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

Tradeshow Exhibit

Tradeshow Tricks: How to Make Eye-Catching Signs and Brochures

This is a guest post by Tania Longeau of InkJet Superstores.

Setting up a booth at a trade show is a great way to build awareness of your brand and gain new leads. On the busy floor of a trade show, however, you only have 6 to 10 seconds to catch the attention of a passerby and draw them into your booth. You are lined up alongside several other businesses and, depending on the size of the show, you could have several thousand people walking past over the course of just a few days. If you want them to stop by your booth, you need eye-catching signage to draw them in.

Once you’ve gotten their attention, you need well-designed marketing materials like brochures, flyers, catalogs, and cards that they will take and look at again after the event. It sounds difficult, but learning how to make eye-catching signs, brochures, and other branding and marketing materials isn’t as hard as you might think. Keep reading to discover a few of our favorite trade show tricks.

Plan Ahead

Businessman Alan Lakein once said that “failing to plan is planning to fail,” and he was absolutely right. If you fail to do extensive planning prior to attending a trade show, you are very unlikely to have a particularly successful event. Goals and desired outcomes need to be established months before the date of the event to ensure that you have time to create everything you need.

Set SMART goals and come up with a solid plan of attack for meeting them. Think about what advertising and marketing materials you will need. Figure out whether you will make those materials in-house or have them printed elsewhere. If you plan on making them yourself, make sure you are stocked up on printer ink, paper, and other essential supplies. Trust us. Few things are worse than running out of ink at 11 p.m. the night before a trade show because you failed to plan and waited until the last minute!

Say it with an Image

When you only have a few brief seconds to grab someone’s attention, a sign or banner with lots of words just won’t do. A picture says a thousand words and, when you use images that are eye-catching, your signs will say a lot about your business, products, or services without needing to say a word. Keep the wording on your booth graphics short and to the point. Your signage should mostly consist of attention-grabbing images. Text should be kept to a minimum. On a busy trade show floor, very few people are going to stop and read an entire paragraph or a long list on a sign. Keep your message short and sweet.

Don’t Go Crazy with Fonts

You may love the look of the fancy font you use on your website or logo, but it may not be the best choice for creating trade show signage and displays. When you are designing signs, banners, and anything else that will be viewed from afar, choose fonts that are simple and easy to read. Remember that, on the trade show floor, your booth is competing for event attendees’ attention. If your advertisements aren’t easy to read, those attendees are just going to look elsewhere.

Be careful when choosing fonts for printed brochures, too. If most of your marketing materials currently exist online, adjustments may need to be made to ensure that they print well. Fonts and colors that look great on a computer screen or a smartphone might not look so good on paper, so be sure to do some experimentation to make sure everything is flawless.

Know When to Hire a Professional

There is a lot that you can do with the inkjet printer or laser printer in your office. Many of today’s higher-end models are capable of creating prints that rival professional quality, and you may be able to get away with printing many of your own signs, flyers, brochures, and pamphlets. It’s also important, though, to know when to hire a professional. Unless you have a high-quality inkjet printer that’s capable of printing large-format banners and other big displays, you should definitely work with a professional printing company. You only get one shot at making a good first impression, so the signage and displays you put up at your booth are extremely important.

Unless you have professional graphic design skill, working with an expert designer is a smart idea, too. A design may look awesome to you, but it may not actually be all that great. There is a lot more that goes into a successful design than just making it look pretty. A good designer can help you create brochures and signs that are eye-catching, tell your brand’s story, and evoke emotion. It takes a lot more than a copy of Photoshop to do all that!

In Conclusion

When you are attending a trade show, setting your booth apart from all of the other ones around you is extremely important. There will be hundreds or thousands of people passing by your booth over the course of a few short days, and you will only have a few seconds to grab each person’s attention. With eye-catching signs, banners, and displays, you can let event attendees know what your business is all about and encourage them to stop by. With eye-catching brochures and pamphlets, you can encourage them to pick up your marketing materials and check them out after the event. Keep the above listed tips in mind, and you will be well on your way to meeting your goals for the event!


Tania Longeau serves as the Head of Services for InkJet Superstore. Tania oversees a team of Operations and Customer Service Reps from the Los Angeles headquarters. Before joining InkJet Superstore, Tania was a team leader and supervisor working for one of the biggest mortgage and real estate companies in the country. Images are provided by the author via Shutterstock.

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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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More Statistics About Tradeshows and Visitors

Some people digest statistics like they’re eating chocolate cake. Others would rather eat a bug. But you have to admit, knowing the numbers can help you in your preparation and execution of your tradeshow marketing program. So let’s look at a few statistics and see which way they’ll lead you.

First, Spingo.com offers a collection of 20 Powerful Stats, including these:

  • 88% of companies participating in tradeshows to raise awareness of their brand .
  • The cost of a face-to-face meeting with a prospect at a tradeshow is, on average, $142. The cost of a face-to-face meeting at a prospect’s office is $259.
  • 92% of tradeshow attendees come to see and learn about what’s new in products and services.

Display Wizard from the UK has a list of 20 Tradeshow Stats that will Blow Your Mind! Some of these are:

  • Just 22% of tradeshow exhibitors start planning their tradeshow marketing 1-2 months ahead of the show. 22% start planning 2-4 months prior to the show, and 18% are getting ready 4-6 months ahead.
  • It takes an average of 4.5 sales calls to close a sale without an exhibition lead, but just 3.5 calls to close a lead from an exhibition.
  • 81% of exhibitors use email to follow up on their tradeshow leads.

If you really love numbers, you’ll love digging into the data on one of the country’s largest shows, the Consumer Electronics Show. While 2019 numbers are coming soon, the 2018 numbers are impressive enough:

  • Total attendance: 182,198. That includes exhibit personnel, media and industry attendees, domestic and international.
  • Social media mentions of the show reaches 1 million.
  • Views of the CES Snapchat Live Story reached 49 million.
  • CES received a total of 107,120 media mentions and more than 71 billion potential media impressions in January 2018 alone.

Watch that page for the 2019 numbers this spring.

Finally, the Event Manager Blog offers 100 Event Statistics (2019 Edition), which includes these:

  • B2B events revenue worldwide amounted to $30.3 billion in 2016, up from $29.3 billion a year earlier.
  • The average ROI for events is in the 25-34% range. But almost one in five companies don’t know their ROI.
  • 93% use social media in their B2B marketing strategy, and 58% of marketers use social media before, during and after their events.

Dig into the numbers at your leisure – there’s a lot there to unpack and digest. And don’t forget the chocolate cake!

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Cannabis Collaborative Conference: One Week Out

Less than a week from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center. It’s next Wednesday and Thursday the 23rd and 24th of January. I’ve attended the show three times, and this is the first time as an exhibitor. I’m looking forward to it, but I don’t have a good sense of how well we’ll do at the show. I would bet a lot of exhibitors feel the same going into shows. There’s a significant amount of money on the line, and hopefully the ROI is positive, right?

A sneak peak at our back drop for the Cannabis Collaborative Conference.

I wanted to do some modest pre-show marketing, aimed at exhibitors, specifically at the show’s exhibitors. I made up a postcard, had a bunch printed up and sent about five dozen to exhibitors, those that I could track down mailing addresses. As an aside, do you notice that it’s hard to find some businesses online? Many don’t have websites, and many that have websites are coy about their locations. The only way to get in touch with many small businesses is to fill out an online form, click “submit” and hope someone actually reads it. Some time. And don’t get me started about making calls.

However, the five dozen postcards went out and only two came back as non-deliverable, so I took that as a good sign. The card invited exhibitors to drop by our booth to pick up a free copy of one of my books while supplies last. The goal? To find out if any exhibitors are planning to make changes in the next year, and to capture contact information and follow up in a timely manner. Sounds like a straightforward plan, right? I’ll let you know.

If you’re heading to the show, come see us in booth #420 at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center!

Cannabis Collaborative Conference
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8 Trade Show Trends to Look Out for in 2019

This is a guest post by Stacy Gavin.

From celebrity promoters to next-level artificial reality adventures, trade shows are becoming less about selling and more about experiencing. And that’s by design, as trade show trends shift with culture at large. Today, there are two big trends influencing the marketplace: 1. Consumers, especially millennials, are becoming more minimalist. 2. Simultaneously, consumers are shifting their spending away from goods and more towards experience-related services, says management consulting firm McKinsey.

Because trade show trends mirror what’s going on in the rest of the marketplace, the best event marketers are those who are totally tuned in to the buyer’s needs right now. To create effective trade show displays in 2019, you have to very closely understand what buyers want, what they expect and what will entice them to stop and take notice of your booth in a sea of competitors. Here are some of the ones we’ll be able to bank on this year.

It’s All About Immersion: Trade Show Experiences

The basic booth and table will no longer do. In today’s sales landscape, marketers need to stand out by creating displays that quite literally draw visitors in. The goal is to achieve effective narrative marketing by removing the consumer (not literally, of course) from the convention center and taking him or her on an exciting journey that elicits emotion. This can be done in many distinct ways, but some of the best are the ones listed below.

Artificial Reality—Companies in the tech space have been incorporating augmented and virtual reality components into their event displays for a couple of years now, but things are starting to really ramp up in this space. Experts are already predicting that AR will overtake booths at the world’s biggest tech trade show, CES 2019, with displays highlighting new AR products (especially non-wearable AR, like smart mirrors) and also helping to sell non-AR products using interactive, immersive demos and presentations.
Experiential Design—Experiential design, though broad, vaguely refers to the art of creating spaces that provide some sort of experience. Often, this means taking a small corner of a convention center and transforming it into a totally different place entirely, like a store, a playground, an art gallery or a hotel room. For example, logistics giant FedEx recently showed up at the China International Import Expo with a giant airplane mock-up at the center of their display, while other big-name brands have developed full-blown store experiences at this year’s retail conventions.
Multi-Sensory Experiences—In addition to the brightly colored backgrounds and banners that please the eyes, the coolest new displays have begun to incorporate elements that appeal to all other senses as well. Visitors will be able to jump into full-blown tactile, auditory and gastronomic experiences at this year’s trade shows, with big sounds, sights, smells and flavors to experience. Designers are also beginning to invite show-goers into exhibitor’s spaces to play and explore, with instruments, toys, seating areas and gadgets to try.
Everything Brand-New—The 2019 Global Consumer Trends report published by the market research company Mintel gives us some fascinating new info on the latest consumer behaviors. The report showed that consumers are more adventurous than ever—they love to travel alone, experience new places and order foods they haven’t tried before. At trade shows and in other marketing sectors, we can expect to see an uptick in the new, fascinating, unusual and intriguing.

Appealing to the Consumer: Getting Crafty

To understand trade show trends, you have to understand what your audience wants. Most buyers at industry events are professionals with purchasing power (in fact, 81 percent of those who attend have some kind of buying authority), but they are also consumers who get giddy at the thought of fun, new experiences. You can bet that you’ll forge a positive brand image when you go for some of the ideas below.
Shareable Elements—It doesn’t matter where they go, consumers look for “shareable” spaces and experiences that would contribute to nicely encapsulated social media posts. In 2019, we can expect to see many more booths creating special “photo ops” for show-goers to share to social media. This is great news for the marketer, as it offers more opportunity for building brand recognition and creating a positive presence across social.
Special Guests and Performances—Take a look at some of the biggest conventions and trade shows for 2019 and you’ll see a lineup peppered with celebs. Last year, we saw big-name celebs like Tina Fey, Jamie Foxx and Spike Lee gracing the stages of big industry events, and this year’s no different. Look out for actors, musicians, change-makers and entrepreneurs beefing up the speaking agendas of the biggest conferences in tech, music and marketing.
Everything Ethical—Again, trade show trends tend to mirror what’s going on in the greater consumer economy. Now more than ever, buyers care about patronizing eco-friendly, responsible and ethical businesses and will quickly alienate the ones who are less focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). We’ll certainly see more brands in 2019 highlighting their CSR efforts in the trade show market, including through more eco-friendly displays and demos.
All Things Personal—The personalization train hasn’t slowed yet. In fact, it’s primed to pick up some speed this year. As you probably know, buyers are gravitating to more personalized products and experiences across all industries, and this should be applied to trade show marketing, too. We can expect to see the most success coming from booths that create a personal experience by offering one-on-one staffing and personal engagements.

Paying Attention to the Consumer Market

As you can see, the most important thing about trend-spotting in the trade show world is trend-spotting in the world. If you can identify some of the key drivers of the greater market, and you can implement them into your trade show display strategy, you’ll be well on your way to a hefty return on investment from your event marketing efforts. 


Stacy Gavin is in charge of eCommerce Digital Marketing for HalfPriceBanners.

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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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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 12, 2018: Larry Kulchawik

In this week’s vlog/podcast, I got a chance to learn quite a bit about something with which I’m not very familiar with: international tradeshow exhibiting. I’m guessing that a lot of us don’t get a chance for much exhibiting in Dubai, France, Spain, England, China or Japan or any of a number of countries. That’s why this week’s interview with exhibit designer and international tradeshow exhibiting expert Larry Kulchawik is such a treat. Loads of great information – and you should pick up his book if you do any international exhibiting. Check it out:

Find Larry Kulchawik here on LinkedIn. Here’s a link to his book on Amazon.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Bohemian Rhapsody, the Queen biopic. And if you want to see the entire Queen set at Live Aid 1985, which was the centerpiece of the movie, take a look.

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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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