Some trade shows are great investments and deliver lots of high-quality leads; others are just a waste of your marketing budget. The trick is to find the productive shows without making a lot of mistakes.
I always start by defining my marketing goals and target customer. This immediately points me in the right direction. Armed with that information, I put together a list of all the shows that reach my target customers and then evaluate them.
What kind of show should you attend? Often it is a mix of consumer shows, industry shows, buyers’ expositions and educational conferences. Each kind of show has its place.
Then look at these key factors to decide which trade show is best suited for your business:
1. Does the show help you meet your marketing goals?
If you are interested in a regional market or are new to trade shows, consider participating in a smaller, local trade show. If your goal is to acquire the largest number of qualified leads, to support a major new product launch, and/or to significantly build awareness, participate in the major industry tradeshows that capture the largest number of target customers. If your objective is to build your network and to position your company as a thought leader, then investigate shows where your company can be a show’s sponsor and a company representative can be a featured speaker.
2. Is it the right market space?
A show that matches your exact market space is often the best show to attend. You can learn a lot by looking at who exhibits at a show you are considering. A list of past exhibitors is usually available from the trade show management or on their website. Call a few of the past exhibitors and ask about the quality and number of attendees at previous years’ shows. Identify the shows that have an exhibitor mix that will attract your target customers and that are complementary to your business.
3. Determine which shows your top prospects attend.
See if the attendee list from past shows is available. Review the list to determine which shows have a large number of your target customers on the attendee list.
4. Identify which shows your best customers attend.
Call your customers and ask which shows they plan to attend and which shows they would like to attend. If there is a show that some of your customers would like to attend but are not planning to attend, ask if they would attend if they received a free pass to the exhibits. Most major trade shows offer exhibitors a limited number of free passes, so if your customers would attend the show with free passes, this could be a good reason to attend this show.
5. Figure out where your competition will be.
How many of your competitors will be exhibiting at the show? If you are not there, will you be at a competitive disadvantage? Trade shows usually bring together many competitors under one roof. Look for shows where your company will stand out as a leader in your market.
6. Consider timing – does the show’s timing make sense?
Will your company have news? Do you have a new product to announce or roll out? Does it conflict with another more important show?
7. Are there any special PR opportunities?
Exhibitors have a distinct advantage capturing Trade Show PR because they have higher profiles than attendees. They can also more easily and effectively demonstrate their products. This is particularly important for new product introductions. Ask the Trade Show management for last year’s press list and if they have any information on who is planning to cover this year’s event. Are there any media outlets attending that provide opportunities for you to reach your target audience in an impactful way?
8. Finally, take a look at the cost to attend each show.
Will it have a positive return on your marketing investment? Which shows have the best returns?
Put it all together and you should be able to pick the best trade shows for your company.
Exhibitor Appointed Contractor is a Company or Individual that Works on the Tradeshow Floor
The letters EAC is one of the thousands of acronyms that can seem to exist only to confuse people with less than 5 years of experience in the tradeshow business. EAC stands for Exhibitor Appointed Contractor.
An Exhibitor Appointed Contractor is a company or individual that works on the tradeshow floor providing any of a number of services that could also be ordered from the General Services Contractor. (Freeman, GES, etc.) There are a few services for which you may prefer to use someone other than the General Services Contractor (GSC) such as installation and dismantling labor, audio visual rentals and service, floral, etc.
If you choose to use an EAC, you must notify the show well in advance to allow them time to make sure your selected company is properly certified and insured. The form for this notification is in the show manual. Be sure to find the form and get it sent in as soon as you are able since the show generally requires at least 30 days notice.
The most common service provided by an EAC is installation and dismantling labor. A large number of companies of all sizes are anxious to provide you with labor services. These companies claim to provide better quality labor and service than the GSC at a competitive price. They will also help you with filing the EAC form. Be sure to get their information in writing and check references just like you would with any of your vendors.
Installation and Dismantling of Your Tradeshow Exhibit Should be done by an EAC or GSC
There are some services that are provided only by the convention center or GSC such as material handling, electrical service and labor, rigging, vacuuming, plumbing, etc. Many exhibitors feel that this exclusivity allows the GSC to charge inflated rates or provide inferior labor, but for most of these services, there are good reasons for the rules. In the case of material handling or drayage, there must be only one exhibit management company organizing everything, both to keep order and for safety reasons. Electrical labor and service must be done according to the contract with the convention center and local building codes for public safety.
No matter who you choose to provide your needed services on the show floor, as a first step, you need to spend some time reading the show manual to understand each service and to know the rules and your rights. Need help? Let’s Talk.
You may be planning a small trade show booth, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a big impact. Here are a few ways to make any exhibit a big win.
Keep it simple
Your exhibit will stand out if you create a very simple booth. Keep it uncluttered, only include the essentials, and make it open and inviting.
Make sure that every aspect of your booth is professional – from your exhibit, to your sales collateral, to your booth staff. A professional looking booth is critical to building credibility and to attracting traffic.
Use distinctive materials, tension fabrics, woods, colored metal and layered graphics to present a current look and build visual interest.
Design a booth that incorporates one tall element that is visible above the crowd. It can be as simple as an overhead sign with a unique design, shape and movement, or something more unusual like moving lights on a group of hanging banners.
Get the best booth staff
In a small booth, the staff can be the difference between engaging attendees and just blending into the background. Make sure to have an outgoing, knowledgeable team at the show.
Start your marketing before the show
About 75% of show attendees decide on exhibit visits and seminar attendance in advance. Set up meetings with clients, prospects, and press ahead of time.
Follow-up after the show
Don’t let one hot lead fall through the cracks; make sure to follow-up all the qualified leads after the show.
It doesn’t matter if your trade show exhibit is the largest at the show or a smaller booth, the same principles of great trade show presentation still apply. Make sure your trade show exhibit stands out from the rest of the show, that your team executes flawlessly and every element works to bring your brand to life.
Tension fabric displays have many advantages; they are portable, easy to set up, affordable and inexpensive to update. Many exhibitors have switched to fabric graphics because they eliminate the possibility of glare or scratched, marred finishes. Other exhibitors appreciated the contemporary look that can be achieved with fabric graphics. With all the advantages of using tension fabric, it is no wonder that it has rapidly become commonplace. Unfortunately, commonplace can also become boring on a trade show floor.
Designers get creative with Tension Fabric
The typical tension fabric display is constructed of anodized aluminum tubing covered with a stretch fabric that has been printed with graphics. Most often, the exhibits using tension fabric basically replicate traditional trade show display forms. But now, a few exhibit designers are starting to explore the real potential of lightweight framing, tension fabric, programmed lighting and new printing technology to create some innovative new trade show exhibits that were not possible with traditional materials.
Lightweight framing offers new design freedom
The advent of lightweight aluminum framing means that designers can more freely incorporate tall structures and ceiling-hung elements in booths to increase visibility. It also has enabled designers to cost-efficiently create new freeform shapes and elegant, curved structures. These materials offer almost endless shape and size possibilities. Some designers have even created soaring three-dimensional structures that attendees can enter and be immersed in the brand experience.
Fabric graphics offer versatility
Fabric graphics offer more versatility than laminated panels, and can be produced in varying textures and opacities. Fabrics can be used to add movement and elegance to banners, and hanging elements. And translucent fabrics printed with opaque ink and illuminated with backlighting can be used to add more dimension to the design.
Graphics can be printed on fabric with either a dye sublimation process or a direct ink jet printing process to achieve different effects. Dye sublimation is a continuous-tone printing technology that very closely replicates a chemical photograph and is the best way to reproduce photographs.
Direct ink jet printing produces sharper, brilliant images and is the best choice for highly graphic images. And, with recent advances in high-resolution ink jet technology, high-quality photographic images can be produced with inkjet printing. This printing method can be used on both synthetic and natural fabrics, and allows designers to create fabric graphics on silk, cotton and fabric blends.
Limitless design possibilities
Fabric is a durable, lightweight, versatile, and affordable medium for trade show exhibit design. It provides designers with countless ways to create fresh and up-to-date displays that can make a trade show exhibit stand out at even the most competitive show.
Have you ever been to a trade show and see a great exhibit, but no one is there to greet you? Or you start to approach a booth and see a couple disengaged people slumped in chairs, hiding? Or the booth staff is occupied talking on their cell phones and texting? My bet is that you just passed this exhibit by.
The team who staffs your booth is a critical part of a successful event. Make sure they are properly trained, motivated and equipped to succeed.
- Select people to staff the booth who have the right attitude. You need people who are open and approachable, who can smile when their feet hurt, and who really enjoy meeting new people.
- Train your team so that they know the main messages you want to communicate at the show, and can answer most customer questions. Knowledgeable people in your booth will generate higher quality leads and more sales.
- If product demonstrations or structured sales presentations are part of the exhibit, make sure that every member of your team is at least loosely scripted and has rehearsed.
- If you have any special promotions, make sure the booth staff understands all the details and deal terms.
- Have a formal staff schedule and base the staff rotation on the expected trade show volume at given time. Develop a contingency plan to adjust staffing if needed.
- Establish a dress code which is consistent with your company’s or organization’s brand and the booth theme.
- Formalize the lead qualification process and make sure everyone uses the same criteria to qualify prospects and record contact information.
What do you think is the most important factor when selecting someone to staff your trade show booth: product knowledge or positive attitude?
When planning to exhibit at tradeshows, it’s impossible to forget the big items, such as your display, accessories, banner stands, banners, signs, and your booth staff. Unfortunately there are many other small items that need to be brought along with you that often fall between the proverbial cracks when packing for a tradeshow. Often, these small items can cost a ridiculous amount of money when you have to resort to buying them on-site or extremely inconvenient when you have to go off-site in search of them.
So to make it easier, we’ve compiled a list of items that you shouldn’t leave the office without when en route to a tradeshow. Most are small enough to either be brought in luggage by a staff member or shipped in one box to the event or to your hotel.
Tradeshow survival kit items include:
An extension cord. Will come in handy when you realize how far equipment or lighting is from the nearest outlet.
Scotch, Gaffers and masking tape. Can be used from everything from holding down a tablecloth to sealing boxes for shipment.
Stapler. What good is a stapler without staples? Pack extra!
Paper clips. What can a paperclip not do?
Velcro dots or strips. Use to adhere signage to you’re the walls of your display, hold up banners or keep tablecloths in place.
Sewing kit. Prevent wardrobe disasters with this handy kit.
Safety pins. MacGyver once saved the world with a safety pin and a rubber band. Enough said.
Push pins. Use to hold signage in place, posts messages or notes, or awaken sleepy staff.
Black permanent markers. Use for labeling boxes or marking items that you don’t want walking away.
Blue, red, and black pens. Yes, attendees steal pens so pack plenty.
Notebooks or pads of paper. Keep notes, reminders for staff, etc.
Rubber bands. See safety pins.
Small hammer and screwdriver. You don’t want to have to rely on on-site employees to loan you these handy essentials.
Spare pair of eyeglasses. Would be a really inconvenient time to not be able to see.
Wrist watch. Very important to keep scheduled meetings with the press or customers running on time.
Aspirin, Ibuprofen or other medications. Headaches are common at tradeshows due to late nights, over-imbibing, and lack of sleep.
Tissues. You never know when you’ll need these.
Paper towels. Prevent food or drink spills from ruining equipment.
Garbage bags. Especially handy when cleaning up after show is over.
Hand sanitizer or wipes. Shaking hands is a great way to make a good first impression, but it can also be a great way to catch a cold or other illness.
Alka-Seltzer. Plop, plop, fizz fizz…relief.
Throat lozenges. Everyone’s voices will be tired and sore from all the talking and dry air at tradeshows.
Lip balm. Indoor dry air and lots of talking equals chapped lips.
Eye drops. Won’t make up for lost sleep, but will help.
Comfortable flat shoes. Sure heels make you look great, but after hours of standing up, you’ll be happy you packed a more comfortable alternative.
Stain removal wipes. That meatball sub seemed like a good idea.
Granola bars. Perfect for a quick nourishment break.
Mouthwash or breath mints. Everyone has been trapped into talking to someone who has “death breath.” Don’t be that someone.
Extra batteries for equipment. This is one of the many items you’ll pay an arm and a leg for at the conference center’s gift shop.
Small digital camera. Take pictures of your booth, empty before the show to best show signage, displays, etc., and again while it’s filled with eager attendees for future promotional uses.
What’s on your must-have list? Share in the comments section.
You’re heading to the biggest trade show of the year. You’ve checked out your competition and your exhibit looks as good as theirs looks. You have last year’s team back. Everything will be as good as it was last year. You are ready to make the most the show. But are you ready for the real competition? An audience that is totally and completely bored.
You Have Only a Brief Moment to Make an Impression at a Tradeshow! Attendees Only Recall 15% of the Displays Visited.
People are surrounded with so much slick mass entertainment, on-demand info, interactive experiences, and noise and hype that they have moved beyond oversaturation – they are now tuning most of it out. Trade show attendees – and your target customers – are a product of this environment. They quickly scan a booth and make a very rapid decision about whether to invest more time or effort in a visit. Now, you not only have to beat your competition, you need to capture the heart and minds of your prospects that are harder than ever to engage.
Studies have found that on average trade show attendees can only recall 10% to 15% of the displays they visited 24 hours later, but the most valuable customers remember over 40% of exhibits even a year later. That is the dilemma – the casual show attendees won’t remember much but do not really matter; the high- value buyers probably remember what you did last year.
You have only one brief moment to make an impression. Do you want your target customers to see your trade show exhibit and think, “been there, done that”? (Don’t forget – your most valuable prospects never miss a show and they saw your booth last year.)
So ask this simple question: When was the last time you changed the appearance of your exhibit?
If the answer is more than two years, pick up the phone and call the best trade show exhibit designer you can find (we can help!). If your booth was typically forgettable, it will look dated. If your booth was the star of the show, it will be unforgettable and remembered as last year’s exhibit. No matter what, a dated exhibit will send the wrong message about your company and the wrong message about how you feel about the attendees of this show.
In this fast-paced, competitive world, trade show visitors want “new”. That doesn’t mean that you need a completely new exhibit, perhaps it just needs to be refreshed. But, now more than ever, it is important to show that your company understands how to succeed in this hyper-competitive marketplace.
Consider Insuring Your Trade Show Display
Tradeshow displays are very expensive marketing investments and as such, you should consider insuring your properties in case of loss or damage. While the likelihood of a significant loss is rather remote, it is possible. Natural disasters can strike the warehouse where your exhibit is stored or even convention centers (A tornado did considerable damage to the Georgia World Congress Center in a few years back).
Fire is the most common threat to your trade show displays. Trucks can be involved in accidents and trailers have been known to catch on fire due to tire problems. Warehouses are not immune to fires and in 1967 the entire McCormick Place Convention Center was destroyed by a fire with a large trade show set up and ready to open. The fact that losses like these are unlikely makes insuring display materials affordable.
Exhibit companies, for the most part, do not insure client-owned exhibits stored in their warehouse. Trucking companies normally provide very inadequate coverage based on weight (usually around $1.00 per pound).
If you are concerned about this, you should first check with your accounting department to determine what your company policy is regarding casualty insurance. Many large companies are “self insuring,” meaning that they simply pay for any losses themselves, rather than pay for insurance. Small and medium companies usually have some type of insurance coverage, but all assets need to be recorded, especially those that travel around like displays.
If you would like to insure your display, get an up to date inventory list and have your tradeshow exhibit company provide you with the replacement cost of the display. Be sure to update this information annually. Current photos of the display set up will be important if you have a loss.
If you do decide to purchase coverage, make sure that it covers your materials 24/7 no matter where they are. Need trade show advice? Let’s Talk.
The number-one priority of nearly every tradeshow exhibitor is to leave that event with a high number of qualified leads that with proper follow-up can be converted into future customers. Leads replenish the sales pipeline, bring in new customers, and generate sales revenue. Efforts to do this must start by developing a strategy for gathering and qualifying leads in the early planning stages for an event.
Assess an attendee’s interest in addition to obtaining relevant information
Representatives of your company who will be working in your booth need to know in advance what information they need to gather from each attendee to determine whether that person has the potential to buy your product or service. In order to determine that, the booth personnel need to assess an attendee’s interest in addition to obtaining other relevant information on their specific needs, budget requirements, and timing for a potential purchase.
Select an automated tracking system
Automated tracking systems can also facilitate the process of capturing prospects’ contact information, though they might lack the personal contact that conveys that your company is truly interested in their needs and how it might be able to help them meet those needs. Automated tracking systems can be rented and work by electronically capturing data by having booth visitors swipe their badges as they enter the booth.
These systems vary, so do your research. Be sure the system’s output provides all the data you require for post-show marketing initiatives. Educate yourself on which equipment and software will best achieve your objectives. If automated systems can’t provide all the information you need, you might be better off opting for manual means of tracking tradeshow leads.
Know as much as possible about each sales prospect
More is better when it comes to information about potential leads. By knowing as much as possible about a sales prospect, you can devise a more effective follow-up strategy that more closely aligned with the specific needs of each person. In addition, detailed information enables you to evaluate the potential of each lead so you can prioritize your efforts. With detailed lead information, you can fine-tune your post-show marketing efforts and focus on the prospects you can most likely to convert to future customers.
Follow-up after the show is also critically important. Be sure and have booth personnel make note of how each prospect would prefer to be contacted by a company representative. After the show, contact prospects by phone, mail, or email. Be sure and follow up—either by a personal call or written contact—within a week of the show. After the show, track leads to determine each show’s effectiveness and expand efforts in shows with the best return on investment (ROI).
As tradeshow exhibit professionals, we are constantly faced with justifying the value of participating in shows. The cost of exhibiting, the travel, diminishing show attendance, and the economy have turned up the heat.
One basic test that helps me answer these challenges is to pose a simple question to any bottom line accountable executive. The question: if you were given 2 minutes to explain the advantages of dealing with your company to a person who regularly buys the same products and services from a competitor, do you think that you could convince them to give your company a try?
If the answer to this question is no, perhaps they should consider working for the competitor or at least reexamining your product or service offering.
Most confident executives would gladly accept this challenge. The best place to set the stage for this scenario is at a tradeshow or convention. Couple this amazing opportunity with the fact that the buyer has paid their own way to the show and that they are receptive to this pitch in the show environment and you can easily see the value proposition that tradeshows create.
The clients that I have worked with over the years that have the most success at shows have enlisted the help of a tradeshow pro to put together an integrated tradeshow marketing plan that will result in producing the maximum number of these opportunities. Our exhibit management program focuses on producing successful shows with minimum stress and maximum value. Our on-site trade show specialists are there the entire time, from set-up to tear-down – Let’s Talk.