Category Archives: Modular Exhibits Trade Show display

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Dumb Stuff People Do at Trade Shows

It’s So Maddening!

Now, I’m not calling anyone “dumb,” so lower your kitchen knives and baseball bats. What I am saying is that people do really dumb stuff at trade shows. Consistently dumb stuff. Anyone who participates in trade shows could write a book on what they’ve seen over the years. Pre-show marketing and post-show leads would cover several hundred pages.

So, let’s ignore those and concentrate on the easy, quick fixes, the ones you can change now. The ones you can implement before your next show in a month.

Senior Management

Bring them . . . but not all of them. Bring the President and the CEO, assuming they are personable and knowledgeable. Don’t bring them if they love to hear themselves talk. Don’t bring the CFO, the COO, or anyone who couldn’t charm a goldfish into a fishbowl. Clients want to talk to senior management. And their presence demonstrates that your company is serious about the show.

This rule obviously doesn’t apply if you do 80 shows a year. Pick the 3 or 4 most crucial and have the “chiefs” there. Tip: It’s much easier to get a trade show marketing budget approved if senior management participates. 

Come Late. Leave Early

Most shows allow you to enter the show hall early. This gives you time to organize the booth and make any last minute changes. More importantly, it’s the ideal time to walk the show, see industry trends, and get a better sense of what your competitors are showing. If possible, bring a colleague. That way you can compare notes.

It’s also a great time to talk to the other early birds. There are fewer distractions, and you’re more likely to have a casual, informative conversation. Staying late has similar advantages. Not surprisingly, tired exhibitors can be very revealing at the end of the day.

That said . . . adhere to the formal and informal rules of the trade show floor. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want a competitor to do in your booth.

Ignore the Competition

Many companies are arrogant about their competitors. They see themselves as “the leaders,” so what could they possibly learn? The answer is — a lot. Even knowing that you are still the leader is valuable when targeting new markets and developing your marketing strategy.

And, unless your company prohibits it, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Friendliness is not a crime. You may be surprised at what you’ll discover, and a friendly competitor has been known to send business your direction if the client doesn’t fit their model. Tip: Beware of the red herring. Sometimes competitors can be sneaky smart about their sales, trends, and products. 

Ignore Your Customers

It happens. It’s human nature. We feel like we don’t have to spend as much time with existing customers since we know them. However, your customers come to trade shows to learn about new products, services, and companies. They also come to mingle with colleagues, meet new people, and share challenges. They want to feel valued.

If good customer says, “I was at the show, but —

a) You were so busy no one was available,

b) I was there but just never made it to your booth, or

c) Spoke to Bob (or Jane or Homer) and they said there’s nothing new happening”

Then, you have a problem. A correctable problem but a problem.

Ignore the Social Events

As much as we want to pretend otherwise, trade shows are business in a semi-social setting. The planned social events, such as the evening gala, meet-and-greet events, award ceremonies, and receptions are still business functions. Make it worthwhile. It’s your chance to meet new people, chat with industry colleagues, bond with existing customers, and find new customers.

Can it be hard, especially if you are a wallflower? Yes . . . but . . . wallflowers have an advantage. They are great listeners, and in any large room, the ratio of talkers to listeners is about 95:1. Ask the right question (or often any question) and the rest of the night is on auto-pilot.

Tip:  For anyone under 30, Social Media ≠ Social Events. And yes, you do have to talk to people. You can’t just text them. 

Rely on Memory

Unless you’re Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, your memory is flawed, hopelessly flawed. On Day 1, you will have little doubt that you can recall every single conversation. By Day 3, an important client will remind you that you spoke for 30 minutes about a critical new project on Day 1.

Whatever works for you, use it — paper, tablet, business cards with notes, digital recorder, etc. Yes, it’s better if everyone in the booth uses a similar system, but it’s even better if everyone takes notes that can be reconstructed at the end of the day or the end of the show. Tip: Don’t let “Joe” leave the booth at the end of the day without emptying his pockets. Otherwise, those notes and business cards will be trash can casualties or unreadable smudges by next week.

Please share your “quick fixes.” View it as volunteer community service for the less fortunate who see neither the forest nor the trees when it comes to trade shows. Don’t make me stand on the corner ringing a bell for the clueless. They can be saved!

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.