes, mitigates wetlands on the site of a new factory, works a staying green by invoking heavy use of solar energy, you have a solid idea of how you want your exhibit to reflect those values as part of your brand.
  7. Design/Fabrication: One question that pops up on occasion: is it important to have the same company that designs your booth fabricate it? Not necessarily. But having the design and the fabrication shop right next door means communication is smoother and more efficient. Some independent designers will gladly create a custom design that is guaranteed to wow your audience. But many may not have as much experience designing using specific materials that an exhibit house typically uses. They may also not have as much experience at knowing how much things cost. Having an exhibit project manager in close communication with the designer can help keep the design within budget.
  8. Pricing: Budget is often the key element of a new exhibit project, and creating a custom exhibit will often drive the cost higher than picking something that’s more “off the shelf.” Those standard-issue exhibits will, in most cases, cost less than a similarly sized custom exhibit. But that doesn’t mean your custom exhibit has to cost an arm and a leg. Taking time to go through the process carefully helps rein in those costs. Know what your needs are, communicate those needs to your exhibit house, and make sure they are aware of your budget. Confirm all steps of the design and reviews, all the way through to fabrication.
  9. Learning Curve: Many companies that step up from a small modular booth to a custom booth will go through a few growing pains. It’s not uncommon. They’re spending more money, they’re having to deal with higher shipping costs, I&D, and their staff now has a larger space to deal with. But ultimately, every company I’ve worked with that has gone through the process unanimously report it was well worth it. Partners, clients, prospects, and even competitors see them as bigger players in the industry. Higher respect and recognition are your due.

There is a tremendous benefit to your company when your tradeshow marketing moves to a significantly higher level. Tradeshow marketing is by far one of the most cost-effective, highly targeted methods of reaching your potential customers and maintaining strong relations with your current clients.


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Schmidt’s Naturals Up for Exhibitor Portable/Modular Award

A year ago, our new client Schmidt’s Naturals debuted a new custom 10×20 at the Natural Products Expo West. It was a custom exhibit designed by Classic Exhibits‘ designer Kim DiStefano. The design was submitted to Exhibitor Magazine’s annual Portable/Modular Awards, which honor design excellence in portable, modular and system exhibits. Here’s what it looked like on the floor of Expo West:

Exhibitor Portable Modular Award Entrant

A couple of years ago, one of our clients, SoYoung, was a winner in the competition. We’re glad that Schmidt’s Naturals got the nomination and we wish them the best when the winners are announced in late winter at ExhibitorLIVE!

We’d like to invite you to see all of the entrants in the Exhibitor Portable/Modular Awards take a look here and vote your favorite. And remember, you can vote once per day until the competition closes.

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5 Great Rental Exhibits that Look Custom

One of the ongoing debates I’ve heard since I joined the exhibit industry in early 2002 was this: which is better: a rental exhibit or an exhibit that you purchase to own?

There’s no right answer. Your situation may warrant one or the other. The other part of the debate I always heard is that once you rent two or three times, you have paid the full purchase price. That’s not always true, but it’s a good starting point.

One of our clients is based in Manhattan. They exhibit twice a year, often back to back. They don’t have room for storing the exhibit at their location. They don’t always have the same size exhibit, bouncing from a ten-foot exhibit to a twenty-foot inline. So renting makes perfect sense for them.

Other clients prefer the total customization that they couldn’t get from a rental exhibit. Buying makes sense to them. They can still change out graphics whenever they want, and they have the flexibility to use different versions of the booth in different situations without having to buy more parts.

And other clients use a combination of a purchased exhibit and rental pieces, such as renting a branded charging table and furniture to go with their purchased exhibit.

Just for fun, let’s take a look at some of the rentals that TradeshowGuy Exhibits offers that can be customized depending on your needs.

First things first. Recently we’ve added some options to our Exhibit Design Search that shows you which exhibits can be either purchased or rented. Just browse any segment and look for the small checkmark and RENT icon in the upper left corner.

For example, this 10’ inline exhibit, the VK-1971, offers back lit fabric graphics. It also comes in 20’ versions.

VK-1971 10' inline rent or purchase
VK-1971 10′ inline rent or purchase

Moving up to a 20’ inline you’ll find the ECO-2012-C | EcoFly which is also available as a rental or an outright purchase. Tension fabric graphics, frosted accent wings, standoff counters and more.

ECO-2012-C EcoFLy
ECO-2012-C EcoFLy

Heading up a little more to a 20×20 island exhibit, the ECO-4022 | Hybrid S Island works as either a rental or purchase option. Big tension fabric graphics, literature racks, monitor mounts, and yes, that big high graphic blaring out your brand.

ECO-4022 Hybrid S Island
ECO-4022 Hybrid S Island

At number 4, our Gravitee “no tools no kidding” exhibit gives you that RE-2051 | Gravitee Inline. Large format tension fabric or direct print graphics. Full size closet and a simple spare look. And easy to set up and take down.

RE-2051 Gravitee Inline
RE-2051 Gravitee Inline

And since 10×20 rentals are very popular, let’s look at one more: the RE-2059 Hybrid Inline. Loads of great things in this for small gatherings: closet with locking door, reception counter, iPad clamshell, metal brochure holders, large tension fabric graphics and more.

RE-2059 Hybrid Inline
RE-2059 Hybrid Inline

It used to be that rental exhibits were not the kind you’d want to show off much, but just get one to save some money and make an appearance. No more. Rentals have really come into their own.

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