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

Tradeshow marketing

The Ultimate Tradeshow Marketing Playlist

Music moves you, and so should the Ultimate Tradeshow Marketing Playlist. Yes, your list will look different from mine, I have no doubt. But take this list as a starting point in creating an ultimate tradeshow marketing playlist that will keep you moving and motivate you do have an awesome show next time.

And, yes, I’m old school:

“Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer. Your tradeshow booth is going to showing all of the hottest stuff you can muster, because you know that the only way to compete against your competitors is to have even hotter stuff.

“Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant. Walk down any aisle at any tradeshow and you’ll wish you had sunglasses. Back lit graphics, light boxes, halogen lights, overhead lights. It’s all electric.

“Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive. This was also Elvis’s mantra. Wherever it came from, it means you’re there to do some business, to meet and greet potential clients and customers. To take care of business! Check out Keith Moon introducing the band:

“Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet. Most every show I’ve been at has some action in the ballroom. Probably not the kind of action described in this classic tune, but how many other songs about ballrooms are you going to find? Big hair, big collars, men wearing making…what more could you ask from a mid-70s video?

“Make Me Smile” by Chicago. Any transaction in any situation goes better when you can make the other person smile.

“My Poor Brain” by the Foo Fighters. After three days of fielding questions, walking the floor and getting sore feet, setting up and dismantling exhibits, you’ll probably relate to this song.

“On the Road Again” by – take your pick – Canned Heat (my preference) or Willie Nelson. The great traveling songs.

“Come Together” by the Beatles. Couldn’t let the ultimate tradeshow marketing playlist get by without something by the Fab Four. Tradeshows, events and conferences are all about coming together for a common cause.

“Show Biz Kids” by Steely Dan. No, we’re not in the movie-making industry, but tradeshows are a lot about showing off the goods. It’s a Show. It’s Biz. And deep down, we’re Kids.

“Take It Easy” by the Eagles. When you’re stressed for a hundred reasons, and you need to take a break. Just take a deep breath and take it easy.

“Over and Over” by the Dave Clark Five. Once you get in the groove of doing tradeshows, this song will have more meaning for you. Do it over and over again!

“Magic” by any number of artists. We all try to create a little magic in our tradeshow booths. There’s an oldie called “Magic” by Pilot. Olivia Newton-John did a song of the same name. So did The Cars. And then there’s “Magical Mystery Tour” by the Beatles. And so on. All good stuff to inspire you to work your magic!

Let’s finish off this baker’s dozen list with “Jammin’” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. A tradeshow is chaotic, energetic, noisy, wild. And half the time you’re making things up as you go to accommodate the various questions and situations that come your way. So you are JAMMIN’!

What would you add to the list?

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee: March 19, 2018: Nicky Omohundro

A recap of Natural Products Expo West from an official blogger’s point of view. Nicky Omohundro is a blogger and runs a website called Little Family Adventure, and we spoke about Expo West on this episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee.


This week’s ONE GOOD THING: a spreadsheet of all of the music played during the 4-year run of WKRP in Cincinnati.

Natural Products Expo West: Days Three and Four

Babies – lots of babies – along with young kids, the occasional dog, lots of mascots/costumes, and a few weirdly dressed people. Typical Expo West!

natural products expo west

Saturday night – Day Three of Expo West – was spent hanging out with Oregon Business folks at their annual soiree at McCormick and Schmicks, and later, producing Monday Morning’s vlog/podcast. Now let me see if I can manage a recap of the final two days of Expo West.

Dozens of people I spoke with agreed that the show was somewhere between amazing and fantastic, or perhaps crazy-busy and overwhelming. Just saw the press release this morning from New Hope which showed that there were over 85,000 attendees, and 3,521 exhibiting companies, including more than 600 first-time exhibitors.

I mentioned in my vlog/podcast that I was impressed by the great detail that exhibit designers go to to capture a brand’s essence. I also got into a conversation with one booth staffer about the wild colors that are everywhere in the show. “Can you imagine what this show would be like without all of those colors?” he asked. Agreed. Bright and bold colors everywhere.

There were also a lot of BIG hanging signs, from 40’x40’ aluminum structures/fabric graphics to wooden panels and what looked like carved wooden signs. Does anybody look up these days at shows?

natural products expo west

There were a lot of clever interactive things going on at booths, offering people an opportunity to walk into the booth space and do something. It’s always a great way to capture attention. I counted at least a dozen “selfie” stations, with some including a circular light where you can take a selfie where you’re fully and evenly lit, and some stations where they’ll take a photo and then email it to you. One of the most fascinating and eye-catching interactives was a Rube Goldberg contraption in the KIND Snacks booth, showing how KIND snacks are made from start to finish.

There were many opportunities to tweet a hashtag with a photo for a chance to win something, so it was good to see the social media tie-in as well. Although, frankly, it almost seems run-of-the-mill, when six or seven years ago social media was all so new!

Another thing I noticed in booth fabrication was the use of see-through printed fabric. Everywhere I turned there was another example. See-through fabric is very useful in creating a barrier, but the see-through aspect gives you a view of what’s beyond it, without intruding on people that might be in a meeting room for example.

This was my sixteenth consecutive time I’ve attended Expo West in support of clients, for years, the halls have been set up in a specific configuration: foods, manufacturing, supplements, new products and more all have had their own areas. That didn’t change this year, but the layout changed – drastically – and it was interesting to see how the whole layout was essentially flopped from one end to the other. Lots of comments from people who weren’t sure how it worked, but from my view it worked just fine. Took a little getting used to.

Sunday – Day Four – started off much slower, in terms of visitors roaming the aisles. I was there at opening of ten o’clock, and the back reaches of the halls were lightly travelled. it didn’t take long for that to pick up. By late morning, it seemed almost as busy as previous days. It did give me a chance to speak to more people without feeling rushed. By 2:30 to 3 o’clock, exhibitors were offering all of their samples to attendees so they wouldn’t have to transport them back to HQ. And of course, some folks were pulling down banner stands and packing up suitcases by 3 o’clock. Ya ain’t s’posed to do that, but it happens anyway. Planes to catch.

natural products expo west

And finally, I know of no other show where, frankly, you never need to eat a meal offsite for ate least three days. Virtually every company is sampling the goods, from sausage, bagels, bread, toast and eggs to energy bars, drinks, coffee, teas, juices and other goodies. It’s easy to consume a couple of thousand calories without even batting an eye. Even if you try to avoid eating much, you’ll end up taking bite-sized samples here and there.

And don’t get me started on the varieties of chocolates.

Natural Products Expo West: Day Two

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.



Natural Products Expo West 2018: Day One

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.

Natural products Expo West
North Hall, lower floor, at the Anaheim Convention Center. Natural Products Expo West Day One

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!

Stay tuned!

10 Tradeshow Best Practices

Seriously, you could compile a list of 50 tradeshow best practices and still add to the list. For the sake of brevity, let’s whittle it down to a reasonable number and see what we get.

  1. Create your marketing plan based on the specific event where you’re going to set up your exhibit. Different audiences, different competitors, different goals will all help steer you to a marketing plan that fits the situation. One size does not fit all.
  2. Your promotion item should be a natural fit with your product or service. Give away an embossed flash drive if you’re in the tech industry and want people to remember what you do. Give away a letter opener if you pitch direct marketing via mail. Things like that.
  3. Try to have some activity in your booth space. People are drawn to movement, or things they can get personally involved with. And when you have lots of people playing with something in your booth that relates to your product, that crowd draws a crowd.
  4. Prior to show floors opening, have a brief meeting with your staff. Remind them of the show goals, hand out kudos for work well done, and gently remind those who are perhaps coming up a bit short what they should work on.
  5. Graphic messaging on your exhibit should be clear as a bell. The fewer the words, the more distinct your message. The message should be enhanced with an appropriate image that supports the message.
  6. tradeshow best practices

    Follow up on leads in a timely manner. Your lead generation and follow up system should be something that you continually work to improve. Warm leads that are followed up on right after the show will produce more results than those that are weeks old.

  7. Qualify and disqualify your visitors quickly. Unqualified visitors should be invited to refer a colleague and be politely disengaged. Qualified visitors earn more time to dig deeper into their needs, including the time frame they need the solution your product can solve, their contact information and an agreed-upon follow up schedule.
  8. The power of a professional presenter cannot be understated. Some products and shows lend themselves more to presenters than others, but a good presenter will make it work in any situation and will bring in more leads than not using them. Caveat: if you hire a presenter, you must have a staff that understands and is prepared to deal with the additional leads generated. If not, most of the leads the presenter generates will slip away.
  9. Tradeshows are a marathon. Be alert, but pace yourself so you can make it to the end of the last day still upright and able to fully engage with visitors.
  10. Spring for carpet padding / wear comfortable shoes. You can never say this enough!

And a bonus number 11:

  • Spend more time on pre-show marketing that you think you should, or more than you’ve done in the past. It costs less and is easier to sell to current customers than it is to sell to new customers. Create a list of current customers, or those who have raised a hand by downloading a white paper, subscribing to a newsletter, or inquired about your services or products over the past year or so. Finally, check with show organizers to see if they can rent the attendee list to you prior to the show.

Who’s Got the Natural Products Expo West Pre-Game Jitters?

Natural Products Expo West has got to be the biggest natural products show in the world, amiright? Seventy-thousand or more attendees. Thirty-five hundred odd exhibitors. Thousands of new products that will appear on grocery shelves in the near future. It’s a smorgasbord of food, organics, body care products, supporting businesses and more. Frankly, it can be overwhelming.

natural products expo west pre-game jitters

This year – 2018 – will be my 16th straight time attending the show, assisting and attending to exhibiting clients such as Bob’s Red Mill, Schmidt’s Naturals, Wedderspoon, Dave’s Killer Bread, Hyland’s and more. In a decade and a half, I’ve seen the show continue to grow to supersize, although it was already very large when I first attended in 2003. I missed the days of the ‘mom and pop’ approach, but I do know people that were there for some of the early days.

How does one prepare for such a large show spread out over acres of exhibit space?

In my pre-game planning, I know for certain that I’ll be walking a LOT, so need comfortable shoes without a doubt. I know that I’ll probably be invited to a function or two. I’ll take a little time to visit a friend or two in the LA area. I also know that I’ll graze a lot while walking the show floor. So many exhibitors offer samples of excellent products – you can’t say no to everything! I do make a point every morning of tracking down the really good coffee (and there’s a lot!).

I’m not selling anything at the show. I meet people. Lots of people. I offer a copy of my book to some folks (my new one is still a month or so away, so it’ll go out sometime in April). I make notes on the style and size of the thousands of exhibits. I see what companies are expanding, which ones are downsizing. With over a decade and a half of seeing the show, it’s not hard to spot those types of exhibiting trends.

I take plenty of business cards, a few branded shirts, my trademark TradeshowGuy hat, and a list of exhibitors I plan to say hello to. I’m always with my trusty 2011 Macbook Pro, an iPhone, a mini iPad 2, and a couple of books, a yellow legal pad (although I rarely use it).

I used to regard being on the road as a time to eat out at restaurants frequently – which I enjoy since it’s a rare event – but have found over time that’s a good way to add a few pounds over just a few days. So, it’s the occasional meal out and lots of snacks. Heck, with all of the samples on the floor at Expo, one meal a day is plenty.

In spite of all of the prep I do – and the ongoing work to help clients refurbish exhibits – it still feels like I’m caught unprepared in some sense, like there’s something left undone.

A few months prior to the show, say around December, I start to feel the show coming. It’s like hearing the echo of a faraway freight train that’s still ten miles away. As the weeks tick by, the whistle gets louder, and the train gets closer. You can’t stop it, you can’t ignore it, you have to welcome it. And I do.

Thanks to my trusty Fitbit, I know from past experience that I’ll walk six to eight miles each day, and I’ll get back to my Airbnb room with aching muscles, ready to chillax as much as I can.

One of the observations I’ve made over the years: people my age, while not rare at the show, are dwindling. It seems that a majority of the attendees and exhibit staff are in the 20 – 40 age bracket. It’s always interesting to chat with people who were born a generation later than me. I have kids about that age, so I understand they’re at a very different part in their lives. But it’s not hard to make connections. People are quite friendly at the show and are eager and willing to talk about their company and products.

Methinks my plan is sound: I’ll meet lots of exhibitors, snap photos and post on Instagram and Twitter (maybe the occasional video), check in on clients, say hello to previous clients and connections. It’s all a crazy wonderful wacky tasty sprint from start to finish that leaves me exhausted.

So, no, I wouldn’t say I have Natural Products Expo West Pre-Game Jitters. All in all, I love the show and look forward to going again. But I admit I let out a small sigh of relief when it’s in the rearview mirror.


Reverse Engineering Tradeshow Success

What do ya mean, reverse engineering tradeshow success? If you ask Wikipedia, you get this: “Reverse engineering, also called back engineering, is the processes of extracting knowledge or design information from a product and reproducing it or reproducing anything based on the extracted information.”

Or: disassemble something and analyze the components to see how it works.

Or make it simpler yet: start with the end in mind. Know what you want when all is said and done and then figure out what steps are required to get there.

reverse engineering tradeshow success

Let’s take a look at one of the main purposes of tradeshow marketing: generating leads. Want 300 leads at the end of three days? You’ll need on average, 100 a day. If it’s a 7 hour-a-day show, you’ll want to generate just over 14 leads per hour, or about one ever four minutes. Give or take.

If, in your experience based on tracking numbers at a particular show, you know that about 1 in 5 booth visitors is a good candidate for your product of service. And out of those 20% of visitors, one-third are judged to be strong or “A” leads, worthy of following up on in the first few days after the show.

Given that, about 1 in 15 booth visitors is an “A” lead. Do the math, and you see you need 4,500 booth visitors, or 1,500 per day.

When you examine that number, do you think it’s realistic that you’ll see enough people at your booth to get a true, qualified lead ever four or five minutes? Is that assumption based on past experience, or is it just a wild guess?

Let’s take another perspective. If you know that there are going to be about 70,000 visitors to the show (it’s a pretty big show!), and you want just 300 leads in three days, you need about one out of every 233 visitors to stop by and do your thing to qualify them.

That’s one way to reverse engineer the math.

Now it gets a little more difficult. How do you reverse engineer tradeshow success on other things, such as your exhibit, your people, your giveaways?

As far as your exhibit, if you need to accommodate 1500 visitors a day, that’s about 200 an hour. If you need about 5 minutes with each visitor to determine if they’re a qualified lead, that’s 1000 minutes. That means a total of 16 2/3 hours of actual time during each hour of the show. Rough math means you need about 20 people in your booth to be there for each hour. Which (doing the math again), you’ll need a sizeable booth space to accommodate 40 people at any given time.

If that’s not reasonable given your budget and space, you’ll want to spend time examining your overall realistic expectations for how many leads you’ll generate during the show.

Of course, real life doesn’t work just like the math we just walked through. Some visitors are disqualified instantly. Some people will take longer to qualify, especially when it comes to your follow up.

My advice? If you haven’t done so, set a baseline at your next show. Do your best to count booth visitors, track leads daily if not hourly, and add everything up once the show is over. Do it for each different show to see how they compare. Then when the same shows roll around next year, you have a starting point. Put practices into place that allow you to better engage visitors, create pre-show marketing strategies that bring more targeted folks to your booth, and make sure that your post-show follow-up system is solid.

Reverse engineering tradeshow success may be an odd way to look at how you get from Point A to Point B, but it’s as good as any, and better than many.

Grab our free report “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House” – click here!

You’re a Tradeshow Manager? Face It: Your Job is Never Done

As a tradeshow manager, your job is never done. Is that a bit daunting? Not every tradeshow manager job is the same, but I would hazard a guess that many of the duties are similar from person to person.

tradeshow manager

You count the number of shows your company will exhibit at during a year. Some shows require that you ship the large island booth, some require the uber-cool inline booth and lots of products. Others require just a table top exhibit with a good backdrop. Some may need a professional presenter. Each show has its own guidelines, shipping and logistic requirements, not to mention your internal goals: different product launches or promotions, different personnel needs, different graphics for different audiences and more.

Then there’s the travel: scheduling and booking flights, hotels, rental cars, meetings and more. Packing, schlepping to the airport, to the hotel. Bring a good book to read, or get some work done on the plane.

Then its show time! Meet and greet, pitch products, answer questions, gather lead information, answer more questions, meet after hours with clients or friends. Sleep? Maybe a little! Feel sore from all the walking? Yes.

Once the show is over, it’s time to pack it up, ship it back, make sure the leads are categorized and sent to the sales team for follow up. Maybe check the exhibit when it gets back to the warehouse to make sure it’s ready to go for the next show.

Back in the office, it’s time to reconcile payments made with receipts, track costs, fill in spreadsheets to calculate ROI and more. File papers, submit reports, share photos, solicit feedback on what worked and what could be improved.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tradeshow manager and your job never ends. None of our jobs end until we decide. We learn to take breaks, get a breather, grab a coffee, go skiing, take a bike ride when we can.

Then we get back on the saddle and fully engage again. Because it’s a great job, isn’t it, and you wouldn’t stick with it if you didn’t love it, right?

Walking the Floor at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference

Here in Oregon, the cannabis industry is fast-growing, which means that tradeshows promoting the industry are popping up frequently. I walked the floor of the Cannabis Collaborative Conference last week, meeting people and posting photos of participants and exhibits on my social media outlets, especially Instagram and Twitter. I came up with a few takeaways:

Participants are very upbeat and positive about the future of the industry, despite the federal classification of marijuana as a dangers drug, and despite the recent announcement by the DOJ that they would more aggressively target people under federal laws, even in states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

One comment came from an exhibitor, who observed that attendees and exhibitors at this particular show were more likely those who were new to the industry, wanted to get into the industry or were smaller players. “The bigger players don’t need to be at this show,” she said.

CDB (cannabidoil) is exploding, positioned as a “non-high” pain treatment. A year ago it was barely mentioned. Today in Oregon it’s seen everywhere, it seems, and is heavily promoted as an alternative to other over-the-counter pain killers such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

I managed to see a portion of one of the presentations, which was a panel discussion on the challenges that the industry faces in the banking industry. As a cash business, stores are faced with getting that money into a banking system that resists the cash because, as institutions that are regulated by the federal government, they may be punished for doing just that. No easy answers!

I see that Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, that supports the industry, gave a keynote addressing the Department of Justice’s decision to repeal the Cole Memo. Would have liked to see that!

From the perspective of a tradeshow marketer, I saw a mix of good, clever and creative exhibits along with those that barely were able to cobble together a printed vinyl sign backdrop. Those that I talked to were excited about their position in the industry, though, and looked forward to being able to afford more expensive exhibits in the future.

Here are a few photos from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference.

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