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

Fun

Tradeshow Blog Listings: A Short List

No doubt there are over a million tradeshow blogs dedicated to just the single topic of tradeshow marketing, wouldn’t you say? More? Less? No matter how you add them up, it seems like a lot. And now and then I peruse the Google machine to see what new listings show up. Not to brag, but what’s interesting to me is that this blog – the TradeshowGuyBlog – shows up on a few of these lists. Nice! Let’s review:

And a couple blogs that I land on frequently include:

So…go blog wild!

Let Freedom Ring

Here on the USA’s Fourth of July Independence Day, let’s let freedom ring and celebrate in the tradeshow world.

No matter your political, economic or social stripes, I have no doubt you could make the case that our freedoms are under fire from many directions. But in the USA we still have the freedom to make the best case we can for our products and services: things we have put our careers on the line for and our talents to the test.

Let Freedom Ring

So let’s celebrate.

Celebrate your ability to go anywhere for any reason in this country to promote your business, products and services.

Let freedom ring and celebrate the willingness of buyers to show up at your tradeshow booth and palaver about your products, perhaps placing an order or making arrangements for a future discussion.

Celebrate the freedom to pitch your products in retail stores, online and through industry-focused tradeshows.

Celebrate your ability to hire the best people you can find to create those products and help market them at the tradeshow of your choice.

With freedom comes responsibility: you have the freedom to exhibit as modestly or extravagantly as you can. You also have the responsibility to present the best image that you and your team can assemble based on your ability and resources. You have the responsibility to squeeze the most out of those talents and resources as you can muster.

As an American, I have the freedom (and responsibility) to quibble about the way our country is run, and no doubt if you and got together over a beer we’d find we disagreed on a lot. But I would be that we’d probably agree on more than we disagree on.

So let’s let freedom ring and celebrate our diversity – and what we have in common – today.

Tradeshow Tweets

When’s the last time you searched for #tradeshow tweets on Twitter? Let’s have a little fun and see what people are tweeting about:

The power of socializing at a tradeshow:

A quick look at #ASD in Vegas:

A good question to ask:

Finishing the show up in Chicago!

Another successful show:

Well, this is big!

Sure, I’ll publish a photo of a Tesla anytime:

Fun video:

Attracting a crowd is important!

A rare moment of being able to sit down!

And finally, let’s grab an international travel checklist:

Natural Products Expo West TradeshowGuy Exhibit Awards

Walking the floor of the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, one is overwhelmed by the sheer number of tradeshow exhibitors and visitors. According to New Hope, the organization that puts on the show, there were over 80,000 visitors this year, and over 3,100 exhibitors.

That’s a lot of bone broth, honey, yogurt, Paleo diets and chocolate. Oh, the chocolate!

But there are literally tons of tradeshow exhibits, many of which stand out in unique ways. Let’s capture a few of these and call them out for service and recognition above and beyond.

Best Use of Bodily Function Statistics: GoodBelly

I watched as visitor after visitor stopped at the side of the GoodBelly exhibit and snapped a photo of The Poop Report, an infographic compiled from a survey of over 3000 people who visited the GoodBelly website.

The Poop Report: Good Belly
The Poop Report: Good Belly

Best Long Form Screenplay, er, uh, Exhibit: BabyGanics

BabyGanics have traditionally occupied an odd-shaped island space for years in the convention center, so I was a bit surprised to see that space occupied by another exhibit. It took a moment of spinning on my heels, but I did eventually find the 60′ (70′? 80′?) long exhibit. Just an inline exhibit, but they jammed a lot of longevity and functionality into the space.

BabyGanics Goes Looong!
BabyGanics Goes Looong!

Best Makeover: Nancy’s Yogurt

This booth is near and dear to my heart: it’s the second exhibit project I ever sold when I got into the business 15 years ago. So this is nearly 15 years old. For years, the booth has had the same look and feel. But a laminate makeover gave it an entirely new look and feel. In fact, I admit at first glance I thought it was an entirely new exhibit! But not the case – just a quick re-skin for a whole new look:

Nancy's Yogurt Before and After
Nancy’s Yogurt Before and After

Best Lettuce on a Wall: Indoor Farms of America

Inside Farms of America had a simple concept: show people what they do, and as a result it’s an eye-catching and ‘stop-in-your-tracks’ effect:

Best Lettuce Wall
Best Lettuce Wall

Best Minimalist Exhibit: Kashi

Kashi’s <1% display got people talking and snapping photos. It’s nothing but a large space with a hanging sign, the <1% display and, when you read the fine print, you discover their message about organic farmlands. Effectively done:

Best Minimalist Exhibit: Kashi
Best Minimalist Exhibit: Kashi

Best Use of Cactus Wisdom for Interactivity: Steaz Tea

There’s nothing like handing out cards with pre-printed fortunes to get people to line up. I know I did. Clever, interactive, and engaging in a fun way – a perfect fit for Expo West:

Steaz Teas Interactive Fortune-Telling Cactus
Steaz Teas Interactive Fortune-Telling Cactus

Seriously, I could go on forever with fun and silly awards for exhibits at Expo West: it’s a place with a lot of creativity. Yes, you’ll find uncreative low-budget exhibits that should (and probably did) embarrass the exhibitors, but what’s the fun in pointing those out? They know who they are, and they know when it’s time to upgrade. So let’s go with just one more that caught my eye:

Best Photo-Op Exhibit: StonyField Yogurt

A large painting on a wall and floor made it look like you’re standing in a bowl of yogurt, if photographed at the right angle. So I joined in. Lots of people waiting for their turn here throughout the show:

Best Interactive Photo-Op: Stonyfield Yogurt
Best Interactive Photo-Op: Stonyfield Yogurt

The Day I Wore Red Pants

As a kid, I was pretty shy. In junior high school, it was an ongoing goal of mine to NOT stand out in the crowd but to blend in. Which made it pretty odd that one day while clothes shopping with my mom I saw this awesome pair of red pants. Bright red. Fire engine red. You could see them a mile away. These were designed to make one stand out in a crowd. Up to this point, my wardrobe mostly consisted of blue jeans and athletic shorts, with maybe a pair or two of dress pants for Sunday School.

red pants

I told mom I wanted them. I thought there were some of the coolest pants I’d ever seen and had to have them.

Junior high school is a nutty time of life, exceeded only by high school in some ways. Crazy mid-adolescence, cheerleader crushes, chaperoned dances, the whole thing.

I had new red pants to wear and I wanted to do it! But when I wore them, I didn’t think they were the coolest pair of pants I’d ever seen. In fact, I imagined everyone staring at me. I felt so self-conscious I couldn’t handle it. If I ever wore those cool red pants again, I don’t remember it.

I suppose I could draw some parallels between red pants and tradeshow marketing but you could probably do it better. I just figured the story was worth sharing. You should know what you’re getting into before putting on red pants.

Lesson learned: I still dress pretty conservatively today except for the half-dozen tie-dye shirts I have, but hey, I like tie-dye!

Someday remind me to tell you about the platform shoes I owned in the 9th grade.

7 Kinds of Exhibits to Look for at the Tradeshow

There are hundreds of styles and types of exhibits at tradeshows, but in my estimation you can reduce them to just a handful of ‘kinds’ of exhibits. Do you recognize these?

  1. Super-Duper Over-the-Top Big Tent Exhibit. You know these kind. This exhibit has a hanging sign, a dozen or more people working the booth who are wearing matching tees or tops, are handing out samples and generally trying to be the ‘big dog’ in their niche. And with this kind or exhibit, they usually succeed.
  2. 7 Kinds of Exhibits to Look for at the Tradeshow

    Large Format Well-Branded Exhibit. Most likely an island, but you can tell in an instant who the exhibitor is. Highly professional. The staff is smiling, greeting everyone appropriately. Kicking ass and taking names.

  3. Something New. Often an inline exhibit from a company that changes it up frequently. Some companies take the same exhibit year after year after year. There are some exhibitors, however, that bring a brand new look almost every year. These are companies that are challenging their competitors and the status quo.
  4. Same Old Exhibit. Just referenced in last paragraph. The company that doesn’t even bother to change their sign from year to year even though a casual observer can tell they should probably do some updating.
  5. The Kluge Exhibit. Creativity run amok, where a (usually) small company has a couple of creative folks who take bicycle parts, discarded barn wood or whatever and somehow manage to come up with an exhibit that knocks your socks off. What are they selling again?
  6. Basic. Lots of companies start here. There’s not a lot of creativity, but simplicity is important and the message is clear.
  7. The WTF exhibit. Poorly executed graphics with unclear messaging, bored-looking staffers. It makes you wonder WTF are they doing at the show?!

Next time you walk the show floor, see how many of each kind of exhibits you can identify! And if you can add to our list, feel free to drop a comment!

Before You Attend a Tradeshow, Read This!

Why should you read this before you attend a tradeshow?

First, let’s assume you’ve never been to a quality industry show that’s packed full of exhibitors and attendees. Oh, sure, you’ve been to a few regional home shows at the fairgrounds, or attended a chamber of commerce show with fifty or so small exhibitors. But that big show in Las Vegas, NYC, Anaheim or Chicago?

If that’s new to you as an attendee – there’s a first time for everything – let’s go over a handful of things to help prepare you.

before you attend a tradeshow, read this!

Get your travel plans in order. Flight, hotel, ground transportation. Know the location of your hotel or Airbnb in relation to the show site and the airport. In some cities, renting a car makes sense (Anaheim, maybe Vegas), in others you’re betting off taking ground transportation (SF, Chicago, Boston). If you’re planning to take mass transit, know where to get on and how to get to where you’re going. Mapping tools on smartphones are very good at giving these directions – so make sure your phone is charged, and even bring a small charger with you in case you can’t find an outlet on the fly. Travel as light as possible, but take all you need to function on the road – which is of course different (to a degree) than at home!

Double-check all show documents. Make sure you have the various bits of paper, emails, or whatever to get into the show. Bring contact numbers, not only of your home office (duh), but include a handful of contact numbers of show organizers.

Assemble a show plan. Most big shows have apps or online tools to allow you to create a plan. This allows you to add exhibitors and booth numbers to put together a list which makes it easier to find them all. Do this a week or so before the show. If there are educational sessions, create a plan for those you’ll be attending. When at these events, you’ll often have time to meet other attendees and do a little networking.

Depending on your show goals, make sure you have prepped your interaction with the various exhibitors. As an attendee, you’re likely going to be looking for products that you’re either going to sell or use, and perhaps recommend. Know what questions you’re going to ask, and be prepared to absorb information in whatever form is offered. Chances are exhibitors will have both electronic and paper sell sheets, for example, so you should be prepared to know how you’ll compile them. If an exhibitor wants to give you a paper sell sheet and you prefer digital, use an app such as Scanner Pro or Microsoft’s One Drive, which allows you to create PDFs of the sheets in an instant and upload them to your cloud account. Beyond that, as your company representative, you should be prepared to have the kinds of appropriate conversations to advance your agenda.

Plan some networking meetings, but be open to opportunities that will undoubtedly arise. Which means, don’t under-schedule but don’t over-schedule yourself!

Pace yourself. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, find a few moments if you can to look around. Try not to stay up too late to party with show-goers. Keep to familiar exercise routines as best you can. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

Finally, if it really is your first time to attend a large show in a far-away city as a company representative, follow the lead of your fellow employees who have been to the show before, and learn what you can.

And dammit, have some fun along the way! Not everybody is able to attend big shows on their company’s behalf, so consider yourself lucky!

7 Tradeshow Exhibit “Must-Haves”

Time for another list – this one is called 7 tradeshow exhibit “must-haves” and it’s pretty simple. What 7 things (items, people, plans) are essential to making your next tradeshow appearance a whopping success? Let’s count them:

  1. Branding that is clear as an angel’s giggle. A visitor should know at a glance what you sell and what kind of a company you are. She should be able to intuit so much with that glance: how you approach the marketplace, how the company culture works, how you view the environment, wha

    t kind of company you are. A good 3D exhibit designer working with a knowledgeable and responsive marketing team can work magic with the right design.

  2. Professionalism that is as obvious as, well, Captain Obvious. Your fully-trained staff will know how to approach visitors in a friendly and engaging way, and how to either answer their questions or get them to the right person. Staff training goes a long way and is worth more than you’ll ever spend on it.
  3. Lead capture system as effective and smooth as a glass of fifty-dollar bourbon. Once you have a prospect in your sights, make the transition from visitor to prospect so easy when gathering contact and follow-up information that they’ll barely know it’s happening.
  4. Interactivity that engages and draws a crowd. Okay, not every activity can draw a crowd at all times. But what if you had something in your booth that was interesting and engaging enough that once a few people got going, it attracted other people? And if that activity was directly related to your product or service, wouldn’t that be about the best you could do? Well, you could top that by making sure you were gathering contact and follow-up information from as many of those people as you could, once you qualified them.
  5. A comprehensive tradeshow marketing plan that covers months leading up to the show, through the show, and through the follow-up period. This would mean pre-show marketing, show execution and immediate follow-up with the hottest prospects.
  6. Enough STUFF: business cards, lead sheets, sell sheets, samples, demos – all of the stuff you need to hand out to visitors, show they what you do and so on. Take more than you think you’ll need. Unless its dated, you can always repack it and use it next time.
  7. Comfortable shoes. Ha! You saw this one coming, didn’t you?

Free Report: “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House”

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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