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


Pro-Active Networking for 2010

Late last year during the Christmas holiday break, while I was lazing away days in front of bowl games eating popcorn with my son, playing video games and getting in a day or two of steep incline slope meditation (that’s skiing to you), I made a decision to become a proactive networker in 2010. As in – let’s be a conscious networker every day and see what happens.

I didn’t want to set expectations for the networking, such as how much business I could create out of the networking (which meant I would be pushing people to buy something). I wanted to set some measurement points for things I can do and control. I can set a goal of reaching out to one new person a day, every business day (and even on weekends if I felt like it), by talking to or reaching out via e-mail to someone with a specific reason (not sales).

So I am going into 2010 with this approach: reach out consistently and frequently and see what happens.

just another meetup

Early in the year it’s interesting to see what’s happened already. One thing I’m promoting locally is the Salem Business Network, a local online business-networking and referral site that I run. My plan is to talk to a few hundred people about it this year and get them signed up for a free listing which will likely get them listed on the front page of major search engines. Again, I just want to see where all that networking and relationship-building leads.

If the networking is only online, I look for opportunities to take it offline. If they’re local, that means an invitation to coffee and conversation. If they’re not local, it’s an invitation to a phone conversation.

For the first week of the year I talked to about a half-dozen folks that were somewhat lukewarm to the idea of joining another networking group (perhaps I wasn’t explaining the benefit clearly enough for them to understand), but did sign up a handful. Then yesterday I connected with a web designer here locally that was absolutely intrigued by the site because he could see the underlying architecture and said “Wow, this is impressive! Even to me!” Funny how you get re-inspired when you run across someone who ‘gets’ what you’re trying to do.

I’ve also reached out to a couple of ‘friends of friends’ on Facebook that intrigued me enough with comments and e-mails so I felt it was the right thing to do to find a phone number and make the call. It’s led to a handful of great conversations.

So what takes place in the conversation? I have two or three questions I ask:

First, if they’re in business – which almost all are – I want to know who is their ideal client? I ask them to describe that person or company. If I know anyone that fits that description I’ll make an introduction.

Second, I ask if they mind if I add them to my newsletter list as a way of keeping in touch. I also get complete contact information, such as Twitter and Facebook, and ask if they’re on LinkedIn. Hey, if you’re going to networking, you had better take it online if it’s not already there.

Third, I offer to help them with anything in the tradeshow arena. Not a heavy-handed sell – just an invitation to call me if a situation comes up where they or their clients need semething to do with tradeshow marketing. I find that a ‘light touch’ for the sales end of what I do works: it’s inviting while not being pushy. Plus, it’s congruent with the purpose of my call: to network – not to sell.

The things I am getting out of ProActive Networking so far: turning those tweets and avatar photos into real human beings; and fostering more connections between all the people I know.

Chances are I’ll follow up these conversations with a quick card from my SendOutCards account to solidify the connection and maybe impress them, too.

But what do I really get out of it? I get to know more people and I have found over the last seven years of being in exhibit sales I love getting to know people and to help them get what they want. If I can do that effectively, then I can get what I want.

QUESTIONS for you: What are you doing to network this year? Are you trying new things, new ways to reach people? Are you consciously and consistently looking to find new people? I’d love to see your comments!

Disclosure: I’m an affiliate of SendOutCards, the coolest ever online card-sending service. Try it out here. I also work with to assist people to start their own online city-based business networks that looks just like Salem Business Network. If you want to find out how to start your own local online networking site, contact me.

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photo credit: tarale

Are Your Tradeshow Graphics Doing Their Job?

Lost in a sea of graphics?

Funny, you don’t think of tradeshow graphics as actually working. Like, doing a job. More like you just hire a designer to put a nice logo up with a spiffy enticing photo and perhaps a photo and call it good.

But if that’s all you do, you’re probably not getting your money’s worth.

Your graphics should be doing a JOB. A BIG job. The biggest in your booth.

First, your graphics should stop people in their tracks. Admittedly, in a crowded chaotic tradeshow floor, it’s asking a lot of those graphics to actually stop people.  But if you can get your graphics to at least slow someone down enough to see what your booth is all about, that’s probably enough. After all, most people at a show are there to learn and see what’s new and are actually looking to be engaged in show-stopping stuff.

How to get your graphics to stop someone or slow them down? A wild beautiful photo; a bold, engaging statement; a challenging question.

Next, your graphics should qualify and disqualify show attendees as much as possible. If your graphic is inviting EVERYBODY to your booth chances are a lot of those people are NOT potential clients or customers. But if you ask the right question and show the right photo, illustration or graphic, the visitor can quickly deduce if your product or service works for them. They’re qualified or disqualified before they even enter the booth. Job well done.

Finally, your graphics should appear in a hierarchy of most important to least important. You’ve seen all of those expensive overhead hanging banners? They almost always are of a recognizable logo or brand. The overhead banner helps shout out your name from the rooftops. Literally. It helps people find your booth from halfway across the hall.

the hierarchy of graphics: overhead banner, tagline, video, greeting logo

So: top of the hierarchy: Your logo. Next: the important tagline or question that engages the mind and helps to qualify or disqualify.

Third: the sub-headline, which supports or complements the main headline. Often this appears as the last item – beyond three you’re getting into the kind of text and verbiage that most people won’t read unless they’re your absolute target market. Does this mean you shouldn’t include it? Of course you should – if you have room and it makes overall sense and is still engaging to your core target.

The fourth and final part of your graphic package in the hierarchy would be any supporting literature. In rare cases it might be a set of graphics with more detailed information, such as bullet points, that add to the overall description.

One additional piece which a lot of companies now add is the video element. Even though the video likely has a soundtrack, in most tradeshow environments the sound will either be ignored or lost in the ambient noise. It doesn’t mean that the soundtrack should be ignored or thought of as a throwaway piece of information, because it can be useful in other situations. It just means that as part of your overall tradeshow graphics package, the video should have strong images and an engaging storyline without having to rely on the soundtrack or narrator.

One final aside: it’s common for people to underestimate the cost of their graphic design and production, and because of that end up cutting corners.

If you really want your graphics to do the job they are capable of doing, be realistic about the budget and give them the impact they deserve.

Shameless Plug Dept: We do a LOT here, man…


Sometime last year our shop foreman told me “We can do anything….they just gotta bring us an idea and we’ll figure it out.”

And yes, I’ve seen it time and time again. It’s true. The designers and fabricators at Interpretive Exhibits CAN and DO do amazing stuff all the time. Of course, much of it doesn’t relate directly to tradeshow exhibits. We do outdoor interpretive signage, museum and visitor center exhibits, custom built-in cabinetry for businesses and residences, large-scale digital graphics…the list really DOES go on and on.

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photo credit: Adam Swank

So I thought I would sidle up to the guy at the Shameless Plug Department and ask if it was all right to toss out a free PDF listing of the stuff we do. Sure, why not.

So here ’tis: a one-sheet, easily downloadable and printable, of what we can help you with here at Interpretive Exhibits. Yes, it is a shameless plug. But every now and then you gotta blow your own horn.

Grab the list of Interpretive Exhibits’ capabilities here. (opens in a new window)

And go here for a larger list of free downloads to help you in your tradeshow marketing efforts.

Take a look at just a few of our projects:


Social Media and Tradeshow Marketing Survey: Initial Results

You may have had a chance to participate in our current survey (set to close 11.25.09) on Using Social Media to Promote Tradeshows.

I’m already getting initial results – some of which are eyebrown raising and others, not so much.

If you’d like to take the survey, you’re welcome to do so through the day before Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, see where your company compares to other survey respondents:

  • 95 percent are involved in social media (no surprise)
  • 80 percent use social media to promote their tradeshow appearances
  • 60 percent of companies have an active blog
  • 70 percent have a Facebook page
  • 85 percent of companies have someone representing the company on Twitter
  • Only half have a YouTube channel and most do NOT post regularly
  • 80 percent are either experimenting with ways to drive tradeshow sales or are heavily involved and looking for more ways to use Social Media in conjunction with tradeshow appearances

I’m not surprised that almost all companies are involved in some way, shape or form of social media. Ya almost gotta be today. Of course, the survey was online and promoted through e-mail and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, so you would think that people on those platforms would be involved in social media. Offline and in the ‘real world’ I continue to run into people that are NOT into social media, but are curious about it. Or not.

Also, glad to see that most companies use SM to promote their tradeshow appearances.

I did not expect quite the high numbers of respondents to say that their company has an active blog and a Facebook page. I suspect in the real world that stat is probably reversed. But companies that are online realize that FB and blogs are where the action is.

It appears that posting video online has a significant hurdle. While half report having a YouTube channel, most don’t post videos more than once a month – if that.

bam bam bam.

My guess is that part of that is somewhat of a technical barrier, but it’s probably more of a content barrier – ‘what do we put in the video?’ Anyone can get a Flip video camera and post videos with good content.

I have a hunch that a typical brick-and-mortar store doesn’t have the expertise, time or interest in posting videos. But if there is someone in the store that is interested, it would be a pretty easy matter to come up with a string of informational videos that would show off the company’s expertise.

I’ll post complete results in a week or so; I’ll leave the survey open through next Wednesday the 25th of November if you want to leave your reponses – I’d love to see what you have to say!

Take the Survey…

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photo credit: M i x y

BusyEvent’s David Schenberg: Winner of CEMA’s Technology Shootout Award

It wasn’t long ago that I interviewed David Schenberg of BusyEvent for a podcast. A few moments ago I installed the Alltop widget which is a cool tool for pulling in news of the event industry (or almost anything else) into the blog’s right sidebar (take a look when you get a moment). One of the stories popped out at me – a link to a video of David giving a brief presentation at CEMA in San Diego in July of this year. Of course, if you’re a rabid reader of this blog (maybe that should be ‘avid’) or a podcast subscriber you would have heard the interview we did with him.

Meantime, you’re welcome to take a look at the presentation David did back in July describing BusyEvent – and winning the Technology Shootout Award. Cool, and way to go David!


10 Tips To Use Social Media To Close More Biz At Your Tradeshows

Note: the following post was originally published as a guest post on Steve Farnsworth’s Digital Marketing Mercenary on 11.6.09.

Need more proof that social media is a great place to meet people of like minds?


A couple of weeks ago I was doing research for a presentation on Social Media and PR, so I went to Twitter, searched for the hashtag #PR and came upon several tweets that contained the hashtag.

One was Steve Farnsworth. Being the direct kind of guy I am, I picked up the phone and left a voice mail with him. It wasn’t long before he called back, and soon we were trading notes on various social media experiences we’d had.

The conversation led to a handful of ideas for my presentation (which went over well, btw), and also led Steve and I to do a Tweet chat about using social media to close more biz at tradeshows.

The process of talking, hashing out ideas, articulating those ideas and preparing for a chat or a presentation tends to focus your mind. As a result, I came up with list of a number of ideas on how to use social media to bring people into your world at tradeshow appearances. Some of these ideas will take just a little organization and execution by just one or two people. Others may take more investment of time, energy and money – but hey, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

1. Tweet out contests and promos for people to come to your booth. Keep a count of how many people stop by and ask about the freebie as a result of the prize. When tweeting at or about a specific show, ALWAYS use the show’s hashtag.

2. Create a hashtag for your company at the show. For instance, if your company was Keen Shoes, you could include the hastags #Keen and #ORSM09 – after the show count how many times those hashtags were retweeted.

3. Create a minisite or blog dedicated to your appearance at a specific show, or targeted exclusively towards your tradeshow marketing efforts. Offer white papers, e-books and special reports exclusive to the site; perhaps related (or not) to your tradeshow appearance. Drive traffic there through social media, email and other sources. Web traffic and download metrics are easily trackable through Google analytics and basic web stats. Folks that download the white papers and reports are now in your marketing/sales funnel.

4. If you have a Facebook company page (if you don’t, you definitely should), send out regular messages to your ‘fans’ about special deals or prizes that you are offering at the booth. This could be done ahead of time as well as during the show. By offering different prizes, you can track the responses from each medium.

5. Invite people to post a tagged photo taken at your booth to their Flickr account. If you have some sort of celebrity, or even a nifty backdrop such as a tropical beach, this would encourage more participants.

6. Shoot a commercial at your booth and post the best ones on your YouTube channel. Invite visitors to take 30 seconds and promote your product in any way they’d like. Low budget? Use a Flip video camera for $150 and start shooting.

7. Invite a few prominent bloggers in your industry to stop by for a chance to get a scoop on your new product or service. Make sure they have links available for their post. In fact, you might create a special landing page just for readers from that blog. It’ll give you a chance to respond specifically to interest in that show or those specific products, plus you can easily measure the metrics of people coming in via that link.

8. If you’re a speaker, and are doing a presentation where you’re projecting your laptop on stage, show your audience real-time tweet searches and Twitter comments about your presentation. Caveat: do this ONLY if you’re willing to take a few negative comments. But hey, it’ll make your presentation much more timely – and it’ll give you some real feedback on what you need to improve! A quick search for the hashtag after the show will give you measurable feedback about the presentation. It also gives those not at the show a chance to peek at the conversation while it’s happening.

9. Invite guest speakers, bloggers, product reps and others to appear on your live streaming video channel at UStream.TV or other video streaming site. Track visitor metrics and comments.

10. Give out Pokens (or thumb drives) with all of your company’s Social Media contacts. Track how many people come to your Facebook page or your minisite.

I haven’t see all of these ideas put to use, but many have been used to great success. Would love to see what methods you’ve used to combine social media with face-to-face tradeshow marketing. After all, while you can meet people online, meeting in person is where you really solidify that relationship.

23 Pre-Show Marketing Promotions, Tactics and Ideas

Sure, your booth looks great. Your tradeshow staff is tip-top, trained and raring to go. The next step in your overall tradeshow marketing plan is to get people to come to your booth WANTING to do business with you. You want them lined up when the doors open each day, raring to hoof it to YOUR booth for something special.

Don’t leave it to chance. A modest investment in time, energy and dollars will pay off. In your pre-show planning, determine your show objectives and shape your promotions accordingly.

Here are some ideas for promotions that should inspire you to put pre-show marketing on to your ‘must do’ list.

  1. “Missing glove” promotion: one of the older ways of getting people to come to your booth is to send them one glove,
    promo items

    and ask them to come to the booth to get a matching glove for the other hand. You could use a key and lock, travel coffee mugs/lids, etc. The incentive is to get your visitor to make a point of coming by your booth to get the missing item.

  2. Direct Mailer: Target your own house list, last year’s show attendees; who ever you think might benefit from being able to do business with you. Create a postcard or other mailer and send out a few weeks before the show.
  3. E-mail: Remind your newsletter list (you do have a newsletter, right?) about the show. Mention any incentives you have in place for show attendees.
  4. Online on your own website: put mentions of the show on the front page and other relevent pages on your company website.
  5. Newsletter: whether you have an e-mail or snail mail newsletter, be sure to mention to your recipients that you’re going to be at the show.
  6. Online on the show website. By becoming a show sponsor, you’ll get your company branded consistently on the show website. Make sure your banner ads mention the booth number and any promotion you’ll be doing at the show.
  7. Radio – if appropriate (for a consumer show, for instance), radio advertising can bring people to the show. ALWAYS have a call to action in your radio ads: ‘come to booth XX to register to win a blank,’ etc.
  8. TV – same with Radio.
  9. Social Media: Twitter: for your social media marketing, the goal is to bring people to your booth and create awareness about your company and products. Tweet out about specific prizes, offers, products, etc.
  10. Social Media: Facebook page. On your company Facebook page, set aside a special area to let people know about your show appearance and any special events, offers, products, etc. that might be of interest.
  11. Social Media: LinkedIn mentions. Post show updates in your status box, and get your sales people and other show attendees to do the same. YOu can also join a related group and pose a question about a specific problem or challenge in your industry. Include a link to your tradeshow landing page online, or minisite if you’re created one.
  12. Create small stickers with your booth #, date, city, etc. Put it on all correspondence that goes out to clients or prospects: invoices, letters, packages, etc.
  13. Send out map of show floor with your booth highlighted. Mention any freebies you’re giving away, or new products your launching.
  14. Limited time incentive: first 50 people at the booth get a free prize.
  15. Target CEO’s with a ‘dimensional’ mailed package. For instance, as a SendOutCards member, I can easily send cookies, brownies, gourmet foods, books, DVDs. This will get the attention of the target! Personalize the message with a special invitation to come by the booth and learn about your products or services.
  16. Fax-blast reminders to business that you already have a relationship with (fax marketing has various restrictions, so make sure you are following those rules).
  17. Have your sales people drop off invitations in person.
  18. Starting about 5 – 6 weeks before the show, have your sales team start making appointments at the trade show.
  19. Your PR department should be making arrangements with key media players and outlets to make sure they know of new products, new features on older products, etc. Anything that gives you a bit of a hook to get airtime or mentions in the media.
  20. Send a coupon for a free gift that your prospect can pick up at your booth.
  21. Create a ‘show appointment’ book, and book appointments with your key customers or prospects. As part of your confirmation, send a copy of the book page to your clients with the appointment hand-written in.
  22. Have all of your sales reps and anyone else that regularly communicates with clients and prospect via email to add a show mention (with booth and show location and date) to their e-mail signature file.
  23. Create a mini-site where all of your show-related documents would reside. Have a special password-protected area for your employees and ‘premium’ clients where they can find contact info for all your tradeshow staff, staff schedule, and other pertinent information. Mention the site in all your outgoing correspondence (remember the sticker? put the URL on it!)

Bravo! Show Hits 15 Years in Portland

I spent a couple of hours this week at the Bravo! Live Tradeshow in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center yesterday, produced by

The event features businesses that focus on event production, including caterers, event design and production, entertainment, event planning, transportation and tours and venues. Bravo! founder Mary Lou Burton conceived the idea for the show after her wedding in which she couldn’t find a central source for planning such an event. The tradeshow itself is about fifteen years old, held every October in Portland.

I’ve been to the show perhaps half a dozen times and always find it a friendly, moderately-sized regional show that has a lot to offer. This year I connected with a lot of exhibitors from my old hometowns of Sisters and Bend in Central Oregon. Always great to chat with people who are living where I grew up – especially the folks at The Lodge at Suttle Lake, just a short jaunt from the small Scout Lake where I learned to swim as a kid, in the upper Cascades.

Some 150 exhibitors showed their stuff. Of course the most popular are the caterers and brewpubs who sampled crab-cakes, ales, sweets, and yummy snacks.


The most interesting booths to me included the Portland Photo Booth, The Lodge at Suttle Lake (probably because I grew up near there and was interested to see how they were progressing), Wanderlust Tours, DWA Trade Show and Exposition, Astoria/Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, A Majestic Mountain Retreat, and Tickets Oregon.

My attraction to the booths, interestingly enough, were not because of how the booth looked, but with what they had to offer and how the folks staffing the booth interacted.

For example, the photo booth at Portland Photo Booth is a big attractor: you’re invited to sit in the booth and take a series of photos – just like you used to as a kid! The booth is available for rent for parties, corporate events, shows, etc. at a flat fee for unlimited usage during the rental time. Great way to get your guests involved.

The Lodge at Suttle Lake is a magnificent resort on the east end of Suttle Lake on the Santiam Pass in the Central Oregon Cascades. I told Becca at the booth that I grew up learning to swim at Scout Lake, just a mile or so up and over the hill from Suttle Lake, and that I had camped with my family several times at Suttle Lake. So we hit it off great. Always nice to connect with someone from your home town!

Pat Conlon at Wanderlust Tours went into a passionate description of what his company offered and I kept thinking “I need a job like that!”  Patrick and the company spend their time taking folks on canoe, kayak, cave, volcano and GPS Eco-Challenge tours among other things. Neat.

But I think I was most impressed by Patrick Lamb’s Tickets Oregon, a new company that handles online ticket sales for Oregon events. Patrick is a Grammy-nominated musician who has toured the world and played with such folks as Lionel Hampton, Diane Schuur, Bobby Caldwell, Gino Vannelli, Jeff Lorber, ‘Little John’ Roberts, Curt Bisquera, Herman Jackson, Mel Brown, Marlon McClain, Nate Philips, The Crazy 8s, Dan Balmer, Paul Delay, Norman Sylvester….(okay, it’s an impressive list). In person Patrick is gregarious, passionate and knowledgeable. He’s the owner/founder of Tickets Oregon and as he told the story of why he started the company I couldn’t help get caught up in his tale. It also occurred to me that this is the way to get people involved in your endeavors: tell them a story about why you are involved. If it resonates, they’ll want to get involved.

Bravo! in Portland

In public speaking I always teach that personal stories are powerful. They hook people and draw them in. It’s the same in tradeshow marketing. Tell a powerful tale and you’ll hook your visitors.

As tradeshows go, Bravo! is a small regional show – and the organizers pulled it off very nicely. The exhibitors are extremely high quality, the registration process is nearly seamless (okay, a slight bump in getting a badge but they had a ready-made Plan B), and best of all the show was free to industry types.

And the crab-cakes were outasite!

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