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

November 2009

Social Media and Tradeshow Marketing Survey: Initial Results

You may have had a chance to participate in our current survey (set to close 11.25.09) on Using Social Media to Promote Tradeshows.

I’m already getting initial results – some of which are eyebrown raising and others, not so much.

If you’d like to take the survey, you’re welcome to do so through the day before Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, see where your company compares to other survey respondents:

  • 95 percent are involved in social media (no surprise)
  • 80 percent use social media to promote their tradeshow appearances
  • 60 percent of companies have an active blog
  • 70 percent have a Facebook page
  • 85 percent of companies have someone representing the company on Twitter
  • Only half have a YouTube channel and most do NOT post regularly
  • 80 percent are either experimenting with ways to drive tradeshow sales or are heavily involved and looking for more ways to use Social Media in conjunction with tradeshow appearances

I’m not surprised that almost all companies are involved in some way, shape or form of social media. Ya almost gotta be today. Of course, the survey was online and promoted through e-mail and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, so you would think that people on those platforms would be involved in social media. Offline and in the ‘real world’ I continue to run into people that are NOT into social media, but are curious about it. Or not.

Also, glad to see that most companies use SM to promote their tradeshow appearances.

I did not expect quite the high numbers of respondents to say that their company has an active blog and a Facebook page. I suspect in the real world that stat is probably reversed. But companies that are online realize that FB and blogs are where the action is.

It appears that posting video online has a significant hurdle. While half report having a YouTube channel, most don’t post videos more than once a month – if that.

bam bam bam.

My guess is that part of that is somewhat of a technical barrier, but it’s probably more of a content barrier – ‘what do we put in the video?’ Anyone can get a Flip video camera and post videos with good content.

I have a hunch that a typical brick-and-mortar store doesn’t have the expertise, time or interest in posting videos. But if there is someone in the store that is interested, it would be a pretty easy matter to come up with a string of informational videos that would show off the company’s expertise.

I’ll post complete results in a week or so; I’ll leave the survey open through next Wednesday the 25th of November if you want to leave your reponses – I’d love to see what you have to say!

Take the Survey…

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photo credit: M i x y

Geek Love: Review of Peter Shankman’s “Can We Do That!?”

Peter Shankman

Now that I’m 95% finished with Peter Shankman’s “Can We Do That!?” I can safely tell you it’s one of the most inspirational business-promotion books I’ve ever found.

Peter, if you’re not familiar with him, is the founder of The Geek Factory PR Agency in New York City in the 90s. He’s since sold the business (but kept the naming rights) and runs Help A Reporter, the largest free source repository for journalists anywhere in the world, where anyone can sign up to be a source on any topic and get quoted in major media.

Now, to the book: a brisk read; I’m a little more than a week into it and have just the last chapter.

The most useful part of the book to me was to lift the hood on a handful of major successful promotions Peter and the Geek Factory pulled off, including the great skydiving adventure, the knitting shop promotion and his 30th birthday party in 2002 (among others).

For someone who’s never done those types of promotions from scratch, it’s great to see how they were hatched and ultimately executed.

Yes, this fun-to-read book gave me a ton of ideas, and I’m still making notes to incorporate some of those ideas into current promotions that I have on the drawing board.

A critical section of the book looks closely at how to deal with a PR crisis: what to say (and what NOT to say) to the media, how to keep the company employees in the loops, how to create a list of contact information for the key players in any company (no, it’s not just the company management).

Shankman can we do that

In other words, when you get that 3 am phone call – which I agree with Peter are NEVER good – you know what to do, step-by-step to avoid becoming the latest company to get chewed up by media…who after all, are just following a story.

I’m almost sorry I will finish the book later today. Guess I’ll have to keep it handy for reference. Yup, I give this valuable little book 4 stars. Add it to your library soon:

Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work--And Why Your Company Needs Them

UPDATE August 2017: I’ve had the pleasure to be a member of Peter Shankman’s Master Mind Group “Shankminds” for the past several months. It’s an active group of over a hundred people who either are their own boss, or are working towards that end. Worth checking out.

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!


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.

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photo credit: Torley

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