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


Tradeshow Budgeting Guidelines – An Update

The latest issue of Exhibitor Magazine hit my mailbox last week, highlighted by their annual look at industry cost averages.

Now I’m not going to throw all of their numbers out for you. If you want ’em all, check out their website or buy the magazine. They usually release the current online version a few weeks after the paper version has been out.

But I do want to take a gander at a few of the numbers in general terms.

A few of the main figures that we always work with our clients and prospects here at Interpretive Exhibits are: industry average cost for custom booths, inline booths, and design and fabrication.

Several years back I compiled a short list from various sources, and the averages were something like this (figures from 2000 – 2002):

Average cost for new, custom construction:
Island: $130 per square foot
In-Line: $1,230 per linear foot

Average cost for exhibit design (hourly): $80 – $85
Average cost for graphic design (hourly): $70 – $75

According to the figures just released in the November 2009 issue of Exhibitor Magazine, rates are up approximately 25% since the beginning of the decade, or less than 3% per year. According to data from, the yearly average from 2000 – 2008 is 2.89%.

The figures through September of 2009 shows mostly negative inflation, and those figures were not included – but obviously they would pull the 10-year average down.

Conclusion: Nothing really surprising here – actually I would view the figures as somewhat encouraging as some of the basic costs of designing and fabricating a custom booth are in line with inflation.

Without giving out the actual figures compiled by Exhibit Magazine – after all, they did the work and until they post them online I don’t think it’s fair to jump the shark with their specific numbers – it appears that the key figures we track in the exhibit industry have risen in line with other prices.

PS. When Exhibitor releases those numbers online, I’ll look to post a link do you can review all of the figures.


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!



Say Hello to My Little (Social Media) Friends

How do you combine your online social media friends with your other tradeshow marketing efforts? It’s a synergistic effort that crosses many online channels. I sat down and, inviting a few of my little friends, looked to explain how those little friends can help you in those efforts:



Podcast:’s Mike Morrison Interview

Smart Radio Now

Interview with Mike Morrison of, a company which provide focused low-power AM/FM broadcasting at events, tradeshows and conferences.

Mike’s contact information:


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.


Qualifying Questions at Tradeshows

Tradeshows are a busy and distracting environment in which you’re trying to make sales and generate leads. By asking qualifying questions you can cut to the chase quickly.

Tradeshow consultant and author Mitch Tarr says it takes practice. For instance, you should come up with a pertinent question, such as “Do you own a small business nearby?” or “Do you have kids in elementary school?” Rehearse the question with your colleagues and ask for input. Find two or three opening questions that feel natural, that easily roll off the tongue.

By spending a moment to engage each booth visitor, you’ll quickly determine if they’re qualified prospects. Each show might require a different qualifying question. A regional home show would have different requirements than a national tradeshow.

Ensure that everyone on your staff is well-rehearsed and able to ask the question to qualify visitors. While this may seem simple, in practice it often is not. In the heat and bustle of a tradeshow, it’s easy for someone to forget what the question is – or forget to ask it consistently of the booth visitors.

Once that person is disqualified, you can politely disengage and they’ll be on their way. If you qualify them, ‘peel the onion’ and ask a few more questions to narrow down their interest. By focusing on what they are looking for, you help steer them to the right product or service or even to the right person in your booth to discuss their issue.

It’s all in the questions you ask. So test the questions and keep working and refining them until they are getting the results you want.

Creative Commons License

photo credit: Torley


Fly Away, fly away, fly away all!

Well, I’m not sure I am really on-board with this kind of promotion, but I admit its one of the most clever things I’ve ever seen: using flies to carry your message around at a tradeshow. Did they also supply flyswatters so you could actually grab one of the mini-leaflets?



Using Social Media at Tradeshows to Close More Business: Win One Hour Consulting

It’s our observation that Social Media is a great fit to promote events: it’s a focused time-frame; social media is extremely mobile (something like 70% of tweets are from mobile platforms) which fosters on-site interaction; and tweets and Facebook page posts can bring people to your booth in real time for contests, plugs, etc.

Putting a strong Social Media Plan into place can help you:

  • build your opt-in marketing lists
  • get on the list of ‘must-see’ show booths
  • create product awareness
  • create buzz around new products
  • add to the company’s sales leads
  • identify your company’s brand champions
  • accelerate the sales cycle
  • deepen the relationship with customers

You may recall the e-book I put out earlier this year “Twittering Your Way to Tradeshow Success.”

With minimal promotion (read: no budget) and nearly 500 downloads later, I’m ready to take a whack at updating the book to include all Social Media, not just Twitter. We’d want to include at least the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and a good argument could be made to include Flickr and YouTube.

Thanks to a suggestion from a recent social media compadre I met, Steve Farnsworth, I’m launching a mini-contest to get some of your ideas for how you have used Social Media to promote your appearance at tradeshows, events or conferences – and thanks to Steve’s generosity we’re teaming up to offer an hour of consulting on how to get your Social Media plan together:


So…here’s the deal: submit either an idea or anecdote you may have on how to use Social Media to promote your appearance at an event, conference or tradeshow. Easy to do: either post the idea as a comment below, or join my Facebook Page and make a post there.

Then, once we close the mini-contest down on the night of Thursday, November 5th, I’ll put all the names of the submitters in a hat and draw a random winner for a one-hour consulting session.

You would be able to consult with me on a number of things:

*Any aspect of tradeshow marketing: planning, booth design, staff training, etc.
*Social Media: marketing, setting up a blog, podcasting, video blogging, how to best use Twitter or Facebook, setting up a Facebook company ‘fan’ page, getting traffic, what to Tweet about, etc.

And yes, I look to include many of these ideas into the re-vamped e-book. Naturally we would include your name and links back to your company or blog.

So…what’s your best story or idea on using Social Media with Tradeshows, Conferences and Events?

Leave a Comment below, or zip to the Facebook page and post an idea there.


Cruising the Tradeshow Blogosphere

I recently posted this query on LinkedIn’s Trade Show Marketing Group discussion page:

I’m looking for blogs that focus on tradeshow or event marketing. I’d like to create a blog post with a list of useful related blogs. Any suggestions?

The best blogs (to my mind) are the ones that have useful information, insight into industry happenings, active readers participating with comments and are updated at least once a week. A good blog also features a mix of media: audio and video and photo collections are a plus. Guest bloggers also add new blood to the cauldron of posts. Variety is indeed the spice that draws more readers.

I do not want to know of corporate blogs that are basically a platform for pitching products and services.

Would love to hear what blogs you’re reading event/tradeshow/conference industry!

I did get some responses – enough to put together a short post to look at the blogs and make a few comments:

Nick Kuppers

Hi Tim,
I recently started a blog at I agree with your description of a good blog. My blog may not have all the ingredients yet you describe, but I am learning… like so many of us who started leveraging social media. Good luck with your blog.

As Nick said, his blog is brand new – just four posts as of this reading. However, his posts are informative and worth reading if you’re in the tradeshow industry. Nick, I’d urge you to try and post a few times a week. By doing that, you’re telling the world a few things. First, it shows you’re active. The more active you are, the more interested your readers will be. Secondly, it’ll give Google and the other search engines some content to crunch and log – and that will start sending more traffic your way.

Nick’s also getting started on Twitter. Keep it up Nick…always good to see relevant, worthwhile content.


I enjoy your blog as well as the following:

We also now have a blog dedicated to exhibit and event marketing called Total Solutions Marketing, written by the TS2 show team at

Shauna Peters, Marketing Manager at National Trade Productions, Inc

lets talk tradeshows

Let’s Talk Trade Shows is hosted by Joyce McKee, a tradeshow marketing expert and consultant that I met years ago before blogs and podcasts were a ‘thing.’ I even had her on a phone interview at one point.

Joyce’s blog has a lot of good stuff, including audience ‘attractors’ like free e-books, papers, and lots of relevant posts. She also has started doing more video, which I always recommend because, let’s face it, some people just like to watch short videos. Not only that, but having a video shows your audience who you are, how you act, and how you talk. It humanizes you. As a result, it tends to attract people that like what you do, so they’ll come back more often.

Tradeshow Scoop, on the other hand, looks like a de-humanized blog. Yes, it has a lot of information about various aspects of tradeshow marketing. But there’s no face to it, no human element. The archive listing shows that it’s been on since March 2007. But there’s no information on the “About” page. After running across a few grammatical errors (‘there’ for ‘their’), and seeing no graphics, videos or other ‘eye-candy’ I realized that I would probably never return to this blog.

total solutions logo

Finally, Shauna, I liked the Total Solutions Marketing blog. Good information posts, added graphics and photos to break up the copy, and at least a couple of posts a month for the past several months. It appears that the blog is taken seriously by the owners, and I would encourage more posts – and hey, get out that little Flip video camera and get on-screen for a few short informative posts!

Hi Tim,
We just started a blog that has a focus on face-to-face marketing.
We will be adding a wealth of content moving forward.

Valerie Hurst, Inspires GALLO Clients with Effective Trade Show Exhibit Marketing, Events & Environments in Cleveland & Beyond

Again, a new blog with just a handful of posts since launching in mid-September. This blog looks to have a more ‘human’ element with one post titled “Musings of a Guy Who Used to Play Football…Without a Helmet.” With a title like that, you’re drawn in to find answer the question ‘what the hell?’

I’ll check back and see how the new blog develops – thanks for the tip!

Hi Tim—
You asked for some trade show related blogs awhile back. Here are a few:

–Mel White, Classic Exhibits

Let’s look at the Optima Graphics Blog first. At first glance, I can see there’s a pretty high level of fun and creativity here. They took the time to put together a video which – in ‘old-time’ fashion – showed what a ‘rapid response’ is. Yes, it’s just a commercial, but clever.

After looking a little deeper, it appears that the blog – while definitely a corporate blog – is set up to show the human side of Optima Graphics, while still pitching products and service. They have so far managed to walk the line between pushing products and having fun and showing their human side.

On the downside, I noticed a lack of ‘widgets’ or further information in the right-hand sidebar. This is a good opportunity to put link listings, previous post listings, free e-book downloads, links to graphic templates, and links to other pages where we could learn who’s actually behind the blog. The more human face we see, the more inclined we are to want to do business with someone.

Display Diva, hosted by Tracey Lindsay, is certainly an active blog. It’s fun to read, with off-topic posts such as quotes from Mad Men’s Don Draper, complaints about Twitter and more. Tracey does get in tradeshow and exhibit-related articles and posts, but doesn’t flinch at putting something up just because she finds it amusing or entertaining.

I would also give her high marks for having her Twitter feed displayed (in spite of her dissing Twitter in a recent post!). There are a few points of dissonance, such as the upper-right hand “Archive” header, which then offers links to her Twitter account and the main page at LinkedIn (where’s the link to Tracey’s LinkedIn page?). I also feel that she’s missing an opportunity to put previous post links, free e-books, etc., in the sidebar instead of leaving it mostly blank.

classic exhibits logo

Finally, I wanted to take a quick look at the blog from Classic Exhibits. Mel was too humble to ask me to review it, but to my mind, it’s the epitome of what a ‘corporate’ blog should be. It has useful information and articles posted regularly; it offers opinions on the state of the tradeshow industry, and it showcases new company products. Most of the articles are posted by Mel White, Classic Exhibit’s VP of Marketing and Business Development or Kevin Carty, the VP of Sales at CE.

The blog has a distinct personality which makes it fun to read – and to even get a little riled up about if you’re an exhibitor. Kevin and Mel have obviously made a decision to call ’em as they see ’em by posting opinions on various aspects of the industry. It makes for engaging reading.

I also like that the blog is seamless integrated into the overall Classic Exhibits website, making navigation back and forth effortless. Kudos to Kevin and Mel and their C.E. team for continuing to stay on the leading edge of online marketing and social media.

And a few final thoughts on blogging and social media in general…

A blog is a living, active thing; an online extension of who you or are, or what your company is. It needs to be fed regularly, like any living thing. Articles, quick posts, videos, audio podcasts, guest posts…whatever you can come up with to keep readers coming back.

And if you’re going to have a blog, make sure you’re doing all you can to drive traffic to it. I find that a third of my traffic comes from Twitter, a third comes from Google organic searches, and the rest from a variety of sources. Click-throughs are increasing from both Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you don’t have a Facebook page yet, look into setting one up. If you’re on LinkedIn, join some groups and start discussions. Nothing wrong with asking a question based on a recent blog, podcast or video that you posted and pointing people to your page. Some topics hit a hot button and the next thing you know you’ve got a few dozen more visitors.

Offer freebies – things of value – on your site. Write an e-book, put together a special report or other download. You’ll notice I have a page set aside on this site with a series of PDFs intended to help tradeshow marketers. Publish a regular newsletter. Contribute to other blogs.

Remember, in this world where social media is drawing millions of people, you are what you publish.

What are you publishing?


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!)

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