When putting a budget together for a new tradeshow exhibit, there are more things to consider than just the cost of the exhibit itself. Here are a handful of things that will likely come into the mix:
With the pandemic slowly winding down (fingers crossed), what does the future hold? I’m no prognosticator and I’m definitely not an economist, although I pay attention to a lot of what’s going on in the economy. Last summer, in a conversation with a colleague, we wondered aloud what it would mean for the tradeshow and exhibit industry when “normal” returned. At that time, we were only looking ahead a few months, but here it is at least two seasons later, and we’re still waiting for the new normal to return.
The country and much of the world are still slogging through high unemployment, many stores closing, restaurants on life support and little to no job growth. In monthly calls with tradeshow exhibit producers, sellers, and project managers, it’s clear that most vendors in the tradeshow world are still operating at a fraction of their full capabilities. And most still think that they won’t reach their full capabilities until sometime in 2022. Yes, Q3 and Q4 in 2021 should show some improvement, but it’ll be a slow go for months to come.
But, once things return, people are comfortable traveling and setting up exhibits and attending shows, what does that mean?
A recent article in the New York Times tagged a few economic markers they’re following, including a prediction by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia that US output will increase 4.5% this year, which if it happened, would be the best since 1999.
Optimism is growing because of a number of things: coronavirus cases are dropping, vaccine rates are increasing, and oh, yeah, there are a few trillion dollars sloshing around in the economy and if the current administration wrangles their bill through Congress, another couple of trillion dollars will follow. Consumers are also sitting on trillions of dollars thanks to lockdown spending dips and more stimulus payments.
But what does that mean for the business world or, more specifically, the tradeshow world? It’s hard to get a handle on exact outcomes, no surprise, but experts point to the fact that in many industries – tradeshow world likely included – a number of companies simply haven’t survived, or they’ve been gobbled up by stronger competitors. Which means that there may not be as much competition.
The world of shows, events and conferences is also changing. Floor plans may change, especially if social distancing remains in effect in at least parts of the country, meaning different shapes and size availabilities for booth placement. Does that mean revised exhibits? New exhibits? Downsizing or upsizing? Who can say? Any change will likely mean exhibitors be willing to spend money for either revisions or brand-new properties. Fingers crossed for all of us in the supply side of the industry.
One final note: Marly Arnold of Image Specialist does a biweekly live 30-minute show that appears on her YouTube channel, and a recent conversation with Jim Wurm of Exhibit Designers and Producers Association talked about this very topic. On the YouTube page here, she lists a number of links that are worth looking at. Let me share just a couple:
From TSNN, ten predictions for meetings and events in 2021. Some of the predictions include: virtual isn’t going away once shows return to live venues; Las Vegas is coming back strong (no surprise); it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Northstar Meetings Group looks at which convention centers are open.
TSNN with another look at how bad the US hospitality and travel industries were pummeled since COVID-19 took hold.
Beyond the links from Marlys’ YouTube page, TSNN also posted this piece on how momentum is building in the tradeshow world.
From this vantage point, it seems like a boom is coming. The question is how big, how long and how much of it will reach us here in the tradeshow, event, and conference world.
Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Classic Exhibits, one of the top handful of exhibit manufacturers in the country, for over a decade. When the pandemic set it, it didn’t take long for them to do their best to adjust to the new reality. One of the things that Classic Exhibits implemented last year was a monthly conversation with distributors. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I sat down with two of the moderators of the Classic Conversations, Tom Beard and Harold Mintz, to learn more about how those came about:
Can’t go forward. Don’t want to go backwards (heaven forbid!). Stuck in the in-between state. The pandemic is doing so much to the tradeshow industry that most of us in the world feel stuck in the in-between state. The space where we’re just waiting.
The hardest thing I’ve found about being in the in-between state is the lack of control. You can’t control when shows will return (or when they will get cancelled, or postponed, or go virtual), can’t control what clients will do (never could, I guess), and a certain apathy comes to many people because of the lack of control, and the lack of forward progress.
What to do?
Embrace the space. Embrace the in-between space. The space where you might have more time available to do things that you never found time to do before.
A tradeshow colleague recently mentioned that while things are dark, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t know how far away that light is, or how bright it will be once we arrive at the end of the tunnel, but things are slowly progressing. Covid-19 cased are slowly dropping, deaths from the virus are decreasing, vaccinations are increasing.
One day, perhaps not too far into the future, exhibitors will be ready to return to the show floor. Attendees will be booking flights and hotel rooms. Buyers will be awaiting the opening bell of the tradeshow floor.
In the meantime, take some time for yourself or your company. Do the things that you have been putting off. Solidify connections with more Zoom calls (not another!), phone calls, or emails that you just didn’t have time to do a year ago. Put together a new marketing campaign and run it by colleagues for feedback. Check-in on people, both in business and out.
Walk the dog. Ride your bike. Have a longer chat with your spouse or significant other. Head to the ski resort. Write a letter. Send a postcard to a cousin you haven’t spoken to in years.
Whatever. Doesn’t matter. If the pandemic and the lack of tradeshows has given you more time, or even furloughed you (hopefully not, but I know it has happened to a lot of people), use some of that time to do the things that you didn’t have time before when work and family were a 24/7 job just to keep up.
I realize not everybody has space or time that I do. But if you do have extra time on your hands, embrace the space.
You can still benefit from tradeshows without having to invest in a big booth and booth space. Let’s take a look at a handful of ways you might do this:
Advice. We all get it, and we all receive it. Sometimes it’s unsolicited, sometimes it’s valuable. It’s just a part of life. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee I share a little of the advice I’ve received over the years:
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Daniel Pyne’s “Water Memory,” a thriller novel I just completed this week.
What is “head trash?”
I’ve heard the term off and on for years, and it came up a lot in a sales class I spent a year in a few years back. The teacher, Brad Kleiner, often referred to the mental blocks we put in front of ourselves as “head trash.”
I think it’s a good term, as good as any to describe the ways we keep ourselves from doing what we know we should do.
If you’re a booth staffer that knows you should put yourself out on the edge of the booth with a foot in the aisle to greet passersby, but you’re too shy to do that, that’s head trash. If you’re creating a plan to double your lead generation but think that doubling leads from last year is just way too much to plan for and you scale back your expectations, that’s head trash.
In essence, head trash is the conglomeration of thought patterns and emotions rattling around in your head that keep you from doing your business (or personal life) in a professional way.
It happens to all of us. Lack of control. Insecurity. Shyness. Paranoia. It mostly comes down to avoidance of the thing that you know deep down you really should do.
In my early life, especially my teens and twenties, I found myself stressing about something coming up on the calendar, something I really didn’t want to face. One instance stands out. I was a DJ at a local station and was tasked with emceeing a Halloween costume party promotion at a local mall.
I freaked out. I liked being on the radio. Being behind the microphone was fun. It was home. It was a gas. But getting out in front of a large crowd and trying to emcee an event was about the worst thing I could possibly imagine. As the day drew closer and closer, I become more stressed out and no matter how much I tried to not think about it, it weighed heavily on my mind.
Somehow, I made it through. And forgot about it as quickly as I could. And moved on.
But over the years I had more opportunities to get in front of people. And was never comfortable. Finally, nearing 40, I joined a Toastmasters group and slowly over the next few years learned public speaking. I got over the head trash I had around getting up to speak in public.
I realize that public speaking is a hard thing for lots of people. But anyone can learn it. And while we may have head trash around a lot of smaller things, like hating to make cold calls, or thinking that some person has it in for you when in fact that’s not the case at all.
Head trash is a bevy of self-defeating emotions and stumbling blocks that keep you from moving forward. Self-awareness will help in identifying them and admitting that they’re holding you back is the first step.
It’s easy to make up negative stories about ourselves. The challenge is to work to change those negative stories and get more objectivity about who we really are. Sometimes it takes another person’s perspective.
As I was putting this article together, I check the email and found Andrew Bennett’s latest newsletter, which had a link to a video, which – surprise! – was about the very thing I was writing about.
Check out Stop Telling Yourself Negative Stories:
Andrew was a guest on TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee a couple of years ago. Worth a look!
A sit-down with Jamie Young of Uptown Screen Printing where we delve into ways to plan goal-setting for tradeshow marketing, and how to find a good promotional product that resonates. Hope you enjoy this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:
Find Jamie at Uptown Screen Printing.
Jamie got connected with me through Kathleen Gage. Here’s Kathleen’s appearance on this show.
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Valentine’s Day is this Sunday!
It doesn’t take that much to exhibit at a tradeshow. Just rent a booth space, bring an exhibit, a handful of staffers and do your thing.
Uh, what’s your thing, though? That’s the big question. Are you there to increase brand awareness? Show that you have a bigger or cooler exhibit than your main competitor? Take a client out for dinner and drinks?
As George Harrison once sang, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
It’s better to have a plan. To know what you want. More leads? Sales? Giving away a specific number of samples? Getting more social media followers? Certainly, you want to pick goals that are important to growing your business. But one step beyond that is to not only pick good goals, but to make them concrete goals, such as:
- We want 150 good leads, 50 of which are new.
- We want 300 new Instagram followers.
- We want to hand out 1000 product samples.
- We want to do 100 in-person demos of our product or service.
- We want to meet with CEO’s of three major prospects.
Once you delineate those goals, create a plan to get there. Create the roadmap. If you want to meet with specific people, set appointments. If you want to line up new social media followers, make it easy. If you want new leads, have a method for uncovering the right prospects.
Tradeshow marketing can be expensive, but since you are at a place where thousands of prospects are all gathered in the same place, it’s also the ideal setting to generate leads at the lowest cost-per-lead you’ll ever manage.
Create a plan. Follow the plan.