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

Tradeshow Exhibit

Another Place to Find A Mess of Great Tradeshow Tips

How do you find great information – tradeshow tips – from people that go to a lot of shows and see a lot of exhibits? The first ting most of us do is fire up your favorite search engine and just plug in “tradeshow tip” or “tradeshow marketing tips” or something similar and see what comes up. If you’re lucky, you might find a link to an article on this blog (it happens a lot!).

tradeshow tips

Which beings me to this: you may not know about the great batch of tradeshow tips on our Exhibit Design Search. Seriously. You can find any exhibit or accessory that you’re looking for – and a bunch that you may not have thought about – but you can also find

The tips are grouped together for easy browsing in the following subheadings:

  • USA Tradeshow Regulations and Photos
  • Humor (always important when exhibiting at tradeshows!)
  • Getting Started
  • Becoming an Exhibit Marketing Expert
  • Displays and Exhibits
  • Design, Lighting and Graphic Tips
  • Fine-Tune Your Tradeshow Knowledge
  • Rental Displays
  • Tradeshow Training
  • Tradeshow Resources
  • General (But Important) Stuff

Something for Everyone

Easy to browse, easy to find something useful for your next show or exhibit. For example, under the heading Getting Started, you’ll find Ten Common Tradeshow Myths, which knocks down some rather daunting ideas that many people think about tradeshows. Like tradeshows are just a big party. Or tradeshows are a waste of time. Or tradeshows are just flat-out expensive.

Under the Design, Lighting and Graphic Tips heading, you’ll find The Importance of Color – Here’s Looking at Hue. Color is an attention-getting tool. In the world of exhibits, color is the first thing that visitors see in your booth.

Check out the heading Fine Tune Your Tradeshow Knowledge, you’ll find a very useful and important three-part series on How to Cut Your Tradeshow Costs.

One more thing before you head on over to check out the selection of Tradeshow and Event Tips. On each article, on the upper-left black bar above the article, you’ll see “+ My Gallery.” If you click on this link, you’ll add that article to your gallery, which you can access at the upper left navigation bar at the top of every page. Not only can you add articles, but you’ll find that +My Gallery button an each and every exhibit in the entire Exhibit Design Search site. After you’ve added articles, exhibit, accessories or whatever, you can share them with colleagues by clicking on the My Gallery link, find the Send My Selections tab and follow the instructions to share that collection you’ve created.

Legal Cannabis Industry Evolves with Tradeshows

legal cannabis industry

As a wanna-be 70s hippie I follow the evolution of the legal cannabis industry with great interest. Not because I don’t use it so much anymore, but I’ve always felt that the use of marijuana – or as its getting to be known – cannabis – should be a personal choice, and government shouldn’t be locking people up for simply using it. I figure if the state allows alcohol as a social drug, it has no valid argument to disallow cannabis. But politics aside, it’s a fascinating industry.

legal cannabis industry

Now that cannabis is legal across much of the country, with more states (and countries – Hello, Canada!) to follow, the first thing you’ll be seeing is much more data coming out. For instance, I ran across an article which shows that the method of cannabis consumption is changing. In the old days, you’d roll a joint. Maybe you’d bake some bud into a batch of brownies, and hope you ate the right amount. But now there is data showing that people are smoking it less and eating it more or finding other ways to consume cannabis without smoking.

So why is this topic showing up on a blog dedicated to tradeshows and the event industry? Because there happen to be a BUNCH of tradeshows dedicated solely to cannabis. For instance, there’s a big show in San Jose this summer, the Cannabis Business Summit, put on by the National Cannabis Industry Association, that will attract hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees. And a listing at the Cannabis Business Times shows quite a few cannabis related events.

I’ve attended at least a half-dozen cannabis events in Oregon over the past few years and chatted with dozens of exhibitors about the industry and how they’re finding their way through an industry that, until just a few years ago, didn’t legally exist. Now that it’s out in the open, it wants to shine. Hence, the explosion of tradeshows and conferences dedicated to the industry.

Another twist: in the old days, it was never called cannabis. It was called marijuana, and the scourge of the devil weed, or reefer, spawned panicky movies (Reefer Madness), conspiracy theories and so on. Here’s a quick take on the reason it’s called cannabis these days and is rarely referred to as marijuana.

legal cannabis industry

And what about the exhibitors? How are they faring in a new legal industry? I’ve spoken to many of them over the past couple of years, and as you might imagine, it’s a mixed bag. Some exhibitors are well-prepared with sharp-looking, functional exhibits. Others have barely managed to put up a cheesy vinyl banner hanging from the back of the drape behind an organizer-supplied table. In other words, it’s like a lot of industries.

I heard talk from some exhibitors that when legal cannabis happened here in Oregon, a lot of money rushed into the industry. Businesses were snapping up storefronts, staking out their ground and doing what they could to promote their new businesses. But since that beginning rush (no pun intended), reality is a bit of a come down. Some businesses have closed, others are trying to sell.  It’s a marketplace where a glut of product is keeping prices down. And this comes all with an industry that is heavily taxed by the state so that it can be regulated properly. I recently saw that Oregon suspended applications for new cannabis outlets due to the backlog. For a deeper dive into the Oregon Economic Forecast that looks closer at recreational and medical marijuana, check this out (direct PDF link).

All of which brings me back to the statewide event industry and how its working with cannabis producers, retailers and supporting businesses. Coming in January, TradeshowGuy Exhibits will take part in its first cannabis-related event as an exhibitor. We’ll be at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland on January 23-24, 2019.

And yes, we’ll be in booth 420.


Interested in getting a price on a new exhibit or accessories to make your exhibit look and perform better? Submit a quote request here.

7 Tradeshow Exhibit Accessories to Spice Up Your Appearance

If you have the perfect tradeshow exhibit, you probably don’t need accessories. After all, how do you improve on ‘perfect’? But if you’re a little short of perfection, here are a handful of exhibit accessories that will help out.

  1. LED lights. Yes, it’s true. There are actually some exhibits out there that do not have good lighting. Ambient lighting in many exhibit halls leaves a lot to be desired, so adding some LED arm lights that can deliver high quality wall washing illumination or spot lighting will go a long way to making your exhibit stand out. And yes, LED lights deliver great lighting at a good price without the heat that comes with an older style Halogen lamp. You can also add smaller highlights such as an LED Surface Mount Puck Light, LED flex tape or Linear slim line LED lights.
  2. Video monitors. Again, not every exhibit has a video monitor, but more and more make use of this visual communication medium. Video monitors have come down in pricing so much so that it’s easy to add a monitor or two or three depending on the size of your exhibit. If you prefer not to purchase monitors and keep them packed away most of the time, consider renting.
  3. Custom counter. Even without having something custom designed, it’s easy to add a custom-looking counter that will serve almost any tradeshow exhibiting purpose, from being a place to put brochures, store personal items, samples or giveaways, or even a demo station.
  4. Charging table. These will serve a double purpose of give you a place to sit around and meet prospects and give them a chance to easily charge up their phones and other devices. Either purchase it outright if you’re going to use it at many shows or get a custom-branded rental charging table.
  5. tradeshow exhibit accessories

    Tablet Kiosk. Whether you use a Surface tablet or an iPad there is a table kiosk that will suit your needs. Free-standing or mounted to a larger table or greeting counter, a tablet kiosk invites visitors to interact – and stay longer in your booth!

  6. Literature stands. Literature stands can be free-standing or attached to an aluminum strut on an exhibit and make an attractive location to hand out product brochures or sell sheets.
  7. Hanging sign. Any large island will be enhanced with a hanging sign, making it easier to spot your booth location from as much as a few hundred feet away. Hanging signs offer a great branding opportunity and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including square, circular, tapered, triangle and more.

6 Cool Custom Exhibit Designs up for Grabs

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

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

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

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

Starting with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Designs by Classic Exhibits and Greg Garrett Designs

Actual Conversations with Clients

Yes, these are actual conversations with clients. No, they are not from surreptitious recordings, but rather, from memory, which is probably not as accurate as I’d like. But nonetheless, these are the types of things our exhibiting clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits are asking about.

Client A:

“We need a 10×10 pop-up. Do you have a few options that you can show us with pricing?”

actual conversations with clients

This is an easy one. I popped over to our Exhibit Design Search and assembled a gallery of about 15 10×20 exhibits, with a price range of about $1,500 to about $6,000.

A week goes by.

“Here’s one we want. We need it in three weeks. Can you send art specs?”

Can do in both cases. Let her know. She placed the order and it was delivered a week ahead of schedule.

Client B:

“We’re going to expand our exhibit for the upcoming Natural Products Expo. Where do we start?”

“Best thing is to schedule a conference call with our designer, so we can get your input and ask questions.” We did. The call was fruitful and resulted in a handful of revised renderings of their booth, which was being expanded from a 10×20 to a 10×30.

“One more thing. We don’t want to have to set up the booth this time, since we’re expanding. We’re kind of at our limit for doing that with the 10×20. Can you help?”

“Of course, let me get you some options and pricing for review.”

They settled on the redesign and makeover of the exhibit, signed on board to have an I&D company take care of the setup and dismantle, which we coordinated. The show went off without a hitch, the owners and investors were pleased; they came home with more leads than they had expected.

Client C:

“Our carpet didn’t show up,” I was told by the I&D leader from the show floor. Exactly. Why not. I was in another hall on the show floor, so I hustled over to see first hand what was happening. This started a long and twisting tale of a missing carpet that had actually been delivered to the advance warehouse but failed to make it to the booth space.

“I’ll speak with show services,” I said.

I let the client know. “We have an issue. The carpet didn’t show up and we’re working to find a solution.”

“Well, crap.” It was probably not the exact word. “What now?”

“We’re working on it. We’ll figure something out!”

With a little help from our I&D rep, we were able to make the show come off with very little problem, although the carpet in question still has not turned up months later, and a claim is pending. Things do go wrong sometimes, and it’s really nobody’s fault. Stuff happens. What’s important is how you deal with it. In my experience it is always a team effort to track down replacement items, make do with what you have or any number of other things to pull off a good experience at the show. You gotta have a good team, and you gotta work with pros.

One more. Client D.

“We would like pricing on changing out graphics for our booth for an upcoming show,” said the client. “I’ll send the specs,” he said, which arrived shortly in an email. The show was less than two months away, so while there was indeed time to make the changes, but with that timeline it meant that no time could be wasted.

Got the pricing, sent it over. “Looks good! I’ll get artwork soon!” Knowing that I’m working with a good client that has consistently worked to upgrade their exhibit, I start the process to create a new job number and add in the potential project to the job tally. A few days go by.

“Looks like this project is on hold for the time being,” he writes. “We’ll get to it for another show soon. Keep you posted.”

Ooops! Make the changes, remove the new job number, took a breath. Don’t count your chickens, etc. Hate to get ahead of yourself. Just want to make sure the client is happy.


This is all very typical, I’m sure, to anyone who works in the industry. Upgrades, expansions, challenges, decisions made and then changed. Part of the great game we call tradeshows.

What conversations have you had with your exhibit house lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Low Budget Tradeshow Design

There are many reasons to explore bare-bones or low budget tradeshow design. Budget is probably a big motivator to many exhibitors to have a simple design, but it’s not the only reason. Having an extremely simplified exhibit can attract attention you might not otherwise get.

One recent example comes to mind: Kashi, at the Natural Products Expo West. For the past couple of years, Kashi has made a statement with a very simply exhibit. The large island exhibit consisted of a tall “1%” icon that engaged visitors, driving them to curiosity to stop and see what it meant. The explanation was shown on a small posted sign and was reinforced by a few staffers. The exhibit captured people by its very simplicity.

Of course, there are numerous ways to save bucks when exhibiting: instead of printing brochures, make them available only via PDF downloads. Rent an exhibit instead of owning. Promote through social media. Avoid promotional giveaways unless it really nails your brand. And so on.

But with a simple design, you can catch eyeballs and turn heads and keep to low budget tradeshow design. Large simple graphics with very little text can often to the trick. Using a pop-up internally lit graphic in a smaller booth is one good way to stand out. Having a creative design brief that directs your exhibit house to think in terms of stark simplicity. If your brand lends itself to simplicity, all the better. If not, a creative 3D exhibit designer and a creative graphic designer can work to simplify.

Another reason to simplify: if you have a simpler booth, you have fewer pieces to ship, which reduces shipping and drayage costs, and presumably, I&D costs. It also gives you more space to welcome visitors. A more open space is often more inviting.

What can you do with the design of your booth to simplify and reduce costs?

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, April 16, 2018: John-Paull Davidson of Boothster

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.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Star Trek – the Original Series.

Getting the Color Right on Your Tradeshow Graphics

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.

tradeshow graphic 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.

Speaking of colors, did you hear about the chemist that accidentally discovered a new blue a couple of years ago?

TradeshowGuy Expo West 2018 Exhibit Awards

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

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

So, let’s get started!

Best Big Brand Makeover: Kettle Foods

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

Best Client-Made Exhibit: Stahlbush Farms

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

Best Kitchen Sink Exhibit – DanoneWave

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

Best Retro Motor Vehicle Use – Hansen’s

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

Best Photo Op – Enjoy Life

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

Best Rustic Exhibit – Kodiak Cakes

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

Best Simple Yet Powerful Statement Exhibit – Kashi

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

Best Split Exhibit – Aqua Carpatica

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

Best Tribute to a Fallen Comrade – Clif Bar

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

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

Check last year’s awards here.

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