The Beauty of Smaller Trade Show Displays

The Power of a Smaller Display

On average, I see between 2,000 to 3,000 trade show displays every year. About 60% of those displays are in the 10 x 10 to 10 x 30 range. Multiply that by 15 years and that makes me either an expert on smaller exhibits … or just plain old.

It’s easy to be dismissive about smaller exhibits, in the same way some people are dismissive about small cars. I get that. A Corolla isn’t a Lexus and a Cruze isn’t a Cadillac. However, what I’ve learned over the years is that imagination, planning, and enthusiasm trumps booth size every time.

Let’s explore this from a non-trade show angle. Most of us have lived in apartments. Decorating an apartment takes imagination since you can’t make substantial changes — no removing walls, adding shelves, or painting it lime green. You want the apartment to reflect your tastes and interests, and still be warm and welcoming to guests. We’ve all walked into apartment in a soulless apartment complex and been ‘WOW’d’ by the tenant’s clever decorating, use of space, and personal touches. The tenant transformed nothing into something, often on a meager budget. I’ve found that it’s rarely about nice furniture or paintings. It’s about the details. They have a plan, they know themselves, and they are willing to put some effort into creating an attractive and livable space.

Details Matter

Smaller trade show displays are no different. The successful displays, or more importantly the successful exhibitors, approach it by having a plan and focusing on the details. They know there’s more to a trade show than buying a pop-up or a small hybrid and then designing graphics. It’s about achieving their trade show marketing goals.

Now don’t get me wrong. I see lots of beautiful smaller trade show displays with stunning graphics. We have eight years of exhibits photos on our website. What I rarely see are “stunning” trade show “programs” where the company does more than identify who they are and what they do. Outstanding exhibitors recognize that trade shows are theater. It’s about attracting, entertaining, engaging, and informing. It’s about leaving a lasting impression.

Let’s say your company manufacturers plumbing supplies. You exhibit at the NAHB International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas, typically in a 20 ft. inline. This is an important show for your company. You have a portable hybrid exhibit with tension fabric graphics, which show your products, logo, website address, and company tagline. In addition, your flooring has distinctive graphics, like water. You have a nice meeting area for attendees and a small but accessible showcase with your products.

Now, let’s assume that what makes your company’s products different is how quickly they connect. You could show it on a graphic (which you should). But, if the connection is truly “faster” then make it a game and offer prizes. Challenge attendees to connect it and time them with a stop watch. Or have them assemble a competitors while you assemble your connector. If they can beat you, they win some larger than life prize (which will never happen). You become a destination stop for exhibitors during the show.

Pre-show Marketing Matters More Than Size

Too often, we don’t see smaller exhibits as having the visibility and star power of islands. But they can. Effective pre-show marketing will drive attendees to your booth, but once they are on the show floor, it’s all about the presentation, messaging, and engagement of your display and your team. Your display doesn’t have to look like a prefab, soulless exhibit any more than a big apartment complex does. By infusing it with your company’s personality, creativity, and planning and adding a dose of clever attendee interaction, it can be welcoming and personal.

It takes work . . . . but as a very smart boss of mine once said, “That’s a good thing!” Agree or disagree,  I’d enjoy hearing your comments.

Article Author:

Mel White

7 Questions You’ll Never Ask About Your Trade Show Display

7 Trade Show Display Questions

Over the years, I’ve learned the questions most exhibit buyers will ask. They’ll ask how it assembles. They’ll spend hours questioning the exhibit design and tweaking the graphics. Of course, there will be questions about price, delivery, and weight. They may even ask to see the warranty.

However, there are questions the exhibit buyer won’t ask. How do I know? Because no exhibit manager has ever asked me these questions… and they should.

Q1. Will the Metal Look the Same After 10 Shows?

Have you ever bought a screwdriver at a discount store only to have the tip twist? So you throw it away and realize that a Kraftsman isn’t a Craftsman. About 60-70% of all trade show exhibits have a skeleton of aluminum extrusion. Sometimes it’s visible. Sometimes it’s not. The dirty little secret is that it’s cheaper to use low quality extrusions with thin walls and a sub-par finish. Over time, it distorts, mars, and looks tarnished after a few shows. Your new booth becomes a used booth before you’ve wrapped-up your current marketing campaign.

Ask about the manufacturer of the extrusion? There are recognized names and then there are Kraftsman. You may not recognize the name but that’s the beauty of Google. If someone tells you, “an extrusion is an extrusion,” walk away.

Q2. What’s the Quality of the Fabric Graphics

The rise of Fast Fashion has revolutionized the apparel industry (think H&M and Forever 21). There’s a market for disposable fashion. It’s cheap and attractive. But no one expects it to last or have the attention to detail of high-quality apparel.

Fabric for graphics, like clothing, is not all the same. Most inexpensive displays are shrouded with thin, stretchy fabric made with low quality zippers or cheap velcro. And yes, there’s a pecking order to hook and loop as well. The fabric graphic is meant to be disposable… even if it’s not sold that way. You can feel the difference. Trust your hand.

Q3. What’s the Quality of the Fabric Printing

No one ever thinks about this. But they should. Dye-sublimated printing, the predominant type of printing for fabric graphics, is a high-tech process. And with any technology, the latest and greatest is old news in about 12-18 months. The previous generation of dye-sub printers get sold to second or third-tier printers. If you’ve ever seen the difference between a HD dye-sub graphic and a 4-color one, you know what I mean. Skin tones are more realistic. Black is black not dark grey. There’s no color banding . You get the picture.

Ask when the printer was manufactured (not re-manufactured or purchased). And even if it’s only been owned by a little old lady in Pasadena and stored in a garage, it’s still an AMC Hornet.

Q4. Is the Packaging Material Reusable?

You just bought a new pair of Beats by Dre headphones. They sound great, but you’ve decided you want them in black and not fuchsia. Good luck getting it back in the packaging. It was meant for marketing not for re-marketing. Far too many trade show displays are packed to prevent damage before the first show. But what about damage after the second, third, or thirty-third show?

High-quality reusable packaging costs more than bubble wrap and thin foam. Smart, well-engineered packaging is like finding $20 in your wedding, funeral, and holiday party pants. It’s an unexpected miracle that keeps on giving.

Q5. Are Replacement Parts Available?

Folks send me photos asking me to identify a part. That’s rarely an issue if it’s from a major display manufacturer. However, it’s usually from a $699 pop-up or tube structure. Let’s be honest. There are no parts. There never were any parts. It wasn’t sold to have replacement parts any more than a $17 toaster. It’s meant to go into the landfill after a half-a-dozen uses.

Now if that idea appalls you, then ask your supplier if quality replacement parts are available, what is the cost, and how quickly can you get them? Oh… and if they are only available through Smiling Sammy’s Display Store, then that’s a really, really bad omen. He’s gotta a guy who knows a guy. Good luck with that.

Q6. How Do You Handle Wire Management?

There’s no middle ground on this. It looks good or it looks really, really bad. Those electrical and A/V cords have to go somewhere. More often than not, the cord management for most exhibits resembles a Jamaican Rastafarian on a bad hair day. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You have to identify what electrical devices will be in the booth and where they’ll be located with your supplier. And that includes anything you maybe renting. Ask your supplier about their solution for lights, monitor cords, etc. If they stumble — run. It means the solution is likely to resemble white twist ties from plastic garbage bags.

Q7. What are the Designer’s (Exhibit and Graphic) Qualification?

Everyone is creative. To a point. Chainsaw sculpture, toilet roll cozies, saw blade paintings. I’m not here to judge. Well, maybe a little. Most of us are out of our element when it comes to exhibit and graphic design. And like wire management, there’s no middle ground. Great exhibit designers have years and years of experience working on a variety of projects (custom, portable, modular) with collaborative input from other exhibit designers. That’s how they get experience, perspective, and context.

The same is true with graphic designers… but with a twist. They must have experience designing graphics for trade show displays. That’s the key. It doesn’t matter if they are Rock Stars with web design or print advertisements. You don’t want an occasional trade show designer to be the lead designer. If you have an in-house designer familiar with your brand, then make the design process collaborative. Graphic design for trade show displays is a craft. Trade show designers have learned what works and what doesn’t to attract attendees on the show floor.

These questions may make your trade show exhibit supplier uncomfortable. Good. That’s how you’ll know if you chose the right one.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

What You Should Know about Graphic Design

What You Should Know about Graphic Design

  • The more information you provide, the more likely the final result will match your objectives
  • Graphic designers work on an hourly rate
  • It pays to remain loyal
  • Trust your instincts!

When it comes to graphic design, I am an idiot. I’m not embarrassed to admit it, although I probably should be since I manage marketing for three divisions. Yet, there’s rarely a day that I don’t make graphic design decisions about our websites, sales literature, email marketing broadcasts, and trade show displays. Does my lack of graphic design expertise show? I certainly hope not.

Like most marketing managers, or any manager who understands his or her limitations, I rely on talented people, such as graphic designers. Not only do they understand the tools, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign, but they spend their days immersed in graphic design issues. They understand the nuances and the trends. They remind me that this color text on that background is unreadable and that I’ve created visual clutter and confusion in my effort to show too much.  If I ask them to add a “star burst” with a price, they guide me to a more contemporary solution that doesn’t reek of 1980’s clip art.

Fortunately, I’ve learn some valuable lessons over the years regarding graphic design, which I’ll share. These aren’t font, color, or layout tips. Remember, I’m an idiot. These are tips for anyone working with graphic designers, tips that will save you time, money, and slow the aging process.

Four Valuable Lessons about Graphic Design

It’s Your Project, Part 1:  I’d hate to be a graphic designer and work with most clients. Their expectations are unrealistic, their directions are vague, and their budget is pitiful. Most clients don’t know what they want and expect the graphic designer to be psychic. Clients will use terms like “modern” and “visually striking” and “colorful” and expect those concepts to be transparent to anyone. They are not, any more than a “tree” looks the same to someone living in New England or the Pacific Northwest or Australia. Take ownership of your project. The more information you convey to the graphic designer, the more effort you put into prepping the project, the more likely the final result will match your objectives. Take the time to collect examples of ads, websites, and sales flyers that you like. Graphic designers are visual. They’ll take those cues and use them to create your design. Too often I hear someone say, “I wanted something original and didn’t want to influence the creative process by being too specific or showing them examples.” Really? When did vagueness become a muse? Go ahead and be lazy. Just don’t pretend that your laziness is a brilliant creative design strategy.

It’s Your Project, Part 2. Let’s say you decide to ignore my advice in Part 1. I’m not offended, but I am snickering behind your back. Your graphic designer loves and hates you. You’ve made their job much harder, but you’ve made them a little richer. Most graphic designers work on an hourly rate with incremental time minimums. You are now paying for pondering and investigating and false starts. Each back and forth is getting you closer to your perfect design, but you’re paying for the privilege of having a graphic designer at your beck and call. If you work best following this process and have the budget, then hire a graphic designer full time or recognize that time is money, your money, and don’t complain when you get the final bill.

Mind Meld = Success and Increased Productivity. I’ve worked with the same graphic design firm for nine years. They are good, which is the most important criteria. Equally important is that we now have a history together. They understand what I want. I understand how best to communicate with them. They understand the exhibit industry and, in fact, have gone out of their way to learn about the trade show business — the graphic requirements, the shows, the publications, and much more. They have grown with us and have been instrumental in developing the graphics and branding for Visionary Designs, Sacagawea Portable Hybrid, Magellan Hybrid, and Perfect 10 Portable Displays.

The lesson . . . once you’ve found a graphic designer (or design firm) that you respect and like, it pays to remain loyal. They’ll watch your back with ad agencies and suppliers. They’ll guard your branding, even when you want to trample all over it because of a wild idea at 2 am with a shelf life of 24 hours. You’ll develop a communication shorthand, which saves you money and them aggravation. Each project is still your project but getting from point A to Z, generally skips about half the alphabet.

Trust Your Instincts. It got you this far, and unless you have a history of flops, bad decisions, and marketing Hindenburgs, you’ve learned something valuable along the way. Be open to advice. But trust your instincts. If you are wrong, you’re wrong. Heck, it was only a job in a down economy with little chance of future employment. ; – ). Finally, be amazed. There are lots and lots of people who call themselves graphic designers. Just as there are lots of people who call themselves investment advisors (GRRR!) or bankers (double GRRR!). When you find a talented graphic designer, one who syncs with your vision and your personality, hold on tight and be amazed.

For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next show.

Article Author:

Mel White

ABC’s of Trade Show and Exhibit Marketing

Exhibit Marketing

  • Exhibit marketing is more than just selling from a booth space
  • Trade shows allow companies to showcase their achievements, build their business, and maintain their competitive edge
  • You can learn to be an exhibit marketing guru. Become certified
  • Understand and track your ROI. Creating a well-defined budget is the best method to track and manage your total investment in a particular show
  • If you need help, rely on your local exhibit consultant or contract with an exhibit consulting firm

What is Exhibit Marketing?

Exhibit marketing is all about marketing your products or services to buyers at expositions, conferences, and trade shows. A successful exhibit marketing program will be rewarded with increased revenues, referrals, and industry networking. The goal is to understand how exhibit marketing differs from the other types of marketing.

Exhibit marketing is more than just selling from a booth space. For many industries, it’s about bringing people and companies together to promote accomplishments, stimulate thought, share knowledge, build relationships, spur the competitive spirit, and reward entrepreneurial efforts. Exhibit marketing not only introduces buyers to sellers, but also fuels the competitive spirit by filling a hall with competitors, partners, and suppliers, each with goals and dreams of success. Trade shows allow companies to showcase their achievements, build their business, and maintain their competitive edge.

Exhibit marketing, like any marketing, must be learned through experience and education. Exhibit marketing isn’t taught in most colleges and universities, or covered in most marketing reference books, but if you are new to exhibit marketing, you can learn a great deal about it on the Internet and from your local exhibit consultant before risking a single marketing dollar.

Exhibitors must learn how to attract interest, to be remembered, and to turn prospects into customers. At a trade show, buyers and sellers are overloaded with choices and information. As an exhibitor, your marketing message can be consistent from show to show, or it can be tailored to the show and the location. Good marketing and salesmanship, however, are always involved.

Types of Exhibit Marketing

There are different types of exhibit marketing: retail, business-to-business, and event marketing. Retail shows typically focus on selling products and closing deals directly at the booth. Business-to-business shows focus on forging new relationships that are cemented after the show. Event marketing aims more towards delivering a message or creating brand awareness.

Exhibit Marketing Training

In the United States, there are trade shows for trade show professionals: EXHIBITORLIVE, E2MA The Red Diamond Congress, and IAEE Expo Expo. These shows offer trade show certification for people wanting to complete a curriculum of classes and seminars. The curriculum aims to cover all aspects of exhibit marketing. The classes are taught by industry experts whose expertise and opinion may vary. These certification programs, along with on-line resources and exhibit marketing books, provide enough basic information to develop an effective marketing strategy for your company.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Research shows that attendees recall only 15% of the companies they visit on the show floor. The other 85 percent are forgotten. The reasons vary. The company may have a weak exhibit or an ineffective sales presentation. Some companies are simply forgotten due to the inherent clutter and sensory overload of a trade show. This research data should be very important to you. You must never forget that show participation is a competition for attendee time and retention. Your ROI is directly related to your attention to, and overall performance in, all aspects of trade show marketing.

Creating a well-defined budget and comparing it against actual expenses is the best method to track and manage your total investment in a particular show. If you sell products in a retail show, then the revenue is easy to tally up and compare to the expenses for the ROI. If your show is one where prospecting, branding, and market positioning are the norm, then the ROI is more difficult to measure. Other benefits are difficult to measure but quite valuable just the same. These intangible benefits may be direct or indirect, and exhibit marketers look for subtle hints of these returns and weigh them against the opportunity cost of not exhibiting.

Using an Exhibit Consulting Firm

If conducting research on the web or taking exhibit-marketing seminars isn’t sufficient, you may want to consider using a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies succeed with their exhibit marketing efforts. Often these consulting firms cover general marketing as well as exhibit marketing. These firms provide a fresh perspective and advice based on years of experience. Typically, they bring a level of seasoned exhibit marketing experience along with the desire to find successful marketing solutions for your company.

Survey Service Providers

If you are looking for research information to support your exhibit marketing decisions, there are companies that provide research and survey services for this purpose. Speak with an exhibit consultant about which firms the consultant recommends.

For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

The Evil “I’s” of Trade Show Marketing

The Five “I’s” of Poor Customer Service

trade show customer serviceJerry: “I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?”

Agent: “Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.”

Jerry: “But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.”

Agent: “I know why we have reservations.”

Jerry: “I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to “hold” the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.”

* * * * *

Not all bad customer service is this blatant. Sometimes it is poor planning, not recognizing industry trends, or pure laziness. As a trade show exhibitor or an attendee, you’ve experienced this walking the show floor, or what I refer to as the Evil I’s of trade show customer service

Invitation

As a child, you looked forward to the annual county fair — the rides, the concerts, and the food vendors were the highlight of the summer. It was always the same weekend, and you planned your vacation around it. Tradeshow were like that once – many, many years ago. Not anymore.

Exhibitors must be proactive. To be successful, they must invite existing and potential customers to their booth and explain their value. Whether you are using email, social media, advertising, or good old fashion phone calls, as an exhibitor, you should plan for 50% of your show traffic to be generated pre-show. Simply showing up and showing off no longer works.

Indifference

Trade Show DisplaysThink about all the money you spend before the show even starts — the exhibit, freight, booth space, drayage, labor, and travel costs. It’s significant. The show opens, attendees swarm the show floor, and some of those enter your booth space. And you ignore them. By Day 3 how many pass through your booth without a greeting, a handshake, or even a friendly head nod? Your team may acknowledge them but it’s half-hearted. They’re already checking on their flight or planning for dinner. The attendee senses it. They move on to a competitor excited to see them on Day 3 at 3 pm.

Ignorance

At its core, a trade show is a face-to-face Google search. Attendees are there to find and collect information. Yet, many exhibitors bring the charming rather than the competent. Simple questions can’t be answered by the booth staff, or the one expert is always unavailable. Even the booth fails the information test. Lots of splash but no real substance on your products and services. The successful exhibitor strikes a balance between charm and competence and flash and substance.

Ignore

Perhaps I’m naïve, but I don’t buy the statistics about lead follow-up. It’s not ideal, not even close, but most companies follow up on show leads. Unfortunately, they do it wrong or half-hearted. They send an email or leave a phone message… then call it good. They treat a show lead as a cold lead, not a warm one. The trade show attendee stopped in your booth for a reason. It’s your job to pinpoint what they need and when they need it. All too often, we abandon the sales process after the first attempt: “I left and message and they never got back to me.”

Insight

What did you learn at your last show about your competitors, your vendors, your industry, and your customers? Nothing is more valuable. Yes, the tradeshow should lead to more sales. There should be a measurable ROI. However, it’s the unmeasurable ROI that’s often more valuable. We try to be clever and call it “face-to-face marketing,” but the bottom line is that it’s people connecting with people, sharing information, venting, gossiping, and looking for solutions. No website can do that as effectively as two people together. Ever.

There’s no magic to exceptional trade show customer service. It’s all about smart planning, commonsense, and a liberal measure of hard work. When you take responsibility for your trade show success, you assert the only “I” that really matters. You.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

What Zombies Can Teach Us About Trade Show Marketing

Trade Shows and The Undead

Surprisingly, trade shows and zombies have a lot in common. Sometimes in a good way. Who would have thought that zombies could be a role model for your sales and marketing team? 10 Things the Undead can Teach You.

1. Single-minded Focus. You may not appreciate their all-consuming desire to eat your flesh, but they are committed to the task. They let nothing get in their way, except an ax to the brain. Your next trade show will be wildly successful, if you make it a priority, not an afterthought.

2. Teamwork. Zombies travel in packs, like ravenous hyenas. That teamwork ensures them a much higher percentage of kills. There’s a reason “We killed it” signifies success. By working together, those poor doe-eyed attendees don’t stand a chance.

3. Appearance Matters. You never forget your first impression of a zombie: filthy clothing, rotting flesh, vacuous stare, and rancid halitosis (that alone is enough to make you hurl). It’s sad but true. We judge people by their appearance. Your company spent considerable money to participate so shine your shoes, press your shirt, and dry clean that blazer.

4. Lights, Motion, and Noise. The undead and the living are both attracted to lights, motion, and noise. As much as we try . . . we can’t resist it. When planning your booth, ask yourself this, “Will my exhibit attract 200% more zombies than my competitors?” If the answer is “No!” then you need to get creative (or consider a ceremonious human sacrifice ever day).

5. Intelligence. Zombies love brains and so should you. Being smart about your trade show marketing means you understand that trade shows are not the same as print ads, videos, brochures, or traditional sales calls. Trade shows are opportunities to attract new customers and strengthen existing relationships.

6. Fresh Meat. Ever notice that zombies won’t eat other zombies. They like their meals fresh. Fresh ideas and innovation, particularly during a weak economy, propel one company forward while leaving another one struggling to survive. Trade show attendees go for two reasons:  to find solutions to existing problems and/or discover innovations that will strengthen their operations or bottom line.

7. Know Your Customer. In zombie-speak, we are customers. Good customers freak-out and get eaten. Bad customers ram a metal rod through a zombie’s skull. You want good customers, just without the “getting eaten” part. Good customers become good customers because we understand them and tailor our product or service to meet their needs.

8. Preparation Matters. Zombies don’t need a trade show toolkit or an exhibitors handbook or an exhibit designer, they are 100% prepared the moment they go from living to undead. You’re not so lucky. You won’t succeed without thorough pre-show, show, and post-show preparation.

9. Without Customers, What’s the Point? Wandering aimlessly is pointless, even to a mindless zombie. Zombies crave excitement. When a living, breathing human enters its proximity, it switches from listless to high alert. Serious exhibitors react similarly, albeit without the growling and moaning. We’ve all seen exhibitors who appear annoyed or resentful when an attendee enters their booth, interrupting their game of Angry Birds. What’s the point if it’s not about customers?

10. There’s No Cure. Once a zombie always a zombie. If you love trade shows and are serious about trade show marketing, there’s no antidote. It’s in your blood. No matter how hard you fight it, once bitten, it’s incurable.

Article Author:

Mel White

Do You Believe in Trade Shows?

Do You Believe in Trade Shows?

Most exhibitors don’t have a plan when it comes to trade show marketing. They purchase a display, which they think is THE PLAN. So before I harangue you with the obvious suggestions, let’s talk. Really talk.

You are probably a sales/marketing professional if you are reading this. You rely on Act-On, Marketo, or HubSpot for automation. You use CRM software like SalesForce or Infusionsoft. You have a comprehensive email campaign strategy and track it with Constant Contact, Yesware, or MailChimp.

When you have challenging problems, you tap into consultants for lead generation, sales training, social media, and SEO. And, when it comes to advertising, you have a team dedicated to maximizing your spend and metrics. In this hyper-competitive marketplace, you need every advantage that money, strategy, and discipline can bring.

And Then You Wing It!

Do You Believe in Trade Shows? That’s not meant to be a loaded question. You either do or you don’t. There’s no middle ground because exhibitors who “waffle” when it comes to trade show marketing are mostly wasting their money.

That’s not to say that trade shows are the same as trade shows pre-Internet. They’re not. Trade shows are much more efficient than they used to be because most attendees no longer “walk” the floor. They “research” and “shop” the floor just like they would an online purchase. They’ve already decided who they’ll visit days, even weeks before their feet hit the aisle carpet. Getting them to your booth pre-show is now more important than luring them into your booth at the show. stk313213rkn

Do You Believe in Metrics and ROI? Of course you do. Imagine conducted a sales/marketing meeting or presentation without metrics. You love numbers. You love studying and reciting them to others like parables from the Bible. You get visibly excited using a spreadsheet to compare the Toledo to the Albuquerque office.

But, when it comes to your trade show marketing, you are like a four-year old with blocks, relying on the # of leads to judge success. Sadly, you pat yourself on the back if the leads are electronic and not a roll of paper cascading off the counter. For most exhibitors, anything beyond that falls into quantitative voodoo. There’s no measuring costs per show, return on sales, or contribution margin per client.

Are You a Good Judge of People? You should be. It’s kinda required for anyone in sales and marketing. At every trade show, you are doing two things: meeting with customers and suppliers and evaluating your trade show staff. Far too often, we are spectacular at the first and abysmal at the second. We view trade show staffing along the same lines as a wedding invitation — the more the merrier and we pray no one gets so drunk they puke in public. When we do hold staffers accountable, it’s condensed into a pre-show rally which includes 10 minute booth training. It’s a joke.

Are You an Expert in 3D Marketing? I won’t bother to feed your ego on this one. You aren’t an expert. Not even close. You may be an expert at banner ads or print advertising or closing techniques, but you probably don’t know squat about exhibit design and trade show marketing. How do I know? Experience working with exhibitors and walking shows. Now, don’t misunderstand me. You know marketing and you know sales, but you decided at some point to believe that trade show marketing is more of the same. It is and it isn’t, and you’ll blow a ton of money until you know what works and what doesn’t.

Take Some Advice from a Trade Show Professional

VK-5088aaI mean this literally. Take some advice from a trade show professional.

1. Work with your Exhibit House. Exhibit Houses and Distributors do much more than design and build exhibits. They work with exhibitors on strategy, show services, ROI tracking, booth training, etc. They see the painful mistakes that their clients make that cost them money and prevent them from succeeding at trade shows. Believe me . . . they want your trade show marketing to be wildly successful. That way you’ll add more shows to your schedule, you’ll purchase new exhibits, and you’ll tap into their services.

2. Work with Independent Consultants. Like any industry, the trade show industry has seasoned independent consultants who want to share their advice for a fee. Some are generalists. Others specialize in booth staff training or ROI measuring or social media marketing or lead generation or overall trade show marketing. They know their stuff. They are paid to know their stuff. Don’t know who they are? Ask your exhibit house or use this niffy tool called Google. That said . . . always get references and do your homework.

3. Become an Expert. You can either continue to whine or you can take classes at EXHIBITOR or the E2MA Red Diamond Congress. There are hundreds of classes each year on every imaginable topic related to trade shows and trade show marketing. The classes are a great place to meet industry professionals and share your successes and failures with colleagues. For such a big industry, it’s actually a very small community.

No one can know everything. And what’s true for marketing automation software or social media advertising is also true for trade shows. Know what you don’t know and for everything else, seek help.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Standard USA Booth Regulations and Types

Standard Booth Regulations (USA)

There are four types of booth configurations: Standard/Linear, Perimeter Wall, Peninsula, and Island. The following booth display rules are typical for U.S. Trade Shows and Convention Halls. However, regulations vary by convention center and even within show halls. Contact show management for specific regulations.

Standard/Linear Booth (10′ depth)

Any booth that shares a common back wall and abuts other exhibits on one or two sides.

Maximum height is 8′. This 8′ height may be maintained on the sidewall of your booth up to a distance of 5′ from the front aisle. The remaining length of the sidewall may be no higher than 4′.

A corner booth is a linear booth exposed to aisle on two sides. All other guidelines for linear booths apply.

Note:  Hanging signs are not permitted over standard/linear booths.

Perimeter Wall Booth (10′ depth)

A standard/linear booth found on the perimeter walls of the exhibit floor.

The maximum height is 12′. This 12′ height may be maintained on the sidewalls of your booth up to a distance of S’ from the front aisle. The remaining length of the sidewall may be no
higher than 4′.

Note:  Hanging signs are not permitted over perimeter wall booths.

 

Peninsula Booth

Any exhibit 20′ x 20′ or larger with a depth from the common back wall to the aisle of at least 20′ and with aisles on three sides. There are two types of Peninsula Booths:  (a) one that backs up to Linear Booths, and (b) one that backs p to another Peninsula Booth and is referred to as a “Split Island Booth.”

For all peninsula booths, the exterior of the back wall must be plainly finished and may not contain booth identification, logos or advertisements.

If backed by a row of standard/linear booths, the back wall may be no higher than 4′ for a distance of 5′ from either side aisle and 20′ high in the center of the back wall. These height restrictions must be maintained for a distance of 10′ from the back wall.

Where two (2) peninsula booths share a common back wall (“split Island”), the maximum height may be 20′ in all areas of the booth, including the back wall (same as Island Booth rules, below).

Note:  Hanging signs are permitted over peninsula booths that are 20′ x 20′ or larger.

 

Island Booth

Any exhibit 20′ x 20′ or larger and is surrounded by aisles on four sides.

Regulations vary by exhibit hall but the following are typical examples:  Maximum height of 30′ in all areas of your booth allowed in North Hall and Central Halls 3-5. Maximum height of 20′ in all areas of your booth is allowed in Central Halls 1-2. Maximum height of 22′ in all areas of your booth allowed in South Halls. No limitations on the number of solid walls for your Island booth. Be sure to check the hall regulations.

Note:  Hanging signs are permitted above island booths.

 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Canopies and Ceilings

Canopies, including ceilings, umbrellas and canopy frames, can be either decorative or functional (such as to shade computer monitors from ambient light or for hanging products). Canopies for Linear or Perimeter Booths should comply with line-of-sight requirements.

The bottom of the canopy should not be lower than 7 ft. (2.13m) from the floor within 5 ft. (l.52m) of any aisle. Canopy supports should be no wider than three inches 3 in.(08m). This applies to any booth configuration that has a sight line restriction, such as a Linear Booth. Fire and safety regulations in many facilities strictly govern the use of canopies, ceilings, and other similar coverings. Check with the appropriate local agencies prior to determining specific exhibition rules.

Covered ceiling structures or enclosed rooms, including tents or canopies, shall have one smoke detector placed on the ceiling for every 900 square feet.

Hanging Signs and Graphics

Hanging signs and graphics are permitted upon approval in all standard Peninsula, Island and Split Island Booths, with a maximum height of sixteen feet (16 ft.)(4.87m) to the top of the sign as measured from the floor

Whether suspended from above or supported from below, they should comply with all ordinary use-of-space requirements (for example, the highest point of any sign may not exceed the maximum allowable height for the booth type). Double-sided hanging signs and graphics shall be set back ten feet (10 ft.)(3.05m) from adjacent booths and be directly over contracted space only.

Theatrical Truss and Lighting

Ceiling-supported theatrical truss and lighting are permitted in all standard Peninsula, Island and Spilt Island Booths to a maximum height of twenty feet (20 ft.)(6.1m) where ceiling permits. Ground-supported truss may not exceed the maximum allowable height for the booth type. Logos or graphics are not permitted over the sixteen-foot (l6fl)(4.87m) height restriction and must have four feet (4 ft.)(1.22m) of separation from the top of the sign to the top of the truss.

Exhibitors should adhere to the following suggested minimum guidelines when determining booth lighting:

  • No lighting, fixtures, lighting trusses or overhead lighting is allowed outside the boundaries of the exhibit space.
  • Exhibitors intending to use hanging light systems must submit drawings for approval by the published deadline date.
  • Lighting must be directed to the inner confines of the booth space. Lighting must comply with facility rules.
  • Lighting which Is potentially harmful, such as lasers or ultraviolet lighting, should comply with facility rules and be approved in writing by exhibition management.
  • Lighting that spins, rotates, pulsates, and other specialized lighting effects should be in good taste and not interfere with neighboring Exhibitors or otherwise detract from the general atmosphere of the event.
  • Reduced lighting for theater areas should be approved by the exhibition organizer, the utility provider, and the exhibit facility.

For more information about trade show or events marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White

10 Tips for Any Trade Show Newbie

Trade shows can intimidate anyone new to exhibit marketing. The best course is to dive into the pool. The following tips — from the shallow end of the pool — will get you started. When it’s time to swim laps, review the other 50+ Trade Show Articlesguaranteed to turn you into Michael Phelps (or Mark Spitz for those of us with grey hair).

10 Tips for any Trade Show Novice 

1. A trade show is neither a vacation nor a death sentence. Although it may feel like a death sentence during teardown.

2. Be nice to the labor. They can solve most problems or create headaches. The Golden Rule applies until they piss you off. When they do, contact your I&D labor provider or show management. Also, the laborer(s) in your booth didn’t write the hall rules. If you disagree with the rules, contact your I&D labor provider or show management.

3. Breath mints are more valuable than gold or platinum at a trade show.

4. Comfortable shoes are more valuable than breath mints, unless you are wearing comfortable shoes and chatting with someone who clearly needs a 3 lb. breath mint.

5. Rule of Three — This is a sad but true fact regarding labor at most trade shows. If three people are assigned to your booth, one person will be a star, one person will be average, one person will be a dufus. Hire nine people and you’re guaranteed to have three stars and three dufasses. Sometimes you get lucky, and the ratio works in your favor. Sometimes not (I could name show halls where this is guaranteed to happen, but I’d have to check under my hood every time I start my car).

6. No two shows are the same. Think of each show as a first date. Look your best and do your homework about the show, the attendees, and your competitors.

7. Every exhibitor has a “Joe.” He drinks too much, gambles too much, and wanders too much. He’s like the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, constantly circumnavigating the show hall. About a half a dozen times a day, you’ll wonder what happened to Joe. Five minutes ago he was sucking down his third espresso, leaning on the counter, and ogling anything with two X chromosomes. Suddenly he’s gone . . . again.

8. Be ruthless about evaluating your show graphics. Everything else is secondary. Replace them BEFORE they need to be replaced.

9. I Bet You 50 Bucks You’ll Forget One of the Following:  wire management for the exhibit, cleaning supplies, business cards, belt (happens to me at least twice year . . . two belts in Las Vegas = one mortgage payment), lip balm (again, crazy, ridiculously expensive in Vegas), phone charger, your moral compass.

10. FINALLY, work with professionals, whether it’s a graphic designer, an exhibit consultant, or a certified trade show manager. Trade show exhibit marketing is a craft learned the hard way through trial and error.  It’s easy to burn through a lot of money before you finally figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Don’t stumble through a year or two of mistakes when you can rely on experts who can save you time, money, and embarrassment.

Bonus Tip:  For goodness sake, get some fresh air and a little sunshine once in awhile! Your mood will improve by a 1000 percent. And just once, put on the workout gear you bring to every show, put in the dresser drawer, and repack (unused) in your suitcase. Exercise is good.

For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

What Not to Wear (at a Trade Show)

Are They Really Wearing That? 

I’m no fashion expert. The yellow sweater I wear all winter is a dead giveaway. But you don’t have to be a member of the fashion police to spot these faux pas. Wear what you want if you’re an attendee, but as an exhibitor, you may want to consider these suggestions.

Men

New Shoes — Who hasn’t made this mistake and regretted it? After all, you want to look your best so you purchase new shoes. They look great, but they hurt like hell after Day 1. By Day 3, your blisters have blisters. Shoe Rule #2 – Take a little initiative sport and shine those puppies. Or at least get them shined at the airport while you’re waiting for your plane. It’s cheap even with a generous tip. Shoe Rule #3 – The belt is supposed to match the shoes guys! A brown belt with black shoes? Your mother would be appalled.

Golf Clothing — Here’s the easy way to decide on golf clothing. If it looks great on the golf course, it looks silly at a trade show. I don’t care if it’s the latest high-tech, super-duper sweat-wicking material. It’s still golf clothing. Now there are exceptions to every rule, such as a sports-related show, but in general, just remember there’s a reason why Fortune 500 executives don’t wear golf shirts and slacks to negotiate multi-million dollar deals.

Slacks — If your pants have a drawstring and elastic ankle cuffs, DON”T WEAR THEM. You can pretend they’re fashion fleece or casual Sansabelt pants all you want. Everyone else knows they’re sweats.

Slacks (cont.) — We all pretend we haven’t gained weight. But we have. Don’t wait until 7 am on the first day of the show to discover your pants don’t fit or they have that telltale “V” pucker between the waist and zipper. Unless I missed something important in Biology class, blood flow is important.

Women

Shoes — For some reason, which I’ll never fully understand, women love to punish themselves. Even more than men, they wear new shoes to the show, and then do the unthinkable by wearing high heels with pointy toes. Ladies, and I say this with all seriousness, you’re beautiful. High heel shoes do not make you more beautiful. If you are angling for a freak with a high heal foot fetish, take out a personal ad (SWF seeks MHHFFF).

Pantyhose — Another medieval torture device invented to punish women.

Perfume/Cologne — Do you remember the dirt cloud that surrounded Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoon? Some women (and some men) wear the fragrance equivalent by dousing themselves in perfume. Perfume should be alluring, not painful. Here’s a tip for applying the proper amount:  rub on only one free sample from the magazine.

Undies — Let’s just say that if you feel the need to make adjustments more than twice a day, you are probably wearing the wrong underwear.

Earrings — I’m going to catch some heat on this one. Let me be clear. Earrings are fine, but if your ears look like a Claire’s Accessories rack, you may want to remove 6-8 pairs. Lips, tongue, nose, eyebrow, and skull piercings are a matter of personal preference, corporate policy, and cult affiliation.

Pockets — Just the opposite actually. Men always have pockets. As an exhibitor, you need pockets for business cards, pens, trinkets, breath mints, etc. I’m not talking about a safari jacket with 37 pockets, but a dress jacket or skirt with two pockets will make your life much easier in the booth.

My sincere thanks to the fashion forward exhibitors at EXHIBITORLIVE for their suggestions, some of which cannot be printed without an R or X rating. Suffice to say that the term “cleavage” was a contentious topic between men and women. What did we miss? We’d love to hear your “What Not to Wear” suggestions and comments.

For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.