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

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Natural Products Expo West 2022 Re-Cap

The thing I was most curious about while walking the floors and halls of Natural Products Expo West 2022 earlier this month in March was this: how many exhibitors and attendees showed up?

It was a question that kept coming up as I would turn the corner at the rear of one of the halls and instead of seeing rows and rows of small exhibits against the wall, I saw lots of empty space. Throughout the hall, instead of large island exhibits everywhere, you’d occasionally see a gathering spot with tables and chairs instead of a large island.

Which got me thinking about the final totals. On day one, I figured attendance for both exhibitors and attendees would be around 85%. On day two, after seeing more empty space, I revised that downward to about 80%.

On Monday, New Hope Network released numbers: over 57,000 registered attendees and over 2,700 exhibitors. Based on numbers in 2019 (which I’m dredging up from memory, but still, they’re close), which showed attendees at about 80,000 and exhibitors at about 3,400, the numbers this year showed a significant decline. Attendees were about 71% of 2019, and exhibitors came in at about the 79% level.

So, yeah, respectable. And people I spoke with, both exhibitors and attendees, found it a worthwhile show. Days One and Two were the best (no surprise), with all of the exhibitors I spoke with saying they’d had good conversations with a LOT of people. Day Three, of course, is more of a rush not only through the shortened day, but once two or three o’clock rolls around, a rush to the door.

A few observations:

There was a masking requirement in effect. Almost no one observed it. Maybe one in twenty. Given the pre-show health check confirming vaccinations or proof of negative tests, and the declining cases throughout the country, and of course, COVID fatigue, it didn’t surprise me that masks were mostly a no-show. Besides, with nearly 60,000 attendees, how do you actually enforce something like that?

But: QR Codes are back! If you search this blog for QR Codes, you’ll find an assortment of posts, ranging from how to use QR Codes at tradeshows, to posts questioning their validity anymore. But this year, QR Codes were back in full force. By the hundreds. I spoke with a number of people about it, and most either suggested, or agreed with the notion that one reason they’re so prevalent is that phones no longer need code-scanning apps. The ability to scan codes is built-in to the camera software. I lost count at over a hundred QR Codes.

Big Names Missing. Again, no real surprise that some brands chose to skip this year’s show. I tweeted about a handful of them that were missing: Kashi, Kettle Foods, Enjoy Life, Clif Bar, and Silk, all of which have previously appeared numerous times with large island booths. Not this year. I’m sure a few slipped my mind.

TradeshowGuy Exhibits’ client list also was reduced, but it was the busiest year I’ve ever had at the show. I spent a total of 9+ days at the show, supervising the installation and dismantling of two long-time clients, Bob’s Red Mill (30×40) and Mountain Rose Herbs (20×30). The Bob’s Red Mill exhibit is the iconic mill-like structure that captures their brand to a T. It’s been around since 2013. Mountain Rose Herbs, which hasn’t been at the show for nearly a decade, returned with a 20×30 new design focused on promoting new lines of essential oils and teas, and much more. The two main pieces of the exhibit are a 13’ tower/conference room and a 10’ tall display unit that was filled with herbs in a stratified style onsite prior to the show. It wowed. Great to work with both clients. We also had other clients at the show, including Greater Knead and Wildbrine, but like many exhibitors, some of our clients chose to sit this one out.

A few final words. I always approach Natural Products Expo West with both anticipation and a little dread. It’s a big show and can be stressful. But it’s always worth it. It was great to get back to seeing people in person, saying hello to people I’ve met over the years, and meeting new people.

And hey, there was even that celebrity siting! Jason Momoa popped in the North Halls for a short time and I managed to get his picture. He’s tall.

Can Limitations Help Your Creativity?

Unlimited choices. Seems like having the pick of anything we want would make things easier, right? For example, I have a subscription to Apple Music. Yeah, it could be Pandora or Spotify or any of the music streaming services. But with a streaming subscription, you have instant access to millions – literally millions – of choices when it comes to what songs or artists or albums to listen to.

Yet often I find myself stumped, not knowing what I should listen to. So I go back to my own library, which has only 50,000 or so tracks. Much easier to find something.

But too many choices? Yeah, doesn’t always work. Yeah, when I hear about the new album from Coldplay or Jackson Browne, I can easily jump over and listen.

The less choice you have, the more you must use those constraints to your benefit. I think the same thing applies to the scope of your tradeshow exhibit project.

Sure, you may love to have a large island, 20 x 30 or even larger. Just think of the things you can do with such a large space! But if you have only half or less of that space, it forces you to consider every square foot. And as a result, you can still come up with some very creative tradeshow exhibits.

Want eco-friendly? Use cardboard tubing, bamboo wood, or actual live plant enhancements as part of your design.

Need a table but want it to still be an eye-catcher? Try a custom branded, LED-highlighted odd-shaped table.

A custom LED-highlighted table takes up little space but catches eyes.

Need to save on cost and still have a nice-looking booth? I’ve seen several booths that use the shipping cases as building blocks for counters and back walls.

Looking for a way to draw attention to your small booth presentations? Hire a dynamic and charismatic presenter that’s experienced in drawing small but enthusiastic crowds.

Creativity isn’t limited to large canvases. You can get creative in countless ways. Just pull out your thinking cap and collaborate with others.

The “If I Get Hit By a Bus” List for Tradeshow Marketing Managers

I tend to make a lot of lists. Not as many as I used to (maybe I think I have enough lists by now!), but I still write things down. You’d think this makes me organized, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Several years ago, not long after I got married, I sat down and wrote out a comprehensive emergency “If I Get Hit By a Bus” list. It’s self-explanatory: it’s where my wife can find all of those things she needs if the worst were to happen: passwords for phones, computers, websites and more; will, important papers, all of that stuff.

I realized over the weekend that I should probably update the list soon because things change. Some old info drops off, new stuff is added. But then I thought: should tradeshow managers do the same thing? After all, there are a lot of moving parts in tradeshow marketing.

Hey, life is unpredictable. Things happen that you haven’t planned for. Most of us really don’t spend much time thinking about the worst thing that could happen. And subsequently, that means we really aren’t prepared for it, at least not as much as we could be.

What should be on your list? It may vary from person to person, and company to company, but here are a number of things that come to mind:

  • List of shows: Include booth sizes, dates, locations.
  • Vendors: who handles your exhibit; who designs graphic updates, who prints them? Who fixes your exhibit when it needs repairs?
  • Service providers at the show: while many companies use show services at the venue, many also bring in outside exhibitor-approved contractors to set up and dismantle the booth. Or print something on demand in a quick turnaround.
  • Personnel: Who went to what shows, what their duties were. Who’s still with you, who might have left. Contact information.
  • Where files are kept: tradeshows generate paperwork, either digitally or actual paper. If they’re kept on a server, note the location. Same with your work computer. Same with your file drawers.
  • How much things cost: similar to keeping track of paperwork, but building a spreadsheet to track costs from show to show and year to year can also be of great use.
  • Exhibit details: size of booth at particular shows. Size of graphics (you’ll be updating them frequently); number of crates, storage location, what shipper you generally use, along with contact information on those various entities. Names and phone numbers are always a good thing.
  • Social Media access credentials: whether you handle these personally or not, if you’re involved or if there is to be social media engagement from the show floor, add those login details to your list.

Once you have your list, give a copy to your immediate boss, or to someone on your team you trust that will use it if necessary. You should be good to go for another year or so before updating it.

Eco-Smart Sustainable Tradeshow Exhibits via TradeshowGuy Exhibits

Not only do exhibitors care about the environment, but they also want to have exhibits fabricated in an eco-friendly way – AND let their clientele know about their commitment to the environment.

That’s why here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve partnered with Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits for years. Many of our clients have requested eco-friendly exhibits, and we thought we should share this friendly and informative video to show you exactly what an ex-friendly exhibit is all about:


Find our selection of Eco-Systems exhibits here at TradeshowBuy.com.

And check the latest sell sheets (click to enlarge; then right-click to save):

Preparing for the Return of Tradeshows: What it Means to Your Wallet and Schedule

Inflation is kicking in, have you noticed? Have you recently tried to price a piece of plywood, for example? And no doubt you’re feeling it at the pump, too.

It’s affecting the cost of tradeshow exhibits and tradeshow marketing, too. In a recent Classic Conversation – where Classic Exhibits distributors gather monthly to share info and chat – much of the conversation was about rising prices. And it’s apparently affecting a lot of the marketplace. Prices are moving up, and time frames are also changing.

The Supply Line Blues

For example, when the pandemic hit, companies had to shed employees. Many were furloughed indefinitely, many were simply let go. Now that things are moving in the other direction, albeit slowly in many instances, companies are having to staff up again. And many are finding it challenging to get dependable people back into the workforce.

Also, supply lines are either clogged or pinched, or negatively affected, meaning that it takes longer to get the materials that you need. There’s a high demand where there was recently very little demand, which means that the ramping up of production is happening, and it doesn’t happen overnight. And shipping is taking longer than it used to. Much longer, depending on where things are coming from. If materials are coming from Asia, for instance, the broad stroke take is that shipping containers cost more and are harder to find, making shipping not only more expensive, but things are taking longer.

In the states, shipping times are expanding by a few days in some instances. Again, these are general observations, but people who handle shipping logistics agree that it’s taking longer to get things from Point A to Point B.

Other things to watch for

It’s been noted that in some locales, show services are being impacted. In a quick addendum to our regular monthly chat, someone observed that GES was allowing only their rental exhibits to be set up, and not allowing any EACs (Exhibitor Approved Contractors) onto the floor. Again, this seemed to be only in a few places, but it raises flags about how you should approach planning for your next show.

What to do:

Talk to your exhibit house: find out prices ahead of time; find out how long the quote will be good for (expect that 30 days is a likely limit).

Talk to your labor and show services contractors well ahead of the show so you are prepared for any changes that you may have to deal with for the upcoming show.

Download and read the show manuals from top to bottom and if you notice changes or have questions, take the time to reach out and get clarity on anything you’re uncertain about.

Finally, don’t wait until the last minute for any booth changes. Plan on adding an extra week or two or three to your design and production schedule. Show dates won’t move, and if you want any significant changes to your tradeshow booth, make sure your planning includes the extra time needed.


Tradeshow Island Exhibit Conference and Meeting Area Suggestions

When you step up to a larger island booth and get away from the shorter inline configurations, your options for a private or semi-secluded conference or meeting area increase dramatically. You can go all the way from a private, enclosed space with opaque walls to more open meeting areas that, while open to the aisle, have a barrier of some sort, whether it’s a see-through wall such as a milk-plex or some arrangement of foliage or barrier that tells people “this is private.”

This topic came up recently during an initial conversation with a client who stated they wanted a private meeting area in the booth. That led to a discussion about what exactly they meant by “private.” Opaque walls? An area that is clearly delineated as a meeting area by invitation only? A second floor that would also clearly mean “invitation only”?

There are many approaches to creating a private or semi-private meeting area for you and your clients or prospects in a tradeshow exhibit, limited only by your imagination and budget. Here are a smattering of exhibits I’ve seen over the years that have various iterations of what a meeting area can look like.

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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