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


One-to-One Marketing

A tradeshow is a unique selling environment. One where you can talk with literally hundreds of prospects over a few days – all one-to-one.

So what does it take to get the most out your personal interaction?

Keep these few tips in mind:

The visitor may or may not be ready to buy. Treat them as if they are on the verge of getting out their checkbook. Be personable and engaging and make sure you’ve answered all of their questions. They may not buy for a month or a year or more, but if they leave your booth feeling good about you chances are good they’ll be more willing to write a check in the future.

A visitor will probably only stop at your booth once during the show. Unless you have something they REALLY want, one stop is plenty for them. Don’t assume they’ll come back. So when they do stop, fully engage for the time they’re granting you.

If you’re tired, try not to show it. Yeah, we know you’ve been on your feet all day. But if you act bored and tired, your visitor will probably just keep going. Make a sincere effort to find out what’s important to your visitor. It may mean having a little fun at your own expense (making a joke about that yawn you just let out) so they see that while you’re tired, they really are important to you!

Exhibiting on the Cheap: Get More with Less

Please enjoy this guest column from Marlys Arnold

In these days of reduced budgets and sky-high travel costs, every company needs to make the most of their exhibiting dollars. Here are some tips to help you save without sacrificing value.

Show Services

  • Plan ahead! Reserve booth space and show services early to take advantage of discounts and avoid overtime rates at the facility.
  • Consolidate shipping. Charges are usually rounded to the next hundred pounds or CWT (one hundred weight). Bundle smaller things together to make one larger shipment. And be sure to ship far enough in advance to avoid paying any “rush” charges.
  • Take your own trash can, extension cords, and power strips with you instead of renting them at the show.


  • Use online tools to promote whenever possible to save on postage. With the tools available now, this goes far beyond basic e-mail! Try using YouTube, podcasts, a Facebook page, and more.
  • Use existing artwork on your booth graphics and promotions. Not only will it save money, but will also reinforce your company message.
  • If you feel giveaways are important, select something that can be used at multiple shows, perhaps for an entire season. You’ll save by taking advantage of larger quantity discounts as well as not having to throw out items after only one show. Better yet, consider giving away something from your own product line.


  • Scale back the number of staff to those who absolutely must attend, or use temporary staff in the host city for basic duties like greeting attendees or scanning badges.
  • Choose alternate airports (Midway vs. O’Hare, Love Field vs. Dallas-Ft.
  • Worth, etc.) to save both time and money.
  • Request that staffers room together. Let them have a say in who rooms with who.
  • Look for hotels that provide a free breakfast, WiFi service, and other amenities. This may not seem like a lot, but can really add up over an entire year of travel for your team.

© 2008 by Marlys K. Arnold (some tips reprinted from Build a Better Trade Show Image, © 2002)

Marlys K. Arnold, ImageSpecialist
Author of:
– Build a Better Trade Show Image
– Pack Your Bags!
… And host of the Trade Show Insights podcast

Find me on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn!

How Does Your Staff Treat Visitors?

“Of course,” you say confidently, “my tradeshow staff treats visitors great! We welcome them, find out what they want, and help them out to the best of our ability.”

But do they? Really? All the time?

I bring this up because of an email exchange I had with a guy I met on Twitter who had seen one of our company’s custom-fabricated booths at a recent show. He mentioned that the booth was great, but he left with, as he put it, ‘was not the most positive.’

Curious, I asked him to explain, which he did:

‘…as I was passing through the show floor on my way to see a client the booth caught my eye and I stopped to look.  The rep approached and asked if I had heard of the company which I gently responded “No I have not.” At this she seemed offended and dis-interested in talking with me.”

Now I didn’t see the exchange so I can’t judge it other than what I was told. We don’t know what the rep’s version would be. But it does point out a glaring example of the lasting power of a first impression: months later, the negativity (even if only mild) is still the thing that sticks out in the visitor’s mind.

To me that’s an interesting story. When we discuss tradeshow marketing with out clients, we try to emphasize that while they can spend thousands on booth, travel, set-up, space rental and more, if their staff is not trained to properly handle simple encounters like that, it can all be for naught.

I tell them that their staff is the ‘front line’ and they all need to be ‘on their game’ at all times.

What would the proper response have been? I would ssuggest something along the lines of “Would you like to learn more?” or “Well, if you’re not interested feel free to tell someone about us that may be in the market for our product.” A referral is as good as any way to get a client.

Admittedly, anyone can slip. But think about this: like many games of sports, tradeshow marketing is a game of inches. If the rep had gone the extra step of asking a question or two or offering to let the visitor know a little more information, he may have left with a positive feeling instead of telling me months later about the encounter and the negative impression it left on him.

Need a New Booth? Put Out an Exhibit RFP

Ready for a new custom booth, but don’t know where to start? You might consider putting together an RFP (Request for Proposal) and sending it to 3 – 5 exhibit fabricators.


Whatever your approach, make sure you have an internal company discussion that addresses your booth needs: size, branding, budget, function (needs may include display tables, food serving areas, AV equipment, laptop stations, etc.), transportation (what shows will you attend?), storage, extra signage, interactive items, etc.

Since you’re creating a custom exhibit that you’ll use for years, take your time: after every show, make notes about what works and what doesn’t with your current exhibit. Document what your employees and visitors say. Hold project meetings, get staff input and keep a file.

When it’s time to issue the RFP, make it as thorough as possible. Issue the RFP to a handful of exhibit house, be upfront about how many companies you’ve invited to respond, and make sure the budget and timetable are realistic for what you want. If you can pull that off the chances of creating a fabulous exhibit has increased a hundredfold!

Are there any good tradeshow marketing blogs out there?

During a discussion with a friend of mine NOT in the exhibit industry recently we were curious if there were any good ‘informational’ tradeshow marketing blogs that were not just a shill front for a sales pitch in each post.

So we took a look, searching for ‘tradeshow marketing blog’ on Yahoo, Google and MSN.

It didn’t take long to find blogs that were corporate fronts that spent most of the time pitching a sale, a product or a service – but little useful tradeshow marketing information or tools.

It took a little longer to find actual honest-to-goodness blogs that seemed interested in helping you become a better tradeshow marketer.

So here was our bar: if you’re billing yourself as a ‘tradeshow marketing blog’ there should be at least 50% content that is informative and useful. Now that doesn’t mean there can’t be ANY pitches, but those blatant BUY SOMETHING NOW blogs didn’t make the cut.

In a brief time, here’s what we found:

EXHIB-IT! Blog is billed as a ‘Tradeshow Marketing Experts’ blog, and operated by DJ Heckes, owner of EXHIB-IT! Tradeshow Marketing Experts in New Mexico. I’d heard of her before, and can recall reading some of her stuff years ago. The WordPress powered blog appears to have been around since late ’07 or early ’08, but there appear to be only one or two posts a month. While not a terrifically active blog, there is good information here. (Alexa rank #3,839,792 most popular website)

Tradeshow Marketing is full of great posts relating directly to tradeshow marketing. It’s the stepchild of Ideas 4 Now in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. It’s been around since June of 2008 and looks to have 3 – 4 posts per month. Traffic-wise, it’s Alexa ranking is 2,828,682.

Tradeshow Emporium’s Weblog (does anybody use that word ‘weblog’ anymore??) is a mix of useful tradeshow marketing information and industry news. It appears to have a little over half-a-dozen posts over the past month. While most were useful, there were a couple that were blatant pitches or product announcements. The blog, hosted on, didn’t have an Alexa ranking and didn’t offer any contact or ‘about’ information on the blog; I had to track it down through links in their product-pitch posts.

The Trade Show Exhibit Advice Blog offered useful marketing and information posts – about 3 or 4 a month – and is the blog of the Tradeshow Network Marketing Group near Chicago. The Alexa ranking is 4,371,558.

Heidi Miller’s Talk It Up!
blog is mostly tradeshow marketing related, although other things slip in. Heidi is a professional tradeshow presenter so her insights are filtered through her experiences as getting up onstage at show after show. She’s a frequent post-er and uses embedded videos often to illustrate her point or to add to the variety of her blog. Definitely a worthy blog. Alexa rank is 1,118,497.

We found several more, but just wanted to toss a few out there as an ‘average’ sampling in a random search using just one term: “tradeshow marketing blog.’ Many that we found were just pitch-fests. Others offered useful information mixed in with a pitch or two.

And of course a few blogs that we’re aware of in the tradeshow industry didn’t show up with our specific search term.

What tradeshow marketing blogs do you like? Leave a comment with a link if you’d like!

Five Ways to Cut Your Trade Show Budget

In the old days it seemed a tradeshow was an excuse to party half the night and wake up in the hot tub.

But with an eagle on budgets being the norm today, how can you stretch your bucks? Let’s look at five ways:

  1. Plan ahead. The sooner you know details of your show set-up and travel plans the better. You can usually save by submitting show paperwork early, and booking flights and hotels months, not weeks, ahead of the show.
  2. Buy a nice carpet and take your own trash cans instead of renting
  3. Know the rules. Some shows will enforce codes that can be very costly, or penalize you if you break them. Your trade show manager should have the show books nearly committed to memory.
  4. Ship early. Last-minute drayage costs can shoot the moon.
  5. Avoid high cleaning fees: take your own carpet sweeper.

These are just thought-starters. What ideas do you have for saving $$ in your tradeshow marketing? We’d love to hear your suggestions.

Do you Have All You Need for the Tradeshow?

Are you fully prepared to attend a tradeshow? I mean, really prepared?

HOW you prepare depends on WHY you’re going to the show. Some good reasons for going: scouting out new products; networking with colleagues, clients and prospects; looking for a job; spying on the competition.

If you’re going as strictly an attendee, make sure you scheduled all of the sessions and presentations you’d like to. Take a list of contacts you’d like to meet up with. A laptop or Blackberry is an easy place to keep those, you can keep in contact with many of them as well as your home office.

Book as many meetings with targeted contacts that you can before the show. A tradeshow is no place to be a wilting flower – get out and meet folks, don’t be afraid to meet people you haven’t met before.

You plan to come back from the show with a lot more than you went: names, numbers, information, new impressions of dozens of people and companies.

Choosing a Shipping Company

What company should ship your tradeshow booth? Could be a tough question and a difficult answer. But there are a few steps you can take to make it easier.

photo by Alain Gillet
photo by Alain Gillet

First, ask other exhibitors. Find out who they’ve used, what their experience has been and their thoughts about the cost. Then start a few months before your next show so you’ll have time for due diligence on the potential shipper.

Determine if the company handles a lot of tradeshow booths. If so, perhaps they’ve got a truck going to the same show, which could lead to some savings.

Some questions you might ask:

Can you track shipments online? How your shipments are kept secure? Have they worked with the venue before? Do they have any references?

To get an accurate quote, you’ll need a count of the pieces you’re shipping, along with dimensions and accurate weight estimates.

Finally, once you’ve found a good shipper, don’t be afraid to be open to other recommendations – keep your ears open. The industry shifts quickly and keeping your options open is always a good idea.

Check our July 2008 Newsletter for more on “Shipping Your Tradeshow Booth” – (243 KB).

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