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Trade Shows, Banner Stands, and Potato Chips

The Guy in Aisle 400

Call me a foodie. Call me a trade show snob. I love good food and admire smart trade show marketing. Both take careful, thoughtful preparation. Both give back as much as you put into them. And both, when done well, are experiences you want to share.

Last week, I was walking a local trade show… Mostly 10 ft. and 20 ft. inlines with a mishmash of budget, mid-price, and a smattering of custom exhibits. Then I came to “the guy”in Aisle 400.” I’m embarrassed to say I stopped and stared.

In the 10 ft. booth space there were two VERY cheap banner stands with fuzzy, curled graphics and a logo. No discernible message. No features and benefits. No “why we’re better than the other company.” It was for a bank, a well-known bank in our region. The guy was sitting behind a banquet table with a table throw (which wasn’t too bad) and on the table was the obligatory literature and giveaways — pens, rulers, key chains, and notepads.

To Be Fair

The guy probably didn’t know any better. He was told to “man the booth” during the show. And he did exactly that, while checking email, Facebook, and sports scores.

I have nothing against banner stands or table thows or promotional products. They have a place and a purpose in events, trade shows, lobbies, county fairs, and concerts. But, and here’s the “but,” at some point they’re the equivalent of snack food — quick, salty, and unhealthy. We eat them because they’re convenient, tasty, and cheap. As a teenager, we willingly gorge ourselves. As an adult, we regret those last six handfuls of potato chips.

So why does this happen? To be blunt, it’s because someone in charge was lazy or ignorant or cheap or the magical trifecta of all three. They didn’t value trade show marketing. Their experience proved time and time again that it was a colossal waste of time and resources. Why bother cooking a meal when a Slim Jim and a Slurpee are only $2.50. It’s not like it’s going to kill you… today.

Sadly, the only way to change this perception is to change the trade show marketing program. How do you convince someone to put down the equivalent of a Little Debbie Cosmic Brownie and eat a balanced meal? I’m not sure. What you hope for is turnover in the Marketing Department or that a knowledgeable trade show professional offers some tactful advice.

Find a Mentor

When it comes to trade shows, nothing replaces experience, either learned through “hard knocks” or from someone who has already made all the mistakes. The second option is well worth it’s weight in gold. You can glean some knowledge by reading trade show tips and tricks articles on the web. At least on a big picture.

Eventually, if you want to succeed at trade show marketing, find a mentor. Work with a colleague who understands the “ins and outs” of trade shows or hire a knowledgeable professional. Eventually you’ll become the mentor and can pass your wisdom along to the poor soul working the trade show equivalent of a 7/11 taquito.

Eat well. Show well.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Partnering With Your Display Designer

Scott McMurray wanted to decimate the competition. He studied his competitors and identified their exhibit design flaws. “Their exhibits are sterile and uncomfortable, and I didn’t want that atmosphere in our new build,” says McMurray, a design specialist for Clarion Marine Audio, a Missouri manufacturer of marine stereo systems. After briefing his exhibit designers on the industry, he chose a design philosophy that incorporated elements from a high-end boat. “Because this is a niche industry, it’s hard for someone on the outside to get a handle on the right look and feel. That’s what I provided,” says McMurray.

The resulting 16-foot in-line exhibit is reminiscent of the interior of a Scandinavian-style boat, with brushed stainless steel and cherry wood accents. When the small exhibit debuted at the 2000 International Boat Builders Expo, attendees flocked to it. “Because the exhibit is comfortable and friendly, we met with around 500 designers and engineers (the people who decide which stereo brands are built into new boats),” says McMurray. “The exhibit’s clean lines and high-tech feel gave us an advantage over the competition and showed attendees that our products are high-end and innovative.” The new exhibit’s competitive design increased Marine Audio’s exhibit traffic of designers and engineers by 20 percent. “The exhibit blew the competition out of the water,” McMurray claims.

Design is a Competitive Weapon

If you want an exhibit that is a competitive weapon, don’t make your designers work in a vacuum. As a trade show manager, it’s your job to become a translator and educate the design team on the nuances of your company. “To create effective design, you have to understand how a company approaches problems and what’s behind its strategic marketing,” says Charlie McMillan of Connecticut-based The McMillan Group. Open communication will ensure you get an exhibit that is a 3-D representation of your company and not a structure with your logo tacked on. The result will be an exhibit that is a competitive weapon against your competition’s plain vanilla displays. However, before the first design planning meeting, you need to choose an exhibit designer who will deliver the goods.

Questions to Ask When Interviewing Design Candidates

Exhibit Designer Evaluation

  • Have the designers created complex and large-scale exhibit projects? (Ask for examples of direct experience.)
  • What is the designer’s motivation, inspiration, and philosophy?

Planning and Project Management

  • At what level did they contribute to the planning process on past projects?
  • What are their project management capabilities?

Understanding Trade Show Displays

  • What questions did the designers ask about your company? Were they relevant?
  • Did the designers communicate the objectives, image, and marketing messages of previous clients? Did they achieve the anticipated goals?
  • Are the designs applicable to the clients and their target markets?

Problem Solving

  • Were past designs effective overall? (Designers should be able to list actual results relative to the client’s goals.)

Aesthetics

  • Are the designs dynamic? Do they create impact?

Budget Responsibility

  • Did they provide a way to cut costs (drayage, shipping, installation and dismantle)?
  • Did they meet the budget in all cases shown?

Display Graphics

  • Are the graphic solutions creative and flexible?
  • Do the graphics clearly communicate what was required?

Engineering

  • Were the designers involved with engineering details and to what degree? For example, will they produce engineering and fabrication documents or will this be left to the fabricator?

International

  • Have they ever done international work to the scale of your company’s activity? Does their work demonstrate an understanding of international markets?

Overall Reaction

  • Are the designers honest?
  • Would they make good partners and work with you to achieve your company’s goals?

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

Glossary of Graphics Terms

Resolution. Not the kind you make January 1st, but the necessary information a file must have to guarantee the best possible digital output. Original information is best. Start with capturing the image, shooting the photo or scanning print or film to the proper size for the desired output. Interpolation, res up, resample, whatever you want to call it, can take the image size only so far before you see degradation. For the very best, sharpest output, make sure you get the proper amount of pixels right from the beginning. Different printing devices require different dpi setups; call your favorite graphics provider for more information.

Raster Printing refers to the pattern in which pixels are printed along parallel scan lines running across the page. The ink delivery jets or lasers scan in lines from side to side, top to bottom. In inkjet printers, the print head moves back and forth across the paper, which advances only a fraction of the inkjet head width with each pass. In optical printers, like Lambda or Lightjet, a laser beam rapidly scans the light sensitive paper while the paper slowly moves forward. Raster graphics are resolution dependent. If scaled beyond the intended size, it will result in an apparent loss of quality.

Vector Graphics. The Print and Prepress Industries refer to vector graphics as lines or shapes. This type of digital art can easily be scaled to any size. Art programs such as Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Corel Draw can create vector type graphics. Fonts can be “outlined” (vector) to make them completely scalable.

Continuous Tone refers to images that have a virtually unlimited range of color or shades of gray. Continuous tone photo printers, Lambda or Lightjet, for example, can print each dot at many different shades of lightness and darkness. There are 256 or more shades of color so that the difference between one shade and the next is imperceptible to the human eye.

Color Space. RGB (red, green, blue) or CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). RGB is generally the color space related to photographic output. The RGB color space has a larger gamut of the two. Gamut refers to that portion of the color space that can be reproduced in print. Some of the colors the eye can see can be out of gamut. This is a critical concept when setting expectations for your customers or yourself.

Bleed. It’s that extra, non-important image beyond the crop that insures the edge on your graphic is exactly as you expect it. When mounting to rigid substrates or printing direct to boards and especially when a graphic will be router cut, bleed is essential. Image Craft recommends 1/8″ to 1/4″ bleed on most graphics.

PDF means Portable Document Format . The PDF was created by Adobe Systems for document exchange. A PDF encapsulates a complete description of a fixed layout including text, fonts, images and vector graphics. Through the use of the free Adobe Reader software, anyone can open and view a PDF file. Generally, PDFs are used for electronic proofing purposes for large format graphics. Recently, over the past year or so, many graphic designers save their native files as high resolution PDFs for output. Our digital prep professionals prefer art to be saved in their native programs and ask to reserve PDF for proofing guides only.

UV Printing. Ultra Violet reactive inks require a high intensity of UV light to initiate a chemical reaction for drying the ink quickly. Many consider UV printing a green solution because it is more energy efficient than heat dried solvent type printing. Without the use of solvents, there is a lack of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released into the atmosphere. UV inks perform exceptionally well on recycled materials.

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
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Trade Shows, Banner Stands, and Potato Chips

The Guy in Aisle 400

Call me a foodie. Call me a trade show snob. I love good food and admire smart trade show marketing. Both take careful, thoughtful preparation. Both give back as much as you put into them. And both, when done well, are experiences you want to share.

Last week, I was walking a local trade show… Mostly 10 ft. and 20 ft. inlines with a mishmash of budget, mid-price, and a smattering of custom exhibits. Then I came to “the guy”in Aisle 400.” I’m embarrassed to say I stopped and stared.

In the 10 ft. booth space there were two VERY cheap banner stands with fuzzy, curled graphics and a logo. No discernible message. No features and benefits. No “why we’re better than the other company.” It was for a bank, a well-known bank in our region. The guy was sitting behind a banquet table with a table throw (which wasn’t too bad) and on the table was the obligatory literature and giveaways — pens, rulers, key chains, and notepads.

To Be Fair

The guy probably didn’t know any better. He was told to “man the booth” during the show. And he did exactly that, while checking email, Facebook, and sports scores.

I have nothing against banner stands or table thows or promotional products. They have a place and a purpose in events, trade shows, lobbies, county fairs, and concerts. But, and here’s the “but,” at some point they’re the equivalent of snack food — quick, salty, and unhealthy. We eat them because they’re convenient, tasty, and cheap. As a teenager, we willingly gorge ourselves. As an adult, we regret those last six handfuls of potato chips.

So why does this happen? To be blunt, it’s because someone in charge was lazy or ignorant or cheap or the magical trifecta of all three. They didn’t value trade show marketing. Their experience proved time and time again that it was a colossal waste of time and resources. Why bother cooking a meal when a Slim Jim and a Slurpee are only $2.50. It’s not like it’s going to kill you… today.

Sadly, the only way to change this perception is to change the trade show marketing program. How do you convince someone to put down the equivalent of a Little Debbie Cosmic Brownie and eat a balanced meal? I’m not sure. What you hope for is turnover in the Marketing Department or that a knowledgeable trade show professional offers some tactful advice.

Find a Mentor

When it comes to trade shows, nothing replaces experience, either learned through “hard knocks” or from someone who has already made all the mistakes. The second option is well worth it’s weight in gold. You can glean some knowledge by reading trade show tips and tricks articles on the web. At least on a big picture.

Eventually, if you want to succeed at trade show marketing, find a mentor. Work with a colleague who understands the “ins and outs” of trade shows or hire a knowledgeable professional. Eventually you’ll become the mentor and can pass your wisdom along to the poor soul working the trade show equivalent of a 7/11 taquito.

Eat well. Show well.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Conducting Product Demos at Trade Shows

Product Demos at Trade Shows

  • Nothing sells a product like a convincing demonstration
  • Invite audience participation
  • Tap into the fives senses and keep the demo under 10 minutes

Brochures and promotional items are nice, but nothing sells a product quite like a convincing demonstration. Consider the history of Tupperware, which was first introduced in 1946. Sales of the innovative product were flat until the first Tupperware party was held two years later. These in-home demonstrations introduced a generation of consumers to an unfamiliar product. Similarly, infomercials would not occupy so many timeslots if they did not tap into our fascination with the art of the product demo. Who doesn’t know Ron Popeil and the Pocket Fisherman and Showtime Rotisserie?

Find a Charismatic Presenter

Choose a presenter who is charismatic, articulate, and familiar with both the product and its pitch. Let the presenter know that it’s not enough to simply repeat a spiel from memory, and its okay to ad-lib. Invite one or more of the audience members to participate in the demo as well. Back in the 1980s, Bruce Springsteen would invariably invite a female audience member onstage for a dance during his concerts. Bruce knew it was a sure fire way to make the audience feel included. Come up with a role suitable for audience participation. Remember to keep it simple and safe. No audience members handling sharp cutlery at a food industry show! Consider using games or fun quizzes as a way to involve attendees in demonstrations.

Keep It Between 2-4 Minutes

Try to tap into as many of the five senses as you can with your demo. Don’t exceed the ten minute mark if you want to hold people’s attention. An optimum length of time for a demo is more in the realm of two to four minutes. You can opt to hire a professional to deliver the demo, but it would behoove you to find someone in your company who can do it if at all possible. The Home Shopping Network failed to move Joy Mangano’s “Miracle Mop” until the plucky housewife turned inventor began hawking them herself. Now she’s a millionaire! There is something to be said for the personal touch. Regardless of who conducts your demo, they need to be relaxed, confident, well prepared, and above all have fun!

For more infomation about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or send us an email. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Branding and Corporate Identity: Trade Show Marketing 101

Branding and Corporate Identity

  • Present a coherent corporate image
  • Think beyond company colors and logos
  • Consider a theme
  • Hire a speaker to present at your booth
  • Hanging signs are an excellent method of getting your corporate branding noticed

When designing your trade show booth, it is critical to present a coherent corporate image. Every element of your booth, including booth designgraphicssignage, promotional literature, color scheme, and giveaways, must be united by a recognizable signature that is unique to your company.

Think Beyond Company Colors

Company colors and logos can easily be incorporated into your trade show exhibit and carpets, and can be imprinted on your promo items and literature. Thinking beyond company colors, color can be used to reinforce a corporate identity. Suppose your company is technology based. In that case, you may wish to employ a metallic silver or gray color scheme in order to suggest scientific progress and the spirit of the future.

If you decide to go with a themed booth, try to keep it consistent with your company’s image. Think about an anniversary year tie in. For instance, if your company was incorporated in 1926, you might consider a roaring twenties theme to commemorate eighty plus of service. Your designer can easily create an art deco display for your booth. It doesn’t have to be too elaborate, just enough to suggest a theme. Period clothes can easily and inexpensively be rented from any local costume shop. Attendees visiting your booth will associate your business with stability and longevity.

A few years ago at EXHIBITOR, a trade show for the trade show industry, an exhibit manufacturer created a park-like theme with grass, park benches, and statues. The theme emphasized that working with the manufacturer was easy and carefree, “Like a Walk in the Park.” The theme was well received because the depiction was accurate and a clever depiction of a familiar cliché.

Hire an Expert to Speak

If you hire a speaker to present at your booth, again make the choice consistent with your company image. Consider a local author who has written a book about your industry. Most authors will jump at an opportunity to promote their book and are accustomed to public speaking while on book tours. A timely tie in with a thought provoking book will stimulate discussion and interest in your booth.

Hanging Signs

Walk through any trade show and you will see attractive hanging signs throughout the convention center or pavilion. Hanging signs are an excellent method of getting your corporate branding noticed. They come in two-dimensional and three dimensional shapes, such as circles, pinwheels, and tapered triangles. There is no better compliment than when a trade show attendee says, “I saw your company’s sign when I walked into the hall and wanted to hear more about your product.”

Consistency is the key when planning your booth. Make sure all elements of your booth include some clue, visual or otherwise, to your brand or identity. A unified presentation will make an indelible impression on your customers.

For more infomation about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or send us an email. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Identifying Your Trade Show Kryptonite

X-Ray Vision

We shouldn’t but we do. We hope the next trade show attendee who walks in our booth is Superman. Not Superman Superman, but the sales equivalent of Superman. Faster to sign a contract than a speeding bullet. More powerful than the VP of Purchasing. Able to leap over objections in a single bound. We yearn for Superman (or Superwoman) to enter our trade show booth space.

Yet, we place kryptonite everywhere in sight so Superman veers away (no doubt into the arms of our evil nemesis — Super Savvy SalesPerson). What did we do wrong? Well, let’s eliminate the easy mistakes, the ones so obvious that his X-ray vision saw them three aisles over.

Frenchy Fry Me: Nothing says no-loving like a booth staffer hunched over lo mein, a cheeseburger, or chicken nuggets with honey mustard. And, yes, I did see you wipe your hands on your pants. Then there’s the smell….Kryptonite-TS

Five-Second Text: Baby-boomer, GenX, or millennial. Doesn’t matter. You can’t start a conversation if you never start a conversation. It gives new meaning to — “Hey buddy, my eyes are up here!”

The Quickie: Good choice. A vinyl graphic hanging on the pipe and drape. Perfect if you’re pitching hairball chews at the local cat show. Otherwise, it says, “I’m living in a van down by the river.”

The Berlin Wall: The banquet table is your best friend at a hobby or arts and crafts fair. Take the same approach at a trade show and expect to catch up on your texting and Facebook posts at the show.

I Don’t: Got there late. Left early. Spent most of the time flirting with the woman on the next aisle.

Concrete Cal: No flooring. Or padding. Or orders.Clowns

10 Clowns in a Car: How nice! The entire sales team is here. Except this isn’t a rave party, a tailgater, or a celebrity sighting. “No thanks. I’ll take the next less-crowded elevator.”

Maximus: “Just give me 5 minutes to find it. I know it’s here somewhere. I swear I just saw it. Here it is! Nope, that’s not it.”

Love Me Some Swag in the Booth: Selfie sticks, pens, water bottles, shopping bags, phone chargers, tech tools, lip gloss, exercise band, calculator, hand sanitizer. ‘Hey kids, Daddy went to a trade show.”

Mystery Date: “I’ll give you three guesses what my company does. Want a hint? Another hint? Starts with the letter G. See the display on the corner with the hanging sign. We do what they do.”

Turn Me On: Day 1. “Anybody know how to launch the video or turn on the tablet?” Day 2. “Did anyone charge the tablet or bring the thumb drive?” Day 3. “I don’t know. We think they’re broken.”

Don’t be the only person at the show not wearing an “S” (for sales superstar). Get rid of the exhibit krytonite and you’re guaranteed to attract a Superman (or two or three) to your booth.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Now That You’ve Decided to Rent Your Display

Now That You’ve Decided to Rent Your Display

  • Think ahead about future shows . . . you’ll save time and money
  • Graphics are just as important whether you rent or own your exhibit
  • Be proactive about wire management. There should be a plan
  • With all the talk about “Green Displays,” nothing is “greener” than a rental exhibit
  • Make sure you have clear, detailed set-up instructions

There are lots of articles about the benefits of renting vs. buying a trade show display, but, I don’t recall ever reading an article that discussed the do’s and don’ts once you’ve decided to rent. After 20 years of managing exhibit rentals for clients, including the past five managing the Rental Program for a large display manufacturer, I’ve learned that deciding to rent is the easy part. The hard part comes after the rental decision has been made. With all humility, please allow me to share these tips from someone who has experienced his fair share of rental bruises over the years.

Think Ahead about Future Shows

You’ve decided to rent your exhibit. Now take it a step further by planning your trade show schedule over the next two to three years. Developing a long-term plan could save you thousands of dollars by committing to a multiple-show rental contract. Most companies offer a substantial discount if you agree to multiple rentals up front, even for various size exhibits and different designs.

Customization

Rental exhibits have come a long way. Work with a company that’s willing to offer customization so you can achieve your specific exhibit marketing goals. Everyone should be wondering, “Is it a rental or not?” There are a number of ways to achieve a custom look. It can be achieved with graphic applications and/or materials such as infill panels for conference rooms and workstations. Sometimes all it takes is a small accent piece with your corporate colors to make a big difference in the overall design. Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean you don’t want to jazz it up a bit and give it your own personal touch. It should have a similar look and feel to an exhibit you would purchase but with the added benefit that you can change things out from show to show.

Graphics

Be sure you have all of the specs you need for your graphics. There are many graphic applications. Working with an exhibit professional will ensure that you choose the method that works best for your rental exhibit. And if you choose to sign a multiple show contract, you’ll want to design your graphics with future shows and exhibit designs in mind. There are usually graphic components that can be re-used, so keep that in mind as you work through each design concept.

Monitors

If you’re planning to use monitors, check that the mounts can be incorporated into the design. In other words don’t waste money on monitor stands if you can use the existing structure. A good rental exhibit company will offer a variety of solutions for monitors and wire management.

Cord/Wire Management

Review your wire management plans for any electrical cords for lighting, monitors, or any products in your booth. All too often, this is overlooked until you’re standing in your fully assembled booth. There’s nothing like that awful feeling of seeing a tangled bunch of cords and having no idea of how to hide them. There should be a plan for the cords and how to manage them long before you arrive in the show hall. Remember What You Own Keep a file (with photos and dimensions) of all of the graphics you own. More than likely they can be re-used for future shows. Exhibit companies often offer free storage services for graphics used for multiple rentals. In addition, note of any other items you included with your shipments to ensure everything gets returned.

The GreenFactor

Your decision to rent may not have come from a concern about the environment, but guess what, you couldn’t be using a greener exhibit! Many rental exhibits use sustainable components, such as recyclable aluminum, fabrics, and reusable packaging. Regardless, there’s no greener way to exhibit than by renting your exhibit. It’s worth promoting to your internal team and sharing with your customers in a pre- or post-show marketing campaign. And don’t forget the flooring. There are lots of green flooring alternatives.

Shipping

One of the reasons you decided to rent was because you wanted to lessen the headaches that come with managing your own exhibit property. Talk to your exhibit company about coordinating the shipping for all of your shows. One of the key benefits (other than just having one less thing to think about) is that if something goes wrong and a claim needs to be filed, the exhibit company will take care of it. Plus, they typically use the same carrier for most of their shipments so their rates are very competitive. Be sure to request a tracking number and notification that your shipment has arrived.

Set-up Instructions

This is very important! Be sure that set-up instructions/diagrams are part of the deal. Whether you’re supervising the set-up or contracting that service out to someone else, demand that you have instructions and photos showing how it goes together. This will save you a lot of time and money! Also make sure that the company you’re working with provides pre-show staging services and photographs before shipping the exhibit to your show. Photos serve two purposes: they’re very helpful during the set-up, and they’re proof that your finished exhibit looks the way it’s supposed to look.

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
Classic Exhibits Inc.

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.