Finding the perfect vendor to support your tradeshow program can be challenging, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but with the right things in mind, you can hit your target. As with any other decision, the preparation you put into it will greatly affect your level of success.
Typically, the decision for an exhibit supplier is made during the purchase of a new display. It may seem logical that the company that built the display would be the best choice to manage it. Sometimes that may be true, but often the problem is that the companies that do the best job of design and presentation are not always the best at program management. Their company’s focus might be on designing and building new exhibits, leaving program management to take a back seat.
A good start in your search is determining how much help you will need, and the size of your program:
- Pharmaceutical companies might exhibit in over 100 shows per year, not including other events that are a large part of their face to face marketing. Auto manufacturers exhibit in 65 or more shows in the span of a few months. These types of companies usually prefer to deal with the largest exhibit companies.
- Companies that participate in fewer shows each year in smaller configurations may not get the level of service that they need from a huge exhibit company, and often end up being the proverbial “small fish in a big pond."
In order to find the best match for your needs, give some thought to how much support you will need from your exhibit company. Some companies need only basic assistance, such as storage, preparation and minor repairs. Others rely more heavily on an exhibit company to handle the entire show including show services, graphic design, shipping, etc. Be sure to consider how important your scale of business will be to your new vendor and whether you will have access to senior management in the event that problems occur.
While experience in your specific industry is a valuable thing, use caution in looking for a company that has several other clients in your most important show, as you may find that they are stretched too thin to provide the best service. Also, there are many other factors that contribute to the success of a vendor/client relationship, but a vendor’s efforts to become the best partner should always involve a willingness to listen and adapt to the client’s preferred ways of doing business.
Are you considering changing tradeshow vendors? We make it easy to see if we'll be your perfect fit - see the top ten reasons why.
Make sure your Trade Show Costs fit into your Budget
One of the biggest challenges that exhibit marketers face is that their bosses give them a solid budget to do a show, but the vendors that they need to make it all happen refuse to lock into a quotation. This problem exists in just about every area of tradeshow expense.
Most display companies will provide quotes for design and construction but do only “budgetary estimates” for field services. This leaves the door wide open to budget-blowing additional charges after the show. When clients ask for firm quotes for drayage, I&D, or electrical, their Account Executives deliver a well-rehearsed speech that they "cannot quote services that they can’t control," or some other excuse their bosses have taught them.
Also, General Services Contractors provide forms and other tools to allow trade show exhibitors to estimate their own field services costs but then insist on a credit card on file so that actual charges can be tacked on after the show. How in the heck do you budget for this?
There are exhibit companies that provide “turn key quotations” - if you absolutely cannot exceed a certain budget for a show, I would recommend that you find one. You will always have problems budgeting for hotel accommodations, travel expenses and other show related costs, but you'll at least be able to get the cost of your display, shipping, setup and dismantle, and utilities locked in.
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Doing Basic Planning Makes Participation in a Trade Show More Profitable and Less Stressful.
First ask yourself, what do you want from the show?
As you begin your planning process, be sure to understand why your company is spending the money to rent a space in the first place. Who will be attending? Which attendees are important to your company and why? What products do you have to show? What you want to say to visitors to your booth? Gaining a clear understanding of these “strategic” goals is vital to helping everything else fall neatly into place. As such, decisions on design, graphics, product placement, staffing, etc. should all be made based on your overall show strategy.
Next, develop a timeline.
Most show manuals include a timeline or schedule of events. This is helpful for dealing with the logistical details, but you need to make a personal timeline to guide your planning. You will also need to deal with your tradeshow display, all graphics, literature and premiums, room and dinner reservations, the list goes on and on. The only way to keep all of this organized and still be able to sleep at night is to start with a timeline. The first one that you make will be very difficult and time consuming, but with the ground work laid, subsequent show timelines can be as easy as cut and paste.
Get some help.
Your exhibit company should be able to take most of the display issues off of your shoulders, but it is best to confirm things with them from time to time to make sure that they are on track. This will allow you to focus on the things that are more difficult to outsource.
Be sure to set internal deadlines.
Make sure that things that must be done internally are listed on your timeline and communicate deadlines well in advance to everyone involved. Often, one of the most difficult things for trade show managers to do is to get their own trade show booth shipped to the show on time. With that in mind, sometimes it makes sense to set an internal deadline that leaves you a week or so fudge factor just in case.
Brochures need to be ready to go well in advance. It may make sense to send your boxes of literature to your exhibit company so that they can ship them to the show with the display. This will allow you to check one more thing off of your list, and as an added benefit, it's one less shipment you'll have to track down on-site.
Develop a trade show timeline, check it several times a day, and work well in advance. It's not as easy as it might seem, but the payoff is well worth the effort. Need trade show advice? Let's get started!
At any point in time, you could explore how to engage customers at a trade show and find several articles suggesting pop up displays, swag bags and more. But one of the most eye-catching ways to engage with a customer is also one of the least mentioned methods in the trade show world. Maybe it has been taken for granted that we all should instinctively be doing this, but today we’d like to discuss how to use lighting in your booth to catch the eye of a passerby and engage them in finding out more about your business.
The Power of Light
A dimly lit restaurant sets a tone of romance and grace while a colorful and brightly lit retail atmosphere invokes a feeling openness, professionalism and fun. The power of light in any setting can mean the difference between a satisfied customer, an engaged client or an uncomfortable situation and as you design your trade show booth, it is important to understand the role light can play in attracting visitors as well as how it portrays your company.
For example, when we think of Apple stores, the first thing that comes to mind is a brightly lit space with white walls. This fits Apple’s unique form of branding, attracts the attention of those walking by and it invites customers to step into a professional, clean and friendly space. That is the power of branding blended with lighting to engage others. Now we all aren’t Apple, but there are several ways to apply lighting to your booth design so it reflects your brand, highlights products and captures attention in the best way possible.
Lighting in Booth Design
Trade show booth lighting comes in several different forms. Some businesses will highlight their brand with large overhead scaffolding lights that double as a ceiling while others will use ground lighting to add pops of color to their booth walls. Floors can have LED light bars for a runway affect and products can be displayed in a well-lit display case, on a single stand with recessed lighting fixtures or on a shelf with stem lighting to highlight the products.
In the video, which showcases some of the top trade show booths found at the 2010 Outdoor Retailer's show, Camelbak utilizes lighting to display their logo, accent their chain mail water wall and to back light their unique line of water bottles. Keep an eye out for other booths which use lighting to brighten an area, shed light on specific products or to highlight cool booth details.
Engaging Customers with Your Trade Show Booth
The first rule of trade show booths is to display your products and business in the best “light” possible. This of course begins with booth design and is completed with actual lighting. It is the combination of design and lighting that can engage customers at several touch points. A unique and well lit sign can attract passersby, spotlighted products can invite them to step into the booth and the atmosphere the lighting provides in the booth can encourage comfort and actual engagement.
About the Author
Adam Palmer is the Director of Online Marketing at Light Craft Manufacturing and believes that even one-of-a-kind display and trade show booth designs require quality lighting to reach their full potential. Light Craft offers a complete selection of trade show lighting and recessed lights for virtually any display design.
All companies that exhibit at tradeshows want their name to be the most prominent in the convention center. At large shows with hundreds of exhibits this is obviously not possible. When you walk in to the exhibit hall, you are confronted with sea of visual clutter. So what is the correct approach to signage in your booth? Consider this:
Exhibit signage breaks down into 3 basic categories, long, medium and short range graphics. Each of these categories serves a practical purpose.
Long range graphics
These are most often corporate identification graphics. In island or peninsula displays, they can be large signs that are placed at the maximum height allowed by the show. They are sometimes suspended from the convention center ceiling (where permitted) or can be supported from the floor on tall columns. The purpose of long range graphics is to allow visitors to locate your exhibit from the entrance of the hall or at least from several aisles away. Most companies want these signs to be as large as possible so they can’t be too big. When every exhibit has these large signs, they lose their effectiveness. Sometimes adding lighting or rotating the signs will add interest. These types of signs are generally not permitted in backwall displays.
Medium range graphics
As visitors get closer to your exhibit, it is important to show them who you are and what you do. From 20 feet away from an island booth, the visitor would need to look straight up to read your large overhead sign so medium range graphics should include your corporate identification. Individual product names and informative tag lines are appropriate at this level. In smaller displays, medium range graphics are the only corporate identification and should clearly state who you are and what you do. Medium range graphics should be large enough to be read from a reasonable distance but not too large to interfere with the exhibit design. They should be positioned at or just above eye level.
Short range graphics
Signs of this nature include any graphic that can only be read while standing in or very near the display. They usually include product or brand identification signs and can include more detailed information since you are conveying information to interested attendees not trying to lure them to your display. Features, benefits, specifications and installation examples are perfect for short range graphics. These signs do not need to be very large and should be placed just below eye level for ease of view.
While these are very basic guidelines, they will result in well designed, effective and cost effective exhibits. Need a unique and effective tradeshow booth idea? We can help you create a custom trade show exhibit that creates a buzz about your brand and increases your booth traffic, all within your budget.
Exhibit design is a powerful reflection of your brand and, in fact, part of your branding. Trade show booths involve your company logo, products and employees. They serve as giant, interactive business cards.
So, even if you're not making a huge investment in exhibit design, it's worth revisiting your core elements of your branding to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Here, we'll take a quick look at graphically and lyrically spicing up your exhibit booths.
Trade Show Graphic Design
A competent exhibit company should be able to provide you with exhibit designs that effectively communicate your brand. You may even wish to incorporate into this process your in-house or consulting graphic designer.
- Embrace your three-dimensionality. Most of your branding materials are probably flat, "conventional" pieces. Graphic designers jump at the opportunity to work with exhibit designers to breathe fresh life into larger, 3D displays.
- Maintain focus. While it's tempting to incorporate every bell and whistle within your budget, visitors will lose interest quickly if they can't figure out what's going on. Speak to your specific offerings and value-added features relatively early in the engagement process.
- Consistent with the 3D theme, reach out and grab your audience's attention. You're not only trying to engage people at your booth but those down the aisle and across the room.
Trade Show Custom Copy
A bit more innovation is possible with your written materials than with your brand graphics. While you can't and shouldn't change your logo for every trade show, show-specific copy is an excellent idea.
Written materials can be customized--partially, at least--for each trade show in which you participate. Keep everything as short and concise as possible. Make sure that the information is timely, especially if your competitors' materials have gone stale.
Some of them have. Engage your customers and support your sales and marketing strategies with a custom trade show booth. Click here for a no cost, no obligation design and quotation for your next tradeshow.
Combine Rental Items with Your Custom Tradeshow Booth and Save Money
Even if you have made the investment in a custom tradeshow booth and own your exhibit properties, it may make sense to explore the idea of renting additional items that you may need. Rental offers a cost-effective way to change or add to your tradeshow display to meet your specific requirements.
For example: an exhibitor normally reserves a small island booth space (20 x 20 or 20 x 30). They own a custom tradeshow booth and it serves them well in the 3 shows that they exhibit in annually in this configuration. However, they recently introduced a new product line that will debut at a major industry tradeshow. As a result, they plan to have several meetings with very important potential distributors for the new product line at the show. Providing a private area within the booth for these meetings is a necessity.
It was determined that the best way to accomplish these goals would be to use a double deck display. The upper level of the double deck would provide the space for these important private meetings without sacrificing valuable floor space.
The problem is that the cost of purchasing a multilevel structure would definitely blow the tradeshow budget. Instead, the exhibitor decided to rent an existing structure and surround it with the exhibit components that they already own.
Customize Trade Show Exhibit Rentals to Your Exact Specifications
This is just one example of combining rental items with purchased exhibits. Exhibitors frequently rent conference rooms, reception desks, workstations, towers and overhead signs. Finishes on rental items can be changed so that they match existing tradeshow booth materials.
This cost effective solution should always be a consideration when planning your tradeshow exhibit.
Need a piece to match an existing trade show booth? Want to expand your current concept? Starting from scratch, but know you won't be able to buy? We can help. Lets get started!
Reduce Damage to Your Trade Show Exhibit During Post-Show Dismantling
Most tradeshows are open for 3 or 4 days. If you have ever been on the show floor during the last 2 hours of the show, you will see an amazing transition take place.
One week earlier there was an air of excitement and urgency as the exhibit crates were delivered to the booth spaces. Installation crews worked against the clock to get everything just right prior to the show opening. The night before the show, crews remove all of the empty crates and trash and roll out the aisle carpet. As the show opens, the sales staff arrive at their booths in their crisp business attire, anxious to grab anyone with an attendee badge and make their pitch.
In contrast, by afternoon on the last day of the show, the booth staff is tired, the traffic is light and everyone is ready to rush to the airport. Often, the booth staff will be required to stay after the show closes and take down the booth. It is sufficient to say they most likely will not use the same care in taking the booth down as they did in setting it up. Expensive display components are often pulled, yanked and ripped down and then stuffed, smashed and crushed into shipping containers.
In the end, what seemed like a great way to save money, instead ends up costing you dearly. In my experience, there are a couple of ways to reduce the chances of damage during post-show dismantle. The first would be to pay an installation and dismantling company to dismantle and pack the booth. This is not always feasible, especially if you set the booth up yourself. If you cannot hire someone, then designate one or two members of your staff to stay at least one extra day to take care of dismantling the display. If these people know that they are not going to be flying out the night the show closes, they will be much more likely to take their time when packing the display.
A good double check is to have the display thoroughly inspected upon its return. If it has been improperly packed, you will want to know about it immediately so that you can have it repaired before its next use. Need an on-site tradeshow specialist there from set-up to tear-down?
Let's get started.
This horror story happens – you are at the show, but your booth isn’t! Somehow it was lost or misplaced in transit. This post covers the basics of transporting your booth property to the show site. It is important to note, this is one area where you can experience savings by planning ahead.
Candy Adams, in her article on Exhibitor Online Lost in Transportation provided 12 questions you should ask regarding transportation to avoid any snafus. One question is, “where is your freight going?” Her response:
The quickest way to not get your shipment to a show is to provide inaccurate or incomplete shipping information. But there’s more to getting your freight from Point A to Point B than filling out a shipping label and affixing it to a box. Specifically, you need to tell your transportation carrier whether the shipment needs to go to the trade show’s advance warehouse, or direct to the show site. If you don’t make the distinction, you might be sitting in your booth space waiting for your freight to arrive from the advance warehouse, while it’s still en route direct to the show and set to arrive the following day. Not only will you not have your freight, but your setup costs will escalate as the installation laborers twiddle their thumbs until it arrives. What’s more, the additional day it takes the freight to travel direct to show site can result in late-delivery penalties if you miss your on-site targeted delivery deadline.
As Candy stated, you have choices on how you can ship your materials to the show. You can ship them to:
Advanced Warehouse by a certain date
Direct Deliveries to the Show Site on specific dates
Each show will have a designated shipping company for you to use and their information can be obtained in Exhibitor Kit supplied by show management. However, you may have a preferred carrier, one you use regularly.
Key Questions which Determine Freight Costs
As you are working with the transportation issues, these are key pieces of information which will determine the cost of freight:
- Number of Pieces
- Estimated Weight
- Estimated Size
- Addresses for Pickup/Delivery
Remember, items that arrive after the receiving deadlines can incur additional charges. Once again, you can save money by planning ahead!
An important note: make sure you have the address of the venue correct. Candy shares in her article:
“There can be confusion, especially in major cities, if a specific street address or hall designation isn’t provided. I’ve witnessed freight delivered to the wrong convention center in cities with multiple exhibition facilities, and to the wrong Marriott or Hilton since there can be multiple chain hotels in metropolitan areas. Unless you want your carrier to guess which venue is the correct destination, provide the full venue name and street address.”
Transportation Timing and Charges
The shorter the transit time, the higher the charges are for most deliveries. Here is a brief summary for your review.
- The lowest charges are usually common carriers, but unless you pay a large premium, you cannot designate the delivery date. This works mostly for advance receiving shipments, but does not work at all for direct to show site shipments.
- Next lowest is the 3-5 business day. Lots of flexibility in that the shipper can designate day and time to deliver as long as we have at least 3 business days. If they designate a time, or if the day is on the weekend or a holiday, there is an extra charge.
- 2nd Business day is still higher priced. The shipper can still designate date and time.
- Overnight is higher still.
- Same Day is the highest cost, and it will be delivered as quickly as possible.
Transportation companies designated by show management or those you have used in the past can be great resources for you. If you are new to this, ask questions. Typically, you will find great advice from them and if you plan ahead you can save money.
Transportation problems can be avoided by careful planning. This is an area where you want time to be on your side by advance scheduling.
The use of videos in marketing is increasing dramatically. A handful of clever exhibitors are using them as a part of the overall event marketing strategy. They are producing video prior to the show to solicit attendees to their booths, at the show for testimonials, demonstrations, etc., and after the show as part of their follow-up. In YouTube’s Creators Playbook they say:
“Online video is different than television and film because a video posted online has a long-tail. The weeks leading up to an event, ‘the pre-buzz’, is just as important as the date of the actual event, maybe more important.”
The trade show videos should have as much planning as your booth design. The marketing message conveyed via the video must be compelling and have a call to action. Relevant, meaningful content delivered with style is the key to success. As with most marketing tools (websites, headlines in ad copy, email subject lines, etc.) the first few seconds are crucial for engaging viewers.
Many shows are now encouraging exhibitors to have pre-show videos. In fact, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has a contest for the best pre-show video. The prize for winning the contest was a video spotlight on CESweb.org. And five exhibitors were chosen for that via online votes. Here is the link to see all videos.
Below is a Tweet from Rachel Wimberly, Editor- in- Chief of Trade Show News Network about the use of videos before the show.
On Joyce McKee’s website, Let’s Talk Trade Shows she shared Tweets from #ExpoChat regarding trade show videos. Her blog post was titled, The Growing Trend of Video Use at Trade Shows. A few Tweets from the chat:
You can use the pre-show videos to reach not only the potential show attendees, but your entire sphere of prospects. Think about leveraging your show message via the videos to all who might be interested in your products/services. You can have these short, succinct digital assets on your website, video sharing sites, in email campaigns, etc.
Onsite Video Creation and Sharing
All elements are in place for some great footage to be shot on the show floor. All the correct personnel, equipment against the backdrop of your booth allows you to capture quality content which can be used in many ways. You might want to consider having a live stream from your booth for a portion of the show time.
It is extremely important to consider lighting and sound when shooting your video. The viewing audience will be tolerant of a non-professional video if it tells a short story and has the proper sound and lighting. A trade show floor can be quite noisy so be prepared.
Be sure to upload your videos during the show to YouTube and other video sharing sites so the audience who is not there can “be there” from a far.
If you have a blog, make sure you highlight the onsite video. Depending on how active you are on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. these are other places to place your video.
Post Show Videos
As a wrap up from the show, send highlight videos to your audience. You might have links to additional, in-depth videos for their viewing.
As we stated in the beginning of this post, video consumption will continue to grow. In a recent statistic from comScore Video Metrix service shows that” an all-time high of 188 million U.S. Internet users watched 37.7 billion online content videos in August, while video ad views totaled 9.5 billion.” Are your trade show videos among these statistics? If not, we would suggest that this should be considered as a future offer to distinguish you from the competition.