Category Archives: Exhibit Management Services

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.

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 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

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.

Building a Better Booth: Design and Planning

The Exhibit Planning Process

  • Start the planning process early and assign someone to handle the schedule
  • Create a budget that reflects the true costs of exhibiting
  • Select the right size exhibit for your budget and marketing goals
  • Trade shows can be expensive, but it’s not difficult to maximize your Return on Investment (ROI)

“Build it and they will come” — This phrase should be your mantra when designing your trade show booth. With a carefully designed trade show booth, you stand a much better chance of attracting potential clients, making sales, gathering contacts, and generally spreading the word about your company. Think of your booth as a microcosm of your business.

Planning and Budgeting 

It is best to plan early. Assign one person to be in charge of timetables and scheduling. Assign another person to draw up the budget and to define the marketing goals. This person will have to account for the cost of renting or buying a booth, the cost of accessories such as literature racks, as well as travel expenses. Travel expenses will vary depending upon the location and duration of your stay. If you decide to rent, you should expect to budget:

  • 25% on renting your booth space
  • 20% on design and graphics
  • 15% on electrical, cleaning, and drayage
  • 10% on shipping materials to and from the trade show
  • 10% on press kits and preshow promotions
  • 20% on staffing, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses

If you decide to purchase an exhibit, you will want to work with a professional exhibit designer. Most exhibit distributors have a designer on staff or rely on their exhibit manufacturer to supply design and rendering services. You will need to follow the rules and regulations on booth design for your particular show as well as observing basics such as fire, electrical, and safety codes and providing wheelchair accessibility. Rely on your exhibit designer who understands these requirements.

Size Matters 

When considering the dimensions of your booth, you will want to take into account booth staffing, as well as account for kioskscounters, conference rooms, and the storage of materials. Be sure your design allows for free flow of attendee traffic in and around your booth. Remove any obstacles at the designing stage. Kali Pearson, writing in Profit Magazine, reminds exhibitors to “Keep your traffic objective in mind. For instance, if you’re there to demonstrate a new product, erect walls that force passers-by to cluster at the front of your booth.” Keep your booth from getting too busy and complex, so people are not confused or overwhelmed by your booth. As a rule of thumb, your exhibit space should resemble a well-organized party and not a crowded disco.

10 x 10 booth is sufficient for a small business. At 100 square feet, you can accommodate at least four people at once, two staffers and two attendees. Consider a 10 x 20 for a medium business, and islands for a larger business. The size of the booth, however, depends on your goals and products. At a trade show, size matters, but it should complement, not dictate, your exhibit marketing goals.

Other Considerations

Think of your both as a 3D advertisement for your company. You should include your company’s colors wherever possible, unless you are using a theme that necessitates certain colors. It is also a good idea to display the company logo as prominently as possible. You will want to coordinate the flooring with the rest of your booth, either by renting carpet from the show decorator or purchasing more upscale solutions such as hardwood flooring, raised flooring, or cushion flooring.

In order to both conserve space and add an exciting look to your booth, display your literature in a literature rack. Audio/Video presentations have become commonplace and affordable for any size exhibit. These allow show attendees to participate in the booth experience and learn more about your company. Large screen monitors are perfect for product demos, interactive videos, or entertaining promotions. Like a moth to a light bulb, show attendees are instantly drawn to professionally produced videos.

For more information, be sure to consult with an exhibit designer or trade show professional. Participating in trade shows can be expensive, but it’s not difficult to maximize your Return on Investment (ROI) with the right planning and expertise.

For more infomation 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.