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


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!

Increasing Tradeshow ROI

Here’s a guest post by Kevin Ehlers of Event Technologies of Long Beach, California


In today’s economic climate, increasing tradeshow ROI is as important as ever.  While we can get very in depth on how to do this, I’d like to throw out a few quick trade show strategies that can help your company close more deals from your trade show leads.

Trade Show Lead Qualification – Being face to face with prospects is the main benefit of exhibiting at a trade show.  The conversations that take place on the show floor determine which leads are good opportunities.  The challenge is recording that conversation.  Just scanning their badge with an exhibitor lead retrieval system doesn’t cut it.  You need to either have to use a trade show scanner with custom qualifiers or use lead retrieval software with custom surveying capabilities.

Lead Rating – Once you have the trade show leads qualified you can use a lead scoring system to rate the leads (hot, warm, or cold – A, B, or C, etc.).  There is no need to waste the sales reps’ time with the cold leads, so only send out the good leads.  This will keep the reps engaged in your program, save them time, allow them to put more energy into the quality leads and, as a result, increase trade show ROI.

Sales Lead Distribution – With each day that passes, the trade show leads get colder and colder.  You ideally want to get the leads to the reps within 2 or 3 days after the show.  This gives the reps a week or so to contact all of their leads before they turn cold.  Rapid sales lead distribution will increase your sales reps’ success rates.

Trade Show Lead Follow Up – As I just mentioned, the leads get cold quickly after a show.  Trade show lead follow up needs to happen while the show (your company) is fresh in the prospect’s mind.  Industry studies show that the leads are cold about 2 weeks after the show ends.  A good idea is to send out an email immediately after the show to every lead saying “thank you.”  This will keep your message fresh in their mind while you go through your lead rating and distribution processes.

I hope this post will help you rethink your trade show strategy.  While these tips will take a little of your time to research and implement, they will reap rewards in the form of increased trade show ROI.

Event Technologies provides custom solutions for exhibitors that want to employ technology to improve the means by which they collect, distribute, follow-up and report on the leads that they generate at their tradeshows and events.  Kevin Ehlers is the VP of Sales and Marketing and can be contacted at or

7 Ways Your Tradeshow Staff Can Sabotage a Deal

Tradeshow consultants and trainers sound like a broken record when they harp on how important it is for your front line people – the tradeshow staff – to be “on” all the time. To put their best face and effort forward. To respond with a smile. Etcetera.

In spite of how fast information spreads (like wildfire!), some tradeshow managers just don’t get it! So here’s a quick list of ways your staff can blow the next deal that may be walking into your booth. Pay close attention now and see if they’re making any of these mistakes:

  1. Eating in the booth. Yup, it’s a giant turn-off.
  2. Talking or texting on the cell phone. It tells your visitors that they’re second rate – behind someone who’s not even in the booth!
  3. Not finding answers to a visitor’s questions. If you don’t know the answer, take their card and jot the question down on the back of it – then tell them you’ll get back to them as soon as you can. Then do it.
  4. Talking amongst yourselves. On a lightly-traveled show floor, you can probably get away with talking a lot. But if the floor is thick with visitors, any sign that you’re not paying attention to a possible visitor is perceived as disinterest. And perception is reality.
  5. Answering a question incorrectly. Could be worse than having no answer.
  6. Significantly bad body odor. Nothing like forgetting to shower to drive away a big customer.
  7. Showing a bad attitude. Having a bad attitude is one thing – a bad thing. But a true pro can shift from a bad frame of mind. Showing a truly bad attitude is grounds for dismissal and having the ticket to the tradeshow permanently revoked.

Do your staffers show any of these symptoms of sabotage? You can teach them how to do things correctly (they might learn and pay attention – good). You can show them (better). Or you can get them to buy in to the whole marketing effort and mission of the company. When they believe – and understand a few common sense rules – they’ll happily become true ambassadors of your company.

And at that point they’ll be the best ‘front line’ people you can have.

Customer Profile: Jason Graham-Nye of gDiapers


Interpretive Exhibits designed and fabricated a shelving back wall with signage (photo below) for gDiapers a year or two ago, and since then have gotten to know several of the great folks in the company.

Just last week gDiapers had a grand opening of their new location on MLK Jr Blvd in Portland. One reason we love working with gDiapers is because they expend a lot of effort doing good things in the world: they have a family-like atmosphere at their office where kids come to daycare; strong pro-environmental policies are a way of life, and its obvious that a lot of love and passion is floating through the building.

Business Name: gDiapers

Jason Graham-Nye

Person responding to questionnaire: Jason Graham-Nye

Title: Dad/ CEO / co-founder

Years in business: 5

Location: Portland, Oregon

Approx number of employees: 15

gDiapers booth fabricated by Interpretive Exhibits

Website Address:

Main target market: Mums and Dads and whoever has stores who cater to them.

Most successful marketing strategy/tactic or method: Tapping out most passionate customers and let them tell the story.

What is the best thing you get out of tradeshow marketing? It’s the one place where you can have conversations with key buyers in a compact period of time. The booth tells the brand story succinctly.

Biggest complaint? It is often hard to nail down appointment times at a trade show.

Favorite Quote: Whatever you focus on grows.

Biggest Lesson Learned: Everything takes twice as much time and twice as much money as you originally thought. And it’s all about the people.

Most extreme thing you ever did? 7 marathons completed.

Inspiring movie you’d recommend? Chariots of Fire.

Thanks to Jason and his awesome crew at gDiapers for participating in our Customer Profile!

Thinking Tradeshows? Think Video!

Submitted by Rose Esposito of the Marcomm Group


Video is an increasingly important way for businesses to promote their products, services, and brand online. Tradeshow videos combine the power of video with the energy and excitement of the tradeshow environment to create high impact video that effectively presents your marketing message after the show has ended. It can help you reach those unable to attend or those who didn’t receive your complete message.

Video is also the medium of choice for post-show online ads, email blasts, additions to your website and Social Networking efforts. Understanding how to create a tradeshow video that captures attention, and how to promote it for maximum viewership after the show is critical.

Bob Lipp, founder of Trade Show News Television says video is often the most cost-effective way to deliver a company’s marketing message, especially online.

Lipp says a popular way to promote individual products and services is through the use of multiple videos, many of them in a news-style that captures the energy, information and excitement of a tradeshow environment.

The growth of technology on the Internet has let to rapid grown in the spread of easy-to-implement video across a broad array of applications. In the past, videos on the web were not successful communication tools because of long downloading times, bandwidth, and streaming issues. With the advancement of online applications in recent years, these problems no longer pose an issue, allowing current users the ability to watch videos on a website without having to download them. Since early 2009, over 10 billion videos per month were viewed on the Internet, and the online video industry continues to grow. Lipp adds, “More and more people want to access their information via online video.” In addition, streaming video allows a viewer to fast-forward easily to their area of interest.

“Trade Shows are all about providing attendees with an opportunity to see what you have to offer and why it makes sense for them to do business with your company,” says Lipp. “It’s a dynamic opportunity for exhibitors to interact with current and potential customers, as well as strengthen ties within their selling network.”

Find Bob Lipp,  founder of Tradeshow News Television, a full-service video production company focusing on tradeshows at

Tradeshow De-Briefing Questions


You’ve just returned from a tradeshow. You’re exhausted. Gotta get the expense sheets done and get any leads or contacts to the right folks. Send out thank-you notes.

But wait! While the show is still fresh in your mind, take some time for a quick de-briefing. Ask yourself – and perhaps your staff – several questions:

  • What did I learn about the booth?
  • What did I learn about the people I worked with?
  • What was most important to the visitors?
  • What did NOT work about the booth?
  • What was NOT important to attendees?
  • What failed?
  • What succeeded?
  • What questions got the best response from visitors?
  • What was the visitors’ most telling question?
  • How can I use what I learned for the next show?
  • How much time do I reasonable need to prepare for any significant changes?
  • Do small changes work, or should I incorporate large-scale changes?

When you get rolling with these questions, no doubt you’ll have your own questions that apply to your company, the booth and how the whole effort unfolded.

After hashing  it over, make notes and stick them in your tradeshow file. Share the goods with your team members.

By spending some time talking through the various aspects of the show with your colleagues, you’re doing a couple of things.

First, you’re remembering key elements and important situations that arose while they’re fresh in your mind. When something goes right or wrong, you’ll want to make either a mental or written note (write it down if you really think it’s important to remember!).

Secondly, by articulating the experiences you had and getting your team members’ perspectives, you’re imprinting those experiences in your mind. By doing so, they’ll mean more and will therefore be of more use at the next tradeshow.

Learn from this show and make the next show better. Then make a plan to do it again.


Click here to grab my Tradeshow Follow-up Checklist

Top Ten Tradeshow Superheroes

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane…no it’s — it’s a guy on a ladder that’s about to fall!

All tradeshows have their cast of characters – both heroes and villains – but you may be so engrossed that you don’t recognize the hero (or the villain) working right beside you.

Holy Giant Graphic, Batman! It’s time for our list of the Top Ten Tradeshow Superheroes:

10. The Flash: If you want something done, ask a busy person. There’s always someone on the booth staff that has the ability to get things done, no matter what it takes. They look ordinary, and in fact, wear no special costume, but when an issue or problem arises, this person makes it happen.
Weakness: Burnout. Moving so fast for so long will definitely take its toll. In fact, the friction caused by moving so fast through Earth’s atmosphere may actually cause smoke or minor burning.

9. Captain America: Always fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way, Captain America seeks out wrong and strives to make it right. Whether it’s a banner that’s crooked, a small piece of dirt on the carpet, this super hero will go the distance to make everything perfect.
Weakness: Perfection is impossible. That’ll probably drive Captain America bonkers some day.

8. The Incredible Hulk: Okay, he’s typically mild-mannered, but suddenly during set-up of the booth, he turns into a behemoth able to lift large light fixtures, trusses or graphics to make set-up go easier. Be sure to buy the guy a drink after set-up. He’s earned it.
Weakness: Low self-image; needs emotional reinforcement.

7. Iron Man: No doubt you’ve met this super hero, but may not have recognized him. According to comic book mythology, Iron Man wears a suit of armor, yet underneath it all he battles demons such as alcoholism and a broken heart (literally, with a piece of threatening shrapnel), but is a brilliant businessman.
Weakness: So yeah, a flawed hero (aren’t they all?).

6. Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl: One minute she’s there, the next she’s gone. In the blink of an eye. Sometimes when you’re looking right at her. Disappears at certain hours only to reappear in the lounge.
Weakness: Tends to like the handsome nerdy type. Especially those with a rubber personality.

5. Politeness Man (from National Lampoon): Perhaps not a real super hero, still he does exist. No matter how rude people are to him or his staff, Politeness Man always manages to keep a smile pasted on his face, and treats people exceedingly nice.
Weakness: Can slip into a pithy condescending tone when his pals are not looking.

4. Johnny Storm, The Human Torch: A hothead at heart, all he needs is to encounter some small inconvenience and it’s all “Flame On!” Stand back or you’ll get burned.
Weakness: Water of course. Prefers something shaken, not stirred.

3. The Joker: Okay, not really a super hero, but the nemesis of all that is good about tradeshows. Constantly looking for ways to party harder, play practical jokes, make fun of people, but he vanishes when the going gets tough. Always returns to claim some sort of victory.
Weakness: I think Batman has his number. Right?

2. The Silver Surfer: Exiled to Earth by Galactus after saving the planet from destruction, the Silver Surfer….uh, wait. The Silver Surfer of the tradeshow floor is the aloof yet powerful entity (often a CEO or upper level management guru) that is visible for brief moments, then disappears into high-level conferences to discuss saving the company or aligning with another all-powerful entity. Or something like that.
Weakness: Still has a problem relating to the citizens of Earth. Would rather take that surfboard to parts unknown (Barbados, Jamaica, Maui, etc.).

1. Wonder Woman: No further description necessary – she’s a wonder and she’s a woman. Does it all. Unfortunately, she only exists on another company’s booth staff. A perfect 10, and often thought of as a vanishing species.
Weakness: None discovered so far.

Have you spotted any of these Superheroes lately? Did you thank them for the good work they do (except the Joker)?  Did they vanish to their secret lair as soon as the work was finished?

Or – and this may be a tough question to answer – are YOU a superhero? If so, hurry up and change back into your disguise…or be prepared to sign autographs the next time you stop slow down for coffee.

Whew! Where’s the nearest phone booth?

Spy. Vs. Spy

spy vs spy

Next time you’re at a tradeshow, throw on your trenchcoat, dapper hat and shades and go undercover.

The name? “Bond. James Bond.”

Admittedly, playing spy can be fun. And it’s something you should certainly be doing at your next tradeshow.

According to Ruth Stevens, author of ‘Trade Show and Event Marketing,’ you should be spying on your competition: “Whether you exhibit or not, trade shows can be a valuable source of competitive intelligence.”

You can check out new products and promotions, competitor target audiences and even talk to them about marketing strategies if you manage to strike up a conversation with the right person. In fact, you could go all out and compile a small dossier (there’s that spy stuff again!) on your various competitors.

Once you’ve gathered the information, be sure to use it: discuss it with your company managers when you return to determine how or if any of the information you’ve compiled affects you.

You probably won’t get into as much action as 007, but the information you bring back from the ‘enemy’ may be priceless.

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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