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

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, February 4, 2019: Data Backup

How often do you back up your data? Do you have digital versions of your analog items (photos, cassettes, albums, whatever)? Do your photos on your phone automatically back up to Google, Dropbox, Amazon or some other service? (I’m checking out Backblaze…)

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: Damian Lillard’s 4th NBA All-Star nod.

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Handling Client Relationships

Client relations is an important key to creating a successful project and a successful business.

Over the years in both radio, where I spent 25+ years dealing with radio advertisers, and in the tradeshow world, where I’ve spent 17 years working with companies that are looking to buy or upgrade exhibits, I have picked up a few useful things along the way. At least, one would hope!

Clients come in all shapes. Every client approaches a project, big or small, in their own unique way.

Some are extremely hands-on, asking tons of questions about detail after detail. Others are quite hands-off, not too concerned about the details but just looking for a good outcome.

During my years in radio, I would work with clients who either wanted to voice their own commercials or be involved in the minute details of the production of a radio commercial. As a (mostly) patient man, it was interesting to note how many details some clients wanted to control and obsess over. They’d criticize the speed of the speaker, or the level of the music. Most clients, though, just handed in an order and wait for the result. When they listened to the end result, they’d usually just sign off and let it go.

Focus on the clients and make them feel like they’re your ONLY client!

It’s not that different from the tradeshow world. Clients are clients, and some chime in on every detail they possibly can. Others just want to make sure that the broad strokes are handled from their perspective, and delegate others to take care of the details.

And bottom line, outcomes are important. The hands-off client knows that we’re all professionals, and we’re used to obsessing over the details ourselves. The hands-on client knows this as well, but for reasons of their own its important to be an integral part of the process.

Neither approach is wrong, and both can be effective. Most clients I’ve dealt with are somewhere in between: they want to get involved at some level of detail but would rather understand the big picture of how it is all going, and make sure things happen to meet deadlines.

One thing I’ve picked up is that the more questions a client asks, it’s usually a good thing. As a salesperson, knowing that a prospect (and perhaps eventual client) is asking a lot of questions means they’re interested. No questions, little to no interest; lots of questions, high interest.

Many clients want to add more to the scope of work as time goes on, and some of the more delicate conversations revolve around how much those extras will cost. Some companies are ready and willing to spend what it takes to get what they want, and others are doing their best to adhere to a strict budget – and still get as much as they can for the dollars. Flexibility on both sides during those discussions is critical to moving the project forward while deadlines loom.

Bottom line: clients are great to have, whether they’re extraordinarily detail-oriented or whether they’re looking at the bigger picture.

Another thing that I keep in mind: whether I have 2 projects or 5 big ones and 8 small ones going on, that doesn’t matter to the client you’re currently on the phone with. As far as they’re concerned, they’re the only one you should care about and focus on. Nobody exists except them. That’s not really the case, but if you can make them feel like they are, that feeling will go a long way!


Afterward: Just as I was editing this post, Seth Godin had an interesting take on a somewhat similar concept – the professional vs. the amateur in the sales cycle: Are you selling to an amateur or a professional?

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Add a Charging Table to Your Exhibit to Get Visitors to Stay

Need to keep visitors at your booth a little longer to go over some business with them? Adding a charging table gives them an opportunity to stay and gives you a chance to open up a longer dialogue with them.

Admittedly, you may not want every passerby to stop and plug in. But in my experience, most people won’t stop unless they have a valid reason. And stopping in a random booth to charge your phone is not a reason (again, for most people).

And if you have a table or counter that’s not currently equipped with a charging port, it’s easy enough to add when you get the charging port kit.

Charging tables come in all shapes, sizes and heights, so it should be a simple matter to find one that fits your needs and desire. Take a look at our complete charging table collection here, and browse a few images and photos here:

Nothing quite like it. I’ve seen many done for a number of clients, and all agree they come in very handy!

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, January 28, 2019: Cannabis Conference

Just got back from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference 6.0 at the Portland Expo Center last week, and put together a podcast-slash-video blog about the event. Got a chance to interview half a dozen exhibitors about what they see as big challenges and best opportunities in the cannabis industry.

Also be sure to check the photo album I put up from the show, and my most recent advance look at the show here.


Thanks to the following folks for allowing me to put them on video and add them to the show!

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING is the recent book by Harry Bosch creator/author, introducing a new character, Renee Ballard: The Late Show.

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What the Pros and Consultants Never Tell You About Tradeshow Marketing

Tradeshow marketing is hard. It’s chaotic. Much of what happens in your booth at show is out of your hands, uncontrollable. I’ve talked to hundreds of exhibitors and consultants and experts over the years, yet they rarely, if ever, bring up one of the key elements that make tradeshow marketing so difficult.

And that’s the nuts and bolts of personal interaction with attendees. While attending shows is one thing, standing in the booth for hours over the course of two or three days is a different beast entirely.

You may have a plan: ask passersby specific questions (“What brings you to the show? Does your company use our product or service? If so, are you planning to make a purchase in the near future?” And so on…), make sure the conversation is completed properly with follow-ups, dates/times, content, etc. But when the show is underway, those plans often fall away and you end up having conversations that don’t regularly get to the point.

It happened with us at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference last week. Prior to the doors opening, my partner, Roger, and I talked about these questions and the information we were hoping to obtain from attendees. We were looking to qualify or disqualify those attendees based on those questions.

But our approach was lacking. It’s too easy to get into a conversation about something else because of a topic that the attendee brings up. Or once you start a conversation, someone else comes by and asks a question. Then you get distracted. We’re all human. We can’t make every interaction as good as we’d like.

TradeshowGuy Exhibits on the scene.

As the hours slipped by, and we had lulls in the number of people walking our aisle, we’d chat about how we were trying to do the right thing, but it’s not always possible. The human element makes it impossible to get it right all the time, or even much of the time.

Having said all of that, there were a number of pleasant surprises: people who stopped and asked specifically what we did and then wanting to make sure we followed up; people who saw my books on the table and inquired about them, which was a great opportunity to start a more in-depth conversation; people who saw what we did and referred us to someone in their booth nearby to chat with about possibly doing something with them in the future.

In spite of all of the misfires with a lot of attendees, at the end of the show we both felt that a lot of good came out of our appearance. We counted over 40 contacts that we’ll be following up with shortly. Many of them could be seen as strong leads.

It’s so easy to see all of those poor interactions as a reflection of lack of preparation or skill, but I believe that’s not the case. It’s just the way it goes. Often. People are easily distracted. People have their own agendas. They are unpredictable. Not everything goes exactly as planned. But at the end of the day, if you came away with a good amount of leads that you can follow with, that’s a good thing. Don’t worry about the ones that got away. They might not have been that valuable anyway.

And frankly, in this business, we won’t really be able to come up with an ROI for months and months.

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Cannabis Collaborative Conference Photo Album

TradeshowGuy Exhibits just finished exhibiting with another 100+ exhibitors at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference at the Portland Expo Center. There were certainly a lot of growers and sellers of cannabis at the show (although products could not be sold at the show) displaying dozens of samples of cannabis. Our booth – #420 – was right next to Williams Canna Company, growers of high quality cannabis. They had about a dozen samples of cannabis on display in glass containers. While you couldn’t smoke it, you could certainly sniff it – and sniff we did.

I toured the show floor a number of times snapping photos, curious to see what kinds of exhibits were there and how companies presented themselves. Here are some of those:

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, January 21, 2019: Superstition

I don’t think I’m a superstitious person. But, who knows? A short look at superstitions, and a look at the busy-ness of what’s going on this quarter with TradeshowGuy Exhibits.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING is the need for another goof USB digital microphone since my Yeti Blue crapped out. On the search! Stay tuned…

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Cannabis Collaborative Conference: One Week Out

Less than a week from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center. It’s next Wednesday and Thursday the 23rd and 24th of January. I’ve attended the show three times, and this is the first time as an exhibitor. I’m looking forward to it, but I don’t have a good sense of how well we’ll do at the show. I would bet a lot of exhibitors feel the same going into shows. There’s a significant amount of money on the line, and hopefully the ROI is positive, right?

A sneak peak at our back drop for the Cannabis Collaborative Conference.

I wanted to do some modest pre-show marketing, aimed at exhibitors, specifically at the show’s exhibitors. I made up a postcard, had a bunch printed up and sent about five dozen to exhibitors, those that I could track down mailing addresses. As an aside, do you notice that it’s hard to find some businesses online? Many don’t have websites, and many that have websites are coy about their locations. The only way to get in touch with many small businesses is to fill out an online form, click “submit” and hope someone actually reads it. Some time. And don’t get me started about making calls.

However, the five dozen postcards went out and only two came back as non-deliverable, so I took that as a good sign. The card invited exhibitors to drop by our booth to pick up a free copy of one of my books while supplies last. The goal? To find out if any exhibitors are planning to make changes in the next year, and to capture contact information and follow up in a timely manner. Sounds like a straightforward plan, right? I’ll let you know.

If you’re heading to the show, come see us in booth #420 at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center!

Cannabis Collaborative Conference
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8 Trade Show Trends to Look Out for in 2019

This is a guest post by Stacy Gavin.

From celebrity promoters to next-level artificial reality adventures, trade shows are becoming less about selling and more about experiencing. And that’s by design, as trade show trends shift with culture at large. Today, there are two big trends influencing the marketplace: 1. Consumers, especially millennials, are becoming more minimalist. 2. Simultaneously, consumers are shifting their spending away from goods and more towards experience-related services, says management consulting firm McKinsey.

Because trade show trends mirror what’s going on in the rest of the marketplace, the best event marketers are those who are totally tuned in to the buyer’s needs right now. To create effective trade show displays in 2019, you have to very closely understand what buyers want, what they expect and what will entice them to stop and take notice of your booth in a sea of competitors. Here are some of the ones we’ll be able to bank on this year.

It’s All About Immersion: Trade Show Experiences

The basic booth and table will no longer do. In today’s sales landscape, marketers need to stand out by creating displays that quite literally draw visitors in. The goal is to achieve effective narrative marketing by removing the consumer (not literally, of course) from the convention center and taking him or her on an exciting journey that elicits emotion. This can be done in many distinct ways, but some of the best are the ones listed below.

Artificial Reality—Companies in the tech space have been incorporating augmented and virtual reality components into their event displays for a couple of years now, but things are starting to really ramp up in this space. Experts are already predicting that AR will overtake booths at the world’s biggest tech trade show, CES 2019, with displays highlighting new AR products (especially non-wearable AR, like smart mirrors) and also helping to sell non-AR products using interactive, immersive demos and presentations.
Experiential Design—Experiential design, though broad, vaguely refers to the art of creating spaces that provide some sort of experience. Often, this means taking a small corner of a convention center and transforming it into a totally different place entirely, like a store, a playground, an art gallery or a hotel room. For example, logistics giant FedEx recently showed up at the China International Import Expo with a giant airplane mock-up at the center of their display, while other big-name brands have developed full-blown store experiences at this year’s retail conventions.
Multi-Sensory Experiences—In addition to the brightly colored backgrounds and banners that please the eyes, the coolest new displays have begun to incorporate elements that appeal to all other senses as well. Visitors will be able to jump into full-blown tactile, auditory and gastronomic experiences at this year’s trade shows, with big sounds, sights, smells and flavors to experience. Designers are also beginning to invite show-goers into exhibitor’s spaces to play and explore, with instruments, toys, seating areas and gadgets to try.
Everything Brand-New—The 2019 Global Consumer Trends report published by the market research company Mintel gives us some fascinating new info on the latest consumer behaviors. The report showed that consumers are more adventurous than ever—they love to travel alone, experience new places and order foods they haven’t tried before. At trade shows and in other marketing sectors, we can expect to see an uptick in the new, fascinating, unusual and intriguing.

Appealing to the Consumer: Getting Crafty

To understand trade show trends, you have to understand what your audience wants. Most buyers at industry events are professionals with purchasing power (in fact, 81 percent of those who attend have some kind of buying authority), but they are also consumers who get giddy at the thought of fun, new experiences. You can bet that you’ll forge a positive brand image when you go for some of the ideas below.
Shareable Elements—It doesn’t matter where they go, consumers look for “shareable” spaces and experiences that would contribute to nicely encapsulated social media posts. In 2019, we can expect to see many more booths creating special “photo ops” for show-goers to share to social media. This is great news for the marketer, as it offers more opportunity for building brand recognition and creating a positive presence across social.
Special Guests and Performances—Take a look at some of the biggest conventions and trade shows for 2019 and you’ll see a lineup peppered with celebs. Last year, we saw big-name celebs like Tina Fey, Jamie Foxx and Spike Lee gracing the stages of big industry events, and this year’s no different. Look out for actors, musicians, change-makers and entrepreneurs beefing up the speaking agendas of the biggest conferences in tech, music and marketing.
Everything Ethical—Again, trade show trends tend to mirror what’s going on in the greater consumer economy. Now more than ever, buyers care about patronizing eco-friendly, responsible and ethical businesses and will quickly alienate the ones who are less focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). We’ll certainly see more brands in 2019 highlighting their CSR efforts in the trade show market, including through more eco-friendly displays and demos.
All Things Personal—The personalization train hasn’t slowed yet. In fact, it’s primed to pick up some speed this year. As you probably know, buyers are gravitating to more personalized products and experiences across all industries, and this should be applied to trade show marketing, too. We can expect to see the most success coming from booths that create a personal experience by offering one-on-one staffing and personal engagements.

Paying Attention to the Consumer Market

As you can see, the most important thing about trend-spotting in the trade show world is trend-spotting in the world. If you can identify some of the key drivers of the greater market, and you can implement them into your trade show display strategy, you’ll be well on your way to a hefty return on investment from your event marketing efforts. 


Stacy Gavin is in charge of eCommerce Digital Marketing for HalfPriceBanners.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, January 14, 2019: Tradeshow Makeover

Why do so many companies come up short with their tradeshow marketing plans? Often it’s in the execution. They have good plans, good people and a solid product or service to market. But their overall idea of how tradeshow marketing should be approached and executed isn’t strong enough.

With that, I sat down with Dianna Geairn and Alice Heiman of Tradeshow Makeover, a recently-formed company, to dig deep into how companies might want to consider approaching their overall tradeshow marketing program:

Dianna and Alice have graciously offered to share a couple of items that you, as a tradeshow marketing manager or small exhibiting company, may find helpful:

Free access to their exclusive Facebook page. Just ask to join and mention “TradeshowGuy!”

They are also offering a 6-module tradeshow marketing course – check it out!


This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The Lee Child/Jack Reacher novel The Hard Way. Good stuff indeed!

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