Category Archives: Trade Show Rentals

Five Reasons NOT to Rent a Trade Show Display

Five Reasons NOT to Rent a Trade Show Display

1. Change

Most companies devote considerable time, energy, and resources to the purchase of a new exhibit. And they should. Trade show marketing can be expensive, and getting it right requires choosing the right display and executing a comprehensive marketing strategy. Exhibitors work hard to get it right… at the first show. Then, many companies go on auto-pilot for several shows, or often for several years.

Renting a trade show display doesn’t change the planning phase. Most companies work just as hard for the first show, but because they know they can change the display (and most often do), they tend to revisit their strategy before every show. It may seem counter-intuitive, but exhibitors who rent are often more engaged in their trade show marketing program. They view the exhibit, the graphics, and their strategy as evolving depending on the show and/or their corporate goals.

2. Design and Ownership

Owning an exhibit has advantages, particularly for exhibitors who have a basic display or a very large customized exhibit. They get exactly what they want in a design or at a specific price point. For a high-end custom exhibit, there are no compromises. It will be built to their exact requirements. No questions. And, once built. It’s their property.

However, most corporate exhibitors don’t fit that model. They want a trade show experience that showcases their products or services and allows them to be successful on the show floor customers. The display has to be distinctive, captivating, and practical, but it doesn’t have to be one-of-a-kind. Modern rental exhibits fulfill all those requirements because they can be customized to meet any look or experience.

3. Financial

Purchasing an exhibit is a considerable capital investment for most companies. They plan for it and put it in their budget. No problem. It’s a one-time expense every year or every couple of years which they depreciate over a fixed schedule.

Renting is generally less expensive. Exhibitors rent the structure and purchase the graphics. They have decided that owning the exhibit doesn’t make sense either because their trade show program is always changing or they’d rather budget it in stages.

4. Storage (and Storage Fees)

Many exhibitors like having their trade show booth in their building or stored by their exhibit provider. They know what they have and where it is. They don’t mind devoting space to the exhibit in their office or paying monthly storage fees. There’s a certain peace-of-mind to knowing the exhibit is ready to ship at a moment’s notice.

Renting is exactly the opposite. The exhibitor doesn’t own it so there are no storage fees or floor space devoted to cases or crates. It’s available. Just now right-now. It requires more planning… but that’s not a bad thing.

5. Commitment

Commitment and change are two sides of the same coin. If the marketing message has been the same for 20 years and it’s been successful, why change? It would be silly to do anything that alters that formula.

That said… it’s possible to be committed to a marketing strategy and still change it depending on the audience, the show, or the season. Renting makes that possible. One show make require a 10 ft. display. The next an island. Both can use variations of the same graphics or change it to appeal to that audience.
Purchase or Rent — When making the decision to rent or to purchase your next trade show exhibit, it’s no longer about making compromises. The exhibitor can select from a wide variation of upscale designs at price points for any budget.

 

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.

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

ABC’s of Trade Show and Exhibit Marketing

Exhibit Marketing

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

What is Exhibit Marketing?

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

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

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

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

Types of Exhibit Marketing

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

Exhibit Marketing Training

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

Return on Investment (ROI)

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

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

Using an Exhibit Consulting Firm

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

Survey Service Providers

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

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

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

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’s the Expiration Date of Your Trade Show Display?

Has Your Exhibit Passed Its Freshness Date? 

Trade show displays, like yogurt and milk, have expiration dates. While it may not be printed on the box, it’s not hard to spot one that’s starting to spoil. Here are 20 Clues it’s time to buy a new exhibit.

You Know It’s Starting to Smell When . . .

1. Graphics are attached with Velcro to a fabric backwall. While that may be OK for a FFA display at the county fair, it’s no longer acceptable at a professional trade show.

2. I&D won’t touch your property without hazardous duty pay. When show labor has to don hazmat suits before starting an install, that’s not a good sign.

3. Duct tape is an important design element. And you’re excited it now comes in designer colors — Baja Blue and Desert Sunset Yellow.

4. When your booth was purchased, a quarter could transform your hotel bed into Vibrating Magic Fingers. Ahhhhhh!

5. Attendees compliment the “vintage” theme of your booth and graphics. “Very retro!”

6. You decide to re-print your graphics and hand the graphic designer a floppy disk.

7. There are more “just in case” parts than actual display parts.

8. The shipping labels have added 50 pounds to the weight.

9. You lust over the two $99 banner stands in the adjacent booth.

10. The No Questions Asked Lifetime Warranty has expired.

11. It smells like the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Even Fabreze can’t kill that odor.

12. You found your distributor by flipping through the Yellow Pages of the phone book.

13. Your storage costs have exceeded your purchase price by a factor of 10.

14. Your graphics have a “Happy Days” theme, and the Fonz is still your unofficial spokesperson. “Ayyyyyyy!”

15. Someone tagged your crate with the Rolling Stones tongue graphic (and you think that’s cool).

16. It folds and weighs more than an AMC Gremlin.

17. Children flee in terror as if they’ve just seen a circus clown.

18. Your competitors gush over your booth . . . . “Don’t Change a Thing! Seriously, Not a Single Thing!”

19. You found a “Win a Free Palm Pilot” Promotional Flyer in the case.

20. Your boss says, “By golly, it was good enough for Old Joe, bless his heart and God rest his soul.”

If you answered “Yes” to any of these, put your display in the compost bin. How do you determine the expiration date of a trade show display?

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.

13 Common Trade Show Mistakes

Mistakes happen whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, but you can avoid the 13 Most Common Trade Show Mistakes. So, let’s take a few minutes, while your competitors are reading about Lindsey Lohan or watching reruns of Jersey Shore, to super-size your trade show marketing skills.

1. Going Too Big 

We all think we’re the big dog on the block, but we’re not. If you’re new to trade show marketing, starting with an inline 10 x 10 or 10 x 20 may make more sense. You learn what works — from graphics to display configurations — before investing in an island exhibit. For example, you’d be surprised how many folks think they need an enclosed conference room only to discover that their clients are more comfortable with an informal meeting area.

Most organizations participate in multiple trade shows each year. There’s usually a pecking order to those shows where some are more important than others. It may not make sense to “go big” at the secondary trade shows, when you could invest that money in your main show (where you’ll generate more leads and kick the bejesus out of your competitors).

2. Going Too Small

In general, smaller exhibits get less traffic than larger exhibits, if for no other reason than location. Bigger exhibits typically are centrally located, closer to the entrance, and along the main aisles.  However, the largest benefit of bigger exhibits is square footage and height. Island exhibits can include presentation area(s), multiple kiosks, seating areas, ample storage, large format graphics, overhead signage, product displays. While these are still possible in inline displays, the space limits how much can be done.

There’s a school of thought that says, “At the very least, match the square footage of your main competitors.” Here’s another idea . . . determine what you want to accomplish at the show and what it will take to exceed those goals, and then design a booth that achieves them. It’s not rocket science folks.

3. No Specific Goals

For whatever reason, some companies are on autopilot when it comes to their trade show marketing. If you ask them what they want to accomplish, their response it usually “increase sales” or “generate more leads.” Really? If those are your only goals, then you might as well toss in “World Peace” and “Ending Global Hunger” too.

Chances are your trade show goals coincide with your overall marketing goals. The skill to execute them in a 3D face-to-face environment. That’s where working with a knowledgeable exhibit professional makes all the difference. Just because you are a superstar at marketing, it doesn’t mean you know diddly about trade show marketing or exhibit design. A smart trade show professional will spend much of their time asking you what you want to accomplish.

4. Cluttered Graphics

Think back to the bulletin boards in your elementary school classroom. Does that memory make you smile? That’s very sweet . . . now do exactly the opposite for your trade show graphics. All that clutter may have been perfect for developing minds hyped up on Elmer’s glue and Crayola crayons, but our older brains can’t process that much information in 3-4 seconds. We need clear, straight-forward messages. That doesn’t mean your graphics can’t be colorful, witty, and creative. They just can’t be thematic chaos. The message should state who you are, what you do, and what problem you are solving in less than 4 seconds. Everything else is just pretty paper on a package. We like the pretty paper, but we like what’s in the package a whole lot more.

5. Giveaways for the Sake of Giveaways

It’s funny how free pens, stress balls, and rulers can give us an inferiority complex. They have them. We don’t, so we feel like a second-class citizen on the trade show floor. At the next trade show, we have trinkets, and we spend half our time giving them away just to justify having them in the first place. Don’t get me wrong. I like free stuff. But the free stuff better have a purpose. A bank that gives away nifty calculators. Smart. The chiropractor who gives away a pen shaped like a spine. Also smart. But when a software company gives away plastic water bottles. What’s the point?

The same rules apply for prizes or drawings. The drawing should create a buzz at the show, and should serve as a mechanism to engage potential clients in conversation. Fish bowls where attendees drop off business cards to win an iPod attract leads, but not quality leads. Do you really want a stack of unqualified leads for your sales team to sort through? Probably not.

6. Booth Staff Not Trained

I know you’re telling yourself,  “My staff knows the products and they know the company, why should I have to train them?” True. Now recall the last time you went to the mall to shop. Those employees knew the products and they knew the company. Did you feel like you received exceptional service. Did they approach you promptly, ask you open-ended questions, listen, and show you exactly what you wanted? Probably not.

Training before the show and before the show opens each day ensures that everyone understands the mission, that everyone knows their role, and that everyone gets their questions answered. Think of a trade show as a job interview. Every person who walks in the booth is deciding whether to hire you (or not).

7. Poor Follow Up on Leads

Why would you bring your own rope to your hanging? And, yet, the vast majority of exhibitors spend considerable cash preparing and participating in a trade show and then neglect the leads they gathered at the show. Well, either they don’t value the leads or there’s no plan on how to handle the leads. Most of the time it’s the latter. What’s the saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

8. No Daily Booth Preparation

When your in-laws come to town, you spend days cleaning, organizing, and stressing over dust bunnies. Three days later, you don’t care anymore. There are dirty dishes piled in sink and clothes draped over the recliner. The same scenario happens for most exhibitors. They polish and preen for hours before the show opens, and then by Day Two, they ignore the smudges, the carpet boogies, and the stray candy wrappers.

Every day is a new day in Exhibit-Land. Like Disneyworld, it’s gotta look perfect before the guests arrive. Assign that task to someone every day and create a checklist. Otherwise, it won’t get done, or the person with initiative will do it and resent it.

9. Partying and Socializing

It’s a trade show. You’re suppose to socialize and party during the off hours. But . . . and here’s the BIG BUT . . . you need to be smart about it. First, you’re on company time. Even when you think you’re not on company time, you’re on company time. That’s just the way it is. If the company expects you to socialize with clients, then socialize and be on your best behavior. If someone has to tell you what that means, then you shouldn’t be socializing with clients.

Second, trade shows may seem like a friendly gathering, and they can be, but they are actually a competition. What you say, where you say it, and who’s around when you say it, can have painful repercussions for you and your employer. We are all on high alert for hints, innuendos, and outright gossip about our competitors. It’s amazing what someone will tell you, or someone next to your will reveal, after a few drinks.

Finally, and this should go without saying, socializing should not interfere with your show responsibilities. Pace yourself cowboys and cowgirls. Showing up at the booth sweating tequila (no matter how good the tequila was) isn’t attractive.

10. Packing and Unpacking

I know. You’re tired, and you want to get back to your room, the airport, or home. That’s understandable. We all feel that way. But how you unpack or pack your booth will make your life much easier or much harder. You know deep down in your heart that it’s the right thing to do. Ultimately, the key to any successful trade show is planning and organization.Your exhibit is no exception.

Carefully unpacking the exhibit and organizing the packaging materials makes the assembly go faster and the repacking much easier.  You eliminate the head scratching that invariably occurs at the end of the show. When you take the time to repack the exhibit right, you ensure that the exhibit arrives at the next destination in good condition and ready for the next show. Think of your exhibit as yarn. You have a choice. You can either toss the loose yarn in the case and hope for the best. Or you can wind it carefully into a ball.

11. Participating in the Wrong Shows (not participating in the right shows)

This one is tough. Too often, you never know until you participate. It’s kinda like “Mystery Date” where you don’t know if the person on the other side of the door is “dreamy” or a “dude.” The best advice is to ask your suppliers or strategic partners who may participate in the same show. What’s their take on the trade show and has it been beneficial? If possible, ask for specifics such as lead numbers, sales from the show, and promotional ideas. What works and what doesn’t work.

In the end, you have to decide based on your own experience. Sometimes the show would have been better if only you had done this or that. That’s fine. You’ll make the adjustment next year. Other times, it wasn’t a good fit because you’re selling candy at a diabetics convention.

What you don’t want to do is allow tradition or momentum to dictate whether you participate. Just because you have (or haven’t) gone every year, shouldn’t determine whether you go or don’t go this year. Take the time to evaluate your marketing goals and determine whether the show contributes to those goals. If it does, then go.

12. Not Walking the Show and Talking to Competitors, Suppliers, and Potential Partners

It’s tempting to just hang out in your booth. After all, it’s safe and comfortable. But trade shows are two way streets. Potential customers are there to learn and discover new products, services, and suppliers. You’re there to work with those customers . . . but you’re also there to learn and discover as well.

Every show is an opportunity to improve your “game.” What are your competitors showing? What are they saying? Are there any new products or services which would benefit your company? Are there trends you’ve overlooked and need to study and implement?

No one is asking you to spy, but friendly conversation goes a long way with friends and foes alike. It’s all in your attitude and your approach. Don’t be afraid to say “Hello!” and ask how the show is going. You want to be seen as warm and friendly, and not as a medieval fortress with the drawbridge closed. Obviously the same rules apply as the “Party and Socialize” section — namely, you need to be smart about what you share (and don’t share).

13. No Pre-show Marketing

This may be last, but it’s certainly not least. In some ways, it should be #1 if only to get your attention. There’s no reason, absolutely no reason (unless you want to fail) not to have a pre-show marketing plan. You can spend a little, or you can spend a lot. At a minimum, you should contact your customers to see if they are attending the show. What they tell you may influence what you bring to the show and what you feature in your graphics.

Beyond that, the opportunities are limited only by your imagination and your budget:  from pre-show mailings and emails to advertising and contests, and from show sponsorships to industry press releases. You already spend much of your time trying to attract attention to your company throughout the year. Take that energy and creativity and apply it to your trade show marketing. If there was ever a venue for taking risks, it’s a trade show. The conservative, Namby Pamby approach rarely works in trade show marketing.

Be bold and beautiful my friend. The show starts in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

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.