What makes a good sustainable exhibit? I caught up with John-Paull Davidson of Boothster out of Portland, Oregon on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee to take a look at what kind of work his company does for exhibitors who place a high value on using sustainable materials.
When I first got into the tradeshow world around the turn of the century (!), an issue that kept coming up time and time again was the color of tradeshow graphics.
There are a number of problems that come up with printing graphics with accurate color.
First, since we printed everything in-house at that point, we needed to make sure that the printer’s output was consistent with what was called for. A graphic designer will usually spec a PMS color (Pantone Matching System), which is a proprietary color space that identifies exact shades. That meant regular testing of the system to make sure that the color matched.
The inks in the printer must be of high quality so that when the computer that is used to process the print calls on the right combination of the various ink tanks.
Next, you have the computer monitor. Many clients would look at something on their monitor and think it looked exactly how they wanted it. Trouble it, monitors differ in their output as well. So, what you see on your monitor in your office may not be what I see on my monitor.
Don’t forget about the substrate you’re printing on. Whether it’s fabric or paper, simply by changing the source of paper from one package to another may bring a subtle difference. It’s the same with carpet dye. One dye lot may be slightly different from another, and if you try to match a new printed piece with an older printed piece, chances are good it won’t exactly match.
Then there’s the human factor. We all see colors differently, and usually the person operating the printers have a good eye for colors.
So how to address this? If you are trying to match a PMS Pantone color exactly, the best thing is to provide a paper-printed color sample that you like. For example, if you have a brochure or other printed piece that is exactly what you want, color-wise, make sure your printing vendor has that. If they have that piece in hand, chances are very high they can make adjustments in their process to create a printed tradeshow graphic that matches your desired color.
But understand that there a lot of variable! The technology has generally made it easier to color-match, but it’s not always guaranteed. Just work with your exhibit house or print shop if color-matching is important.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
More or less a quick diary of Natural Products Expo West 2018 Day One:
After some twists and turns, we finished setting up the final client booth – Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley Bread – late morning. Thanks to Stacy and her crew at Eagle Management. Another job well done. They also set up Wedderspoon Manuka Honey. Photos of the booths to come once the main halls open on Friday.
Then it was off to the new North Halls until about five o’clock. A cacophony of noise, mascots, exhibits, and thousands of people. I recall last year that I saw a lot of new bone broth products. Not so much this year. But my eyes did light on a lot of flavored butters: walnut, almonds, peanuts, etc., mixed with fruit berry flavors, making your mouth go OMG that’s good! over and over again.
Posted several photos on Instagram and Twitter of mascots and exhibitors, including a shot of a creative cardboard back wall place-holder which made their case while the real backdrop arrived. Do what ya gotta do!
From early-morning yoga (I did my own yoga in the Airbnb I’m staying) to later afternoon and evening live music and drinks, everyone here seems to be having a great time. All the exhibitors are under pressure to make their exhibits look good, and attendees are chomping at the bit to get in and mingle, sample and converse. I’ll put together another exhibit awards post next week once everyone is back home and getting foot rubs to help alleviate the soreness from the miles and miles of walking!
Your tradeshow exhibit may look great. It may function well. But once the show is underway, you find yourself always ducking into a storage room to grab some paperwork or literature or end up answering the same question over and over again. Or showing a demo on a laptop when you keep thinking it should be on a monitor because people are looking over your shoulder.
It could be your tradeshow exhibit might need a little add-on that will add an element that either functions, spruces it up, or shows visitors just a little more than what you had originally been thinking. Let’s look at a handful of add-ons for under five hundred bucks.
iPad or Surface stand. Putting a table at the front of your exhibit often is an unspoken invitation for visitors to engage. These could be free-standing, or attachments that mount on an existing table or counter.
Literature stand. Instead of stacking sales sheets on a counter where they’ll always get messed up or keeping them inside a counter where you’re always reaching for them, put out a literature stand. A literature stand could also be free-standing, or it could attach to an exhibit you already have.
Easel. Easels are cool. And they’re old-school. But a well-placed easel can show off a larger poster-size graphic in a slightly different way.
TV Monitor. It seems that most exhibits have a monitor of some sort, whether free-standing or mounted on a wall. Monitors up to about 50” can be had for under $500.
Table throws. Maybe it’s just a small exhibit, or you’ve got a small table in the midst of a larger exhibit. In either case, adding a custom printed table throw is an easy call.
Turn a table in to a charging table with an add-on charging kit. Probably won’t work on any table, but if it fits your table, it’s a great little feature that your visitors will thank you for!
Banner Stands. Banner stands are an easy add-on and it’s easy to find one that’ll fit your budget of under $500.
Wait, you probably already know how to do tradeshow math, right? You add up all of the costs, hit “total” and you have a sum that tells you how much you need to spend.
Could be that easy. Let’s take a look.
I’m always doing math. In fact, my buddy Rich and I will always answer strange queries with “Do the math.” Even on things that supposedly have nothing to do with math.
“Hey, do we need another bottle of peppermint schnapps?”
“What do you think? Just do the math!”
“You gonna watch the new X-Files season?”
“Could be. Do the math!”
I guess you really can apply math to just about everything.
When it comes to tradeshow math, you might want to take a more precise approach than just winging it like Rich and I do during our golfing sojourns.
Identify all of the various things that you need to spend money on: new or upgraded exhibit and all of the related items such as carpeting, electrical, sign hanging, exhibit set up and dismantle; then add in shipping (both directions), drayage, booth space rental and cleaning, internet access if desired.
Beyond that, if you’re looking at the whole picture for one show, what is the cost of creating a mailing piece to let people you know you’ll be at the show? Add the cost of mailing. Email is certainly significantly cheaper than sending out snail mail, but someone is still going to have to create and send the email. Is that done in-house, or is it done by a creative agency? And are you including the cost of email list rental?
Other pre-show and during-show activities may include social media creation (photos, video, blog posts or other). If your staffers are doing that as part of their job, it may not be an additional separate line item.
In-show marketing or activities may include badge scanner rental, sponsorships, professional demonstrators, lead form printing and more.
Take the last step and do the tradeshow math for the entire year. Add up all of the shows and see how your full year’s costs look. Then at the end of the year, add up the actual costs and compare to your estimates. Make adjustments as needed. Rinse and Repeat.
If you’d like to make it a little easier, just download this Excel spreadsheet we created here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits.
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.
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.
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?
Drawing a tradeshow crowd is the boiled-down essence of the reason for exhibiting at a tradeshow. With hundreds or thousands of competing tradeshow exhibits, every single one of them wants to find a way to draw the biggest crowds throughout the tradeshow. Having a crowd – and knowing what to do with it – is the best path to success in your tradeshow marketing endeavors.
Given that, let’s take a look at ways you can spend a little money and draw a crowd.
Hire a pro. Professional presenters know what they’re doing. They will put together a short presentation designed specifically to not only draw a crowd but inform and educate the crowd about your product or service.
Have an exhibit that is visually appealing and feels comfortable to walk into. Many exhibits look great but feel intimidating and will turn people away. Does your exhibit invite visitors to come in?
Do consistent pre-show marketing. Letting people know what to expect at your show is one of the keys to getting people to make a special trip to your exhibit.
Leverage your social media activity. Make sure that all posts include the show hashtag and your booth number.
Have a famous person in your exhibit. No, you can’t hire the Brad Pitts, George Clooneys or Jennifer Lawrences, but you can hire an author or speaker that is well-known in your industry to draw a crowd.
Have a well-trained and fun booth staff.
Offer food. Yes, at a food show, you won’t stand out that much. But at a non-food show, it can help draw a crowd. One exhibitor I saw years ago at a tech show made smoothies for visitors. Since it took a minute or two for each smoothie to be made, the staff had plenty of time to chat with folks in the smoothie line to determine if they were prospects or not.
Offer a unique giveaway. Promotional items are a dime a dozen, but if you are offering something useful and cool, word will get around.
And remember – once you have drawn a crowd, be sure you know what to do with them!