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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10 Things I’ve Learned from 10 Years of Blogging

When I started this blog in November 2008, it was a different world. I was employed as VP of Sales and Marketing by Interpretive Exhibits, where I started in April 2002. In 2008 Barack Obama was elected president, gas prices spiked at one point, averaging over $4.10 per gallon. First class postage stamps were 42 cents. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was officially inaugurated in October of that year. And there was a global recession triggered by (among other things) a real estate bubble, Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, and a stock market crash. And remember credit default swaps? Ooooh, booy.

By 2008 I had spent six+ years in the tradeshow world and was still making my way around it. When an old radio friend kidded me by calling me “Tradeshowguy” I didn’t think much of it. But then blogging was becoming a thing, and as someone who liked to write, I wanted an outlet that had to do with my daily routine. And since it was easy to register a website domain, I did so with TradeshowGuyBlog.com. Just because. Even though I was employed by Interpretive Exhibits, I made sure that when I started this blog, it was not too closely aligned with them. I felt since it was my content, it should be separate. At the time, there were a lot of mentions and links on the blog of IE, but when the owner retired in 2011 and closed the company, I kept the blog going, started TradeshowGuy Exhibits and kept moving forward.

Being an old radio guy who had a home studio, I started calling consultants and industry experts and interviewing them and posting the interviews on the blog. Actually, I had been doing that prior to starting the blog and posting the interviews on the Interpretive Exhibits website, which I was also in charge of. It was my way of learning more about the industry and working to differentiate myself from other people in the industry.

Ten years down the line, what have I learned and gained from blogging? Here’s a quick list:

  1. Blogging is a commitment. Ya gotta show up, all the time. No blogging for a week or two or three and then waiting another month or four. You have to be there, all the time. Each blog is different, and it doesn’t matter a whole lot the frequency of posting, but it has to have a regularity about it. Whether it’s once a week, three times a week, twice a month. Readers should expect you to have something new on a regular basis.
  2. You don’t just have to write. You can also post video, audio and photographs. Even the occasional slide deck! Lots of options, so you’re not stuck with just writing.
  3. It doesn’t have to be long. Seth Godin blogs every day. Every. Single. Day. Most are short. But he’s always there, he’s always showing up.
  4. You learn a ton. By writing about anything, you end up learning more about what you write about. Sometimes it means you’re researching or talking to people. But often the simply act of putting words together helps you understand what it is you’re trying to communicate.
  5. Blogging isn’t a quick way to make more money. But it does bring in clients, if only haphazardly and almost accidentally. I’ve had companies find me because of my blog and they’ve become customers. One year, 2016, two-thirds of my company’s business came about because I was found online. Next year, that was down to less than ten percent. There’s no direct line between one and other but there is a line! But people do find me through this blog, and now and then someone buys something.
  6. By posting video, you learn a lot about video production. By posting audio, you can learn more about audio production. Even though I did audio production for years as a radio guy, it’s always fun to see what else you can do with digital audio production.
  7. Blogs are the perfect platform for podcasting and vlogging (video-blogging). I started TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee so I could have a regular outlet to get in front of a microphone and camera and share more of what I’m doing. Having a weekly deadline where I KNOW I have to produce is a good motivator.
  8. You have to be transparent. Yes, you can hide some things, but a blog generally lets people see the real you. Especially if you add in a regular podcast where you talk about yourself and your business. And in this day and age, that is an advantage because it helps make connections that you might not otherwise make so easily.
  9. Blogging allows me to meet a lot of people. This is mainly the result of asking people to sit for a short interview for my podcast, but however we connect, they know who I m, and I learn who they are.
  10. By blogging, I feel I’m always moving forward. The blog is a great space to share what the company is doing, to highlight new products, shows I attend or exhibit at, people I meet and much more.

Now that I’ve (surprisingly) gotten ten years of blogging under my belt, I think I have a good idea of what this is all about. Almost. Stick with me and let’s see where it goes!

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8 Questions to Ask Before Committing to a Tradeshow Event

This is a guest post by Stacy Gavin.

If you’re prepping for your trade show debut, you probably already know a little something about how industry events can transform your business for the better. There’s a reason why the vast majority (87 percent) of C-suite executives believe in this tactic as a high-value marketing strategy and are investing more and more in this niche. It all has to do with the fact that attending the right trade shows can seriously bolster your biz and, in some scenarios, it can do it without a huge spend. But the keyword here is right.

  1. How Many Attendees Can I Expect?—You’ll spend lots of time and money orchestrating your debut—from coordinating a pro-level trade show setup to booking flights and accommodations for your team—and it will all be for naught if no one shows up at the event. Make sure that the show’s organizing body can present you with measurable, historical data illustrating how many people have showed up in previous years. Note that trade shows come in all shapes in sizes, from massive 100,000-plus attendee events to smaller conventions that cater to just a few thousand people.
  2. What Percentage of Attendees Has Buying Power?—Numbers are important, but don’t make your decision about whether to exhibit solely based on how many people will attend. The fact is that some attendees are more valuable than others, and you’d be better off exhibiting to a thousand decision-makers in your niche than a million entry-level employees in the industry at large. While some 84 percent of trade show attendees have the power to make or recommend final purchasing decisions, you should always ask the show at hand if they have event-specific data. This is important if your main objective is to close deals.
  3. What Is the ‘NSF’ of the Event?—In the trade show world, “NSF” refers to “net square feet.” This number equals the total square footage of all the rooms, areas and floor space in the given event venue. For reference, the country’s largest convention center, McCormick Place in Chicago, offers 2.6 million square feet of prime exhibit space. This, along with the number of attendees and the number of exhibitors, is often used as an indicator of the size of the event. The NSF will help you get a better visual of the breadth of the venue to help you determine whether or not this type of event truly aligns with your brand image and overall business goals.
  4. How Many Exhibitors Will Attend?—This is a good metric to know if you’re concerned with the presence of competitors. The last thing you want to do is be one of dozens of exhibitors in the exact same space vying for the attention of a small number of attendees. Note: You shouldn’t automatically be turned off by events with a high number of competitors, especially if you have the ability to stand out by creating an eye-catching trade show display or by leveraging the uniqueness of your product or service.
  5. How Many Years Have You Been in Existence?—We’re not saying you should automatically write-off first-time events. In fact, new conventions often offer discounts to exhibitors and may present you with the opportunity to grab better display real estate for a lower price. With that said, we don’t recommend that your very first exhibition be at a fresh, new event. You went to get your feet wet in the trade show world by experiencing one that’s well-attended and well-run. You can then use these events as benchmarks with which to measure the newer ones you attend later down the road.
  6. Is the Event Open to the Public?—Surprisingly, the way an event is labeled actually does matter. Trade shows are typically organized to cater to those within the trade and may be closed off to the public, whereas other exhibitor-focused events—often labeled as “shows,” “festivals” or “cons”—can usually be attended by those in the community or members of the general public. If your goal is to exhibit primarily to other businesses, it’s probably best to stick to events labeled as trade shows.
  7. Will There Be Additional Events?—Trade shows and conventions don’t simply exist to help you interface with potential clients and customers. They can also help you with other business objectives, like forging valuable partnerships, finding business suppliers, getting new ideas and even finding potential employees (some execs use these events as a method of “poaching” top talent). Much of this goes on at extraneous events, such as roundtables, networking events, speaking engagements and off-sites. Make sure to get a list of all the offshoot events before committing to a show.
  8. Will I Be Able to Get Premium Real Estate?—Finally, try to gauge what kind of booth real estate you can get with your budget at this particular show. This is one of the best reasons why talking with a representative from the hosting body is a good idea when you’re planning. You can ask questions like “How much booth space can I get for my budget?” and you might find that the reps will help stretch your space and find you the best location for your buck. Often, the most successful exhibitors are those who have good spots on the floor.

Talk to Others Who Have Attended

While it is important that you get the facts and figures from the trade show organizer, it can also help if you present some questions to others who have attended the same event in the past. Pose the question among your networking circle, on industry forums or on social media to get real, unbiased opinions on the show. Once you find the perfect event for your specific niche, budget and business objectives, you can be confident that exhibiting will bring a measurable return on investment.



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

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Prepping Your Tradeshow Program for the New Year

A Checklist

  • Write down all the shows you’re attending and the specific size of booths you’ll be setting up. Include dates, shipping addresses, products to be promoted, introduced or launched.
  • Plan social media broadcasts and interactions for the shows. Make a list of needed collateral, photos, videos and more that you’ll need to have.
  • List all of the various vendors you’ll use during the year, such as tradeshow exhibit houses, I&D (Installation and Dismantle) groups, shippers, graphic artists/designers, printers, promotional products providers and more.
  • Create a list of the people from your company will be attend each show. Check out show websites to find out dates that hotels open for reservations. Most show websites will have a downloadable PDF with critical dates, addresses and other information. Create a folder on your computer to store this information for easy reference.
  • Put all of the pertinent dates on your calendar with reminders if needed.
  • Speak to all of your vendors to get information on what is required for updates, including graphic file specs, turnaround time for any updates to the booth or repairs that need to be made.
  • Prepare sales and marketing materials.
  • Is your event staff going to wear uniforms or branded t-shirts? Get them ordered ahead of time.
  • Confirm event registration for all attendees.
  • Confirm booth registration for all shows.
  • Confirm schedule for payments and amounts.
  • Finalize budget for the year ahead.
  • Contact targeted attendees and book meetings a few weeks out, maybe a couple of months out if it’s a big show.

Being a tradeshow marketing manager is a non-stop, year-round job. Never-ending! By keeping things as organized as possible you’ll have a better handle on all of the loose ends that come up. Hopefully this list will help you out!

Have a great 2019!

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, December 24, 2018: Online Video

Online video is big and getting bigger. Even though you may recall the class action lawsuit against Facebook earlier this year for inflating video engagement numbers by as much as 900%, people still engage with online video BIG TIME.

This episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee looks at online video and offers a handful of tips on how to engage with tradeshow visitors using video.



This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Merry Christmas!

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Looking ahead to 2019: Steady as She Goes

Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’re doing a little planning for 2019, but frankly, not much will change. Over the years I’ve recognized that some things work better than others, so I tend to focus on the things that work and not spend much time on things that haven’t proven to be successful in the past.

Having said that, in a way a lot of it is unpredictable. So much of marketing and business is a crap shoot, especially when you’re a small business. In a sense, you have to keep doing the things that got you this far.

When it comes to generating new business, the two most consistent things I can do are to attend tradeshows and meet people and keep in touch with them over time. They say that a potential client needs to see or hear from you at least seven times before they might become a client. In this business, in my experience it’s usually more, so I keep in touch as best as I can with phone calls, email and the occasional snail mail. Of course, having a book or two to send to potential clients is a good advantage to have, too. Maybe I’ll write another one this year, who knows!

We’ll continue to work with Classic Exhibits out of thePortland area for the bulk of our exhibit design and fabrication. They’ve gotten better over the years and their skills at designing and customizing exhibits is continually improving. Having them essentially in my back yard (we’re about 45 minutes away from their shop) makes things easier.And having them as an extremely supportive partner makes it easy to work with them.

We also work with a number of manufacturers for differentitems such as banner stands, lights and other things, and will continue to workwith them. Foremost among those companies is Orbus, which has been a dependable partner for years.

We also work with Eagle Management for client installation and dismantle, TransGroup Global Logistics for shipping, Cort Events for furniture rental. Over the years we’ve tried other companies, many of which are dependable, but in the past couple of years these companies have been steady partners and will likely continue to be.

If we’re staying the course, going steady as she goes as the saying goes, what does that mean and are any new things planned?

First, you’ll continue to see weekly postings of a video and audio version of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. As an old radio guy, sitting in front of a microphone (and laptop camera) is natural and easy and frankly fun. Guests are always great to have, and I strive to have them on the show more often than not, but if not, I typically find a topic to muse on for awhile. The objective, as I see it, is to share some personal and business observations, and great information as it comes. Guests and topics are generally event and tradeshow-oriented, but not exclusively. The idea is to attract non-event people if possible.

I’ll continue to post on the blog at least a couple of times a week. Guest posts are always welcome as guests typically bring a different perspective on a topic.

I’ll attend a handful of tradeshows, including NaturalProducts Expo West in March in Anaheim, where TradeshowGuy Exhibits has several clients. Other shows include the Northwest Food Service Show that bounces between Seattle and Portland year over year, and the Cannabis Collaborative Conference, where TradeshowGuy Exhibits will be exhibiting for the first time. There are a number of non-cannabis exhibitors there that support the industry and we hope to become a partner to companies in that space. Stay tuned to see how that goes – and find us in Space #420 at the Portland Expo on January 23rdand 24th, 2019.

As far as new things, I keep looking to work with strategic partners, such as branding agencies and graphic designers when it’s a good fit. You never know where projects come from, so I try to keep networking. And although I’m not a natural networker like some people, I do get better at it as time goes by. I currently belong to the Wilsonville, Oregon Tip Club, a B2B networking group that meets every month.

What about social media? So much time can be spent on social media – and so much can be wasted. I think there is a use for it – but as faras bring in business, it’s limited. My usage of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn has decreased ever-so-slightly over the years because – as much as I’d love to have a consistent presence on those outlets –it comes down to a choice of how to spend my time. And most of the time it’s more important to work with clients and seek new ones. No doubt you face that choice, too. I’ll continue to be there when it makes sense.

Running a small business is challenging. But it’s fun. There’s almost nothing else I’d rather be doing (maybe skiing and playing the drums, but so far no one’s offering to pay me much for those skills!). So I’ll keep doing it, keep serving our current clients as well as I can, and keep searching for new exhibitors that want to work with someone who’s focused and dedicated to their success.

Best wishes for a great 2019! And…steady as she goes!

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6 Months of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee Guests

This month marks two years of the vlog/podcast TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. Most of the time I have a guest. And most of the time those guests are from the event industry. I don’t feel that guests must be from the tradeshow and event industry, but most of them are. I do want to have chats with people that are doing interesting things in business and would make for an interesting conversation. Browse through here for brief but insightful conversations with experts in tradeshow marketing, public speaking, communication, technology, entrepreneurship, photograph and much more!

Here’s a wrap of the guests that have appeared on the show in the past 6 months or so (all links open a new tab):

Kelly Mooney: a professional photographer with tips on creating a great headshot.

Internet marketer and public speaker Kathleen Gage discusses business, public speaking and marketing.

Mary Lou Burton is an event organizer and promoter. Her latest event is the annual Cannabis Collaborative Conference.

National Speaker Association Hall-of-Famer Terry Brock.

Entrepreneur and profitability consultant Thor Conklin.

Business credit expert Gerri Detweiler.

Communication skills expert Bill Lampton, Ph. D.

Marketing Expert Robert Middleton.

How does “revitilization of the human spirit” relate to tradeshows and events? Andrew Bennett of the Bennett Performance Group digs into this with me.

Classic Rental Solutions General Manager Jim Shelman looks at rental exhibits in 2018.

Author and entrepreneur Chris Reimer discusses his new Boosa Tech powerbank.

Publicity Hound Joan Stewart discusses some great ideas to create publicity around a tradeshow.

Sales Trainer Jeff Bajorek discusses sales prospecting.

Magician and professional tradeshow presenter Robert Strong.

International tradeshow expert Larry Kulchawik.

Tradeshow marketing  consultant Mike Thimmesch.

Professional photographer Irina Leoni discusses her approach to creating photos that tell a story about a business or a person.

Nathan Grepke, President of Blue Pony, talks about video and audio technology used on the tradeshow floor.


Subscribe to the podcast here! And subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, December 17, 2018: Unintended Consequences

No guest on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. Instead, I muse a bit about unintended consequences, starting with Brexit. No, I don’t really get political – just trying to use that situation as an example of unintended consequences.

Be sure to watch for this week’s Tradeshow Tip.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING is the new book from Seth Godin called This Is Marketing.

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Top Ten 2018 TradeshowGuy Blog Posts

When I started looking through the analytics to determine the top ten 2018 TradeshowGuy blog posts, I faced somewhat of a dilemma. Many of the “most-viewed” posts of the year are not from 2018. Do I include those or not? Perhaps the best approach is to create two lists: one that includes the most-viewed, and the other narrows the list down to the most-viewed 2018-published blog posts.

Take a look – starting at Number One:

Most-viewed of 2018, posted in 2018

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10 Reasons to Change Exhibit Houses

Most companies we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits work with one exhibit house for several years, and the urge to change doesn’t come around much. Maybe you’ve been comfortable or years, but something changes. Could be minor, could be major. But it does happen. People change, goals change, situations change. Changing vendors can be challenging and pose a set of challenges. Lots of people are uncomfortable with change and prefer to stick with something even though it’s a good idea to at least look around.

When doing your evaluation, look at all options. One option might mean staying with your current vendor. But when evaluating, make one list with those that are considered competent service providers and those that might be looked at as critical partners.

What reasons might you have – valid reasons – for shopping around for another exhibit house? Let’s take a look at some things that might come up.

Your needs and goals have changed. It may be that you’re working with an exhibit house that excels in smaller exhibits, such as inline modular booths, but you want something custom. Turns out that your current vendor may be able to do what you want, but it’s a stretch. Or perhaps you want more, such as a coordinated tradeshow marketing strategy with planning and execution, and all your current vendor does is design and fabricate exhibits.

Their designers aren’t thinking out of the box like you’d like. Exhibits can get really wild and weird, believe me. I’m sure you’ve seen them! But if the exhibit house you currently work with has a group of in-house designers that seem to stick with the tried-and-true, and never really show you something wacky, it might be time to find another designer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to move on from the same fabricator, it may just mean bringing in an outside designer.

Lack of Communication. Do you hear from your exhibit house only when you reach out to them for something? Or do they stay in communication frequently even though a show is not currently pending?

Problems with Delivery. In the tradeshow world, deadlines run the show. Does your exhibit house meet deadlines without breaking a sweat, or do you feel that they’re struggling – which means you’re anxious much of the time? The most reliable vendors can hit a bump in the road on occasion, but if that happens do they communicate that to you? Or is the failure to deliver consistently a trend in the wrong direction?

Change exhibit house

They take you for granted. Big exhibit houses are equipped to handle everything from small in-lines to gigantic island booths that spill out of a show’s floor, it seems. If you’re one of their small customers, it may be that they just assume you’re well-taken care of without really checking. Sometimes a lack of communication tells you that they have other priorities.

Poor Service. If a company really wants and values your business, you’ll see it in their service. There shouldn’t be invoice errors, lack of attention to detail, slow response time.

The person that’s handled your account has moved on. The new person doesn’t really “get” you. It may mean that you have to work to get to know them better. But as the account manager, that falls more heavily on them to retain the business than it does on you.

Personality clash. This could be anything (politics, religion, brusqueness, and so on). It may not mean it’s time to move on. It may just mean you need to deal with another person at the company.

Pricing. Not only what is the price, but what are you getting for the money? Some vendors are great at providing a basic service at a good price. Others may be more skilled with more resources who can creatively collaborate, but that may come at a cost you’re not quite ready for. An unexpected price increase may also spur a change. Price increase happen, everyone does it over time. But if a price increase is coming on things that you normally purchase from your exhibit house (graphics, labor for repairs and upgrades, etc.) and you aren’t informed ahead of time, that is not good business.

Culture. Maybe not as big a deal if you’re not actually working for a company, when it would be a really big deal. But sometimes that culture doesn’t transfer well and if it makes everyone uncomfortable and awkward, it might be time to move on.

There are a lot of reasons that companies are not a good fit. And there’s no wrong answers. There are a lot of exhibit houses out there vying for your business. We hate to turn business down, but it happens because for whatever reason, it’s not a good fit.

free tradeshow exhibit quotes
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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, December 10, 2018: Nathan Grepke

On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, Nathan Grepke, President of Blue Pony, joins me to go over some of the latest technology and some of the things they’re up to in video production, presentation and mogician. Yup, mogician. Just take a look / listen:

Don’t forget the Tradeshow Tip of the week – a great list from Tradeshow Superheroes and Exhibiting Zombies – and this week’s ONE GOOD THING: the opening weekend of ski season at Hoodoo Ski Bowl.

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