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

Tradeshow marketing

Top 10 Lessons on Tradeshow Marketing I Learned from Loud Rock ‘n’ Roll

Fender Strat

Yup, I love marketing. And tradeshows. And loud rock ‘n’ roll. And I take inspiration from rock ‘n’ roll (and all sorts of other music – reggae, new age, grunge, punk, thrash, jazz, folk, etc…) so I thought it about high time to post a list of tradeshow marketing inspirations from my rock ‘n’ roll catalog.

Let’s see if you can find some of the same guidance by cranking up these tunes:

  1. “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. If you don’t market properly who the heck is going to show up at your booth? You don’t want to be standing in the booth humming this song while your competitors are cleaning up.
  2. “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” by The Beatles. Transparency is one of the major currencies available for companies today. This means blogging about your company, answering all questions honestly, and not trying to hide things. It may have worked to cover up a flaw in your product 20 years ago, but in today’s connected world you’re better off dealing with it.
  3. “Heart Full of Soul” by the Yardbirds. When greeting people at your tradeshow booth give a genuine smile, a warm handshake and offer an engaging question. Your ‘heart full of soul’ will come through loud and clear and make you an attractive company to do business with.
  4. “Treat Me Right” by Elvis. Do you treat your visitors right?
  5. “Wanna be Startin’ Something” by Michael Jackson. Okay, technically it’s more pop and dance music than rock, but if it’s loud it sounds great. And your potential business partners appreciate the attitude of this song. If you wanna be startin’ something with a new client show them your willingness to step up to the plate. Warmly greeting people at a tradeshow booth shows that willingness.
  6. “I’m Free” by The Who. What a great way to entice visitors to your booth – by offering something of value for free. If it’s the right giveaway it introduces your company to visitors and invites them to stay in contact with you with the possibility of doing business in the future.
  7. “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Yes, you’re in a far-away big city. Yes you can stay out late and party. But the bottom line at a tradeshow is: you’re there to take care of business. Do the business first and then save time for fun.
  8. “Rock Steady” by Bad Company. By exhibiting at the important shows year after year you’ll establish your presence and grow a business that people will love and respect. So keep rockin’ steady.
  9. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. While everyone else is cutting back on marketing budgets, trimming personnel and cutting corners, they’re leaving a lot of money on the table. A savvy marketer can use the opportunity of a recession to grab a wee bit more market share. When the recovery comes, and it will, you’ll be in a better position to become a market leader.
  10. “Got My Mind Set On You” by George Harrison. Nothing like persistence to get what you want. This cover tune by George Harrison hit Number One in January of 1988 demonstrates that if you want it bad enough, you can get it. This applies to more than tradeshow marketing of course – but it’s a great way to approach your next tradeshow appearance. Just follow these lyrics:

Its gonna take time
A whole lot of precious time
Its gonna take patience and time, ummm
To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it,
To do it right child

Next time you’re planning your marketing strategy, sit back, crank up the tunes and let the inspiration flow. And of course, come up with a few of your own (add ’em to my list if you like!)

How Important is Booth Staff Training?

Tradeshow Staff Training - is it important?

You’ve no doubt arrived at a tradeshow booth wanting to find out more about the product or service being offered. Maybe you even scouted them out or found them on a recommendation.

But when you arrive you find that the staff greets you with indifference. Or worse, you find yourself ignored, and not because the staff is busy with other customers but because they’re chatting with themselves.

What do you do? Turn and walk away? I’ve seen it happen.

It’s a missed sales opportunity that will likely not be regained. All because your booth staffers didn’t have the presence of mind or proper training to greet you.

When you arrive at the tradeshow with a well-trained staff, you communicate a subtle message to visitors and fellow exhibitors: We Came Prepared. We’re Ready for You. Bring It On.

It’s all part of your bottom line: a well-trained staff can increase both the quality and quantity of your take-home leads. Team meetings every day can keep your staff focused and on task. A well-trained staff will invite visitors in by smiling and asking pertinent qualifying questions. They’ll determine who’s a quality prospect and who’s not, and effectively move the prospects into the sales funnel and the non-prospects out of the booth.

By taking the time to train your staff in engaging and qualifying your visitors, you’re investing in a valuable resource. And that investment will reap dividends in the real world – your tradeshow marketing ROI.

Using Music in Your Tradeshow Booth

Have you ever been walking through a tradeshow only to be diverted by the onslaught of a loud steady hip-hop beat from a booth three rows away? It’s happened to me a few times.

Typically, if music at a booth is too loud, neighbors will complain and it won’t take long for the music volume level to drop to acceptable levels, whether voluntarily or through enforcement by show organizers.

Music in your booth...

So does all music at a show rub people the wrong way? And with thousands of exhibitors won’t low-volume music get lost in the hustle and bustle?

Perhaps, but there are ways music can be used effectively. At a recent show I was drawn to a light reggae beat emanating from inside a small structure. When I stepped through the door I was treated to Bob Marley’s ‘Jammin’’ and I was treated to a small art display that enhanced the exhibitor’s image.

Across the show floor at another booth my ears detected new age music that was barely audible from ten feet away – but it sounded perfectly appropriate for the product on display and added to the overall booth ambiance.

In both cases the music was unobtrusive and supported the client’s image. If you’re going to consider music as a background for your tradeshow it should do both.

What About the Legalities?

Not being a lawyer, but at least being familiar with the licensing requirements of ASCAP and BMI, it’s my understanding that any event or venue that features licensed music is required to pay a fee. For instance, if you play a radio over your on-hold system, technically you’re required to pay a licensing fee. Same at a restaurant, bar or other gathering place where pre-recorded music might be played – or a live band for tha matter. If you play music in your booth at a tradeshow, often the event organizers or convention operators will have a license to cover that performance.

If you  want to play music at your booth, check with the show organizers first and see if they’re covered. If they’re not, check with your company legal advisor. If they determine you should cover your legal you-know-what, purchasing a performance license is relatively cheap.

Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone

No matter what the circumstance, moving out of your comfort zone is not easy. But busting that comfort zone is often a key step to growth.

Most clients I work with on new custom tradeshow booth projects are on the verge of moving out of their comfort zone. Why? Because they’re moving from simple pop-up type exhibits to full custom designed and fabricated booths. In other cases they’re moving out of the comfort zone of not doing tradeshow marketing to appearing with a small pop-up a regional shows.

Bob's Red Mill

That means they’re stepping into dealing with a larger plan that involves shipping, storage, drayage, show labor and more. Most of that stuff they haven’t had to deal with – at least not on the scale that a larger custom booth demands. It’s not as easy as shipping a small booth case with a few graphics. Now you’re dealing with common carrier shipping lines, larger storage spaces, and coordinating a set-up staff that you may have little communication with or control over.

A recent prospect made the decision to move into a larger 20×30 booth from a 10×20 in-line booth. They were ready to step up and break through that comfort zone as a company. But something happened on the way to the tradeshow. They started adding up the cost of drayage, storage, shipping – not to mention the cost of design and fabrication. Then the economy started to slide, so they regretfully sidelined the new booth project. Not because they didn’t want the new booth, but because the realities of all of the ramifications hadn’t been fully calculated. They were not quite ready for the new reality of living with a larger booth.

But there are many more examples of companies I’ve worked with that have made the step successfully. All contingencies were examined, all costs were vetted, and the decision was made to proceed. Bob’s Red Mill, of Milwaukie, Oregon, is a good example of this (see photo). When it was time to move up they made the commitment, and are extremely pleased with how the new booth has helped their marketing efforts at the larger tradeshows.

From my vantage point, all the folks I work with are more than happy to have made the change, no matter how uncomfortable it may have been working through the process. They have a nicer, larger booth that proudly shows off their brand and help bring in more business. Clients rave about the new booth and everyone goes home happier.

And dealing with all that stuff – show labor, shipping, drayage, etc. – becomes the new norm. So it doesn’t take long before you’re back in your comfort zone again.

20 Dumb Things Exhibitors Do

Are you wasting money with your tradeshow exhibiting?

Last week I put up a blog post that poked fun at tradeshow visitors with the “Top 10 Annoying Things Tradeshow Attendees Do” – so this week I thought I’d turn the mirror around with Dumb Things Exhibitors Do.

No, don’t think anything of the fact that this list is twice as long as the other list! I just happen to see if from the exhibitor’s point of view – and it’s my job to point these things out, anyway.

So…the list, sir?

  1. Show up understaffed.
  2. Neglect to train your staff.
  3. Show up with nothing more than a booth and some people – and no plan.
  4. Forget to update the graphics to reflect new products or services.
  5. Fail to keep the booth as clean as possible.
  6. Ignore visitors.
  7. Stand in your booth with your arms folded (body language says – ‘stay away’).
  8. Wait until the last minute to call your graphic production company with a change of graphic plans.
  9. Wait until the last minute to do anything – exhibit planning and execution usually takes more time than you think.
  10. Being indecisive and letting time slip by and being forced to make quick decisions that may not be the best for the company.
  11. Think that the tradeshow and convention is your time to party, baby! 3 am? Sure, why not?!
  12. Bring a generic brochure to a show where you should be promoting a specific product or service.
  13. Think there’s only one way to do things – and remain inflexible to possible changes. Even in the midst of a show.
  14. Fail to listen to your customers. A tradeshow is a perfect place to do mini-polls and customer research.
  15. Failing to take a break when you clearly need it.
  16. Failing to collect pertinent information for each prospect: just enough and not too much.
  17. Neglecting to confirm with your prospect exactly when your next contact will be and what that contact will address.
  18. Not taking advantage of early booking for next year’s show before you leave this year’s show – it usually saves you some $$ and gets you a decent spot.
  19. Fail to watch every nickel and dime – so you can plan next year’s show taking into account this year’s cost savings!
  20. Debrief your staff at the end of every day while it’s fresh on their minds – and implement good suggestions the next day!

Feel free to add to the list of course. Just take a moment, sign up as a blog user and leave your comment. It’ll make it easier to add comments to the next post.

To see a list of 101 things a tradeshow exhibitor SHOULD do, check out the e-book “101 Rules of Tradeshow Marketing.” (PDF link)

Guerrilla Tradeshow Marketing: What Makes it Different?

Guerrilla Trade Show Selling

Jay Conrad Levinson, Mark S. A. Smith and Orvel Ray Wilson released “Guerrilla Trade Show Selling” in 1997. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Orvel; I’ve given copies of the book to clients and find it a treasure trove of usable ideas – many of which I’ve either recommended or used.

A dozen years later it still packs a wallop in terms of great ideas to implement in your ‘guerrilla’ tradeshow marketing efforts.

As an example, here are a few highlights of some of the ideas that make guerrilla marketing different:

  • Guerrillas rely on time, energy and imagination instead of mountains of cash.
  • Guerrilla marketing is based on psychology instead of guesswork.
  • For a guerrilla, profit is the only reasonable yardstick of success. Profitable marketing is good marketing. All other marketing is bad.
  • Guerrilla marketing is strictly geared to small business.
  • Guerrilla marketing removes the mystique from marketing.
  • Guerrilla marketing is based on cooperation instead of competition.
  • Guerrillas don’t go for the sale – they go for the relationship.
  • Guerrillas know that it takes a combination of advertising, direct mail, telemarketing and other practices. Combine more than one tool and they reinforce each other.
  • Guerrilla marketers use as many marketing weapons as possible – tradeshows are just one weapon in the arsenal.

The book is easy and fun to read – hey, you want a marketing book with attitude? This is it!

You’ll find ways to save money, generate traffic, decide which shows to attend or exhibit at and close more sales. Who wouldn’t want that?

Free Tradeshow ROI Webinar


Joyce MeKee at got together with Skip Cox of Exhibit Surveys recently for a webinar on the new ROI Toolkit created by Exhibit Surveys, IAEE, CEIR and PCMA. The ROI Toolkit was released by Exhibit Surveys in January of 2008 after years of development. The webinar is an effort to explain what it does, and how it can help with your tradeshow marketing – as well as show you exactly how the ROI toolkit works.

Check out the webinar here at

Take a look at the ROI Toolkit from Exhibit Surveys here.

Tradeshow Marketing Podcast: Karen Silvers interview

Karen Silvers

Need a promo item for your next tradeshow, but think it might be a waste of money because your guests will just throw it away? It doesn’t have to be that way. As in most marketing efforts, when you bring in the services of a professional your results usually improve dramatically.

Karen J. Silvers, a promotional products distributor with Lee Wayne Company, spent some time discussing promotional products marketing – and firmly believes there is no time when you should NOT be able to put together a promotion around giveaways.

Check our Karen’s website and find her on Twitter – @KarenJSilvers.

13 Tips for a Successful Trade Show

Guest Article by Emilie Barta

Tradeshow Marketing

So you have purchased your booth space, had your exhibit house design and build your exhibit, contracted all of your services, booked your airline flights and hotel rooms, hired your Professional Trade Show Presenter and other trade show talent, and chosen which of your employees are going to staff your booth. So now all you have to do is show up at the convention center…right? WRONG!!

The biggest reason that exhibitors have an unsuccessful show is because they just stand around and expect attendees to come to them. Trade shows have a lot going on in a condensed space, and you need to attract attendees to your booth. Here are some simple tips for a successful show:

  • A SMILE and a POSITIVE ATTITUDE are the best accessories you can put on in the morning!
  • Make sure to do PRE-SHOW MARKETING to drive attendees to your booth. The walk-bys are the icing on the cake.
  • You must give attendees a REASON to walk into your booth, otherwise they will just walk on by.
  • Make sure your PURPOSE for being at the trade show is crystal clear so that no attendee gets confused by your message.
  • You must WELCOME attendees into your booth and be a perfect “party host” once they are inside. It is all about the first impression!
  • Maintain your ENERGY LEVEL throughout the day, no matter how tired or hungry you are.
  • STAFF YOUR BOOTH with the employees who recognize the value of trade shows, shows up on time, will not wander away from the booth, knows the answers to the questions the attendees will ask, maintains a put-together appearance, and are not prone to losing business cards or information that will be needed back at the office.
  • Make sure that the staff of your booth has a UNIFORM APPEARANCE so that it is obvious to the attendees who works for your company and can answer their questions.
  • Don’t think that you can do it all, because you can’t. Make sure to OUTSOURCE functions to companies who represent your company image.
  • LISTEN to the attendees and give them exactly what they are looking for in the moment. Upselling can happen once the show is over and a relationship has been established.
  • Have a designated method for getting HOT LEADS to the appropriate sales person both on the show floor at back at the office. Never let an opportunity slip away due to disorganization.
  • Remember that you are REPRESENTING YOUR COMPANY from the minute you get to the airport in your home city to the minute you are in your car driving home. Many relationships have been started on airplanes or shuttles, in the cafeteria, or at dinner. And many more relationships have been destroyed during these same times.
  • And most importantly, HAVE FUN!!

Some of these tips may sound obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I approach a booth only to find one employee present, sitting with his/her back to the aisle, with a scowl on their face, hunched over their computer. These are the exhibitors that complain that they had an unsuccessful show and give trade shows a bad name.

Have a successful show!!

Presenter, Program Host, Narrator, Actress, Voiceover Artist


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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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