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


Make it Easier

Thanks for joining me for my mini-rant!

I have always liked technology, because it’s purpose (I presume) is to make things easier. And mostly, that works.

So let me share a short story about a situation that has gotten under my skin. Due to, you know, technology. I can tell this story because it’s about a former client (no names, please – that’s not the point) and the story isn’t about the client. It’s about what happened when they got sold to a big international corporation, and that big international corporation instituted a new online system to make sure that invoices were paid promptly.

So, get it? The system was put into place to make the invoice-processing happen with less friction.

Here’s the old way we used to deal with invoices:

  • Step one: Once the job is complete, create invoice.
  • Step two: Convert Invoice to PDF.
  • Step three: email invoice to main contact at client.
  • Step four: wait 3-4 weeks, get check in mail.
  • Step five: take check to bank.

Works, right? Pretty simple. Straightforward. Five steps.

Bring on the new system!

  • Step one: register with online system (this is actually several steps that include confirming account, getting direct deposit set up, waiting a few days to make sure that we’re in the system, etc. But for the sake of argument, let’s call this step one).
  • Step two: when the job is done, submit a request for PO#. To do this, I have to create an invoice without the PO# so that the client contact can see the actual amount (needs to be exact).
  • Step three: wait about a week for the PO# to arrive.
  • Step four: re-do the invoice with the new PO#.
  • Step five: log on to online system, create invoice based on PO# (the first time this was rather grueling process, involving watching a couple of videos, consulting the online help pages to get questions answered on how to do it, what info to include, where, all of that sort of stuff. It took about a half hour).
  • Step six: confirm that everything looks good, click “submit.”
  • Step seven: receive email notification that the invoice could not be sent due to an error: no such order exists.
  • Step eight: Investigate reason why no such order exists; email client and ask.
  • Step nine: client is unsure but says they’ll check.
  • Step ten: wait a day, submit invoice again.
  • Step eleven: wait a day, receive notification that invoice has been accepted.
  • Step twelve: several days later, received notice that invoice was rejected because invoice date was incorrect.
  • Step thirteen: research issue (this take another 30 – 60 minutes); learn that the system doesn’t like it when you use the original date of the original invoice because it didn’t match the date the invoice was submitted online.
  • Step fourteen: pull hair out. What’s left of it.
  • Step fifteen: resubmit the invoice using today’s date. This pushes back the projected payment date by another week or more past the original due date since they only pay 30 days from the date of the submitted, accepted, and authorized invoice.
  • Step sixteen: wait another 30 days.
  • Step seventeen: receive an email saying payment is pending.
  • Step eighteen: receive notice that payment has been processed.
  • Step nineteen: check bank account. Payment hasn’t arrived.
  • Step twenty: call the bank to discuss. They inform me that the payment is in the system, but the last digit of the account number is incorrect, which is puzzling. As a courtesy and because I’m a long-time customer of nearly thirty years, they will manually accept the payment. This one time.
  • Step twenty-one: this is where it gets hairy, so I’ll just include this in one step. I spent literally months trying to find someone in the system or with the big international company that would help me correct the account number. It’s like trying to talk to the wall. No matter who I email or talk to, it never gets done.
  • Step twenty-two: time for another small project for the client. We go through the dance of finalizing the amount, requesting a PO#, submitting an invoice, and so on.

The same thing happens. The account number has a last incorrect digit. The bank manually accepts the payment but warns that they can’t continue to do so.

I keep trying to work with the big international corporation and the independent payment online system that processes invoices. No matter who responds (which is rare) the big international company says it’s not their problem and that the processing company is the only one that can change it. The processing company says I should check with the big international company.


Like I said, no longer a client. No longer dealing with the online payment system (fingers crossed). And no names necessary. I just wanted to illustrate what happens when a new technology tries to simplify things. Unintended consequences.

Yeah, I realize that this is an isolated instance and that other company’s experience may be completely different and things may work swimmingly for others.

Mini-rant over. I love my clients regardless!

The Hype Handbook: Book Review

A couple of months ago I interviewed Michael F. Schein, founder of Microfame Media, on the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee vlog/podcast about his new book, The Hype Handbook. He sent me a PDF copy of it and it languished on my iPad for several weeks before I finally got to it.

And I’m glad I did. It’s a fun and worthwhile read. It’s chock full of entertaining examples of how hype has been used for good and not so good ways in the world. Yes, it’s great to see how hype is used in good ways, but to Michael’s point, sharing stories of ways hype has been used to nefarious ends is really useful, once you break down what was actually done.

From Alice Cooper’s promoter trying to sell tickets in London to the founding of the Nation of Islam; from the Greek God Hermes to Andrew Loog Oldham’s brilliant positioning of the Rolling Stones and more, it’s all here: how the right hype at the right moment can create big splashes, long careers or even legends. Not only does The Hype Handbook give you a great collection of historical stories as examples, Schein breaks down the twelve hype strategies and shows you how you can use them to your own advantage.

Become a Trickster; Make Love Not War; Find a Void and Fill It; Embrace Theater and Drama are just some of the twelve indispensable success secrets you’ll find in The Hype Handbook.

As in any business or marketing book, you could find fault with a few things here and there, and if I had to point out a few shortcomings, it’s that I doubt I could use all twelve of the methods described. Most people probably couldn’t. But if you find one thing to use that shows off your product or service or company in a light that you otherwise wouldn’t have come up with, the price of admission is more than worth it. It’s a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Full title: The Hype Handbook: 12 Indispensable Success Secrets from the World’s Greatest Propagandists, Self-Promoters, Cult Leaders, Mischief Makers, and Boundary Breakers.

One Year Later…

It was March 2, 2020, when things began to fall apart. When things really started to hit home.

I was getting ready to head out to Portland to catch a flight to Southern California to assist a number of exhibiting clients at Natural Products Expo West. It was a Monday, and I’d already heard from a few clients the previous week who’d decided to pull out. By the time Monday morning rolled around there were still some clients hanging on, but as the morning progressed as I alternated between packing and checking email and refilling my coffee, another couple of clients had cancelled.

In the midst of all of that, I managed to set my Hydroflask coffee cup in the microwave to heat another cup. You’re not supposed to microwave it. As I stood in the kitchen with a hundred things bouncing around my head, I didn’t realize what I’d done until it was too late. Oops! Hydroflask coffee cup meltdown!

The AirBnb was already booked, as was the flight and the rental car. I had reached out to a couple of friends that I was planning to drop by to see. I spoke with my wife and we came to the conclusion that since it was all paid for, even though there were only a client or two left on the list who still intended to be there, I might as well head out. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

As I sat on the plane in Portland awaiting takeoff, I got an email from the only client who had so far not cancelled. Now they were withdrawing. No clients left. A moment later, the official email came from New Hope: Expo West was cancelled. Nothing to do now but ride it out.

The next day, I went to the Anaheim Convention Center and found that about half of our clients had exhibit crates sitting in their booth space, but no one from the company had come to the show. So of course, I offered to assist. I spent the day coordinating return shipments, making sure that clients were taken care of.

The next few days were mostly a nice little vacation. I visited a handful of friends in the area, visited both the Nixon and Reagan Presidential libraries, which were fascinating, then spent a day at Joshua Tree National Park. Got a tour of the Entercom radio building on Wilshire, thanks to my cousin who worked there. Good memories. Hard to believe it’s been a year.

Since then, Expo West was initially postponed for a couple of months. Then cancelled. Then Expo East was cancelled. Then Expo West for 2021 was pushed back to the end of May. Then it was turned into a virtual event.

Shows keep getting pushed back, postponed and cancelled. Yes, a few are going on here and there, but industry vets seem to agree that tradeshows and conferences won’t return in full until early 2022. Sure, there might be an uptick in shows in Q3 and Q4, but not like it used to be. In fact, 2022 is still kind of up in the air.

Closer to home, TradeshowGuy Exhibits is still operational. We’re not going anywhere, and are looking to when clients are ready to upgrade exhibits for shows in 2022 and beyond. In the meantime, we’ve found a way to keep moving ahead – like most everyone we know – and keep after it day by day.

Embrace the Space of the In-Between State

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.

Photo by Aviv Perets from Pexels

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.

Dealing with Head Trash

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!

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, January 11, 2021: Best Biz Books

What’s in a book? In many cases, the right book can take you to another world, to help you momentarily escape this world. In the world of business, a good book can open up your mind to other possibilities and show you things that you might not have even considered before. This week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee examines a half dozen books from my personal library that I’ve found more than just useful.

Books mentioned in this week’s vlog/podcast:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING:

ddstudio Dual Driver Bluetooth Earbuds:

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, the Old Man is Snoring

The week between Christmas and New Year’s has, for me, been sort of a respite from the rest of the year’s calendar. Since the early aughts when I was VP of Sales and Marketing at Interpretive Exhibits here in Salem, the owner would generally close the business down. Most of our clients at the time I joined the company were from the government or nonprofit world, and as he put it, “they tend to shut down for a couple of weeks at this time of year.” He said that I could continue to work, but the office would generally be closed. After the first year at the company, I usually scheduled a week of vacation at the end of the year. I figured, why not, the company is closed, and I can get some extra time in skiing! And if clients wanted something, it was easy enough to monitor email communication remotely.

It’s different this year. Of course. 2020 is as different from a normal year as can possibly be. Most of the tradeshow world is not happening. Exhibitors are not planning shows, organizers are not putting final details on booth sales, exhibit designers and builders are mostly limping along. Exhibitor Magazine’s mid-November webinar reporting from the tradeshow world showed that more than half of exhibitors and builders expected their income in 2021 Q1 to decline.

And with no tradeshow business, I’ve taken to delivering for Uber Eats about half time. It’s not a bad gig, as the gig economy goes. It’s temporary, it pays all right, and there’s something noble about bring food to people (maybe that’s why I’ve always fallen for waitresses – seeing someone bringing you a plateful of food is great!).

Send someone a postcard!

So, I’m taking it easy this week. I’ll get an extra day or two in on the slopes. I’ll write extra-long on my novel (third go-round of the manuscript) because I’m almost finished. I’ll watch the Blazers and Seahawks on TV as they play in front of empty bleachers, which has got to be one of the weirdest consequences of COVID. I’ll reach out to friends more often (I’ve sent a couple of dozen postcards to random friends in the past several months, because, hey, who sends postcards anymore, right?). I’ll listen to music (the new Paul McCartney is pretty cool).

What I won’t be doing is counting the days until everything gets back to normal in the tradeshow world. I don’t think that normal is coming back. I think NOW is the normal. It’ll slowly evolve, but virtual shows and Zoom meetings are going nowhere soon, and even when live shows return, virtual gatherings will be a part of our world from here on out.

I’ll continue to reach out to prospects and clients and support them in whatever way I can, and let them know that while we’re dormant, we’re not going anywhere.

We will come out the other side. And I think we’ll be stronger for it.

See you in 2021!

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 30, 2020: Choose a New Musical Theme

I’ve used the same 30″ theme as the opening ditty for this podcast/vlog since January 2018. It’s time for a change! I have several to play for you and have narrowed them down to a Final Four. Take a look/listen and leave a comment below or drop me a note.

Here’s the line-up if you need to go back and bounce through them again:

  • #1: Staircase (begins at 2:52)
  • #2: Subway (begins at 6:58)
  • #3: Punkadelic (begins at 7:50)
  • #4: Harlem at Night (begins at 8:52)

This week’s ONE GOOD THING is, of course, creating music. Or really creating anything. Just keep doing it. It’s good for ya. And please let me know which potential musical theme you like best! Leave a comment below.

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