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


20 Tradeshow Exhibitor FAQs

Years ago websites started posting FAQ’s – Frequently Asked Questions –  as a way of helping those on the site seeking answers to a variety of items. Somehow I felt that FAQ meant ‘Frequently ANSWERED Questions’ because that was the point: Answer the freakin’ questions! But sometimes the questions that you WANTED to ask never got answered. So therefore you never saw those questions show up in an FAQ list.

But if you think about it, there are a lot of Frequently ASKED Questions that go unanswered. Or maybe in this case they’re INFrequently Asked Questions. Either way, it presents an opportunity to see what some of those questions are…

Maybe you have answers for these?

  1. What’s the theme song for a tradeshow manager?
  2. How much sleep will I get when I’m in Vegas for the show? Will it matter?
  3. Why do attendees ask such dumb questions? And why did my parents try to convince me that there’s no such thing as a stupid question?
  4. Will the airlines ever actually give me a decent meal again in my lifetime?
  5. What has the charge for extra luggage gone up to since the last time I booked a flight?
  6. Where’s my freakin’ exhibit!?? It should have been here yesterday!
  7. Why did I leave most of my business cards back at the office?
  8. Why did I let my spouse convince me that since the show is in Anaheim we should double up, bring the kids and tag a couple of extra days on the trip at Disneyland?
  9. How will I ever get away with giving my list of uncategorized leads to the sales department without them getting totally ticked at me?
  10. Why is it that the most uncomfortable shoes I have are the ones I brought to wear all day at the show?
  11. Where are those receipts I need for my expense report?
  12. Why do those graphics look crappy here at the show when they looked fine at the office?
  13. Where are our product samples?
  14. Why does our hired ‘professional’ presenter have such bloodshot eyes?
  15. The C-level celebrity wants HOW MUCH to appear at our booth?!
  16. The drayage bill was HOW MUCH?!
  17. You’re not going to put THAT photo on Facebook, are you?
  18. Why didn’t you tell me the CEO was coming?
  19. Can you make that espresso a double?
  20. Can you make that martini a double?

No doubt you can add your own questions to our Exhibitor’s FAQ…feel free!

Goin’ Mobile with Your Tradeshow Apps

Pete Townshend had it right when he penned ‘Goin’ Mobile’ at the turn of the Sixties:

I can pull up by the curb
I can make it on the road
Goin’ mobile
I can stop in any street
Invitin’ people that we meet
Goin’ mobile
Keep me movin’

We’ve been a mobile society for decades. But in the past few years we have started taking our computers on the road.

Smartphones sales jumped almost 50% in the first quarter of 2010, selling about 53.4 million phones in the quarter. Uh-huh. That’s a lotta damn smartphones! In fact, it appears that there will be more smartphones sold in 2010 than personal computers. Which begs the question: are you ready for the smartphone? As a marketer – and specifically, as a tradeshow marketer – are your customers able to find you and interact with you via the smartphone? And what does your website look like on a smartphone?

Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting apps you might use in conjunction with tradeshows.

First, there are apps that are specifically built just for tradeshows, such as iLeads and Follow Me.

You can access the iLeads podcast here and the Follow Me podcast here.

Both have great application on the tradeshow floor and are worth a close look.

In searching for apps that you might use at a tradeshow, event or convention, I came across a few blog posts that covered some very usable apps.

Corbin Ball’s post ‘Meetings and Tradeshows – There’s a Mobile App for That!’ has the most comprehensive list I’ve seen.

Eric Lukazewski of Echelon Design Inc came up with a shortlist of ‘5 iPhone Apps for Your Next Tradeshow’.

I haven’t used a business card reader, so I’ll have to check that out (although the one he linked to had a handful of negative reviews – so I’m going to look further). And the Whiteboard Capture Pro looks quite interesting. Again, I’ll take a look.

One more link: ‘7 iPhone Apps to Make Your Next Trade Show More Profitable’ by Matt Gratt at has a nice little list with links direct to the iTunes store. He mentions Tweetdeck, LinkedIn, and a business card reader as well.

The great thing about iPhone apps is that most of them are dirt cheap, so the entry cost, even for a ‘pro’ version is often only a few bucks – maybe the cost of a coffee drink or two.

Gear up your iPhone, Blackberry or Android…and go mobile:

I don’t care about pollution
I’m an air-conditioned gypsy
That’s my solution
Watch the police and the tax man miss me…I’m mobile!

McCormick Place to Benefit From New Legislation

It’s a done deal. The law that was expected to be passed is now, in fact, reality:

Officials of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) and the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB) today applauded the passage of a new law meant to reform labor rules, establish exhibitor rights and realign McCormick Place operations with its major competitors in the convention and trade show industry.

Downtown Chicago

The new law calls for (according to today’s press release):

• New labor work rules that reduce crew sizes, require less overtime pay and eliminate hassles for customers.
• Expanding exhibitor rights, allowing customers to do their own work, regardless of booth size.
• The appointment of a Trustee, former MPEA CEO Jim Reilly, to oversee operations during an 18 month transition period and select a private manager for McCormick Place.
• Restructuring capital debt to allow the MPEA to further lower costs to customers and put the MPEA on sound financial footing.
• Allowing shows to select outside electrical and food service contractors.
• Auditing contracts to ensure savings are passed on to customers.
• Make recommendations to whether Navy Pier should remain in control by the Authority or become an independent entity.

I’ve only been to McCormick Place once and was pretty impressed – a very nice hall for all the big shows that come through. Let’s hope this law does what its intended to do.

For more information, click here…

Focus Group at a Tradeshow?


I spent a couple of hours this week as part of a focus group for Portland adult alternative radio station KINK.FM. There were about 18 of us, and I found it to be a very interesting experience. Having worked in radio for more than 25 years (I left the industry in 2002), it was interesting to experience being on the ‘other side’ for once.

I’ve seen focus groups, read about them, helped form them…but never been on the other side of the coin.

We were asked a lot of questions about our favorite stations, fave music, likes and dislikes about the station. All the stuff you might expect. For 90 minutes the facilitator guided us through a number of topics, while KINK’s Program Director scribbled notes quietly.

To the radio station, each of us represented thousands of their listeners or potential listeners, so they listened closely to what we had to say.

Do you do any market research in your industry? If you’re a professional speaker, do you take time to find out what your audience wants? Do you ask them what they DON’T like? Do you ask them what’s missing?

KINK.FM did all that and more. They fed us and gave us free CD’s and bumper stickers, too!

Now…here’s your task: can you use a tradeshow as a focus group of sorts? If so, how?

Would you have a short questionnaire that you can use to engage booth visitors? Can you set up a short demo of a new product and get their reaction? Can you show them mockups of a half-dozen proposed ads that your ad agency has conjured up? Should you bother to waste their time with annoying questions like ‘what do you think of this…?’?

Of course you can. You’re paying good money for your booth space. You have an audience of people that are interested in your industry – and probably your products – or they wouldn’t have paid to attend the show.

So take advantage of the situation. Set up your own series of mini focus groups during the show, and mine them for useful information.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll unearth a gem!

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photo credit: crazyoctopus

The Cold Call I Got Today

I so have to Call round

Cold calling isn’t rocket science. If you’re in sales, you gotta do them at some point in your career. Heck, I do cold calling on occasion. You never know what you’re going to get. But before I pick up the phone, I want to make sure I have a good prospect. So I ask questions of myself:

Do I know if this company exhibits at shows? If so, what shows? Who’s the person that directs that effort? Is he/she the decision maker? What have they done in the past? How many shows a year do they currently attend?

Y’know, that kind of thing. A little ‘market research’ so you might have a clue as to where a conversation might go, or to perhaps keep up if it takes a swift turn.

This morning I received a cold call from a sales woman who hadn’t done much of anything before dialing my number:

She: Hi, I’m with (insert company name). Do you do any business with the federal government?
Me: Yes…But I’m not sure exactly what it is you want from me. We already do a fair amount of business with the federal government.
She: You do? I’m not sure exactly what it is you do.
Me: Well, I suppose if you’d bothered to check out our website or do a little research on our company so you’d know what you’re talking about when you tried to sell something it would help. Which is what I do before I cold call someone.
She: So you’re not interested?
Me: It doesn’t sound like you know what we do. Did you even try and find out what it is we do before you called us?
She: (giving up waaaay too easily): Well, I hope you have a nice day. Thank you for your t— (hangs up)

Hey, don’t give up so quickly! I might be interested in at least hearing your pitch – but by not getting a specific answer, and abandoning the effort, it was a wasted call all around.

At a tradeshow it’s a different beast altogether. It’s almost as if you’re allowed to ‘cold call’ without doing an research. People walk up to your booth, you start zinging them some pre-planned questions. Based on their answers, you quickly determine if they’re a prospect or not. But you still will be in a better position if your questions are well-thought-out to elicit responses that pertain directly to your product or service.

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photo credit: 1Happysnapper (photography)

Get Some Publicity at Your Next Tradeshow!

day 280: usa today

Once you get beyond sales and generating sales leads at tradeshows, the next biggest benefit of tradeshows is the opportunity for press: Newspapers, Websites, Magazines, Radio. TV. Podcasts. Blogs. Social Media.

Naturally there are going to be reporters covering the show. They’ve got to write about something and it might as well be your company. Ask yourself what you can bring to the table: a unique product? A new product? A major personnel switch in your corporate headquarters? Do you have a new partnership you want to publicize? Or do you have a celebrity endorser that is going to attract attention?

A little organization and legwork can yield excellent benefits. You may hit the jackpot and become a featured story in a magazine or newspaper, or even a cable TV show featurette. This could give you press coverage that – had you paid for the time and space – could be worth thousands, even millions of dollars.

Unfortunately many companies let this opportunity pass them by. If you don’t have a strategic plan in place, what are you waiting for?

Do some research and find out what media outlets typically cover the show. Are they local? Regional? Trade magazines or blogs?

Who are the main contact people? Do you work with an ad agency that has contacts at the outlets?

Next you’ll need to refine your message: what products or services do you want to highlight? Put together short but complete documents on the products.

Then you schedule appointments with your management, marketing departments, CEO – whoever is most appropriate for the news or online outlet – and book as many apointments during the show as possible.

And whenever you get a media hit, capture it: copies of newspaper or magazine articles, print-outs of blog posts; copies of videos, podcasts, etc. Use those as part of your growing media coverage kit. Play it up on YOUR company website and blog.

And keep in mind, the more you play the media game, the better you’ll get out of it. Take notes, determine what worked and what didn’t, and make adjustments next time.

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photo credit: cuttlefish

Changes at Chicago’s McCormick Place

I don’t usually do hard news on this blog, but I was contacted this week by The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB), who asked if I might be interested in taking a look at the following story. Having been to Chicago a couple of times for events at McCormick it’s good to see this consumer-focused legislation moving into place.

(Dateline: Chicago)

Downtown Chicago

Changes were announced this week that “truly changes the landscape here in Chicago,” according to David Causton, McCormick Place General Manager.

What are the changes?

New legislation that wound its way through the Illinois General Assembly that basically gives the customer (the exhibitors) a new bill of rights.

For instance, “The legislation grants exhibitors the ability to do their own electrical work or contract it out, and bring in their own food for personal consumption.” That from the press release issued last Friday, May 7th by the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB).

According to the e-mail I received this week from Maura Cheeks on behalf of the CCTB, the legislation is waiting for Governer Quinn’s signature to become law. He’s expected to do that soon.

As Maura put it: “The new legislation will create a new business model for McCormick Place. This important first step was the collaborative outcome of state, city, business and industry leaders to bring a host of positive changes for our meeting and convention customers, exhibitors and attendees.”

Check out links here for more on the story:

The CCTB’s official statement in support of the bill.

The CCTB’s President, Tim Roby, has presented a webcast with Dave Causton, General Manager of McCormick Place, to discuss how these proposed changes will benefit Chicago’s convention customers and exhibitors. View the webcast and video comments here – or click to view now:


Along with the CCTB website, check Chicago Meeting Matters for background, fact sheets, videos and other information.

Wow. Hard news from Tradeshowguy Blog. Whodathunkit?

Misssspellings, Grammmmattical Errorrrs and other Miss Takes

In the past year or two I’ve had a handful of clients that had to either re-do tradeshow graphics or send in umpteen versions of the files because people kept finding things they wanted to change.

One company even had to re-do graphics two days before the show because the company’s name was misspelled. Uh-huh.

It happens all the time, of course. We send out proposals for projects and later find a few errors that we should have corrected. No one is immune from the grammatical and punctuation error disease.

So when I came across this in my in-box this morning from Todd Hunt, I thought I’d share it:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, former star of “Seinfeld,”
received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last week.

Too bad they misspelled her name Luis Dreyfus (without the “o” and without the hyphen).

Hollywood honchos reportedly learned about the error only after a passer-by (no, not me — I wish) spotted it as workers were installing the star.

So they scrambled to create a temporary replacement in time for the ceremony, and promised to fix it permanently.

Reminded me of other stars whose names are often misspelled.

Ann-Margret (not Margaret — Swedish you know), and the hyphen is part of her name.

Ginger Rogers (not Rodgers).

And Katharine Hepburn
(not Katherine, Catherine or Catharine).

Todd is good at watching out for those types of things. His “Hunt’s Headlines” newsletter is always short, useful and entertaining (subscription information below).

No matter how often you look at a tradeshow graphic or brochure that’s going out for printing, getting one more set of eyes on it can’t hurt. Proofing by a couple of people is good, normal and usually adequate. But double-checking your double-checking is also good.

After all, when you miss something and the boo-boo goes out for public consumption, people WILL notice – at least some. And they’ll remember that mistake – and your company – and think “Why didn’t they proof that any better?”

HUNT’S HEADLINES is a free e-Letter from Todd Hunt, business humorist, speaker and author. Book him now to add fun to your next meeting and send members back to work smiling, with tips to improve communication and success. For information,

photo copyright via Creative Commons by Yarl

How Bob Marley Can Inspire Your Tradeshow Marketing

Bob Marley, 1979- photo by Roger Steffens

It was 29 years ago today when I was a young DJ in Salem, Oregon. One of my jobs was to ‘rip-n-read’ the news, so I was regularly heading to the news room to see the latest, and include the pertinent stories on the air.

On that day, May 11, 1981, the news came over that Bob Marley had died of cancer. He was in Miami, on his way home from alternative treatment in Europe. He didn’t make it alive.

As Music Director, my main job was to handle the music playlist for the Top 4o AM station. I was a big Bob Marley fan, but it was hard at that time to justify playing any of his music on the air. No one in the world of TOP 4o knew who he was. Yes, some folks knew he wrote “I Shot the Sheriff” which had been a Number One Hit for Eric Clapton in ’74. And he had written “Stir It Up,” which Johnny Nash tossed up the charts in the mid 70s.

But his recordings had a hard time getting a toehold on ‘traditional’ music radio. The one minor exception was “Roots, Rock, Reggae” which made it up to #51 on Billboard’s Top 100 in 1976. And yes, as a Music Director I played it. Mixed it right in with Wings’ ‘Silly Love Songs,’ Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music’ and Dorothy Moore’s ‘Misty Blue’ among others. Hell, I thought it fit just fine. But when it faded a few short weeks after debuting, I couldn’t justify keeping it around so I dropped it out of rotation. Except in my living room of course.

So how could Bob Marley make an impact on your life? On your tradeshow marketing? Think it’s a stretch? It depends on how you apply it.

In reading about Bob’s life, one thing sticks out: his unceasing devotion to his path. He knew from the age of seven that he would be a singer. He never let anything derail him. No doubt there were many chances to choose to do something else, but he never wavered.

So that’s one thing: figure out your tradeshow marketing goal – and stick to it. Don’t let anything keep you from your objective.

Another piece of Bob’s life I truly appreciated was his dedication to his craft. He gave his audience his best. Always. There are stories of when he was in the recording studio, he’d stay late nights for hours and do take after take on a vocal track to get the right one.

When Bob Marley and the Wailers toured, he was always the first off the bus to rehearsal, and the first back on the bus after the show.

So: devotion, dedication and takin’ care of business. Good things to keep in mind for any endeavor.

When you get to his music, you run across lyrics and songs that lift and inspire:

“Could You Be Loved” – are your visitors looking for a little love from your business? Treat ’em nice!

“Get Up, Stand Up” – stand up for your visitors’ rights! Again, treat ’em nice.

“Positive Vibration” – one of Bob’s best known uplifting songs:

If you get down and quarrel everyday
You’re saying prayers to the devil, I say
Why not help one another on the way
Make it much easier

And of course you could tie in many other song titles to tradeshow situations (make up your own situation for the following…)

“Judge Not”
“Keep on Moving”
“Rat Race”
“Night Shift”

and my fave:

“Slave Driver”…ever had one of those bosses?

Okay, all in fun…but definitely some inspiration here. Put on some Bob Marley next time you’re doing prep for your upcoming tradeshow – and see if you can get a little inspiration, Jamaica-style.

Green Tradeshow Booth Materials

So you’re ready to move into getting a new custom-built booth. But one of your main concerns is the type of material that will be used to fabricate the booth.

Of course, your exhibit company should be up-to-date on all of the latest materials available. So be sure to raise the question of sustainable materials with your booth fabricator. Some of the materials that might be considered include bamboo, FSC certified wood, recycled metal, low VOC, organic or recycled latex paint, or tension fabric (low weight which cuts down on shipping costs and the carbon footprint of the shipping).

Many booths may be made with re-claimed materials, which can often be sourced locally. If those materials can be sourced locally, they need less transit time and cost. Plus for each dollar spent locally, three dollars stay in the community so spending locally reduces carbon usage and helps sustain the local economy.

It’s true that many sustainable choices are not cost-neutral, and in fact may bust your budget. When one client of ours constructed a new booth a few years back they explored a variety of materials options,. Even though they wanted to use those sustainable materials, it turned out to have enough impact on their budget that the decision was made to use more typical materials for fabrication. Beyond that it didn’t give them a look they were comfortable with. The financial and aesthetic considerations outweighed the desire to use sustainable materials.

There’s no wrong answer and each project requires its own examination – but one worth pursuing, as there are new material choices coming to market all the time.

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