Vikram Rajan of PhoneBlogger.net tells an interesting story of working with attorneys, speaking and attending conferences, tradeshows and similar events all in the pursuit of promoting his business. A very engaging and interesting conversation. Also on today’s podcast: Tradeshow Tip of the Week on how to take better exhibit and tradeshow photos with your smartphone.
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!
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.
One of your biggest tradeshow marketing challenges is how to stand out at a tradeshow. Every other exhibitor is vying for the attention of visitors, so not only are you trying to grab the attention of the eyeballs and mind of a visitor, but every other exhibitor there is looking to do the same thing.
To stand out, you have to be unique. Or if not unique, you have to execute the various properties of your exhibit in such a way that you catch eyeballs.
What is unique? It’s something that no one has thought of before. An exhibit that I saw in the last year at Expo West in Anaheim was nothing more than a large “1%” that dominated the entirety of the booth. In the booth, by Kashi, there was a small sign that explained that the 1% referred to the amount of organic farmland in the US. That unique approach, along with well-informed booth staff, made for a presence that really stood out.
Another way is to have an exhibit that represents your brand so well that frankly, no other exhibitor could have that exhibit. If you’re familiar with Bob’s Red Mill, you know that their brand is the iconic face of Bob Moore, and a red mill. Their exhibit shows that red mill down to the T. Bob Moore, in his late 80s, still represents the brand at the bigger shows, signs books, gives them away, and poses for pictures. Another way the company stands out at Expo West is when Bob and a small Dixieland band make an entrance every morning, marching throughout the show floor, finally ending at the booth.
Other exhibitors stand out by having unique hands-on activities, mascots, celebrities (in the industry), unusual giveaways and more.
Standing out is critical to getting attention. What can you do to stand out?
A year ago, our new client Schmidt’s Naturals debuted a new custom 10×20 at the Natural Products Expo West. It was a custom exhibit designed by Classic Exhibits‘ designer Kim DiStefano. The design was submitted to Exhibitor Magazine’s annual Portable/Modular Awards, which honor design excellence in portable, modular and system exhibits. Here’s what it looked like on the floor of Expo West:
A couple of years ago, one of our clients, SoYoung, was a winner in the competition. We’re glad that Schmidt’s Naturals got the nomination and we wish them the best when the winners are announced in late winter at ExhibitorLIVE!
We’d like to invite you to see all of the entrants in the Exhibitor Portable/Modular Awards – take a look here and vote your favorite. And remember, you can vote once per day until the competition closes.
It’s not hard to take great tradeshow photos with a smartphone. But it’s also really easy to take some pretty bad and frankly usely photos with your smartphone. I know – I’ve taken many! So how do you take good photos at a tradeshow? Let’s go over a few tips:
Hold still! The photo looks great on your screen, but when you blow it up, you’ll often see a photo that is slightly blurred. So, it’s not usable. Right before you take a photo, take a second to steady yourself, hold your breath for a moment and then press the button. Tradeshow lighting usually sucks, so holding your camera still will give you a better chance to get a steady shot.
Know what you want in the photo. Is it a photo of your exhibit? Do you want people in or out of it? If it’s a photo of the exhibit, you’ll often have to wait until people clear out of the way. If you want a great photo of the exhibit, the best time to take it is before the show floor doors open. That’s the time few people are around and the carpets are clean and everything looks great.
For people pictures, get up close. People pictures are great. You can post them online, share with colleagues or even use them in emails or on your blog. Faces should be recognizable, and if you’re planning on posting it, please get permission from the subject first. Cropping is easy, but if you get up close in the first place, you’ll have less to crop.
Take a lot of photos to get the one you want. With a chaotic moving environment that is a tradeshow floor, to get a great shot, you’ll often have to take several. Depending on the situation, that may mean taking a burst of photos by holding down the button if your phone does that or taking several using different angles, as well as using both the landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) approach.
Take shots of things you wouldn’t normally consider. Given that the only issue with taking photos is storage space and not the cost of film like when I was a kid, you can take as many as you want and delete those that didn’t turn out. That may mean a shot of the carpeting, or a storage area, or the back of your booth, or close-ups of how things connect. Whatever – it doesn’t matter. The more photos you have of your exhibit the better you’ll be able to track down evidence of some issue that may come up later, such as what parts are missing or how a seamed image looks.
Don’t use flash. I’ve never been happy with how smartphone photos taken with the phone’s flash look. And with a lot of ambient lighting like that you encounter at tradeshows, the flash will generally put poor looking highlights in the closer part of the image and darken the rest of it. It most cases, using flash won’t improve the shot.
Look for different angles. If you’re trying to take photos of a crowd, hold your phone up (or get a tall person to help), or stand on something if possible. Or try taking photos from knee level and see what you get. Be willing to experiment to see what kinds of photos you’ll get.
Yes, I have a Pinterest account. No, I don’t spend a lot of time there. Something about not having enough bandwidth and so on. However, when I do get over there, I find a lot of things to like. Such as these boards on tradeshow marketing which are standouts!
Kimb T. Williams‘ board on Tradeshow Marketing Items features a variety of eye-catching items which make it a worthwhile stop.
I’m the last guy to claim to be a trend-setter, but I do try to keep at least one half-open eye on tradeshow exhibiting trends. So I took a look at some of the things that are showing up on various 2017 tradeshow exhibit trends lists and added in a couple of things I’ve seen at shows this year. Yes, we’re into the second half of the year – so how did these trend article from earlier in the year predict what’s happening on the ground?
Virtual Reality: I’m still unconvinced this will really take off in the tradeshow world. The challenges are many: crowded floors, busy visitors, cost of creating custom content that not only engages but impresses and leaves people glad they spent the time. But it looks like the technology is there and will do nothing but improve. The few times I’ve seen it at shows, people did not seem all that interested, and several VR headsets sat unused for long periods of time. When they were used, visitors commented that it was nice, but no one I spoke with raved about the experience. Again, it comes down to getting the best and most engaging content possible.
According to this great article from Exhibitor Magazine, some other trends for the year include Artificial Intelligence (think Siri and Alexa), new ways of visitor engagement (digital games, for example), and Tradeshow Campaign Themes.
From Freeman comes an article that brings up sustainable materials as still trending (look for LED backlit smart fabric walls), immersive hubs from show organizers (activities, video content and more), and education that is customized to the level of expertise in the audience groups. There’s also a mention of one way that might be a good workaround on the prohibitive cost of shipping large engines and equipment around the world: 3D-printing that can replicate the machinery or equipment to a T.
Absolute Exhibits from Tustin, CA, offers a handful of tech trends for tradeshow exhibits this year, including digital lounges for recharging (figuratively and literally), brighter and more attractive signage, push notifications through the show’s mobile app, games and contests, and interactive video walls and touch screens.
Exhibit Concepts offers up trends including finding new ways to engage face-to-face, the wide incorporation of technology into every corner of a tradeshow exhibit (Bluetooth beacons that integrate with a client’s products), and the increasing use of custom exhibit rentals to keep costs down.
From my perspective, I see the growing use of backlit fabric graphics taking over much of the tradeshow floor. The cost is coming down (still), and the quality of the fabric printing is nearly indistinguishable from high-quality paper printing, as long as you’re using the latest generation of printers (be sure to ask!)
Another item I see frequently is large-format, simple graphics that do a terrific job of grabbing eyeballs, either through the bold simple easy-to-read text, or bold images combined with sparse text.
When it comes to charging stations, I recently saw something a little different: lockable stations where you can plug in and leave your device. When you return just enter your code (that you came up with earlier), and retrieve the device. This charging unit was NOT in an exhibitor booth, but was instead provided by the show.
The last couple of shows I attended (Expo West in March and IFT in June) both had great, easy-to-use show apps. Quick to download, easy to navigate, and when you set up push notifications you really don’t miss a thing. Kudos to the various app designers that make them so friendly and good-looking.
These topics are echoed in many other posts throughout the tradeshow world, and now that we’re on the downward slide into 2018, it’ll be interesting to see what comes to the fore next year that everyone wants to be a part of.
I had the pleasure to attend the International Food Technologists 2017 show in Las Vegas this week, thanks to our client Meduri Farms, who set up their 20×20 custom island booth for the second time. In walking the floor, I ran across a lot of fun exhibits that should be highlighted for one reason or another. So, let’s jump into another edition of TradeshowGuy Exhibit Awards – the #IFT17 Version! Let’s start with a look at the Meduri Farms booth, just because, well, to show off the exhibit:
Best Client Representation: Meduri Farms
It’s a custom 20×20 island designed by Greg Garrett Designs and fabricated by Classic Exhibits. Private meeting area, generous sampling and product display areas, and a nearly 16′ tall center tower that draws eyeballs from halfway across the floor:
Best “Booth-In-A-Box:” Ardent Farms
There’s no easy way to view this exhibit in a single photo, so I’ll include a couple. Ardent Mills, of Denver, Colorado, simply drove in a trailer from an 18-wheeler, complete with kitchen and fold-down serving areas. Throw in some seating areas and signage and voila – you have a classy exhibit:
Best Exhibit Using Stuff We Build: International Paper
Nothing quite like showing off your stuff by having a booth built out of the stuff that you sell. In this case, International Paper bills themselves as one of the leading producers of fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper. So of course many of their booth elements were created using corrugated cardboard and related materials. Especially eye-catching: the custom charging table built from corrugated material:
Simplest and Most Effective Backdrop: Bulk Supplements.com
Simple like being able to read and understand a billboard a 65 MPH. I spoke with Keven, the owner, and he said his purpose was to communicate what the company does loudly and simply. And that exactly what this 20′ wide back drop does, very effectively.
Best Use of Grape Balloons: Welch’s
Well, it may be the only use of grape balloons, but in this case, they caught my eye from a good three aisle over. A great way to stand out from the crowd, indeed:
The “Let’s Get Their Attention NOW!” Exhibit: S&D Coffee and Tea
This large hanging sign close to one of the main entrances was designed to capture your eyeballs within a second or two – and it worked. The juxtaposition of the woman in a stocking cap with gloves, the “COLD BRRRRRRREW” statement and the experience of visitors walking in from the 105-degree Las Vegas heat drew a crowd.
Best Branding from Top to Bottom: Morton Salt
You could quibble on this award as there were a lot of exhibits at IFT that were exceptionally executed from communicating a brand. But Morton’s booth was well-thought out from side-to-side and top-to-bottom, down to the display of the different types of salts that you could actually put your hands on and feel and touch. Even the conference room had great information to communicate.
Best BluePrint for Ingredients and Innovation: Watson
From Connecticut, Watson Inc diagrams and displays more information than most people will bother to stop and read. But maybe that’s the point: the graphic design, displayed as if it were a blueprint, showcases information from infant formula to pet foods and leaves us impressed with the depth and breadth of their reach – all in a two-story exhibit that had plenty of room for meetings, storage and product display:
Best Use of Really Large Test-Tube Like Displays: Alquimia USA
More than eye-catching, this row of some 16 grains, beans, seeds and more also created a unique wall-off side of the booth.
And finally, a double/shared award to…
Best Use of the Periodoc Table: Asenzya and Land O’ Lakes
There may have been other uses of the periodic table of elements, but these two companies used the table to great effect, so show off the flavor elements and the seasons ingredients respectively. It’s a lot to digest (no pun intended), but great fun to take a look and see how they plotted out the display. Well done!
A couple of other observations from walking the floor…
There were a LOT of big monitors at the show, on the order of 60″ to 72″. Some exhibits had several of them. In speaking with on exhibitor, I suggested that in his next version of the video, that he added closed-captioning, since the ambient noise on the show floor made it nearly impossible to understand what was being said. “Good idea!”
I ran across a few exhibitors touting Virtual Reality: sit down, put a headset on and enjoy some virtual reality – mainly a quick interactive look at a company’s production process. Frankly, I’m still waiting to be impressed with VR at a tradsehow. Having said that, I’ve only tried it a few times, so no doubt someone is ready with a really good VR experience somewhere. I watched some people sit down, try the headset on while wearing glasses (didn’t work for them, didn’t work for me, either), and then go through the experience. If you wear glasses, taking them off to slip the headset on means that things are not clear and sharp, although it didn’t keep me from comprehending what was going on. The best ones are those that show off the company’s production process, or give a tour through a field or something related to the company. But with more and more VR coming to tradeshows, they’re going to have to step up with a great experience, or it’ll be hard to justify the use of VR headsets and the accompanying cost of creating the program.
I really liked the larger 20′ wide center aisles that were spread in a few places on the floor, complete with park benches. A nice place to grab a quick respite from walking and talking without having to leave the hall:
In case you hadn’t noticed social media video is exploding, driving traffic and eyeballs both on and offline. So it makes sense to strongly consider making video a part of your tradeshow strategy. Posting videos or going live from the show gives followers a sense of the show without actually being there, and if done correctly can help paint a picture of the people behind your brand.
If you’re going to put some videos together to promote your tradeshow appearance, it helps to color inside the lines as it were. Unless you’re a creative genius like Scorsese. So let’s take a look at some of those guidelines you might follow.
Facebook: Go Live from the show floor from your phone or laptop or tablet. Keep it short, but look to connect with viewers using short product demos, in-booth interviews with clients or visitors, interacting with booth staffers and more. Give your followers an intimate look at the people behind the products and services.
YouTube: Great for longer-form videos, but don’t overdo the length. You can go live, but it’s not a simple one-click from your page as it is with Facebook. Create videos that give information: product demonstrations, how-tos, and stories that build your brand.
Instagram: Now that you can combine stills and videos into short stories, capture several items and publish together as a single post. Aim for collections that demonstrate a lifestyle that relates to your brand. And of course, with a click you can go live on Instagram.
Twitter: Short videos are the rule on Twitter, as the stream is going so fast. One or two minutes is all you really need to capture someone’s attention. To the best of my knowledge, you can’t go live on Twitter (is Periscope still a thing?), so you’ll have to upload to YouTube or Vimeo or some other video platform and post a link.
Regardless of the platform you’re on, plan on posting multiple times during the day. If you’re going to do video from a tradeshow at all, make a full-on commitment so that your followers that are not at the show are able to anticipate your videos and join in the fun from a distance. Be sure to use show hashtags so that people outside of your company social media followers can find your video posts. And have fun – it’s just video! Everybody’s doing it! You’ll learn and get better as time goes on.
Planning on putting more focus on using Instagram at your next tradeshow or event? Congratulations. After all, it’s one of the most popular social media platforms out there with more than 400 million daily active users. But before you get started, do a little planning and it’ll be much easier to capture and post photos.
Use the Event Hashtag. This way people at the show will find your posts much more easily.
Go behind the scenes with photos. Show the exhibit set up, the show prep meeting, or the travel to the show. Build some excitement as you approach the show, and of course during and after.
Don’t focus exclusively on your products or services. The most boring Instagram accounts are those that do nothing but promote, promote, promote their own stuff. Sure a product placement is cool, but make sure you have faces, preferably happy and smiling. Show off your exhibit and the people that visit.
Use the Geotagging options. And don’t just stop there. Spend some time going through other photos from the same event and location: either comment or like those so you’re building engagement and followers.
Promote the event before, during and after. Show what you’re going to do, show your team doing it, and then once it’s over, show more photos of what you’ve done.
Promote a contest. Instagram contests do work – but be sure to post your rules for how it works, and how you choose a winner. And be sure to give away a relevant prize.
Share to other platforms. Yeah, it’s easy, but be clear about how you’re doing it. If you just click the buttons, you’ll likely get a link to your Instagram post instead of the actual image. So either share the images separately, sign up for an IFTTT account, link your two accounts, and add this recipe that will “tweet your Instagrams as native photos on Twitter.”
Share the event hashtag photos on a monitor in your booth. Yeah, you’ll probably need some smart nerdy tech guy to set this up, but it’s definitely doable.
Have a great time at the show – and share on Instagram!