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

Tradeshow Photos

Magnet Productions Demo Reel

Tradeshow colleague Ken Newman’s Magnet Productions just released their newest demo reel. Since all they do is draw mobs of crowds to tradeshow booths, this is probably something that you should see. As Andy Saks of Spark Presentations said in his Facebook post mentioning the reel, “thanks to the lovely and talented Ken Newman and his company Magnet Productions for including some clips of me in Magnet’s new trade show talent demo reel. This was all recorded at the VMworld trade show in San Francisco in August when I was presenting for Magnet’s client Citrix (I do not have that much gray hair though, that’s all CG).”

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How to Issue an RFP for a Custom Tradeshow Exhibit

When it comes to sourcing a tradeshow exhibit builder for a new custom booth, you can do a number of things, such as ask colleagues who they have used, ask exhibitors at shows who built that booth, search online or perhaps pull out your tarot cards. No doubt there are hundreds if not thousands of exhibit companies eager to take your money and build you a fabulous booth.

Custom tradeshow booth from Bob's Red Mill
Custom tradeshow booth from Bob’s Red Mill

But how do you determine which builder is right for you?

If you’re starting from scratch and want to review the capabilities of several tradeshow exhibit builders, you can contact a half dozen of them and ask for a statement of capabilities, or you can go whole hog and issue a Request for Proposal.

The RFP is meant as an introduction to your company and your specific requirements and asks companies to respond with detailed information as to their capabilities and experience.

So how in-depth should it be? Let’s take a look at what you might want to include.

Start with a profile of your firm, including your target market and major competitors. Describe your products or services, your brand(s), and any industry trends that might be important.

Next, describe your objectives for your tradeshow marketing, making sure to identify specific goals for major shows. If the RFP is for a specific show, detail the size of the show, dates, size of your booth space and other pertinent information.

Describe any functional needs of your booth. It may be helpful to include photos of previous booths and include any comments you may have that describe the pros and cons of those booths.

Detail any brand basics along with guidelines and history if pertinent.

Include any show service needs you’d like to be a part of the RFP, such as I&D (installation and dismantle), carpeting, electrical, and on-site management.

Want any in-booth activities to show off your products and services? Be sure to include these if you want the tradeshow builder to consider providing these show marketing services. If so, describe the best outcome you’d like to achieve.

Finally, include your budget for the booth; let the respondents know if it’s all-inclusive or if some costs, such as space rental, are handled separately. Finally, include the dates of the show(s) that you need the booth and services.

In a nutshell, you’re describing your company’s background, show services requirements, booth design and functional requirements, budgeting and timeline.

Finally, be clear if this is a design competition. Some companies have the ability to easily spend a week or two on a spec design and others are not as well equipped, even though they may be able to build a stunning booth. While a design competition is a great way to see what the companies are capable of producing on short notice with no conversation, realize that the best design does not always equal the best end result. However, it is great to see the various ways a half dozen companies approach your booth needs.

Finally, don’t skimp on information. If you can’t decide whether to include something, you might err on the side of leaving it in. Seriously, it’s hard to include too much info in an RFP.

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7 Ways to Make Sure Your Tradeshow Exhibit Experience Sucks

Naah, I don’t want your tradeshow exhibiting experience to suck. But if it does, perhaps its because you did one of the following:

  1. Don’t have a plan. Next time you walk a tradeshow floor as an attendee, try to determine which exhibitors actually know what they’re doing there and why. If they have a fishbowl and are giving away an iPad to some random visitor that tosses a business card into the bowl, you can be assured they really don’t have a plan. If they say something simple and innocuous to passersby, such as “hi, how are you?” it becomes apparent they haven’t put any thought into what they actually want out of the show. Instead, make specific show goals (number of leads, counting visitors, number of demos, etc.) and come up with a strategy and plan to accomplish those goals.
  2. Natural Products Expo West 2009
    Natural Products Expo West 2009

    Don’t train your booth staff. If those staffers at the show that you’re still walking through are sitting at the back of the booth, talking amongst themselves, or chatting on a cell phone or texting somebody or eating, you know for a fact they have not been properly trained. Eating in a tradeshow booth is still the number one turn off to visitors and will pretty much ensure that anyone wanting to stop in at the moment will keep going. And probably not come back.

  3. Don’t do any pre-show marketing. If you don’t let people know you’re at the show, you’re leaving much more to chance. By working the phones, sending out emails, postcards, contacting media, doing PR, and more, you’re increasing the chances that people will make their way to your booth, no matter where it is.
  4. Don’t let your staffers know what’s going on other than the bare minimum. This is somewhat different than booth staff training, but falls under the same umbrella. If you don’t make sure your staff knows everything you can tell them about the products, service and specific show goals, they won’t fully grasp the reason(s) you’re at the show. On the other hand, if your staff has full knowledge of show goals, products, services, company hierarchy and other pertinent information, you’ll come a lot closer to being able to let visitors know as much about the products and services you offer as possible.
  5. Don’t have a booth that accurately and fully represents your brand. Too many exhibitors think that any ol’ booth will do. No. A booth is a statement. It’s a physical representation of your brand, from the materials, the graphic messaging, to the layout and the look and feel of the booth. If you’re a rootsy, eco-friendly, vegan pancake company, what are you doing with a high-tech booth that looks like it should be selling software? Visitors should be able to see your booth and instantly get a feel for your company that accurately reflects your products, attitude and mission.
  6. Don’t have a specific lead generation system in place. Think of it: you have a limited time at the show to capture information from potential clients or customers. If the show is a three day show and the floor is open just 7 hours a day, that’s 21 hours. If there are 30,000 visitors, that’s a potential of 1,428 visitors per hour IF they all walked by each booth once. We know that won’t happen, but if you get 100 visitors an hour and 20% of those visitors are ‘hot’ leads, what’s your method of capturing a lead’s specific contact information, along with follow up details? If you haven’t figured this out before the show – and your show goal is to capture as many good warm leads as possible – this will pretty much guarantee that your tradeshow exhibiting experience will suck.
  7. Don’t have a good follow up system in place. If you’ve gotten this far – planned a show, trained your staffers, have a good brand-representative booth and captured a plethora of leads – it will all be for naught if you don’t follow up properly. Still – in 2014! – surveys and statistics show that nearly 4 out of 5 tradeshow leads don’t get a follow up call or email. Eighty percent! Really! Do your job and make sure that all leads are tracked from the point of collection to the various touches over the next few weeks and month that lead to a sale. Because once you’ve made a sale, that’s when the fun begins and you’ve got a new client. And it all came from your tradeshow appearance.

But not if you suck at any of these seven items.

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Six Tips To Create A Top Custom Modular Exhibition Stand

The following is a guest post by Reno Macri.

A custom modular exhibition stand is an option to make the most of your investment, providing the chance to not only adapt and modify your stand for a program of shows, but also to re-use components from your stand in other events in between exhibitions. Modular design provides a uniquely adaptable framework for your exhibition, and can have greatly reduced shipping costs. The unique custom elements can provide high impact branding, whereas the durability of materials and efficient storage ensures your exhibition stand will look amazing every time you use it.

Create a Sense of Intrigue

Virgin media Exhibition stand design


Some of the best custom modular exhibition stands’ success lies in their creation of a sense of mystery that helps convert passive passers-by into active potential customers.  Intrigue is one of the most powerfully effective ways of increasing interest in your brand, and a custom exhibition stand is a perfect canvas upon which to create it.  Carefully plan what you want to achieve with your design, and ensure that the pay-off to potential customers hooked by the sense of intrigue created by your exhibition stand is worth their time and is relevant to your brand identity. 

The Bigger the Better?

Vodafone Custom Stand Design

When choosing the size of modular exhibition stands, a larger space will obviously create more of a visual appeal to potential customers.  If space permits, a large exhibition stand accurately portraying your brand identity, with a range of interactive technological aspects and friendly, knowledgeable personnel will combine to create the perfect exhibition.

Memorable Live Presentations

Philips Custom Stand

A lot of research has indicated that exhibits that provide interactive live presentations are amongst the most memorable to consumers.  The opportunity to be equally entertained and engaged in a presentation presents an opportunity to be far more active in the event, and will also set you aside from your competition.  Any exhibition is about standing out, and not simply blending in with the number of other stands there.  It is things like live presentations and demonstrations that will help you achieve this, particularly with the flexibility provided with a custom modular exhibition stand, which will allow you to incorporate all of your design features. 

The Power of Touch

Vodafone Custom Stand Design

Interactive digital technology has emerged as one of the most successful aspects of any exhibition stand in the last ten years.  From the early days of simply having a computer present on which you could register your interest through social media sites, to the fully-immersive world of countless iPads and interactivity that continues to grow in popularity with the public.  Again, it is all about ensuring your potential customers aren’t simply passive in their experience of your brand: integrate them into the experience, make them a part of it and let them feel what you product or service is all about.

The Power of Smell

Aviva Custom Design Build

Of all five senses, it is the power of smell that is the strongest in triggering memories or an association.  Some aromas remind you of specific holiday destinations, of childhood memories, and can instantly transport you to another time and place within your mind.  Drastically under-used in exhibition design, the power of smell as a memory trigger has the potential to be incredibly powerful with creating brand association through your exhibit.

The Power of Sound

Philips Exhibition Stand

Although you will need to research what regulations exist with the exhibition space, a good use of sound can be the perfect way to attract visitors to your stand.  Music, or a presentation will help draw attention to your stand for those who cannot immediately see it.

Reno Macri is a managing director of Enigma Visual Solutions, a leading exhibition design company in Berkshire, UK. It specializes in providing exhibition services like custom stands design and build, signage system, conference set design, event branding, graphic productions and much more. He has been working in exhibition & the event industry for more than 2 decades. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on experiential marketing and design trends. You can follow him on twitter.

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Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Recap (and Awards)

Outdoor Retailer is so big sometimes I wonder why it’s not in Vegas. But no, Salt Lake City is the perfect setting for this fun, extravagant and energetic national tradeshow. With mountains only a short drive away, SLC is positioned perfectly to host this confab of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country (and around the world). There’s so much going on in the outdoor industry that they hold the show twice a year: once in winter and once in summer.

The recent OR Summer Market took place the week of August 4th at the Salt Palace Convention Center. On Tuesday, attendees were invited to an Open Air Demo at Huntsville, Utah’s Pineview Reservoir, tucked neatly in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest just down the road from Snowbasin Ski Resort. The OAD was packed with 100-plus small exhibitors crouched under branded canopies, many of them offering free tryouts on kayaks, paddleboards and more. After a brief downpour mid-morning, the rest of the day turned into a fun, engaging and playful event.

As for the tradeshow itself, several acres of floor space at the convention center are occupied by the biggest show of the year in Salt Lake City, resplendent with top-notch exhibits, some as large as 100’ x 70’ that dominate the area. Keen, Merrell, Thule, Timberland, The North Face, Cascade Designs, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia and more came to Outdoor Retailer ready to show off their new goods – and no doubt spent a pretty penny with HUGE exhibits.

So what caught attendee’s eyes? For me, it was solar power. Lots of solar chargers: foldable, portable and powerful. Solar power is coming into it’s own and in the next half a decade or so it should explode as the cost of creating a kilowatt of power via solar will continue to plunge below that of the cost of typical energy. It seems that every time I turned a corner there was another solar-powered gizmo.

And the booths? Well, let’s have a little fun with some awards, shall we?

Best brand representation: Keen Shoes. Yes, this is a category with a lot of tough competition, but Keen is so over-the-top with recycled pallets for walls, recycled windows, hand-made booth elements and funky swagger that how can you NOT give this award to Keen?

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Walking Dead Re-birth: Kelty. Yes, the Walking Dead were used as inspiration for having to carry around a crappy backpack, so you’d better get fit with a really good Kelty Pack!

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Best Use of Stuffed Dogs to Show Off Your Products: Ruffwear. You might be surprised, but there were a LOT of stuffed dogs used to show off gear. Ruffwear managed to do it with style with gear made exclusively for dogs. Talk about focus!

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Best Tent Campground. Lots of tents at OR, but The North Face took over nearly a quarter of an acre with tents. Lots of tents. It felt vaguely like a Grateful Dead concert, missing just the tie-dye and herb.

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Best use of Brick: Carhartt. The faux brick surface made it look like the two-story booth that represented a storefront had been built one brick at a time. Beautiful.

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Best ‘Stop Dead in Your Tracks’ Booth: Brunton. Use of bright colors, back lit panels and shapes that grab your attention did indeed stop people in their tracks. Hard to capture in a photo, but I gave it a try.

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Best Product Demo Video: Coast Portland. It took a little patience, but after viewing the video shot near Oregon’s Coos Bay showing off the company’s flashlights, you came away convinced that they were the best you could buy.

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And finally, Most Iconic Use of an Icon: Leave No Trace’s Bigfoot, who posed for photos and invited attendees to tweet selfies for a chance to win footwear!

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I spent two days of the show jotting notes on my clipboard, doing booth assessments: subjecting almost two dozen booths to a closer exam that I call the Tradeshow Booth Performance Test. I’ll be sharing that information with those companies in the few weeks – always a great learning experience for both (I hope!).

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Tradeshow Marketing Analysis, Part 3: Pre-show Preparation

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this ongoing series.

Tradeshow pre-show preparation and marketing involves more than just a short look at how to attract visitors to your booth, or determining what graphics you’ll need to update on your booth. While there are more areas in your pre-show preparation that you shake a stick at, for the purposes of this article let’s take a look at just the target market and the products you’re focusing on:

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So who, or what, exactly is your target market? Are you trying to reach grocery store owners, food distributors, software engineers or end users of your product? Keep in mind that your target market can change from show to show, and it can also change from year to year as your company matures. For instance, one eco-friendly diaper company I’ve worked with for years has seen their target market shift along with their strategy for each show as their products are in more stores now than a half a decade ago. They don’t need the distribution that they once yearned for. Now it seems that they need to focus more on the relationships with the clients they do have by providing them with the best service and product updates as possible, and add new distribution channels only if appropriate.

Typically, pre-show preparation will often focus just on pre-show marketing, and there’s nothing really wrong with that. If you focus exclusively on that, you may forget a few other items such as staff training or critical booth upgrades. Still, how you address your pre-show marketing will be crucial to the outcome of your show.

With pre-show marketing, here are some questions to ask:

  • How will you reach them before the show?
    • Email
      • How far in advance of the show do you email your group?
      • How many times to you email them before the show?
      • What is your message?
        • Product
        • Service
  • Social media
    • What platforms do you promote your show appearance on?
      • Twitter
      • Facebook
      • LinkedIn
      • YouTube
      • Pinterest
      • Other
  • Direct mail
  • Telephone
  • Other
  • What is your message to the market?
  • What are your top 1, 2 or 3 products/services you’re focusing on for the next show?
  • When do you typically roll out your pre-show marketing?
    • One week in advance of the show
    • One month in advance of the show
    • Two months in advance of the show
    • Three months of the show
    • Other
    • How often do you communicate with them prior to the show?
      • 1-2 times
      • 3-5 times
      • More than 6 times

By walking through this flowchart, you can identify areas that you’re strongest at, and determine what areas might need more attention. There’s no wrong answer when it comes to what pre-show marketing you should do or when you should do it, or even what you should focus on. But it is important that you create a plan, make sure that everyone involved in your tradeshow marketing efforts are aware of the plan and are able to do their part.

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Tradeshow Social Photo Sharing Do’s and Don’ts

How about a quick list of tradeshow social photo sharing do’s and don’ts when you’re on the tradeshow floor:

Do:

  • Take pictures of guests and booth visitors.
  • Ask for permission to post the photo online.
  • Post as quickly as you are able.
  • Mention names (first names only are okay).

    Sarah from Manitoba Harvest posing at Expo West 2012
  • Mention companies they work for (they love the free publicity).
  • Try to get their logo or tradeshow backdrop in the photo.
  • Remember that your photo-sharing becomes part of your brand legacy. Think before you post.
  • Shoot a lot of photos! If you shoot a photo of someone, tell them you want to take two or three to make sure you get a good one. If you take only one, chances are good that you’ll catch someone with their eyes closed or a goofy look on their face.
  • Tweet out each photo (if you have time).
  • Invite your photo subject to re-tweet and re-post the photo across their social media outposts.
  • Crop photos if you can. If you don’t have Photoshop or some other photo editing software, do your best to frame the photo as you take it to include only the main elements of the photo.

Don’t:

  • Wait days or weeks to post photos.
  • Post photos of people in compromising situations.
  • Post without telling people that you’re posting on your FB or Flickr page.
  • Share every photo….instead, pick and choose the best ones.
  • Share only on one social network. Instead, move beyond Facebook to Instagram, Flickr, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat…wherever your audience may be.
  • Take photos of other booths and post them. Typically that’s in bad form and is often frowned upon by show management.
  • Keep putting the same booth staffers in the photos. Instead, make the photos about your visitors as much as it is about you and your products and/or services.
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Introducing Interpretive Exhibits Design Search

As a long-time distributor of the Classic Exhibits line-up of tradeshow products, it’s great to see that there is now a ‘deep-well’ way to search out one of their exhibits for your specific exhibiting needs.

Exhibit Design Search (link here and also on the navigation bar above) takes you to the database of hundreds (if not thousands) of varieties of exhibits. These range from small accessories such as round graphic stands (definitely cool!) to large island exhibits – and everything in between.

To use Design Search, just click on the link and head to the site. Here’s where you’ll find the opening page which is designed to let you intuitively and quickly find what you’re looking for. If you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s a great browsing tool.

Along the way you can view the Top 12 exhibits, catch a Photo Gallery, see what exhibits can be quickly shipped if you’re in a hurry, check out the Specials and even browse the dozens of Tradeshow Tip articles.

Beneath each exhibit rendering you’ll see a link labeled “Add to My Gallery” – when you click that you start to create your own line-up of favorites or exhibits you want to save and review closer later. It’s a great way to share with other team members to get their feedback.

The drop-down menus allow you to filter your search using price points, booth size and lead times – as well as give you the opportunity to do a text search.

Now all of that by itself would be pretty damn cool. Almost awesome.

But here’s what takes the Design Search tool to the next level: the burgeoning P_5_D photo gallery. P_5_D stands for ‘Past 5 Days’ and it is an on-going stream of photos of exhibits that go out the door.

Not only does this let you see what other clients are interested in (and have put $$ down on), it allows you to see how each one of them has possibly made adjustments and alterations to a standard exhibit. A great way to help generate ideas, eh? Plus: each photo is of something REAL that was actually created – not just a computer rendering of what something is SUPPOSED to look like. Getting a chance to see the real stuff shows you how it would look in your booth.

And if you check the drop-down navigation under the ‘View By Week’ tab you’ll see that the photo albums go all the way back to late 2006 – almost four years of product that has gone out the door to happy customers.

All in all, Exhibit Design Search is a fun way to waste a bunch of time AND look like you’re working at the same time. So if your boss comes in you can tell her that you’re researching the company’s new exhibit possibilities.

And hey, chances are pretty darn good you’ll find something that will exactly fit what you had in mind!

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Documenting Your Tradeshow Booth With Photos

Yashica reflections

It may seem like a no-brainer…but did you get photos of your last tradeshow booth set-up? I mean, did you really get enough photos so that you can answer any questions that may come up before you have to set it up again?

Since the advent of digital photography over a decade ago, taking dozens of photos of any business event is much easier and cheaper than the old days of film. And it can be extremely useful.

Let’s say you are a couple of months away from your next booth set-up and a question comes up…

“Did we set the booth up with the widget graphics on the right side and the service graphics on the left? Or was it the other way around?”

“What difference does it make?”

“Well, the boss wants to know because he needs to make a recommendation to management on how we’re going to set it up this year. Plus he needs to know how much room we had behind the back wall for storage. And he wants to decide if we’re going to have to get another table for the literature or if what we had last time worked.”

“We can either set it all up and take half a day to figure it out – and bug the guys down in the warehouse to get everything out and clear a space…OR…we could just pull the photos out of my computer…”

Which would you rather do?

Chances are at some point you’ll be glad that you took a lot of photos. Whenever I’m at a show where our booth clients are set up I make sure to get several photos, including close-ups that reveal how things were set up. And no matter how many photos I take it seems that a question comes up that makes me wish I’d take just a couple more!

Plus, photos give you a good excuse to post the best ones on Picasa or Flickr and invite your clients or potential clients to come by and see your cool booth.

Photos can come in handy other ways, too:

  • sharing with management so they can see what the booth looked like
  • helping the graphic team design upgrades
  • showing the repair team what needs fixing
  • documenting where things went (did that layout work? Or do you need to do it differently next time?)
  • showing which clients came by and posed (handy for blog posts)
  • put on the cover or inside a show wrap-up report
  • to prove damages if necessary
  • general archive purposes

No doubt you can think of other reasons to have several photos of your booth on hand. Take pictures from all angles – you never know when someone might ask how much storage room you have behidn the back wall.

All you have to do is pull out a photo and show them!

Creative Commons License

photo credit: dichohecho

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Natural Products Expo West: Photo Collection

Just back from the Natural Products Expo West show, where some 3025 exhibitors had their wares on display. Interpretive Exhibits, where I’m the VP of Sales and Marketing, had eight various custom client booths on display, including Bob’s Red Mill, Nancy’s Yogurt, Natracare, Mountain Rose Herbs, Bi-O-Kleen, Hyland’s, gDiapers and Earth Mama Angel Baby.

Here are a few photos of those booths, as well as others and a few Twitterers I ran into:

Natural Products Expo West 2010
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