What are your blind spots? Well, sometimes it’s hard to identify blind spots because, well, frankly, you’re blind to them! Often you need help to learn your blind spots. Let’s take a look at blind spots on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, along with a tradeshow tip of the week and this week’s One Good Thing:
With well over 10,000 different tradeshows happening in the United States annually, it is no secret that it can be a daunting task to choose the right type of trade show for your company to sponsor. After all, no two tradeshows are alike when it comes to their audience, objectives, and theme. All the research, preparation, and organization that go into designing and creating an exhibit can be especially daunting for small-business owners or first-time exhibitors. If that’s you, go with a full-service tradeshow company. They’ll take care of every aspect of your exhibit, from start to finish. And if they’re really good, they’ll show you the ropes along the way! Below are 5 tips for finding the right tradeshow exhibitor company.
You can begin your
search for a display builder by asking for referrals from your industry
associations, colleagues or searching an online query for trade show display
Most reputable exhibit companies have their own websites where you can view their portfolios and learn more about the range of services they offer. You may also want to consider attending a tradeshow in an unrelated industry and see if the particular layout and styles are what you are looking for. Then ask the staff running the trade show for the name of the exhibiting company. Some tradeshow display companies only provide design and production of the booth, while others also assist with shipping, staffing, set up, take down, and the creation of promotional literature, among other services. All of these aspects are something to consider in your search.
2. Have A Goal in Mind
What is your reason for exhibiting? Are you attempting to grow brand awareness, generate leads or make face-to-face connections? This is important because it will play a role in determining the design requirements of your exhibit. When you find a company that you want to work with, it’s important to make them aware of your goals so they can use that information to help layout the exhibit floor to help you reach them. If you can have a conversation with an exhibitor company and they immediately start generating ideas based around your goals, then they may be a good fit!
3. Excellent Customer Service
Find a company that offers first-rate project management services to give you a relaxed trade show planning experience. A good customer service team that will go above and beyond to assist clients. At every phase of the design and fabrication process, this company will collaborate with you in order to ensure that your exhibit reflects your ideal brand image. A bonus would be if the company will stage all of our tradeshow booths in their facility before the event so you can experience your booth in person or via video.
4. A Portfolio of Past Tradeshow Booths
When clients are seeking design services, they should pay careful attention to the portfolio provided by the exhibit design company. A portfolio gives potential customers insight into the company’s past work and tells the customer whether they can get the results needed from the designer. Find companies that have a vast portfolio. Again, not one tradeshow is the same. Yours shouldn’t be either. You want to gear it toward your goals and your potential audience. A great experience will keep visitors coming back in future years.
5. Proven Track Record
If you’re searching for
companies online, you’ll usually find this information on the “about us” and
“testimonials” page of their websites. Look for information on how long they’ve
been in business, as well as the earliest events for which they helped their
clients and customers.
Generally, it’s best to
look for established companies that have been in business or doing business for
at least a decade, as they’re the most likely to understand your unique needs
as a business and have a proven process for preparing for trade shows.
There you have it, these are five really important aspects to keep in mind when you are in the process of setting up a tradeshow and trying to find the right exhibitor company to partner with. Remember not to get too stressed out. Find a company that can be an extension of your team and that gives you the trade show you have been envisioning throughout your planning process.
Mark Yuska in the President of Alliance Exposition. Alliance Exposition is a General Service Contractor that focuses on setting up trade show exhibits for small to medium size events.
They say you only get one chance
to make a first impression. That’s true. But you can make a first impression in
any number of ways. Let’s go over seven ways that might work for you.
Show your visitors an impressive tradeshow exhibit. Certainly, having a 3D visual representation of your brand is going to make an impression. The challenge is to make sure it’s not a negative impression. A new exhibit will go a long way, but you don’t have to buy something new to make a positive impression. You can dress it up with new graphics, has all of the functional needs required, and make sure it’s spotless. And keep it as clean as possible throughout the day.
Greet people with a smile. Smiles translate good will in every culture and language.
Ask a good question as you’re using that smile. Knowing what to ask and how to ask it will go a long way to demonstrate the seriousness of your marketing attempt.
Don’t be distracted. You know the usual distractions: phones, food and lack of energy. The phones thing is easy: don’t pull it out of your pocket unless you have a specific work-related reason to use it at that moment. No Facebook, Twitter or Instagram unless you’re doing work. Food is easy, too: don’t eat in the booth. Gotta eat? Go elsewhere. Lack of energy is also very distracting. That is more challenging: get better sleep (not always possible), don’t eat food that puts you on a sugar or caffeine high, which leads to an energy crash. Which leads to distraction from having a lack of energy.
Have something engaging for your visitors to do. A challenging proposition, but if done correctly, your visitors will be impressed when they can DO something in your booth that is: 1) fun, 2) engaging/interesting and 3) allows them to learn something about your product or service.
Don’t be negative. While a first impression can be formed in an instant, don’t forget that you’re also forming that first impression while you’re in that first conversation. You may be talking about products and services and the topic of a competitor’s products and services come up. You may be tempted to diss the competitor’s stuff, but I think the better move is to take the high road: “yeah, they do good work, but it depends on what you’re looking for.” And then ask questions that uncover the prospect’s needs, giving you a chance to play up the elements of your products or services that can address that need better than your competitor can.
First impressions count for a lot.
What other ways can you think of to make a great first impression at your next
Wait a minute, how do you mean “mean”? As in average? As in
Nope, as in “very skillful or effective” in a more informal
sense: “she’s a mean bowler!”
But when it comes to having a clean and mean booth at a
tradeshow, how might that work? Let’s explore.
Skillful and effective can certainly come in to play with your tradeshow presence. Your booth staff should be well-trained and know how to ask the right questions and collect valid and helpful answers.
Your exhibit itself should be clean. Having a small carpet sweeper or dust buster can help keep the floors clean. Garbage cans should be emptied regularly, especially if you’re at a show where a lot of samples are handed out, leaving behind a trail of debris.
Hiding things: most exhibits have counters or closets where personal items and extraneous items are kept. Often brochures or other needed items can be stored under a skirted table. In any event, keeping those extras out of sight helps to keep your booth mean and clean.
No food or beverages in the booth space. Yes, if you’re sampling foods, then it’s okay. But your staff shouldn’t be eating or drinking in the booth space. Psychology shows that often visitors will turn and go the other way if they encounter a staffer eating in the booth. It’s not inviting at all.
Have enough staff for the show. It’s a fine line: having too few or having too many staffers. Knowing the right amount and being able to effectively schedule the staff so that there’s always the right amount of staff comes from experience.
Knowing who the staff are: does this mean they all have readily identifiable badges or color-coded clothing? I’ve been in booths where it was impossible to know who part of the team was. In other booths, all of the staffers were wearing the same color shirt or wearing a shirt that was plainly branded with the company name.
Keep your exhibit and booth presence clean and mean for an edge over your competitors.
The digital world has enveloped tradeshows as much as it has any other part of the marketing world. And who better to discuss that than author and marketing expert Francis Friedman, who gets into his recent book, The Modern Digital Tradeshow. Check out the show here:
One of the big challenges for exhibitors is keeping track of everything: records, travel, budgets, exhibit pieces and more. Now there’s a new tool that looks to address many if not all of those issues.
ExhibitDay launches this week with three models: lite, professional and premium. Lite is free; the others are available on a monthly fee basis depending on the optimum number of users you would want to have access to the tool.
According to the press release, “ExhibitDay has been in Beta since January, 2019. During the Beta period, ExhibitDay worked closely with nearly 1,000 Beta testers across a diverse group of event teams consisting of Trade Show Coordinators, Event Managers, and Exhibitors in order to develop and test its service.”
The release details the various tools:
Tracking and management of information about trade shows and exhibits.
Tracking event attendees and their travel reservations.
Management of booth reservations, booth services, and shipments.
Tracking of event sponsorships, costs, and expenses.
Event team collaboration via tasks and to-do lists.
Coordination of event team schedules before, during, and after each trade show.
Synchronization of events, tasks, and schedules with third-party calendaring apps such as Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, and Outlook.
Event-specific and annual budgeting, fund allocation, ROI measurement, and engagement analytics.
Customizations to the fields and data points tracked for each event.
Granular access-control and robust user management tools.
Take a look at ExhibitDay here. And if you choose to use it, use the discount code TRADESHOWGUY and save a few bucks!
Looking to save money on a tradeshow exhibit? Of course you are! And chances are, throughout the course of the next year, you’ll have a want or need for something that shows up on our regularly updated pages on our Exhibit Design Search. Whether it’s an Exhibit Special or a Lightning Deal, it might be just what you’re looking for.
These are no “close-out” specials that are collecting dust in the warehouse. Nope, these are regular items – either custom or “off the shelf” – that typically sell for full retail price. But on occasion, we grab some of the items and put them into one or of the categories and drop the price.
For example, you might see a custom hybrid 10×20 exhibit that sells for around $30,000. But if it lands in the Lightning Deal, the price might drop ten percent to around $27,000. A $3,000 savings to your bottom line, just like that. Lightning Deals generally last a couple of weeks, so if you see something that is a great fit, grab it fast!
The Exhibit Specials, on the other hand, are more general savings that span a category, such as a specific style (Gravitee or Segue), or a type (light boxes or EcoSmart inlines). On occasion there might be discounts on discontinued models as well.
Saying all of this, it behooves you to visit these categories and return. That means returning to the Lightning Deals every couple of weeks, and visiting the Exhibit Specials every month or so. Even if you’re not currently looking for a new exhibit, you might find great deals on accessories such as lights, counters, shipping cases and so on.
Let’s face it, when you’re shopping for a custom tradeshow exhibit, the dollar signs can often start spinning so much your head soon follows. Things can get expensive in the tradeshow world, so it makes sense to figure out ways to save money along the way.
Start with the premise that the reason custom tradeshow exhibits
can be expensive for any number of reasons. First, there are a lot of people
involved: designers, account executives, fabricators, detailers, crate builders
and so on. Things are usually hand-crafted in the exhibit world in the sense
that each piece has human hands on it several times. Even if a CNC machine is
programmed to cut metal or wood, a human still has to make it happen. Building an
exhibit is not mass manufacturing. Its individually crafted items designed and
built to look spectacular.
How to keep the costs down? Here are six ways:
Consider starting with a kit. Many exhibit builders offer a number of kits to keep costs lower. With a kit, the design is generally pre-determined. But with a good kit, there are always opportunities to customize the kit. In a sense, you’re creating a hybrid between custom and ‘catalog’ designs. Shop the company’s website for kits that might give you a good starting point.
Know exactly what you want and get nothing more. A custom exhibit is great in that, as part of the design process, you can identify what you need – exactly. If you need just three shelves for product display, don’t go for four or five or six. Those can usually be added later. Need a charging table? There are always low budget options that are not custom but can be custom-branded.
Work with lightweight materials. While there still are many heavy wood-built exhibits that appear at shows – usually for a great reason because it’s part of the brand – more exhibits are moving to lightweight materials such as aluminum frames and fabric graphics. Not only are the materials lighter, which means they ship for less, but fabric graphics fold up and ship in a smaller space.
Rent furniture. If you rent the same thing show after show, it’ll add up and eventually you’ll end up paying more for the furniture than it you owned it. But keep in mind, but owning it, you have to pay to ship it, pay to store it, and pay to replace it. And furniture that you own will get scuffed, nicked and damaged over time. With rental furniture, you get brand new or like-new items, you get to choose from the latest styles, and you don’t have to worry about shipping or storing.
Don’t rush it. By planning ahead for a custom designed and fabricated exhibit, you’re avoiding rush fees, last minute glitches and a calendar that is rushing at you like a runaway train. Once you’ve decided on a new exhibit, sit down with your exhibit provider and work out a realistic timeline so that all parties know what’s expected of them and when.
Preview the exhibit. It’s pretty common to do this, but I have seen occasions where it’s not done, and it’s led to having to make expensive fixes on the show floor or have revised graphics printed at a rush fee and shipped using an expensive overnight service. Previews are generally designed to make sure everything works like it’s supposed to, to make sure all the graphics fit, and nothing is left out. Even if you can’t be there, make sure you have lots of photos of the preview.
Whether you’re looking for a custom exhibit, a modular exhibit from a catalog or something in between, most exhibit houses are willing to discuss your budget and what you can realistically expect to get for your money.
This is a guest article by Halle Summers of Fastenation.
If you are planning on attending or setting up a booth at a tradeshow for the first time, you probably already know how valuable these events are for growing a business. They offer numerous opportunities for increasing awareness of your brand, making sales, and networking with prospective customers and clients. While business is increasingly being conducted online, trade shows provide an opportunity for business owners and consumers to meet face to face, forge relationships, and learn about new products.
If you have ever attended a tradeshow, it should come as no surprise that exhibiting at one requires a lot of work and careful planning. It’s often necessary to start planning several months in advance to ensure that you have everything you need by the time the event makes its way into town. There is a massive amount of competition at these events, and, if you just show up and hope for the best, your booth will likely get lost and be overlooked by most attendees. If you are gearing up to be an exhibitor for the first time, here are a few essential tools and tips to ensure the success of your first trade show event.
Make Assembling an Eye-Catching Display
Your Top Priority
The human attention span tends to be pretty short. When
people are surrounded by all sorts of exciting things to see and do, it can be
even shorter. This means that you only have a few seconds to capture the
attention of event attendees and draw them into your booth. If your display
isn’t eye-catching, a lot of people will likely pass by your booth without even
The good news is that assembling an eye-catching tradeshow display doesn’t have to be difficult. Use attention-grabbing images instead of words. Make use of bright (but appealing) colors. Have products on display. Make your booth feel welcoming. There are all sorts of things that you can do to put together an amazing display. When you’re packing up to head to the event, make sure you have the right tools and supplies for setting up your display. Things like gaffers tape and VELCRO® brand hook and loop tape are lifesavers when it comes to hanging banners, putting up signs, and assembling the various parts of trade show booths. Table skirting clips are great for trade shows, too, as are cable hangers. Trust us; few things are worse than showing up at a tradeshow with an awesome display but lacking the tools and supplies needed to set it up!
Prepare Your “A” Team
The people you have working at your booth can have a
huge impact on how well the trade show goes for your business. There are a few
different options when it comes to staffing. You can bring your own employees,
or you can work with an event staffing agency. The downside to working with an
agency, though, is that you will need to put a lot of effort into training your
team and ensuring that they know all of the ins and outs of your business. When
you have your own employees working the booth, they already have a lot of
knowledge about your products and services.
Make sure that the team you assemble is made of people
who are friendly, motivated, professional, and outgoing. You don’t want someone
who is going to sulk behind the table and make zero effort to engage with
attendees! Choose team members who work well together and complement each
other’s knowledge and skills. Ensure that everyone is prepared to handle
questions. Trade show attendees tend to have a lot of questions about
businesses and their products and services. Every single person who is working
the booth and acting as a representative of your company needs to be an expert
on your product and business, and they need to be able to handle inquiries with
confidence and ease.
If your business sells a product, your team needs to be prepared to give product demos, too. Tradeshow attendees want to be able to experience products for themselves before committing to buy, so doing product demos and allowing potential customers to try out your merchandise is a great way to build relationships and make sales. If your company provides a service, you should figure out a way to demonstrate that, too. Show event attendees what you do. Don’t just tell them about it.
Give Stuff Away When you set up a booth at a tradeshow, making money is probably one of your ultimate goals. That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t give away some freebies. For event attendees, free swag is one of the best parts about going to a trade show. People love free stuff, and they expect to get a lot of it at tradeshows. Promotional items, such as branded notebooks, pens, hats, tote bags, or water bottles, are always big hits. Any type of freebie works, though. You can draw a pretty big crowd by simply handing out some tasty fresh-baked cookies. Get creative and be generous. Doing so gets people talking about your booth and entices attendees to stop by.
Setting up a booth at a tradeshow offers numerous benefits for business owners. If you want to make the most of the event, though, you need to be prepared. Start planning several months in advance to ensure that you have time to order banners, tools, and other supplies, assemble your event team, and provide adequate training. The more you put into planning for your first trade show, the more you will likely get out of it.
When the big day arrives, stick to your game plan, and have fun! Exhibiting at a tradeshow requires a lot of hard work, but there is no reason why it can’t be enjoyable, too.
Halle Summers is a Marketing Coordinator for FASTENation Inc., a premier global manufacturer, technical converter, distributor, and designer of adhesive based fasteners and tapes. Halle enjoys sharing her unique perspective and knowledge through her blog writing. When she isn’t writing articles, she enjoys spending time in downtown Charleston, South Carolina and all the amazing food her hometown has to offer.
Let’s say your company is looking ahead about six months to a show in March and you’re considering a new custom exhibit for the show. If the show is in the early part of March, you have less than six months before seeing the new exhibit leave the loading docks.
So what has to be done between now and then to ensure that you have the exhibit you want for the price you can pay?
There are many things that have to be done in the next few months to make the process work well. Let’s start with the basic questions:
What size booth space are you going to need?
What is a realistic budget for the exhibit you want?
What company is going to guide you through the process and earn the business?
The first question, about booth size, is already set. Unless you’re upsizing from last year’s show, it’ll be the same as it was.
The budget question is a more difficult question, and there are any number of ways to look at it. First, when you say “realistic,” does that number come from what the accounting department told you? Does it come from a thorough research into what exhibit properties cost all the way through concept, design and fabrication? And does the budget figure include everything, or only the exhibit itself?
Industry Average Pricing
A couple of good places to start would be to understand what the industry, on average, charges for the various items. Do your research and find out what a typical custom exhibit costs. For example, recent figures show that inline construction can average about $1,340 per linear foot, give or take 10-15%. Which means a typical 10×20 custom inline booth will land somewhere close to $26,000 – $28,000. Could be more, could be less, but that’s a good number to start the discussion.
A recent industry average for custom island construction comes in a bit more – around $160 – $180 per square foot. If you’re looking at a 20×20, multiply 20×20 (400 sf) by $160 and you’ll get a rough budget of about $64,000. At least you’ll have a number in mind when you start getting prices back from exhibit houses.
Exhibit Function Needs
Next, look at the other factors that affect price, the pieces you want in the exhibit. What exactly do you need for the exhibit to function well to show off your products and services? Do you need demo stations? A stage for a professional presenter? Sample tables? Meeting spaces? All those will push the final price one way or another.
Choosing an Exhibit Company
The last question – what company you should work with – is a big one. After all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of exhibit houses ready, willing and able to do the job. Unless you’re a huge exhibitor (think Microsoft or Nike), you don’t need one of those big exhibit houses. If your company is a small or medium-sized company, going to a big exhibit house has some benefits – and some drawbacks. The benefits are that they are more than capable of handling your job, and they may offer you some very creative designers as part of the mix. The drawbacks might be that if you’re a small client, it’s easy to get lost among all their big clients, which demand a lot of attention. Another drawback is that a larger company has a lot more overhead than a smaller company. They have to pay for a larger space, they have more employees, and so on. It’s a bigger business that they have to keep going.
Smaller exhibit houses also have tradeoffs, but in my experience, the smaller houses – with fewer clients – value those clients like gold and work hard to keep them. They make sure nothing goes wrong, or if something does, they will fix it as quickly as possible. Any business is built on relationships, but with fewer relationships, the importance of each client is paramount. Which would you rather work with? No wrong answers.
Another aspect to consider about which exhibit house to work with: location. Some exhibitors want to be able to stop by and see the progress on a new build. Or once the exhibit has been built, to be able to have the staff nearby to do any repairs or upgrades, or even store the exhibit. But many exhibitors don’t see not having the exhibit house nearby as a negative thing. We do much of our business online and via email and phone that distance is irrelevant. Again, no wrong answers – different people have different needs and priorities.
Timeline from Design to Fabrication
The next question to ask is how long will this take? Hence the title of the blog post.
Again, there are general guidelines, but each exhibit house will have their own schedule and availabilities. Fabrication is often the most straightforward part of the process. In other words, once everything has been decided, there are few surprises. But getting to the final design is what can take time. But it’s time well-spent. The sooner you start the conversation with a 3D exhibit designer, the better off you’ll be.
A good 3D exhibit designer is the key. She’ll know what questions to ask, how to draw out more details of what you want, and finally produce a mockup design for review and revision. This process can take what you might think is a lot of time. Prior to going into the first meeting, make a list of all of the items you need: meeting space, demo space, demo stations, stage, graphic display areas, etc. I’ve had clients bring us 2D “flat” graphic representations of what they wanted in an exhibit and it was a simple matter to convert that to a 3D rendering. I’ve had clients start with nothing, which meant we talked everything through in detail and let the designer take the lead and produce the first rendering, or a couple of options to choose from.
Different sized exhibits take varying amounts of time, as you might imagine. Custom takes longer than something “off the shelf.” If you want something simple, it’s often a matter of picking something from an online catalog, doing a little customizing and getting it in-hand in a month or two, not the five or size months you’d like for a larger custom island exhibit.
But if you’ve got a show on your calendar that’s six months out, no matter what size exhibit you have, if you’re targeting the show for a new one, it’s time to schedule that first conversation!