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

Tradeshow marketing

There’s Always Another Tradeshow

When it comes to tradeshow exhibiting, is it wrong thing to think, “Well, there’s always next time!”?

Maybe your most recent tradeshow didn’t go as well as it could have. You didn’t meet all the people you had hoped to and didn’t bring home as many leads as you were thinking you should have. Your staff’s interactions with visitors weren’t as good as they could have been.

In other words, you’re thinking that it may have been a waste of time.

If you think that, spend some time to identify WHY it might have been a waste of time.

Was it the wrong show? Maybe your expectations of the show itself were unrealistic. The show organizers might not have been as clear as you’d have liked on the state of the show. They could have assumed more people would show up, but the audience just wasn’t there.

Was it the wrong audience? Each show has a specific audience. If the audience isn’t a good fit for your products or services, it could be that you didn’t assess the show well enough.

Do you have a great exhibit that invites people in?

Was your booth staff lacking in training? A well-trained booth staff can lift you above mediocre or average expectations. After all, they’re the front line in your interactions with the attendees. If the staff hasn’t been properly trained on that interaction, your results will reflect that.

Were your products or services either “blah” or not properly represented in your market? Your competition may have similar products and services, but if you staff was not fully engaged and the presentation of your products was indistinct, or fuzzy, or unclear, you won’t catch attendees’ eyes. Was your exhibit not up to the task? An old or poorly designed exhibit might save you money to ship and set up, and put off another capital investment, but if it doesn’t look good, or have the functional elements that you need to properly execute your tradeshow, it’ll cost you money in the long run, not save you money.

On the other hand, if you’re saying “Well, there’s always another tradeshow” and you’re at least modestly pleased with the results, take a hard look at what worked and what didn’t. Maybe your booth staff was good but could be better. That’s a pretty easy fix.

Or maybe your exhibit is decent, and only needs a few minor upgrades to make it really good. Another easy fix.

Other things to look at: pre-show marketing, post-show follow-up, cutting costs for shipping or logistics, and so on. Individually, they may not have a big impact, but executing each element better than last time can have a cumulative impact that’s hard to ignore.

At the end of the show, when everybody has had a chance to review from their perspective what worked and what didn’t, and why, do a debrief. But don’t wait too long – do it the first or second day you’re back in the office. That will give a little time for reflection from all participants, but not so much time that they’ll forget important feedback.

Based on what comes out of that debrief, make decisions that will better prepare you for the next show. Because there’s always another tradeshow.


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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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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, February 4, 2019: Data Backup

How often do you back up your data? Do you have digital versions of your analog items (photos, cassettes, albums, whatever)? Do your photos on your phone automatically back up to Google, Dropbox, Amazon or some other service? (I’m checking out Backblaze…)

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: Damian Lillard’s 4th NBA All-Star nod.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, January 28, 2019: Cannabis Conference

Just got back from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference 6.0 at the Portland Expo Center last week, and put together a podcast-slash-video blog about the event. Got a chance to interview half a dozen exhibitors about what they see as big challenges and best opportunities in the cannabis industry.

Also be sure to check the photo album I put up from the show, and my most recent advance look at the show here.


Thanks to the following folks for allowing me to put them on video and add them to the show!

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING is the recent book by Harry Bosch creator/author, introducing a new character, Renee Ballard: The Late Show.

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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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Teamwork is the Key to Success

To most people I work with in the tradeshow industry, teamwork is the key to success. But many tradeshow marketing managers are saddled with the idea that if it’s going to get done, there’s only one person that can do it. The tradeshow manager.

Therefore, it becomes hard to delegate. Hard to give up control. They may not be a control freak, but they’re close enough to where it prevents the work of a good team from being as good as it could be.

You see this on sports teams. My sport, from when I was a kid, was basketball. When you are in control of the ball, a tendency for young players is to hold on to it until they good a good shot. Not all people, of course. There are always members on the team who don’t want the responsibility, so they pass the ball at the first opportunity. Often, the pass is the wrong move. It’s to the wrong person. It’s for the wrong reason. They might have even had an open shot but didn’t take it because they didn’t have confidence that they’d make it.

Great teamwork doesn’t happen overnight. But the longer you work with a team, the more you understand each team member’s strengths and weaknesses.

One person may be great at record-keeping. Another may be great at outreach to clients and customers. Another may have an easy time reaching members of the media to persuade them to feature the company in their publication. Yet another may have an intuitive sense of how to design graphics so that they attract the right people.

Every team is different. And teams are fluid. Even a team that’s been together for years can find things changing over time. And when new members arrive or when members leave, things get even more fluid.

But a good manager of the team recognizes how to best delegate tasks to different people for maximum results. A good manager of a team knows their own limitations and realizes that, no, they can’t really do it all.

They need a good team to do it all. And teams can always improve.

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Top Ten 2018 TradeshowGuy Blog Posts

When I started looking through the analytics to determine the top ten 2018 TradeshowGuy blog posts, I faced somewhat of a dilemma. Many of the “most-viewed” posts of the year are not from 2018. Do I include those or not? Perhaps the best approach is to create two lists: one that includes the most-viewed, and the other narrows the list down to the most-viewed 2018-published blog posts.

Take a look – starting at Number One:

Most-viewed of 2018, posted in 2018

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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, December 10, 2018: Nathan Grepke

On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, Nathan Grepke, President of Blue Pony, joins me to go over some of the latest technology and some of the things they’re up to in video production, presentation and mogician. Yup, mogician. Just take a look / listen:

Don’t forget the Tradeshow Tip of the week – a great list from Tradeshow Superheroes and Exhibiting Zombies – and this week’s ONE GOOD THING: the opening weekend of ski season at Hoodoo Ski Bowl.

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