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

Tradeshow Photos

SoYoung Custom Booth Makes Debut at Expo East

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!


Are You Ready For A New Exhibit?

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!


Essentials of Tradeshow Booth Design: Slide Deck

If you got a chance to see the webinar I did recently with Handshake, thanks! I hope you got something useful out of it. I’ve had a handful of requests for the slide deck so people can review it closer. Here’s the deck:

If you’d like to see the replay, click here.

Tradeshow Exhibit: Rent or Buy?

It’s an oft-asked question: Should we rent or buy a new display?

Purchasing that brand new booth might bust your budget quickly, especially if you are new to tradeshow marketing and still exploring how best to get involved. Yet renting can save money.

If you’re at the decision stage for a new booth, here are some thoughts that should help you compare buying versus renting.

  • How many times a year do you plan to exhibit?
  • How important is the function of the booth?
  • How important is the ‘look and feel’?
  • Will a rental booth provide you with the custom look you want?
  • What is your realistic budget for the project?

Cost: Most experts agree that if you plan to exhibit multiple times you should lean towards purchasing your display. The rule of thumb is that for each three rentals you’ll have paid for the cost of a new booth. And depending on the booth and the graphics and other elements that need to be customized, it may be that for each two times you rent you’ll have spent the same as purchasing a new booth. So if you plan to exhibit the same booth at least four or more times in a year, purchasing will likely be a better financial choice.

However, money isn’t everything, right? Renting a booth can give you some advantages that purchasing a custom booth won’t. A rental booth is usually less worry. Maybe not completely worry-free, but close, and you usually don’t have to worry about damage done during transit.

Flexibility: Renting a booth can also mean more flexibility, such as waiting longer and closer to the show before major decisions are made. Since you’re choosing a rental from a catalog, even with some customizations, the exhibit house you work with is equipped to handle them within the parameters of the rental structure. A custom booth that you’re purchasing requires more time to design and more thought and input from more people to make it work.

Renting may also work if you want a turnkey approach. If all of the handling, set-up, shipping and assorted details are too much, you can have the exhibit house organize all the details. You just show up and sell.

Renting a booth gives you the opportunity to try out a style before making the purchase. You can test the look and feel, as well as function (storage, meeting space, etc.). And when the show is over, you just ship it back and don’t have to worry about having a place to store it.

Purchasing means a longer-term commitment. Not only are you investing more money, you’re committing to a longer run with the booth, so the design has to fit your brand as well as possible. But the good thing about that is once you’ve made the decision on the look and feel for your booth, the cost-per show drops dramatically vs. the cost of renting at each show when the purchase cost is amortized over the length of ownership. You may also have some tax advantages when using funds to purchase a depreciable capitol asset. To find out for sure if this applies to you, talk to your tax expert as I don’t even play one on the internet!

Want more information? Pick up the phone and call us at 503-507-4110 or drop an email. You can also check out our rental exhibits here.

TSEBK download intivation2-rounded corners

Is your booth stuck out in ‘left field’?

Earlier this month I attended Natural Products Expo West at the Anaheim Convention Center. Yes, it’s a big show with a few thousand exhibitors, and over 70,000 attendees. And it continues to grow.

I spoke with literally a few hundred exhibitors, and almost all of them said the show was ‘great,’ ‘excellent,’ ‘busy’ and so forth. I say ‘almost’ because there were a few exhibitors who felt they weren’t getting all they could or should. One exhibitor said that he felt ‘stuck out in left field of Dodger Stadium!’ and wished his small 10-foot booth could have been in a busier hall.

A very lonely booth?
A very lonely booth?

I get it. As a first or second time exhibitor at a big show, stuck in left field of Dodger Stadium, wondering where the crowd is – that’s a tough place to be.

Is there an answer to this dilemma? Depends. If you’re a first or second time exhibitor who didn’t have much money to spend, you might end up out in left field, away from the madding crowd. So even though attendance at the show was up it might not do much for you.

If you anticipate that you’ll be in this situation, here are the steps I’d suggest you take in order to alleviate a crowd shortage.

Promote, promote, promote.

Pre-show marketing is more important than ever if your booth location will prevent a bulk of the audience from casually running into your booth. This can come in many shapes and sizes (and should), but at the minimum, spend some time letting your current clients know where you are.

Email: If the show offers access to an email list of attendees, think about renting the list for a one-time email blast. If you have an internal list, make sure they know about your booth location and product or service offerings.

Prizes: In your promotional material, offer prizes or free samples to visitors. Consider offering a premium giveaway for the few that respond to a small promotion, or to those targeted distributors or potential clients.

Social media: Whether it’s done internally by one of your staffers, or you hire an agency, keep the chatter going about what’s going on in your booth, and what specials or attractions you have.

In-booth guests: Is there some tie-in with a notable author or other figure in your industry? Perhaps that means an author who’s looking to promote a new book, or a speaker who’s willing to chat and sign autographs in your booth for an hour for a fee.

Unfortunately, many exhibitors that get a poor location come away feeling that the show really didn’t do well for them, even though attendance was up and most exhibitors grabbed a lot of leads. Yet when asked what they did to promote their appearance, they don’t have much of an answer.

Having a poor, less-trafficked location can be a show killer, but it also means that the success falls upon you much more to make the best of it. The audience is there. It’s up to you to let as many of them know as possible.

TSEBK download intivation2-rounded corners

Expo West 2015: Blisters, Wacky Booth Awards and Show Reflections

After 62,219 steps, a couple of achy legs and a few foot blisters in four days of Expo West, it came to me: “Tradeshows ain’t for wimps!” Certainly not if you’re walking the floor, nor if you’re an exhibitor who’s shepherding a booth (and staff) from the home office location to the show floor, through day(s) of set-up, three days of visitors, then dismantling and shipping it back. Thanks to Fitbit’s tracking device that’s 28.96 miles, give or take…

Tradeshows ain’t for wimps. I know it, and every year I say the same thing: I should have gone into training for this about six weeks ago.

Depending on whom you listen to and believe and what rumors are flying, this year’s Expo West, held at the Anaheim Convention Center, drew around 80,000 visitors, a one-third boost from last year. Or, as one exhibitor confided, a New Hope rep told her that the total attendance (attendees and exhibitors) was north of 110,000 and growth was so substantial that they were looking to demand some more space and concessions from the convention center, or within a few years it could be ‘Sayonara, Anaheim, hello Las Vegas!’

Like I said, rumors.

Flash Drives: @Tradeshowguy Exhibitor Toolkit

The @tradeshowguy Exhibitor Toolkit
The @tradeshowguy Exhibitor Toolkit

My calling card this year wasn’t a card; it was a flashdrive that contained a lotta stuff to help exhibitors.  I took six dozen and they all found a home, except for the one that stayed in the bottom of my backpack. I loved that they were quite well-received by those I offered them to: “You’re showing me how to bring home more leads, get more PR and have a better-trained booth staff? I’ve been waiting for this!” Did you get one? Would you like one? It’s available now online: download your toolkit here.

Social Media

As always, I keep abreast of happenings on the show floor via Twitter, and, increasingly, via Instagram. It’s easy to post photos to either, but from the Instagram platform, you can also post directly to Facebook and Twitter, so that makes it an easy choice to start there. Loads of exhibitors and attendees are hanging out on both platforms, and it’s easy to follow them by tracking the hashtags #expowest and #expowest2015. Hey, I got some freebies this way, and also entered a few contests that I previously would not have run across. (Hey NutraSumma, call me when I win that mountain bike, okay?)

Booth Awards

This year’s show was, as usual, quite the extravaganza. And the booths (and attendees) ranged from ghastly to elegant to stunning. Let’s hand out a few awards, shall we?

Coolest Interactive

While there were certainly a lot of companies looking to find ways to get visitors to interact with their booth, the So Delicious booth found a nice way to get people involved by ‘sharing the love’ with chalk on a large chalkboard at the back of their booth.



Most Unsubtle Header

Boomchickapop decided to go all in. I can hear the discussion now: “Hey, let’s take the name of the product, make it as big as possible and add a lot of PINK! Whaddaya say, gang?” Well, it works. It gets you to stop, take a look and see what they’re all about.


Most Iconic Cut-Outs

A year or two ago, the new Pope was featured in a cut-out. I didn’t see him this year, but I did see Will Ferrell, The Queen of England and Dr. Thayer. I probably missed some others.


Big Ass Colorful Graphic

Natrol’s booth sat up front at the entrance to the hall, and to grab people’s attention, they installed a graphic that must have measured about 8’ x 30’. Big. Colorful. And not the only one. The booth had big ass graphics on all sides, so you couldn’t miss ‘em.


Biggest Coconuts

A large pair of coconuts on the back wall of Zico’s booth caught my eye and drew me in for a taste of chilled juice blend.


Biggest Boobs

A tough battle between Bamboobies (the girls with the pink hair) and the giant walking boobs of milkmakers, who were promoting their product with the hashtag #hoorayforboobies, and I think the boobs from milkmakers won out.


Best Stairway to Heaven (or at least the second floor)

Nature’s Path showed up with a clever booth that showed a layered look from the floor to the 16 foot level, including a stairway up the middle to a private meeting area.


Busiest Graphic Backwall

Not always a good award to win because people don’t often stop to read the whole damn thing; nonetheless, this one from Powercrunch was arresting.


Best Iconic Brand Knockoff

While Beyond Meat will never be mistaken for McDonald’s, they did work hard to pull the look and feel of Mickey D’s into their booth to show how their meatless product compares. Nicely done!


Most Elegant Look

Simplicity and function are their own reward. This was accomplished by the designers of the new booth for Portland’s Pacifica.


I look forward to Expo West every year; this was my 13th consecutive year at the Anaheim gathering. It’s had astonishing growth in that time (and it was big back then!), and it appears to be anticipating even more growth in the next half-decade. The Natural Products Industry has done well of late with healthy and intriguing products, dramatic competition and an increasing market for those products.

Our company, Communication One Exhibits, has about a dozen current and former clients at Expo West this year, and we’d love to add more. Want a booth for your next show? Click here. We love making you look good, whether it’s at Expo West or any other show.

10 Skills Every Trade Show Event Staffer Should Have

The following is a guest article by Margaret Colebeck of Vantage Advertising LLC.

When it comes to preparing for an upcoming trade show, first impressions are everything. From trade show displays and signage to product demonstrations and presentations, the first impression your brand creates with trade show attendees sticks with them for life.

In order to create the ideal first impression for your brand, you must have a team of highly skilled and reliable trade show event staffers at your booth. But, what skills should they have? Below, we’ve listed the top ten most important skills every trade show event staffer should have. Use this list as a guideline to determine which skills are the most beneficial to your booth.

10 Important Trade Show Event Staffing Skills

  1. Tech Savvy – This is a big one! Without question, every event staffer at your booth should be knowledgeable and skilled with using technology, such as smartphones and tablets. This is most important when it comes to social media. Your booth staffers should be able to easily access your company’s social media accounts and share your social information with others. Social media, especially Twitter, is very popular for networking and lead generation at trade shows, so be sure your event staff come prepared with technology and social media skills.
  1. Strong Communication Skills – When it comes to trade show event staffing skills, your team’s ability to communicate effectively is one of the most important. Communication is the basis for everything at trade shows, so it’s important to fill your booth with event staffers that have strong communication skills. Lack of strong communications skills should never be a reason your team doesn’t meet their trade show goals.

  1. IMG_5416

    Listening Skills – Along with great communication skills, your team must also have great listening skills. Why? Because as important as it is to communicate your brand to attendees, it’s more important to listen to their needs so as to effectively provide a solution to their problems.

  1. Persuasion – If your event staffers can’t persuade attendees to try out your product, follow your brand on social media, or sign-up for more information, then why bring them to the trade show at all? Consider what your team’s trade show goals are and only bring team members that will be able to help achieve those goals.
  1. Multi-Tasking Skills – Trade shows are a busy place where multi-tasking it a must. Make sure your team is full of event staffers that can handle the fast-past, busy trade show environment. If the team members you select can’t multi-task at the office, they definitely won’t be able to on the trade show floor. So, don’t bring them
  1. Stamina – This skill should be a no-brainer for exhibitors that have worked trade shows in the past. Trade shows have long, draining hours the require event staffers to remain on their feet the whole time, while also keeping their personalities and moods turned on.
  1. Go-Getter Skills – It’s also important for your event staffing team to be full of people interested in achieving. Go-getters are the type of people who are motivated to approach as many attendees passing by your booth as possible. They are amazing networkers and typically have an incredible elevator speech.
  1. Flexibility – Flexibility is an important aspect of any trade show event staffing team because without flexibility a team can quickly fall apart, especially when problems arise and last minute adjustments are made.
  1. Negotiation Skills – The trade show floor is unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen or who you’re going to run into. By having the skills to negotiate with attendees, your team will increase trade show leads and sales.
  2. Problem Solving Skills – Finally, no matter how hard your team plans for a trade show and no matter how many precautions your team takes, something will go wrong. And, when it does, your event staffers need to have the problem solving skills and patience to create an effective solution. Because as they say, the show must go on!

Margaret Colebeck is the Marketing Manager for Vantage Advertising, a nationwide event staffing company that provides exhibitors with experienced trade show models and booth talent for their events. She manages and writes educational content for their blog & social media pages in an effort to inform and inspire trade show exhibitors about trade show marketing, lead generation, event staffing, and more.

Click here to grab my Tradeshow Follow-up Checklist

What’s in Your Exhibiting Toolkit?

When it comes to your Exhibiting Toolkit, I don’t mean the screwdrivers, masking and duct tape and scissors (although those and other items will come in handy), but what about the various bits and pieces that will help draw visitors to your booth and capture more leads?

Let’s create a short but incomplete list of some of the necessary tools you should consider having in your toolkit.

  • A Damn Good Plan
  • A Well-Trained Booth Staff
  • A Booth That Represents Your Company Brand at a Glance
  • Lead Capture Mechanism
  • Follow-up Plan

Let’s break these down a little more:

A Damn Good Plan should include what you’re going to do 6 months before the show, 3 months ahead, 2 months, a month, etc. It includes your pre-show marketing schedule, the booth details (making sure to review the booth ahead of the show with plenty of time to do any minor repairs), electrical grid if needed, shipping dates, booth staff schedules.

A Well-Trained Booth Staff is a crew that is pleasant, friendly, knowledgeable, friendly (did I say friendly?), willing to work long hours, flexible and trained. Trained in what? Booth etiquette, how to interact with visitors for maximum efficiency, lead capture knowledge and more. Your staff is your front line in a chaotic environment. If there are any weak links in this chain it will eventually show.

Photo by Tradeshowguy Tim Patterson

A Booth That Represents Your Company Brand at a Glance: this often means a custom booth, but it certainly doesn’t have to. There are a lot of tradeshow booths that can be customized to fit your brand sensibilities. They also have to function well, meaning there has to be proper storage, product display and meeting areas to accommodate your company exhibiting goals.

Lead Capture Mechanism: Whether you’re writin’ those leads down on paper, or capturing them in electronic form, all of the leads should have maximum information required to confirm the next step, and nothing more. Name and address, phone number and email are often the top of the list, but ask if all of those items are absolutely necessary. What’s as important is agreeing on the next step, whether it’s a follow up call, meeting or simply sending more information. Agree on what the next step is, and when it will take place.

Follow Up Plan: How are the leads getting to the sales team back in the office for follow up? Are they being transmitted electronically back to the team each night? Are they being transported in your briefcase? Whatever the method, make sure not to leave them for someone else. Too many leads wind up in Neverland. Sticking them in an envelope and then tucking that envelope into the booth crates often mean that the next time you see them is 11 months later when you open up the crates to prepare for next year’s show! Beyond that, your sales team should be prepared to receive and follow up on the leads in a timely manner.

No doubt you can add to this list, but these are the basics. Leave any item here aside at your own risk!

Magnet Productions Demo Reel

Tradeshow colleague Ken Newman’s Magnet Productions just released their newest demo reel. Since all they do is draw mobs of crowds to tradeshow booths, this is probably something that you should see. As Andy Saks of Spark Presentations said in his Facebook post mentioning the reel, “thanks to the lovely and talented Ken Newman and his company Magnet Productions for including some clips of me in Magnet’s new trade show talent demo reel. This was all recorded at the VMworld trade show in San Francisco in August when I was presenting for Magnet’s client Citrix (I do not have that much gray hair though, that’s all CG).”

How to Issue an RFP for a Custom Tradeshow Exhibit

When it comes to sourcing a tradeshow exhibit builder for a new custom booth, you can do a number of things, such as ask colleagues who they have used, ask exhibitors at shows who built that booth, search online or perhaps pull out your tarot cards. No doubt there are hundreds if not thousands of exhibit companies eager to take your money and build you a fabulous booth.

Custom tradeshow booth from Bob's Red Mill
Custom tradeshow booth from Bob’s Red Mill

But how do you determine which builder is right for you?

If you’re starting from scratch and want to review the capabilities of several tradeshow exhibit builders, you can contact a half dozen of them and ask for a statement of capabilities, or you can go whole hog and issue a Request for Proposal.

The RFP is meant as an introduction to your company and your specific requirements and asks companies to respond with detailed information as to their capabilities and experience.

So how in-depth should it be? Let’s take a look at what you might want to include.

Start with a profile of your firm, including your target market and major competitors. Describe your products or services, your brand(s), and any industry trends that might be important.

Next, describe your objectives for your tradeshow marketing, making sure to identify specific goals for major shows. If the RFP is for a specific show, detail the size of the show, dates, size of your booth space and other pertinent information.

Describe any functional needs of your booth. It may be helpful to include photos of previous booths and include any comments you may have that describe the pros and cons of those booths.

Detail any brand basics along with guidelines and history if pertinent.

Include any show service needs you’d like to be a part of the RFP, such as I&D (installation and dismantle), carpeting, electrical, and on-site management.

Want any in-booth activities to show off your products and services? Be sure to include these if you want the tradeshow builder to consider providing these show marketing services. If so, describe the best outcome you’d like to achieve.

Finally, include your budget for the booth; let the respondents know if it’s all-inclusive or if some costs, such as space rental, are handled separately. Finally, include the dates of the show(s) that you need the booth and services.

In a nutshell, you’re describing your company’s background, show services requirements, booth design and functional requirements, budgeting and timeline.

Finally, be clear if this is a design competition. Some companies have the ability to easily spend a week or two on a spec design and others are not as well equipped, even though they may be able to build a stunning booth. While a design competition is a great way to see what the companies are capable of producing on short notice with no conversation, realize that the best design does not always equal the best end result. However, it is great to see the various ways a half dozen companies approach your booth needs.

Finally, don’t skimp on information. If you can’t decide whether to include something, you might err on the side of leaving it in. Seriously, it’s hard to include too much info in an RFP.

© Copyright 2016 | Oregon Blue Rock, LLC
Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

Call 800-654-6946 for Prompt Service Registered & Protected <br />