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


Shifting Sands

You’ve been there. Walking along on a solid path, maybe near a beach or in the forest. Suddenly, the ground shifts beneath your feet. What you thought was solid ground turns out to be rickety and unstable. Either you do a quick balance readjustment, or you stumble. Maybe you’ll even fall.

Two years into the pandemic (okay, we’re into the third year by now, but who’s counting, right?), and all of us are experiencing shifting ground beneath our feet to some extent. Labor shortages. Shipping price hikes and extended shipping times. Exhibit builders working to create stopgap products (hand sanitizer stands, plexiglass barriers, whatever) to keep people working.

Doing what I do best 🙂

We all tried a lot of things.

For the longest time, I kept cranking away at this blog. For a dozen years, starting in late 2008, I’ve posted here regularly, sometimes once a day, usually two or three times a week. In the beginning, there was a podcast that showed up on the blog, but it eventually faded. Starting in 2015 I began doing monthly live webinars (they’re archived here and there are a bunch of good interviews and topics). Then I morphed to doing weekly Monday morning live interviews, but that became a bit unwieldy without an actual producer who could book guests and get everything lined up. So, it went to a weekly interview/check-in. It was a great challenge, and I enjoyed it. Certainly, I learned a lot from the people I interviewed, whether it was old friends/colleagues in the biz, or new people that somehow connected with me. Good stuff.

But in mid-summer 2021, I started to run out of gas. My energies shifted. My weekly interviews become bi-weekly, as did the newsletter. My creative energies were focused elsewhere (I’ve written first, second, and sometimes third drafts of five novels and I’m working on one of them to get it to the point where there’s a good chance a publisher might pick it up – fingers crossed).

Like many exhibit companies, we work with a small group of loyal clients. Some of them have decided to sit out 2021 and 2022. Others are going full speed ahead – we’re even working on a new custom 20×30 for one long-time client that’ll make its debut in March in Anaheim. As a business, TradeshowGuy Exhibits is having a good start to the year.

How important has blogging been to that success? The answer is all over the board. I can specifically point to a handful of projects in 2015 and 2016 that came as a direct result of clients finding the blog online and reaching out to me. But it’s not like pushing a button. You can’t publish a post and expect it to have any results. The readership of the blog was a little higher six or seven years ago, but it’s still consistent regardless of how often I post. Could it be better? Sure. Could it be worse? Of course.

Now, of course, if you were to check the dates of the last few posts, you’ll see that I haven’t posted anything here since November of last year. Every time I start to plan a post, I think, I’ve done that before. With around 1200 posts over a dozen years, yeah, I’ve covered a lot of tradeshow-related topics, most of them aimed at tradeshow managers for small to medium-sized companies. And I hate to repeat myself, although it’s not hard to take a topic and approach it from a different angle.

All this to say that this blog, while not on official hiatus, is certainly backing off from regular posts. The newsletter is also on a semi-unpredictable schedule. My work energy is focused on making sure clients are happy and taken care of. Creative energy is going into writing fiction and playing more music (I’m a drummer and guitarist).

Having said that, guest articles are always welcome (guidelines here). And if you know someone, or are someone, that would make a good guest for the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Podcast, be sure to reach out.

And best wishes for 2022!

Can Limitations Help Your Creativity?

Unlimited choices. Seems like having the pick of anything we want would make things easier, right? For example, I have a subscription to Apple Music. Yeah, it could be Pandora or Spotify or any of the music streaming services. But with a streaming subscription, you have instant access to millions – literally millions – of choices when it comes to what songs or artists or albums to listen to.

Yet often I find myself stumped, not knowing what I should listen to. So I go back to my own library, which has only 50,000 or so tracks. Much easier to find something.

But too many choices? Yeah, doesn’t always work. Yeah, when I hear about the new album from Coldplay or Jackson Browne, I can easily jump over and listen.

The less choice you have, the more you must use those constraints to your benefit. I think the same thing applies to the scope of your tradeshow exhibit project.

Sure, you may love to have a large island, 20 x 30 or even larger. Just think of the things you can do with such a large space! But if you have only half or less of that space, it forces you to consider every square foot. And as a result, you can still come up with some very creative tradeshow exhibits.

Want eco-friendly? Use cardboard tubing, bamboo wood, or actual live plant enhancements as part of your design.

Need a table but want it to still be an eye-catcher? Try a custom branded, LED-highlighted odd-shaped table.

A custom LED-highlighted table takes up little space but catches eyes.

Need to save on cost and still have a nice-looking booth? I’ve seen several booths that use the shipping cases as building blocks for counters and back walls.

Looking for a way to draw attention to your small booth presentations? Hire a dynamic and charismatic presenter that’s experienced in drawing small but enthusiastic crowds.

Creativity isn’t limited to large canvases. You can get creative in countless ways. Just pull out your thinking cap and collaborate with others.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 8, 2021: Ken Newman

Ken Newman of Magnet Productions is a long-time colleague and industry friend. He’s appeared on the show several times, but since it was his first time at ExhibitorLive I was curious to get his take on it. As usual, he was glad to chime in and didn’t pull any punches.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING. Paul McCartney’s new book, The Lyrics.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 1, 2021: Ed Vining

Lead capture is, arguably, the most important part of tradeshow marketing and function. Don’t capture a lead that you should, or fail to follow up, and you’ve let one slip away.

On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I sit and chat with Ed Vining of about the state of lead capture. Lots of things to consider when you get to that part of your tradeshow journey.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Wyze Buds, a solid alternative to more expensive Bluetooth earbuds.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 11, 2021: Kevin Carty

Kevin Carty, EVP of Classic Exhibits in Portland, Oregon, shares thoughts on the upcoming ExhibitorLive, the tradeshow world, supply chains, price increases, staffing challenges, and more.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The return of the National Basketball Association. Season starts soon!

Tradeshows Aren’t Magic

When was the last time you saw a card trick? I mean, a good card trick where you were left scratching your head about how the heck the magician did that? You immediately want to know how it was done, right? But no, you never see that. Not really. A good magician works his magic and all you see is the result: the reveal.

If someone showed you how it was done, the magic of it sort of vanishes – poof! – right?
One of the emails I get is from a site called Penguin Magic. It seems like nearly every day they send out a video of a trick of some sort, and they’re offering to sell you the trick so that you can practice it and show it off to your friends and family.

I don’t have a big desire to be a magician and learn card tricks well enough to show them off (maybe I’m too busy writing novels and songs and other stuff in my limited spare time), but the concept of lifting the curtain to see how a trick is done is intriguing. But not enough to spend the time to practice card tricks.

When it comes to tradeshow marketing, there’s no magic involved, except to the visitor, and perhaps to only a few of them. First-time tradeshow visitors (and every tradeshow has its share of first-timers) might not fully understand what’s going on. They don’t know exactly how the exhibits get set up, although they can surmise that if they want. They don’t see all of the planning and organization and rushing and graphic layout and production and teeth-gnashing when deadlines get pushed and rush fees are instituted.

All they see is your booth, in all its glory (or not). They only see your staff. They don’t see what training, if any, that staff did prior to the show to know how to greet visitors, how to ask the right questions, how to discern between the prospects and the tire-kickers.

All they see is the result. They see the reveal.

The Perfect Tradeshow Experience

Yes, we’ve heard it a hundred time: perfect is the enemy of good. But what would a perfect tradeshow experience really look like – if you could make it happen?

From your perspective – the exhibit tradeshow manager or staff member – it might look like something like this:

  • Fair prices for booth space rental, material handling, shipping and other show services such as installation/dismantle, cleaning, etc.
  • Getting a nearby hotel, within walking distance, at a good price.
  • Twice as many leads as you had planned for and/or more sales than you anticipated.
  • Tradeshow exhibit getting plenty of compliments from visitors, maybe even recognition from the show itself with some sort of award. Graphics looked terrific, booth was always clean and presentable.

All of that would be great, right? Maybe not perfect, but as close as you can get.

But let’s flip the script and ask the question: what would be a perfect tradeshow experience for your visitors? Yeah, the people that come to the show – and to your booth – to learn about new products and services and hopefully find the right one that suits them to a T.

  • Immediate recognition by a booth staffer when you walk into the booth: a smile and a good opening question that engages them on a topic that is relatable to their specific situation regarding your product or service.
  • The visitor would feel like a welcome guest in your booth. After all, you’ve hired the best people and trained them well, so they know how to properly welcome visitors.
  • Good follow-up questions from the staffer. Perhaps even a product sample if appropriate.
  • Collection of contact information: no more and no less than what is needed for a timely follow-up.
  • Their visit to your booth was useful to them but didn’t end up being cut off or taking too long. After all, they have other booths they want to visit.
  • The follow-up was exactly as promised: on the day and time it was planned, and it happened like it was intended, whether an in-person visit, a phone call, an email, or a follow-up piece of mail with a sample or brochure or another promised piece.
  • Based on their visit, the prospect decided that your company was indeed exactly what they were looking for and feel that the business relationship is just starting and, assuming all continues to go well, will continue for years.

Now that you know what a perfect tradeshow experience might feel like from the attendees walking into your booth, what will it take to pull that off, again and again?

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 13, 2021: Shep Hyken

It’s been only a few months since Shep Hyken appeared on TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, but with his new book out next week, I wanted to have him back to talk specifically about it. The book is called “”I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again.” Find it at

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Football season is back! NFL and NCAA are both underway. And yes, both my teams won over the weekend. It’s a good thing.

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