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

Case Study

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Recap (and Awards)

Outdoor Retailer is so big sometimes I wonder why it’s not in Vegas. But no, Salt Lake City is the perfect setting for this fun, extravagant and energetic national tradeshow. With mountains only a short drive away, SLC is positioned perfectly to host this confab of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country (and around the world). There’s so much going on in the outdoor industry that they hold the show twice a year: once in winter and once in summer.

The recent OR Summer Market took place the week of August 4th at the Salt Palace Convention Center. On Tuesday, attendees were invited to an Open Air Demo at Huntsville, Utah’s Pineview Reservoir, tucked neatly in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest just down the road from Snowbasin Ski Resort. The OAD was packed with 100-plus small exhibitors crouched under branded canopies, many of them offering free tryouts on kayaks, paddleboards and more. After a brief downpour mid-morning, the rest of the day turned into a fun, engaging and playful event.

As for the tradeshow itself, several acres of floor space at the convention center are occupied by the biggest show of the year in Salt Lake City, resplendent with top-notch exhibits, some as large as 100’ x 70’ that dominate the area. Keen, Merrell, Thule, Timberland, The North Face, Cascade Designs, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia and more came to Outdoor Retailer ready to show off their new goods – and no doubt spent a pretty penny with HUGE exhibits.

So what caught attendee’s eyes? For me, it was solar power. Lots of solar chargers: foldable, portable and powerful. Solar power is coming into it’s own and in the next half a decade or so it should explode as the cost of creating a kilowatt of power via solar will continue to plunge below that of the cost of typical energy. It seems that every time I turned a corner there was another solar-powered gizmo.

And the booths? Well, let’s have a little fun with some awards, shall we?

Best brand representation: Keen Shoes. Yes, this is a category with a lot of tough competition, but Keen is so over-the-top with recycled pallets for walls, recycled windows, hand-made booth elements and funky swagger that how can you NOT give this award to Keen?


Walking Dead Re-birth: Kelty. Yes, the Walking Dead were used as inspiration for having to carry around a crappy backpack, so you’d better get fit with a really good Kelty Pack!


Best Use of Stuffed Dogs to Show Off Your Products: Ruffwear. You might be surprised, but there were a LOT of stuffed dogs used to show off gear. Ruffwear managed to do it with style with gear made exclusively for dogs. Talk about focus!


Best Tent Campground. Lots of tents at OR, but The North Face took over nearly a quarter of an acre with tents. Lots of tents. It felt vaguely like a Grateful Dead concert, missing just the tie-dye and herb.


Best use of Brick: Carhartt. The faux brick surface made it look like the two-story booth that represented a storefront had been built one brick at a time. Beautiful.


Best ‘Stop Dead in Your Tracks’ Booth: Brunton. Use of bright colors, back lit panels and shapes that grab your attention did indeed stop people in their tracks. Hard to capture in a photo, but I gave it a try.


Best Product Demo Video: Coast Portland. It took a little patience, but after viewing the video shot near Oregon’s Coos Bay showing off the company’s flashlights, you came away convinced that they were the best you could buy.


And finally, Most Iconic Use of an Icon: Leave No Trace’s Bigfoot, who posed for photos and invited attendees to tweet selfies for a chance to win footwear!


I spent two days of the show jotting notes on my clipboard, doing booth assessments: subjecting almost two dozen booths to a closer exam that I call the Tradeshow Booth Performance Test. I’ll be sharing that information with those companies in the few weeks – always a great learning experience for both (I hope!).

How GoPro Dominates Using Social Media and Tradeshow Marketing

I first encountered GoPro at the 2009 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show in Salt Lake City. Nick Woodman was making a spectacle of himself. About once an hour, he would get on top of a platform and start yelling at the top of his lungs. He would exhort visitors to check out the brand-new product – a small HD camera that captured crazy video with a wideangle lens. It was small enough to strap to a helmet, chest, end of a ski pole, wherever.

Trying to get your hands on a GoPro camera at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013
Trying to get your hands on a GoPro camera at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013

During these hourly exhortation’s Nick would regale his audience with examples of how great his product, the GoPro camera – and how it captures extreme sports videos – is. It also engaged eager visitors with the chance of winning one.

The story of GoPro is one that happened very quickly. It didn’t take long for the combination of trade shows, social media, and virtually giving away the store every single day to create a rabid following.

If you follow GoPro on Facebook, you’ll notice that they give away everything they make to one person every single day. I’ve signed up hundreds of times and never won. But it doesn’t keep me from signing up again and again and again. That’s how much I’d like to get my hands on their latest and great HD sports-action toy.

Early in 2013, Nick Woodman, the CEO and main figurehead of GoPro was featured on the cover of Inc. magazine. The story was about how he had grown the company to a multi-million dollar enterprise and created a new camera niche virtually out of nothing. The company had done it with a great product that is groundbreaking, and the combination of tradeshow marketing, social media and pure moxie.

Since I saw them at the 2009 outdoor retailer when a market in salt Lake city, I’ve been a big fan of GoPro. They offered $100 off of a camera if you purchased at that time and a coupon for discount on a future purchase when their new HD camera came out. I bought one of their early cameras and have had fun with it ever since.

In January 2013 I attended Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and it didn’t take me long to find the GoPro trade show booth. It wasn’t large compared to many other booths at the show, about 30 x 30, but it was plastered with a dozen or so large screen video monitors. As you enter the booth you were given a chance to sign up and possibly win a new HD camera. They also indicated that with the sign up, you would be emailed a coupon for a $100 discount on their new HD camera. So in effect, they’re giving you a chance to win something and they’re capturing your information so they can stay in contact with you.

I talked to one of the girls working the booth and discovered that Nick was not there, but it didn’t matter by this point because the company was too big for Nick to go to every tradeshow. GoPro has quickly proven itself to be a serious player in the camera industry, and has been called ‘the fastest growing company in the world.’

Several times a day a GoPro booth staffer stands up to give away T-shirts, swag and of course that coveted GoPro HD model camera. Hundreds of people yelled, screamed, waved arms and otherwise made fools of themselves hoping their name would get called.

Go Pro’s custom tradeshow booth matched their brand’s look, feel and style. It looked a bit brash and with the multiple video screens your eyes were drawn to action, action, action as the sports action videos played in an endless loop.

Suffice it to say that with the combination of savvy social media, aggressive trade show marketing and a groundbreaking product, GoPro dominates their niche. They certainly have new competitors – with any new product that carves out a big share of the market, someone will come in and try to catch to the leader. And someone may yet catch up with GoPro. But GoPro’s excellent marketing – including tradeshow marketing – is proving to be all they need right now to be the leader of the pack.

Check out the Inc article.

Then check out the selection of videos.

Click here to grab my Tradeshow Follow-up Checklist

Expo West 2013 Re-Cap

(Warning: self-promotional blog post. Not recommended more than once or twice a year…)

It was my 11th year at Expo West as a representative of a company that provides exhibit booths for exhibitors.

First: 11 years? Kidding, right?

Bob's Red Mill - Expo West 2013

No. The first booth client I had way back in 2003 was Kettle Foods of Salem, Oregon, which lead to doing a booth for Nancy’s Yogurt / Springfield Dairy, Natracare, Hyland’s Homeopathic, gDiapers and many others.

Besides having to basically eat your way through the day with the glut of food samples, I spent time meeting exhibitors and making connections.

And making sure that my new projects were working.

The two new booths my company, Communication One Exhibits had this year were from Bob’s Red Mill and gDiapers. The Bob’s Red Mill was a custom 30’ x 30’ booth, designed by Greg Garrett Designs of Vancouver and fabricated by Classic Exhibits. It was a stunner and was definitely well-received by the company – including Bob Moore, who called it ‘impressive’ – and show visitors. The exhibit had three structures – a main company info-display area, a product display area and – in a new move for Bob’s Red Mill – a food sampling station. The main structure was capped with a 4’ cupola high atop a structure that echoed their mill store in Milwaukie, Oregon. Either end of the main structure had 52” video screens that continuously showed informative videos.

Bob has a great way of making an entrance. Bring along a Dixieland band! Check out the video from Day One:



The other booth was at the other end of the scale. gDiapers, of Portland, Oregon, is a company that offers reusable diaper covers with disposable inserts. Years ago, when I was VP of Sales and Marketing for Interpretive Exhibits, we designed and constructed a 20’ in-line booth for gDiapers that had plenty of display space, slat wall and a fabric banner across the top. As their clientele needs evolved, so did the company’s desire for a simpler display that was easier to set up. So with the help of Portland’s Boothster, we designed and built a 10’ inline booth that had a small display area and a large 10’ fabric back wall, along with cardboard chairs and cardboard tube-constructed counter with wrap-around graphic. The booth looked great and gDiapers loved it!

Yes, I blog about social media and tradeshow and event marketing, but my company Communication One Exhibits has a ton of great capabilities to design and fabricate tradeshow booths to suit any need.

Let me now step off of my soapbox…thank you verry much for your time!

Case Study: Classic Exhibits and Social Media at EXHIBITOR 2012

Late in 2011, Mel White, the VP of Marketing and Business Development at Classic Exhibits Inc., contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in guiding their social media efforts at EXHIBITOR 2012 in early March.

“Sounds intriguing!”

So we set out a plan. Our main goal was to create as much buzz as possible (on a limited budget) leading up to the event. The plan was to shoot 2-3 entertaining teaser videos before the show. The videos would slowly reveal the concept and design of Classic’s new 20 x 30 display, a booth that would showcase their most popular 10’ inline exhibits.

Starting three weeks before the show, we started posting short teaser videos. The videos slowly revealed the “Be Better” concept using a lighthearted investigative reporter approach.  Getting the inside scoop from Classic was the main theme.  They appeared on the Tradeshowmarketing YouTube channel, here on Tradeshowguy Blog, and on Classic Exhibits’ blog, Trade Show Tales. In addition, we posted these on Classic’s LinkedIn group and Facebook page. Almost immediately, traffic to Classic’s blog tripled.

At the show, we posted more videos, shot a lot of photos, and met a host of people who saw the video. All of this was tweeted about and shared on Facebook as well.

So what did all of this social media activity get us? Let’s take a look and count the numbers where we’re able.

The four Classic Exhibits-related videos gathered a total of 760 views on YouTube (the five non-Classic Exhibits-related videos, by contrast, got a total of 177 views).

During the show, I counted about 20 people who made a comment after recognizing me (and my classic old Stetson Bogie-style hat) from the videos. According to Mel White, of the over 230 leads at the show, about 40 percent mentioned either the videos or the blog posts. In fact, Mel stated, “We’ve been exhibiting at EXHIBITOR for nearly 20 years. This year we doubled the number of end-user leads compared to past years. Some of that was the exhibit design, but the videos attracted customer to our space who would not have visited us otherwise.  More than anything, the videos boosted our ‘cred’ with our distributors. We were viewed as the social media innovator at the show.”

A few of the results:

  • Various links and comments I made on Twitter about EXHIBITOR (both Classic Exhibit-related and non-related tweets) got mentioned and/or re-tweeted to over 36,000 people.
  • TradeshowguyBlog posts related to Classic Exhibits/Exhibitor have received 265 total views.
  • YouTube search ranking for ‘EXHIBITOR 2012’ showed ALL videos on the front page of the search results, taking the Top 3 spots and 5 of the Top 10.
  • Google search results for ‘Exhibitor 2012’ were less impressive, although a podcast recap of the adventures in Las Vegas at EXHIBITOR and in Anaheim at Expo West showed up in the Top 5.
  • On Bing, a search for ‘EXHIBITOR 2012 video’ showed a Classic Exhibits blog entry as the top result.

Bottom line: From my perspective, it was a fun and worthwhile project, both for branding Classic Exhibits and as @tradeshowguy at the show. With all of the views and positive feedback, it added up to a win/win for both!

Social Media Rescues a Social Media Seminar

When Knoxville, Tennessee’s In10City Interactive planned a B2B one-hour seminar on event marketing with social media, they first reached out to their clients, colleagues and partners with a typical direct-mail piece. They sent out 1500 postcards a few weeks before the September 9th event earlier this year. Scott Spaid, the VP of Marketing for In10City Interactive, said that they had just a handful of RSVP’s less than a week prior to the event.

In other words, the postcard direct marketing piece was a bust.

So they jumped headfirst into social media to reach their audience. They started with an e-mail invitation blast to the same 1500 folks, and then posted frequently on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

By show time a few days later they had received over 70 RSVPs and some 50 attended the event, which included a free lunch (hint: offer free food if you can!). Twenty of the RSVP’s came directly through Facebook, said Spaid, which they deemed a win.

According to Spaid, the event “was not a ‘101’ event; we assumed that they knew what we were talking about.” Instead they discussed social media marketing, shared anecdotes and networked. They discuss ‘Why should someone be friends with your brand? What is the value you add?’

In10City Interactive’s goal was to move more folks into their sales pipeline with the outreach event. From that aspect, Spaid called it a success: “We have four appointments on the calendar that came out of the show.” He says their typical sales cycle is 3 – 6 months.

In10City Interactive focuses on building websites, refining SEO and CRM for clients. They have some 55 employees in 5 locations in the eastern and southern US.

Check them out here:

Five Social Media Tradeshow Marketing Posts You Might Have Missed


Totally Tweet.

By Kipp Bodnar

A quick look at items such as:

  • Pongr/QR codes
  • Facebook SMS
  • Live Stream
  • Customer Interview
  • Live Tweeting

How To Use Social Media More Effectively In Trade Show Marketing

by Mark Armbrust

…including video clips from:

  • 24/7 Interactive – Will Burris
  • Virtual Partner – Tiffany Odutoye
  • Social Business Strategies – Nate Riggs
  • An OnScene Production – Eric Leslie

Trade Show Events Social Media Marketing Customer Interaction

timothymclain lists a number of tools you can use, including…

  • ScanLife
  • Foursquare
  • Gowalla
  • Tweetphoto
  • Facebook
  • Twitpro

3 Ways to Avoid Social Media Suicide On Or Off The Tradeshow Floor

by Susan Friedmann

A person suffers a near-fatal allergic reaction and tweets about it. Company responds with a solution. But the response was clumsy; the target tweeted more about the negativity…and it snowballed.

4 Tips For Using Social Media More Effectively at Trade Show Exhibits

By Chris A. Harmen

  • Use Technology Every Day
  • Live Audience Polling
  • Decide Which Social Media Site To Use
  • The Right Technology Tools

Creative Commons License

photo credit: FindYourSearch

From Disappointment to Success: How a Trade Show Exhibit Changed the Fate and Direction of a Company

This is a guest post written by Bev Gray, CEO of Exhibit Edge, a full-service trade show exhibit and consultation company serving the Virginia, Maryland, DC areas and beyond.

With 18 years of being a provide


r for the exhibit industry, I have seen many clients exhibit at many types of trade shows. I have also seen many opportunities for expansion of company brand, products, or services and to build relationships. What I hadn’t seen, until recently, is a company complete change its market and direction as a result of their exhibiting. I’d like to share with you this recent experience.

Scott and his partner, Tim, had developed a jump suit for the hunting industry that, with the help of their patented machine, removed all human scent odors. The machine changed the structure of molecules that create the human scent. How it works for the hunter is, before going into the woods, he or she hooks the machine up to the suit for 5 minutes to completely remove the human scent. If you know anyone who hunts, you know how obsessive they can be over hiding their scent and covering their tracks – so this seemed to be a great product for hunters!

This company received some financial backing to bring their product to market. One of the marketing methods that they chose to pursue was exhibiting at a hunting trade show. They approached us about designing a custom booth and receiving consultation to make the most of their presence… as the SHOT Show in Las Vegas approached, they had very high hopes for their public debut.

Their product and their 10’ booth didn’t disappoint, drawing crowds and attention throughout the duration of the show. Some key aspects of their exhibit as well as some important actions they took were:

  • Their booth displayed a technology feel, just like their product.
  • They displayed a video explaining the product technology.
  • They conducted live demonstrations involving attendees and creating buzz on the floor.
  • They distributed brochures about their product.
  • They were highly prepared to answer questions about their product; not with just off-the-cuff answers, but with carefully thought out, researched responses that painted the product in the best light possible.
  • They checked out their competition and made comprehensive notes for their next shows.
  • They let themselves be compared to their competitor and talked about the differences to the attendees.
  • They offered show discounts to hunting store owners who showed interest in carrying the product.
  • They conducted a couple of sales meeting during non-show hours.
  • They collected and took detailed notes about their qualified leads promising to follow-up within the next two weeks.
  • They attempted to set up future sales meetings with leads, rather than talking to them but not putting a date on the calendar.
  • They sought out additional potential partners who were interested in the technology.

After the show, Scott and Tim felt confident that they would be taking sales orders. They followed up on all of their leads within the promised two week period. Despite all of this hard work, and doing the little things that really make you succeed, sales just did not take off as they expected. As the months passed, they began to get discouraged by the steady, but not rapidly-growing results. We’ve all been here before and know this feeling – it takes persistence and determination to push through this, and they did just that.

One of their sales calls, which was generated from a trade show lead, was to a man who was a hunter but also worked in the healthcare industry. He explained to Scott and Tim that he had been thinking about their product and their show presentation quite a bit. He said he envisioned an application in hospital and lab environments where sanitization is critical and wanted to talk further about the product with his connections in the healthcare industry. Nine months and many phone calls and meetings later, Jim & Scott have just been awarded a sizeable grant to do the research and modifications necessary so that their unique product can be utilized in the healthcare industry. They are currently in this R&D phase and hope to have a revised product within six months. Through this grant they have already come across some very interesting findings; for instance, they have also discovered that when they run their product for several hours without the suit, it will remove odors from a room.

While the partners were confident about their original hunting application for their technology product, a single, memorable meeting at their first trade show opened the door to a potentially much-more lucrative product. It was their repeated phone calls and tenacity that assisted them in their pursuit of success.

Bev Gray is CEO of Exhibit Edge, a full-service trade show exhibit and consultation company serving the Virginia, Maryland, DC areas and beyond. Bev has been involved in the trade show industry for over 15 years.

Check out Exhibit Edge here.

Creative Commons License

photo credit: armyengineersnorfolk

Are You Using Twitter to Drive Traffic to Your Blog and Event?

Now that the first quarter of 2010 is officially in the books, I was curious how the viewership on this blog went. And since I can sometimes be a stats geek, I thought I’d post a few numbers.

With Google Analytics and a WordPress stats plug-in, I can access just about anything I want. But all I want to share is an insight (not a big one) that if a post link gets re-tweeted a few times, it’ll end up in my ‘top views.’

For starters, the two most re-tweeted posts came in as the most viewed (as you might expect):

23 Pre-Show Marketing Promotions, Tactics and Ideas and Twittering at #ExpoWest. They were each viewed around 100 times in the past three months. Maybe not much if you’re Google, but for a li’l ol’ niche-oriented B2B blog, I’m pretty happy with those numbers (the three listing above the two most-viewed posts are pages, not posts).

top posts on TradeshowGuy Blog first Q 2010

In the past seven days, two other highly re-tweeted posts have been moving up the viewership list:

27 Un-Boring Things to do At Your Next Tradeshow and How to Find the Right Tradeshow for Your Company. Both were posted this week and thanks to the Twitterverse re-tweeting them a number of times, the readership climbed quickly. I suspect the ‘list’ approach for the ’27’ post had a lot to do with getting the re-tweets; that the the subject of ‘un-boring’…both of which serve to create interest and draw listeners, both done by design.

top posts on TradeshowGuy Blog last 7 days

If you’re a blogger, you should be using these tools to drive traffic. After all, if you write a post, you want people to read it, don’t you?

One thing I do is use so that I can schedule tweets ahead of time; this gives me a chance to post the link 6 – 8 times. Each time it picks up another tweeter who re-tweets it, sending more readers to the post.

I think there is a limit to scheduling tweets though, and I’m not sure where to draw the line. I’ve seen people post links and have them scheduled to go out hourly for several days. Yeah, spammy, I know. But with what I feel is a good post I would like to maximize readership. And the great thing about Twitter is that your community will tell you what’s good – what hits their buttons – and what is not.

One more item: back in February I did an online webinar on ‘Using Social Media to Close More Biz at Tradeshows’ and used nothing but social media and e-mail to drive traffic to the sign-up page. When all was said and done I had a lot of support from the tradeshow community (see screenshot of a handful of re-tweets below), and over the nearly three weeks leading up to the webinar it was interesting to see the numbers:

  • 880 click-throughs to the sign-up page
  • 125 sign-ups for the free webinar
  • 58 attendees

Given that my budget was literally zero – just an investment of time and the ability to use the social media tools – I was more than pleased with the outcome.

Social Media-Tradeshow Webinar RT's

If I wanted to use traditional media to drive traffic (direct mail, postcards, radio, print, etc.) it would have been a huge undertaking and would have taken months to get everthing set up and implemented. And it would have cost thousands of dollars. With social media all it took was a YouTube and Twitter account, a Facebook page and the ability to create video promos and write posts about it….and the time to make it happen.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m sold on social media for its cost-effectiveness and ability to spread useful information to a lot of interested people quickly. And get them to take action.

Using Facebook at an Event: A Case Study

Need more sign-ups on your Facebook page? Take a tip from this case study of, an online study community aimed at high school and college students. Marketing Associate and blogger Carleigh McKenna contacted us after a HARO request for stories on how companies are using social media in conjunction with events.

Here’s how kick-started their Facebook page:

At a “Boston Back to School Party” last year, hosted a booth at CollegeFest crammed with several computer stations. They encouraged students to log in to their Facebook pages to check updates. While logged in, they asked the students to join their Facebook page.

To entice as many students as possible to sign up, they dangled a $1500 prize to be given to a member of the new Facebook page at random after the CollegeFest was complete. Since they had just created the page and went into the event with zero members, they explained the odds were pretty good.

As Carleigh put it: “Not only did we take a Fan Page from 0 members (it launched the day before CollegeFest) to almost 1,000—which has allowed us the credibility of an established page as we attract more members– we also got more information than a simple e-mail address alone will ever provide.”

Since CollegeFest, the Facebook Fan Page has continued to grow. As of last check they were at over 2000 fans.

Carleigh adds that students (and perhaps some parents) are active on the Facebook page; joining in a weekly brainteaser, checking out photos and posting status updates or questions.

Check out

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