If you’re a fan of Robert Heinlein’s classic science fiction book “Stranger in a Strange Land,” you know the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who was born on Mars, raised by Martians, and comes to Earth in early adulthood. He ends up in a political power struggle and as the title suggests, he’s a little lost in the whole thing.
I sense that many people are feeling a similar way when it comes to returning to the tradeshow floor. Exhibit designers, builders and exhibitors are looking to the future when things will return to normal and they can get back to the action of exhibiting and all that entails.
This morning I see a post in a tradeshow group on Facebook that a client has canceled an appearance in an upcoming show in early August. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the resurgence of the delta variant of the virus and the continued resistance by a significant portion of the population to getting vaccinated.
Another commented that they also had a cancellation at the same show, and a second cancellation by another client at another show in October. Also due to uncertainty of the virus numbers.
But for some exhibitors who are looking at shows in late October, the assumption is that everything will be fine and they’re proceeding with plans for new exhibits. So they’re forging ahead on designs and are getting ready to put significant money down on new exhibits.
I get the sense that with all the players involved – organizers, exhibitors, attendees, designers, fabricators, labor and support services – no one is sure of which way to jump, and unfortunately we’ll all have to jump several times before we learn where we’re going to land.
In the TV show “Billions,” one of the questions that come up now and then is: “Are you certain?” And the response is meant to be “I am not uncertain.”
But I don’t think anyone has much certainty right now about the tradeshow world and when it might return to normal. Or even settle into a “new normal,” which will be different but at least predictable.
As the tradeshow world returns to something resembling normal, it does so in fits and starts and a few bumps along the way. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, Jim Wurm, Executive Director of the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association talks about those challenges:
I tend to make a lot of lists. Not as many as I used to (maybe I think I have enough lists by now!), but I still write things down. You’d think this makes me organized, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Several years ago, not long after I got married, I sat down and wrote out a comprehensive emergency “If I Get Hit By a Bus” list. It’s self-explanatory: it’s where my wife can find all of those things she needs if the worst were to happen: passwords for phones, computers, websites and more; will, important papers, all of that stuff.
I realized over the weekend that I should probably update the list soon because things change. Some old info drops off, new stuff is added. But then I thought: should tradeshow managers do the same thing? After all, there are a lot of moving parts in tradeshow marketing.
Hey, life is unpredictable. Things happen that you haven’t planned for. Most of us really don’t spend much time thinking about the worst thing that could happen. And subsequently, that means we really aren’t prepared for it, at least not as much as we could be.
What should be on your list? It may vary from person to person, and company to company, but here are a number of things that come to mind:
List of shows: Include booth sizes, dates, locations.
Vendors: who handles your exhibit; who designs graphic updates, who prints them? Who fixes your exhibit when it needs repairs?
Service providers at the show: while many companies use show services at the venue, many also bring in outside exhibitor-approved contractors to set up and dismantle the booth. Or print something on demand in a quick turnaround.
Personnel: Who went to what shows, what their duties were. Who’s still with you, who might have left. Contact information.
Where files are kept: tradeshows generate paperwork, either digitally or actual paper. If they’re kept on a server, note the location. Same with your work computer. Same with your file drawers.
How much things cost: similar to keeping track of paperwork, but building a spreadsheet to track costs from show to show and year to year can also be of great use.
Exhibit details: size of booth at particular shows. Size of graphics (you’ll be updating them frequently); number of crates, storage location, what shipper you generally use, along with contact information on those various entities. Names and phone numbers are always a good thing.
Social Media access credentials: whether you handle these personally or not, if you’re involved or if there is to be social media engagement from the show floor, add those login details to your list.
Once you have your list, give a copy to your immediate boss, or to someone on your team you trust that will use it if necessary. You should be good to go for another year or so before updating it.
One way to learn how tradeshows are progressing in this soon-to-come post-pandemic era is to walk the floor of a major show in Las Vegas and observe. If you can’t yet, the second-best thing is to talk to someone who did just that. And that’s what we’re doing on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. I spoke with Andy Saks of Spark Presentations, who walked the floor at last month’s World of Concrete to find out how a big tradeshow in Las Vegas dealt with the relaxed safety protocols:
Not only do exhibitors care about the environment, but they also want to have exhibits fabricated in an eco-friendly way – AND let their clientele know about their commitment to the environment.
That’s why here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve partnered with Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits for years. Many of our clients have requested eco-friendly exhibits, and we thought we should share this friendly and informative video to show you exactly what an ex-friendly exhibit is all about:
Heading to a tradeshow later this summer or fall? Maybe early in 2022? Probably the last thing you tend to think about is swag. Promotional products. Giveaways. Whether small imprinted items such as pens, letter openers, flash drives, lip stuff (what’s that stuff called, anyway??), or whatever, you probably used to wait until the last moment to order. And the promotional products company would jump into action and before you know it, boxes arrive full of customized and imprinted stuff.
Hold up. That may not be that easy this time around.
What’s going on? Supply lines are bottlenecked, shipping is difficult and expensive, and it’s harder for production companies to keep supplies in stock. What’s on warehouse shelves one day may be gone next week, leaving companies scrambling to identify second and third choices for tradeshow giveaways.
Rama Beerfas of Lev Promotions, in a recent podcast interview, discussed some of the issues regarding challenges in the industry torn by the pandemic. In a recent newsletter, she outlined a few challenges still preventing the smooth acquisition and production of customized giveaways.
Inventories are low, products are selling out.
Production times are longer (this isn’t limited to the promotional products industry; many vendors in the event/conference/tradeshow world are seeing similar situations). This is often due to staffing shortages.
Shipping costs, particularly overseas, have increased. As Rama put it in her newsletter, “A contracted rate of $$3,000 per container rental has skyrocketed to $10,000 or more and bidding wars are happening.”
All I can say is “YIKES!” Well, that and be prepared for increased costs and production time if you’re planning on acquiring branded promotional items to spread around at your next event.
Yeah, it’s only June but somehow I’ve managed to get through two dozen books since we ticked over into 2021. I tend to read mostly fiction, but now and then I’ll make it through a nonfiction work that was worth the time. So let me start with one of the two nonfiction books I’ve read this year.
The Wim Hof Method, Wim Hof. Suggested by a tradeshow colleague several months ago, I picked it up and let it sit on my shelf for a few months before finally getting around to it. Glad I did. Wim’s story is fascinating, as is his method of deep breathing and cold immersion or cold showers as a way of improving or maintaining your health. I think my initial resistance was, ‘nah, not gonna take cold showers. Not gonna happen.’ Funny thing, I read the book, gave it a try, along with the daily round of deep breaths which also incorporates holding your breath, have now done those basic practices for nearly two months. I’ll probably keep them up because they make me feel good and they’re easy to do. I’m up to 2-3 minutes of cold water showers at the end of a regular shower, and I’ve managed to hold my breath after deep oxygenation practice for up to two-and-a-half minutes, which kind of blows my mind. Highly recommended.
“Love Me Do: The Beatles Progress” by Michael Braun was originally published in the early 60s and then went out of print for some time. It’s a fascinating look at the six-week 1963 tour by the Beatles written by someone who had access to the group before they became world famous. It’s an unvarnished look at the Fab Four as they smoked, drank, swore and tried to make their way through a hectic music world before everything changed. If you’re a Beatle fan, don’t miss it.
Lots of fiction:
Jack Reacher by Lee Child and Andrew Child. I finished “The Sentinel” a couple of months ago. Last I checked, it’s the most recent book, number 25, in the series. Written by Lee Child and his younger brother, who is planning to take over the franchise character, it’s a well-done potboiler in the same vein as the others.
“The Night Fire,” by Michael Connelly is a Harry Bosch / Renee Ballard detective book. I’m nearing the end of this series as well, although Connelly is so prolific with his main characters – Bosch, Renee Ballard and Mickey Haller, Jack McEvoy , Terry McCaleb and more – that it’s hard to keep up. He’s a good and enjoyable writer.
David Baldacci’s “The Innocent” and “Zero Day.” Thrillers that keep you turning the pages, mostly in the legal or suspense world. He wrote “Absolute Power,” published in 1996 that was turned into a Clint Eastwood movie, which kicked his writing career into high gear. I’ve only read these two books by Baldacci and look forward to reading more.
Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes” trilogy, which includes “Finders Keepers” and “End of Watch.” Just wrapped up the last book this week and am quite in awe of how imaginative of a storyteller King is. He burrows into characters’ psyches more effectively than most writers, which makes them good page-turners as well. After viewing the two seasons of the TV series based on “Mr. Mercedes,” I decided to read the trilogy. Glad I did, really enjoyed them.
Dean Koontz is another prolific writer with so many books out there that it’s hard to figure out which to read. I picked up one of the Jane Hawk series and ended up reading a couple of them and plan to read more. Another fascinating writer that is great at setting a scene and the inner workings of his characters. “The Night Window” and “The Forbidden Door” sizzled all the way through.
“2034: A Novel of the Next World War” was mentioned on a TV show, and I was so intrigued by the concept I picked it up. It doesn’t disappoint. Written by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis, it portrays a future world where China and the US butt heads in cyberspace and with nukes. Not pretty, but extremely realistic and plausible that something like this could happen. Worth a read.
“Tell No One” By Harlan Coben. Picked this up at a garage sale. I’ve read one other book by Coben, and seen at least one or two TV series based on his books. Thriller to the max, well worth it.
I also read several Kindle books. As an Amazon Prime member, you get to choose a few Kindle books for free each month. These tend to be a little shorter and off the beaten path, so it doesn’t take me long to get through them. But I’ve stumbled onto several well-written and worthwhile books, including the following:
“Her Last Breath” by Hillary Davidson: a fraught family is falling apart after one of the girls dies under mysterious circumstances. This brought several OMG moments. Extraordinarily well-written.
“The Girl Beneath the Sea” by Andrew Payne. One of a series of a diver cop in Florida that stumbles on the body of a young girl dumped in a waterway.
“The Eighth Sister” by Robert Dugoni. Russia vs US spy novel.
“Beneath Devil’s Bridge” by Loreth Anne White. A thriller about a true crime podcaster that follows a man who two decades previously had confessed to a brutal killing. Lots of twists and surprises. Also very well written.
“True Fiction” by Lee Goldberg. An author is pursued by the FBI and criminals after his fictional scenario about crashing a plane into Waikiki actually comes about. Clever and fast-paced.
“The Tracker” by Chad Zunker. A young political ‘tracker,’ someone who follows a candidate and videotapes everything they do hoping to catch them in a gaffe or worse, is in the crosshairs of criminals and law enforcement after he witnesses a murder. Fun read.
“Water Memory” by Daniel Pyne. A black ops specialist happens to be vacationing on a cargo ship when it’s captured by pirates. Crazy and entertaining.
“Blame Atlas Save Atlas” by Angelo Lytle. Kind of a paranormal thriller with misfit kids at the center of a mystery. Cool little story, well done.
Even though the pandemic is supposedly waning, events, conferences and tradeshows are still dealing with how to handle crowds in a pandemic era. Here comes Crowdpass, with a unique look at the situation and how they’re looking to handle it digitally. I caught up with Marketing Director Quinn Zsido to go over their approach: