Exhibits are a big investment. Tradeshows cost money, and one of the biggest costs is the initial outlay for a new custom booth. Even smaller, modular booths with little to no customization can put a big ding in your pocketbook. With such a big investment, it makes sense to care for the investment so that it lasts year and years, giving you a better return on your investment.
Keep it Running Like Your Car
A new car comes with a warranty, and often comes with free oil changes and maintenance for a set period of time, depending on how desperate the car companies are to sell you something. A new exhibit will usually have a warranty covering many items, but you’re still responsible for upkeep. Imagine your new car. Yes, you get the oil changes done regularly, but do you clean and vacuum the car often? Do you check to make sure headlights, turn signals and brake lights are all working? You’d hate to get stuck on a cold winter night with no headlights. It’s the same (and different) with your exhibit. It’s the same because it needs upkeep and attention. But it’s different because unlike a car which is driven virtually every day, an exhibit is seen only when it’s out of the cases or crates.
The next time your booth is set up, get there early and go over it with a fine tooth comb. Take photos of damages and make notes of changes you’d like to make such as graphics or layout.
Time for an Upgrade?
When driving a used car, after tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of miles, you might need a major overhaul. A new transmission, a new engine, of course new tires and brakes on a regular basis. With an exhibit that’s showing it’s age, you just might be ready for an upgrade. Perhaps your company is growing and you need a larger space. This might mean you have to either get a new booth or add on to your current booth. Adding on is the more economical route (usually), and it allows you to keep using the basic booth for a few more years.
Upgrades can also mean adding or changing graphics. And chances are, if your older graphics are at least a few years old, the newer graphics will be printed on newer generation printers with better substrates, which means a much better look.
Making the Case
One often overlooked area for maintaining the value of your exhibit investment are the shipping cases. Whether you have a custom-jigged wooden crate, or a series of smaller cases with custom-cut pads for the exhibit parts, it makes sense to take a close look at those items to make sure they are maintaining their integrity. Over the years those cases and crates are also open to wear and tear. Felt can come off, custom cut jigs can get broken – after all, the very act of setting up and dismantling exhibits is hard on them. If need be, engage somebody to make repairs, or send it back to your exhibit house for repairs.
Go to the Right Shows
The final thought on maintaining the long term viability of your tradeshow booth is to make sure you’re not going to shows that are no longer any good for you. After all, if it’s not a good show, and you’re making the effort to be there, your booth is going through the motions of shipping, set-up, dismantle and shipping back to the warehouse more than it should be. And that adds just one more show to the overall wear and tear.
Like your car, your tradeshow exhibit will last many years. And if you keep it in good shape with tune-ups, tender care and a loving touch on a regular basis, you’ll get even a few more years out of it.
Got a tradeshow exhibit project in mind? Submit a Quote Request with no strings attached.
One of our recent booth projects over the summer was a custom portable modular booth for the Toronto-based company SoYoung. The project turned out so great and people loved the look, that the design and fabrication team at Classic Exhibits thought it should be entered in the Exhibitor Portable/Modular, which recognizes design excellence. So it was. And it made the finals round where you, the public, get to vote!
Classic Exhibits also had two other projects make it to the finals round: Philadelphia Commercial and Nationwide.
The rules for the voting are simple: you can vote only once a day, but you can vote every day.
Lots of things are green today, but what does it really take to make a green exhibit?
First, let’s agree on what ‘green’ means.
Most agree that it means moving away from standard business-as-usual fabrication methods by replacing traditional materials and/or ensuring that the chain of incoming products and outgoing materials is as eco-friendly as possible. Ultimately it means as many methods as possible are used to design and fabrication environmentally sustainable exhibits.
How to be Green
In a recent chat with Matt Wish, the Marketing Director of Eco-Sustainable Exhibits (HQ in Grand Rapids, MI; Manufacturing in Portland, OR), we went over what it takes to design and produce a green exhibit.
“Compare it to what people are used to in the construction world: LEED Certification. It’s a great buzzword. What we’ve done is take what we think the LEED Certification would be for a tradeshow exhibit and applied it,” said Matt.
Everything from materials that are being used to the substrates that graphics are printed on, down to the inks used are all combined to assemble what could be called a green exhibit. This includes recycled aluminum extrusions, LED lighting, Paradise Fabric Graphics made from 100% recycled soda bottles, eco-glass, bamboo plywood, FSC certified wood, eco-board and even stains and finishes using water-based low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) and VOC Free.
“We do all we can to hold our company accountable to keep things eco-friendly and green,” said Matt.
Eco-Sustainable Exhibits works closely with Classic Exhibits, their manufacturer, and that has been fruitful for both, as Classic Exhibits adheres to a very sustainable model, using recycled materials and recycling as many leftovers as possible. Another partner, Optima Graphics, also works diligently to recycle materials and use sustainable materials, which means that exhibits nowadays from these companies are about as green as can be.
Classic Exhibits is also in a unique position of being right next to a set of railroad tracks where recycled aluminum can be loaded easily and transported just a few miles to an aluminum recycler that has the capability of extruding many of the Classic Modul aluminum shapes. Being able to transport materials only a short distance instead of hundreds or thousands of miles is yet another way to keep the carbon footprint down on a green exhibit.
What about cost?
“Virtually identical,” says Matt. Which means that a few years ago what used to be more expensive than materials from the mainstream now costs virtually the same.
What about the quality?
“Most people can’t tell the difference,” says Matt. Some of the materials are better than typical building materials, some others may not be quite as good, but in any case, it’s a tossup. When it comes to the recycled plastic that goes into shipping cases, you’re actually getting a case that is more durable than those made from traditional cases in the industry.
Rentals are Eco-Friendly
A company can buy an exhibit and use it 5, 6, 7 years or more and get a lot of mileage out of that new purchase. This contributes to the greening of the exhibit because you’re not buying very often. And when you finally outgrow the exhibit, as you transition to something new, those old materials can likely be recycled or repurposed.
But what about renting? By renting you’re continuing to use the same materials over and over, which also contributes to the greening and the sustainability of the industry.
As Matt put it, “so many people have a negative approach, saying that you shouldn’t drive so much, or waste so much, and so on, but we like to take the positive approach and say that even a little bit of green is a great step in the right direction.” Whether renting or buying, asking your exhibit house what kinds of sustainable materials they have, or what kind of sustainability practices they incorporate, lets them know that you, as an exhibit purchaser, are interested in the greening of tradeshow exhibits.
By making small changes where they make sense, that small change can add to the overall effect that we, as planet inhabitants, need to consider when we get out our checkbook to put a new exhibit into place.
Want to browse green exhibits? Many of Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits are found here on the Exhibit Design Search.
You want a successful tradeshow exhibit design and fabrication process, naturally. A number of factors come into play in the process, including (but not limited to) the timeline. When do you start the process?
It depends upon your current status: do you already have a booth and simply want to upgrade, or are you starting from scratch? Do you want to move up from a small 10×10 or 10×20 inline booth to a larger island? While you intuitively know where you are, the first step of the process is to take a few moments and write it all down. Share it with all team members. You may want to do a full Request for Proposal from potential new exhibit houses, or you may be comfortable with your current vendor and simply want to communicate the desire to upgrade to them.
In any event, make and share the assessment with those that will be involved.
One Year Prior to the Show
If you’re essential starting from scratch, you should probably look at the entire project from the 30,000 foot level about 9 months to a year out from the show date when you’ll want the new exhibit. This gives you a chance to determine a comprehensive and detailed budget. Having this budget document that includes all related costs such as storage, potential shipping, set-up costs and so forth will reduce the element of surprise for you and management once the project is officially under way.
This early discussion should also look at the main shows that you’ll be using the new booth at. Some companies have large booths that are used only once or twice a year, while they use smaller inline or popup booths at smaller shows. Look at things such as show goals and objectives, audience, traffic flow, etc.
Provide your exhibit house with a design brief detailing all of the elements of your new exhibit: size of booth, show goals, meeting spaces, storage, demo areas, branding elements, etc.
Six Months Out
Bu now you should be starting regular conversations with your exhibit house in earnest and their designer should be working from your design brief.
Your booth builder will want to have as much information as you can provide about the show such as dates, location, and other details. You may even want to provide them with your show marketing strategy and details so that they are aware of how you will promote your show appearance.
Four Months Out
You should have reviewed at least one or two designs and walked through any revisions with your 3D booth designer. You’re in the stage of finalizing all of the details prior to fabrication.
Graphic designers will have received graphic placement details and graphic dimensions from the booth designer and should be developing graphics in conjunction with the marketing team.
Reach out to I&D companies for early estimates and availabilities for set-up of the new booth, if it’s a larger booth that requires a set-up team.
Sometime in the next few weeks, depending on your exhibit house’s capabilities, the booth will go through fabrication.
One Month Prior to the Show
A walk-through with a booth set-up will be arranged and all graphics will be completed and placed. Any final items that need to be changed will result in a punch list that will need to complete by the exhibit house prior to crating and shipping.
This is when you’ll make final arrangements for shipping, I&D and storage if they haven’t been made yet.
Smaller booths, such as modular, kit or pop-ups don’t follow the longer timeline that custom island booths demand. Many can be chosen from a catalog and ordered quickly once graphic files are completed and are often capable of being shipped in less than a month, and depending on the complexity of the booth, in just a week or two.
At the Show
You have a great booth! Set-up was flawless because your exhibit house furnished thorough and easy-to-follow instructions for the I&D team. Your job is to work the show, talk with visitors and generate new business!
This week is the launch of my new book “Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level.” I’m doing a lot of the normal launch things an author would do: sending copies to industry media and bloggers, along with industry colleagues. Creating a list of clients and potential clients that I’d like to get the book into. And much more!
Beyond that, I’ve created a series of 14 videos, with each one relating to one of the chapters in the book. Those videos are appearing, about one a day, at my YouTube Tradeshow Marketingchannel. Check ’em out!
You can also read the book for free here at TradeshowSuccessBook.com. You’ll be asked to opt-in to a mailing list (which, if you gotta, you can always unsubscribe from).
What do you get in the book? As mentioned in the subtitle, I’ve detailed 14 steps that are critical to tradeshow success. Not every successful tradeshow marketer uses all of these steps with utmost efficiency, but most of them make very good use of many of the steps.
So what are the steps?
Let’s take a look at the 14 Steps:
Step One: Going with or without a Map? Are you doing enough planning and organizing around your tradeshows?
Step Two: Dollars, Pounds, Euros: How Much Do You Really Need to Make This Work? A breakdown of the budgeting process for tradeshows and what it takes to budget for a new exhibit.
Step Three: Getting Ready for the Big Dance: Pre-show planning and marketing.
Step Four: Did You Come to the Right Dance? Just make sure that your target market is at the show you’re going to dump all of that money into.
Step Five: Home is Where the Booth Is: Booth design essentials, including function, traffic flow, graphics and more.
Step Six: Is Your Frontline Team Up to Snuff? Booth staff training!
Step Seven: What Do I Do With All of These People in the Booth? Now that you’ve drawn a crowd, what do you do with them?
Step Eight: Tweeting, Posting and Instagramming Like a King or Queen: Putting social media to work for you in a creative way.
Step Nine: Who’s Keeping Track of Those Damn Tweets? Someone needs to create videos, blog posts, tweets, etc. Here’s a great look at some online content ideas.
Step Ten: Got a Stack of Leads: Now What? Lead generation and follow up.
Step Eleven: Becoming the Zen Master of Stats and Records: Record-keeping is the secret sauce to tracking your success.
Step Twelve: Stirring the Public Relations and Media Pot: Working with industry media.
Step Thirteen: Do QR Codes Still Kill Kittens? And Other Tech Questions: A quick examination of technology in tradeshows.
Step Fourteen: Out Of Your Nest: Time to Fly! Your call to action!
Want to grab your own copy? Use the links above to own your own. Or if you want the digital version (PDF download), try this:
One of our newest clients, SoYoung from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, unveiled their new custom 10×10 booth to the public earlier this month at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD to great reviews.
“The show has been hopping and the booth is fantastic!” was the text I got from company owner Catherine Choi on day two of the show. She had a photographer come by to document the booth and products. Check out the gallery. And thanks to SoYoung – glad to have you as a new client!
How do you know when it’s time for your company to invest in a new exhibit? While the answer will vary from company to company, there are a number of common factors that can help answer that question.
Is your current exhibit old? In the exhibit world, a tradeshow booth is old somewhere between 5-7 years. Now, that doesn’t mean you should automatically replace your booth as soon as it hits that age, or if it’s older. But an older exhibit is a sign that it might be time to consider upgrading. Of course, some companies use the same exhibit for decades. Yup, seen it happen.
What do your main competitors’ booths look like? If your company has stayed put while most of your main competitors have invested in new booth properties, it can make you look a little old and out of touch. In some industries, that’s the touch of death. In others, not so much.
Has your company’s exhibit needs changed significantly? One client I worked with found that their target market had matured to the point they were no longer needing to display so many products, but instead needed to assist those distributors with other things. That meant downsizing the booth to accommodate those needs. If you have new products or services that are not getting the notice they deserve, that may mean an upgrade is needed.
Has your company grown significantly? Some companies need a booth to match their market presence, which means a larger booth. It also means keeping up with the Joneses.
Is your current exhibit stretching your shipping budget because it’s very heavy to ship? Shipping and drayage for wooden crates and booths can eat up a significant portion of your tradeshow marketing budget. Unless heavier materials such as wood and metal define your company’s looks, it’s worth considering a lighter approach. Fabric graphics, aluminum frames and structures and the like can significantly cut your shipping costs for years to come. With fabric graphics that are easily changed for different exhibiting needs, a new lightweight booth may be just what the doctor ordered.
Beyond these items, you may have another reason to put a new company tradeshow booth into place in the near future. I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment!
Mel and Kevin of Classic Exhibits take some time to answer questions about the very popular charging stations. There are a lot of reasons to consider adding a charging station – and maybe you’ve thought of a few. But what about customization, set-up, packing and shipping and more? Check out this interview and then take a look at our online catalog selection of charging stations here.