Tablets can be used in a large variety of ways in your tradeshow booth. Here are just a few. Maybe you can think of more!
Now that most companies haven’t exhibited at a major show in the US for nine months or so, where does that leave their marketing efforts? I’ve heard some companies badly miss shows because that’s where a large portion of their lead generation came from and without that they’re struggling to generate as many solid leads. Some companies have shifted to other marketing outlets and been at least moderately successful, and I suppose some companies have even determined that they don’t really need tradeshows.
It’s my impression that there’s always been a bit of perception from many management and sales staff that tradeshows are a grind, a big waste of money and time. That they only attend because their competition is there but if they could they’d bail on exhibiting or even attending shows.
Meanwhile, tradeshow managers are buried in details of exhibiting and logistics and new product launches and are-there-enough-samples and so on.
By the time bigger shows return, it’s likely that at least a year will have passed for many exhibitors since their last appearance at a national or international show, and the question is undoubtedly being asked: are tradeshows still even that important?
That question can only be answered by each company individually based on their own goals, budget and personnel.
One result might be that companies will exhibit at fewer shows. If that’s the case, the focus on the shows should be to make sure that exhibiting is worth their time. Maybe you’ll have the same budget but with fewer shows, you can concentrate on those select handful of shows and make sure you carefully and completely execute all of the tradeshow marketing steps from A to Z to ensure great results.
Another consequence of the coming post-COVID world may mean smaller budgets, which means downsizing your exhibit, or renting an exhibit save a few dollars. Or taking fewer people to shows.
One other change that I believe will be a result of no tradeshows for a year or so: the psychological effect on both exhibitors and attendees. How will we feel, for instance, about shaking hands with people we meet, or hugging old friends that we haven’t seen for a year or two or three? How will food companies hand out samples so that everyone who is picking up a tasty sample is comfortable with it? Will we really feel okay flying across the country to attend a show, stuck in an airplane for hours with strangers? Some will be okay; others may have high levels of anxiety. It’s likely that aisles will be wider, giving more separation between booths and giving attendees more space to keep people at a distant.
Things will change, things are already changing.
I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.
When I first speak with a new client about what they want in a new tradeshow exhibit, it usually comes down to one of two approaches. Either they want to start from scratch, in a sense, and have a good idea of the potential layout and scope of the exhibit, and they have a budget number in mind. Or, and this is the other extreme, they want to pick out a kit from our catalog and make do, mainly to save budget dollars.
There’s nothing wrong with either approach. Every company has a different agenda when it comes to a new exhibit.
The former approach means everything is custom from the git-go. A designer is brought in, conversations are had about brand attributes and guidelines, and the designer is basically turned loose. These are typically the bigger budget projects where, from the start, the designer is encouraged to cut loose, to try several approaches and show a number of structures with different traffic flow patterns, demo areas, meeting areas and so on. From that, the client decides on one (or two) that work best for them, and the design is refined until it’s ready.
The other approach, where the client is typically working with a more limited budget, starts with a kit from our Exhibit Design Search at TradeshowBuy.com. More often than not, the client believes that the kit as shown in the renderings is the final design.
That rarely happens. Once the conversation starts, the questions begin. Can we add a counter? What about shelves? We need shelves. And something to sit at. And that panel isn’t big enough, what if we made it bigger.
The answers are yes, yes, and yes. Kits get customized, almost all the time. With new clients, there is a bit of a learning curve, but once they realize that even if they start with a kit, that doesn’t mean they’re stuck with everything that’s show. Kits are good starting points to get what clients really want, which is most often a customized version.
A good thing to keep in mind when starting from scratch, especially if your budget is pointing you in the direction of a kit. That kit can be revised, reduced or enlarged in size, configured to fit in more than one final setup (10×10, 10×20, 10×30 for example). Accessories can be added, freestanding graphics or tables can become a part. And those additions don’t have to be out of the catalog, either. Often a client will have custom-built tables that include their logo and additional lighting effects to make them stand out.
If you’re shopping for a new exhibit in 2021 and your budget is pointing you towards something out of a catalog, starting with a kit makes sense. But you don’t have to (and probably won’t) stay there.
The tradeshow and event industry has been gasping for air for months and months. Exhibitors are putting off investing in new exhibits while wondering if they’re even going to appear at any shows in 2021.
In steps Classic Exhibits, our main exhibit manufacturer, with a little help: a price drop on safety dividers and rental! Not to mention, a trio of eco-friendly sustainable exhibits: a 10×10, a 10×20 and a 2020 island. Let’s take a look. Click to enlarge. Find the links below to download the PDFs.
- Safety Dividers #1
- Safety Dividers #2
- Rental Sale 2021 #1
- Rental Sale 2021 #2
- ECO-4022 – 20×20 island
- ECO-2055 – 10×20 inline
- ECO-1054 – 10×10 inline
Our online exhibit-finder, Exhibit Design Search, would be hard-pressed to get much better. It’s chock-full of 1000s of exhibits, rental furniture, accessories, helpful article, photos and much more.
Yet it keeps improving. Over the last few months a few new things have made their way onto the site at TradeshowBuy.com, including virtual exhibits, interactive exhibits, protective shields and more. Take a look:
It’s easy enough to get caught in the checklist approach to tradeshow exhibit design. This week’s quick video goes over some thoughts on how to avoid that, but still make sure the exhibit has all that it needs:
In March and April of this year, when tradeshow organizers realized the gravity of the pandemic and how it would be affecting upcoming shows, many of them “postponed” the shows. I say “postponed” in quotes because many believed that whatever issues the COVID-19 pandemic caused; things would be back to normal in a few months.
For example, I happened to be on an airplane waiting to take off from Portland on the morning of March 2, when the email came in: Natural Products Expo West was off, postponed TFN. In the next few weeks, an effort was made to reschedule the show for early summer. Then the pandemic got worse. The show was canceled for good.
The organizers tried to focus on Natural Products Expo East in September. Nope, that fell by the wayside as well. As did CES, NAB, and many other shows. Some shows went virtual, others hoped for the best for a live show sometime next year.
Now Natural Products Expo West has moved the 2021 show from early March to late May of next year. Anyone willing to lay money on the show actually taking place?
In random conversations and email exchanges, and in seeing some survey results, the tradeshow and event industry has a wide range of opinions on when things might get back to “normal,” yes, in quotes, because we don’t know what normal will look like again, or when. Some companies are working remotely, hoping to get back to the office by the beginning of 2021. Others are putting it off until the third or fourth quarter of 2021.
In early September, Exhibitor Magazine revealed some data based on surveys of tradeshow world suppliers and exhibitors. For example, 2/3 of those surveyed said it was unlikely, probably wouldn’t, or definitely wouldn’t return to shows rescheduled for 2020.
Company travel restrictions will still be in place at most companies into 2021. Lots of data there, and I’ll give you one more interesting tidbit: the later in the year the question was asked, the further companies pushed their plans back. In early September, most companies were looking at the second or third quarter of 2021 before they thought they’d be back on the tradeshow floor. View the full presentation here; it’s worth a look.
I mentioned on my podcast this week that the live music and entertainment industry is also severely impacted. Musicians, tech workers, roadies, support staff and more have been mostly idled. Think of entertainers on cruise ships, or in Cirque du Soleil (which has filed for bankruptcy), along with concert tours, jazz festivals, country fairs, art fairs, and more.
I believe we all know how bad it is and have a feeling it’ll continue for much longer than we ever thought it would, when the pandemic first came around.
Over the past few months, I have been thinking that once we get back to, let’s say 75 or 85% or “normal,” companies would start busting loose with big budgets and there would be lots of new projects and work for exhibit companies and related logistical support companies.
Now I’m not so sure. My gut feeling is that because this is going to keep going until deep into 2021, companies will be very hesitant to spend money and will be more than willing to just do modest changes on their current exhibit properties instead of investing in something new. I have nothing to base that on and hope I’m wrong.
And finally, when it comes to Virtual shows or tradeshow exhibits, my sense is that it has to really make sense for the company for them to invest in something like that: they need it only if they can use it a dozen or more times in the next year or so, and they strongly believe it will get them more good leads at a better cost-per-lead than traditional exhibiting. The jury is still out on that.
Hiring an exhibit house is a big task. It’s a commitment to a business relationship that, ideally, you’d like to keep in place for years. But everything must come to an end, and there may come a time when it makes sense to consider changing exhibit houses. Here’s my quick video that looks at ten situations that may warrant that consideration:
The use of virtual tradeshow exhibits may not be exploding, although my sense is that it is increasing. Some big tradeshows have gone completely virtual for the next year or so, maybe longer, depending on the depth and breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Which leaves exhibitors in a bit of a quandary: what to do about virtual exhibits. Should you invest in one? Should you just wait out the pandemic and hope you can get back to live tradeshows in the next six to twelve months?
And if you are seriously considering a virtual exhibit, it’s important to consider all of the various things you can do in the exhibit. I’ve seen a few virtual exhibits lately, and there is a wide variety in the approach. Some exhibitors have chosen the simple, let’s-keep-the-cost-down approach. Others have tried to throw everything in but the kitchen sink.
As an aside, one exhibit maker I spoke with recently said that a recent client of theirs did a virtual exhibit and found that at the virtual tradeshow, they experienced a 700% increase in leads for a fraction of the cost of appearing at a live show. My eyes opened at that stat, and while it’s impressive, it’s likely not going to be a common experience for every virtual exhibitor. But it does demonstrate that there is a lot of potential in virtual tradeshows if you plan ane execute well.
Having said that, there are a number of ways to get engagement at virtual tradeshows. The first is crucial: make sure that potential visitors know about your virtual tradeshow exhibit so that they are prepared, put it on their calendar, and have expectations.
The second is to build the expectations and prepare for them by putting specific things in your virtual tradeshow booth that visitors want. Things they’ll respond to, interact with, and share with others.
From that starting point, the question remains: what should be in your virtual exhibit? There are many answers, and your company’s specific needs should help frame the answer. Here are a lot of the things, perhaps not all, that could go into your exhibit. Keep in mind that each piece will add to your overall cost, much like a 3D real world exhibit, and that each piece of content, such as videos or white papers or PDF reports, all will take time and money to create. Before finalizing your plan, create a budget based on all of the pieces you think are necessary to make your virtual tradeshow booth a success.
Here are a number of things you can and should consider:
- Product Demos
- A place to collect visitor’s contact information
- Download Center (PDFs, coupons, sales sheets, special reports, etc.)
- Archived video
- Live stream video
- Live chat
- Booth tour
- Schedule a meeting
- Learn about your company
- Learn about new products
- Give people the ability to share things on social media
- Steer people to your social media outlets
- Leave an audio or video message
No doubt if you put your mind to it, you can come up with more. What am I missing?
I’ve certainly blogged about this topic before. But things change, inside your company and outside in the events and tradeshow world. So I think it behooves any tradeshow manager to keep their eyes up and take note of changes in the exhibiting landscape. Here are few things rattling around in my brain:
Be aware of how other shows are unfolding in other countries. How are they dealing with protecting their exhibitors and visitors? It’s easy enough to find information on LinkedIn, especially if you follow fellow industry exhibitors. I see this type of information shared frequently and learned that a very large show was held in Europe lately. This means in some parts of the world, things are getting back to normal.
Know what’s happening with the shows you normally exhibit at. Are they planning to be all virtual next time around? Or do they have firm plans to be back in action at the convention center or hall where they usually have the show? Or maybe the third option: they just don’t know. The local convention center here in Salem is closed until further notice, but they have several groups on long-term contracts that want to come back once it’s okay. Some have smaller gatherings of less than a hundred (which might be okay under today’s guidelines); others expect hundreds, maybe more than a thousand. At this point, it’s hard to know when gatherings that large will be allowed.
Different states have different statuses. California, Nevada, Chicago, DC, NYC. They’re all different and all have different plans for getting back to larger shows. It may not make sense to spend a lot of time digging into each state’s specific plans, but just to be aware that what brings back large shows in Nevada may not be the same that brings them back in NYC or Chicago.
If your company goes to several shows a year, large, medium and small, would it make sense to have a ready-made virtual exhibit that can easily be adapted to fit the requirements of each show? Virtual exhibits are getting more popular, especially when exhibitors and show organizers have the understanding that even when (if) things return to “normal,” virtual exhibits can and probably will be a part of the marketing mix. Learn more about virtual exhibit in this Kevin Carty podcast interview, this Exhibitor Magazine webinar replay which includes a walk-through of the Canon virtual exhibit, and this blog post on what questions might come up around moving forward with a virtual exhibit.
Another thing to keep abreast of is how exhibitors and attendees are feeling about getting back to live events. This piece from TSNN indicates a majority of people are ready to get back on the exhibiting floor.
Yes, things are moving forward. Sometimes we feel it’s at a snail’s pace, but even incremental movement is critical. I suspect at some point, you’ll look up and find that you’re booking travel plans and signing exhibiting contracts and planning exhibit updates.