Portable is a crazy term when used as a description of a trade show exhibit. If I asked my wife (an English teacher) to describe a portable display, she would probably say “a display that can easily be carried around by one person”. In the real world of trade shows, marketers of portable displays have stretched that definition considerably.
A while back, I had the opportunity to deliver a demonstration display to a prospective client who was considering the purchase of several units. The only way that I could transport the cases for this 10’ display was to strap one of them to the top of my midsized SUV! Needless to say, the client questioned the portability of that particular unit. Fortunately, every other display that met her needs packed in multiple cases with wheels and weighed about the same so we had many better options, but sometimes lessons are learned from bad as well as good.
For most trade show marketers, the only truly portable displays are pop-up displays and banner stands. (I'm sure that I will hear from many of my friends on the portables side who disagree with me on this). That having been said, a 10’ popup display collapses and packs into a case that resembles a large trash can with wheels and weighs in at just under 100 pounds. There are probably at least 30 different brands that are all very similar but none of them can be easily carried around by one person. There are also trade show booth accessories that can be added to provide shelves, literature racks, lights, etc.
Banner stands are very popular but they are usually about 3’ wide, and when you put a few of them in a standard booth space, in my opinion, it’s not a very professional look. There are various other types of portable displays that pack into smaller cases but they can limit your ability to interchange graphics and may be less durable over time.
The moral of the story: If you are in the market for a portable display, do some research and find a unit that suits your needs. Make sure that you look at the shipping cases and consider whether the size and the weight make sense for you. Need Help? Let's get started.
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 a few years ago).
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? Have a trade show specialist on you side.
Ordering electrical service is one of the most difficult aspects of tradeshow preparation. Just when you think that you have watts figured out, the next electrical form wants you to order amps. Volts seem easy enough, but what the heck is 3 phase? How about 24 hour power? Seems like a good idea, but it doubles the cost of each connection.
Trade Show Electrical Service Preparation
For the vast majority of tradeshow exhibits, the electrical requirements are pretty straight-forward. For a 10’ backwall exhibit, one standard minimum service outlet placed behind the booth will be all that is needed. If the plan includes a reception counter or table on the aisle, another minimum service outlet nearby will be handy to provide power to a lead retrieval device or laptop. As tradeshow displays get larger and more complex, it is advisable to have an electrical drawing. This is usually a simple display floorplan that shows exact placement of all electrical outlets and the required watts or amps for each. It is best to provide as much detail as possible. Most exhibit companies provide this service as part of their preparation procedure.
Once you have the electrical diagram, you can simply count the service outlets and fill out the form. Make sure to submit the form early enough to take advantage of any discounts.
Heavy duty electrical service such as 220 or 440 volts is used to power machinery. This type of service is very expensive and the order should be placed by someone who is very familiar with the equipment. Most convention centers turn off electrical service to displays at night. If you have equipment or computers in your exhibit that should not be turned off, or if you have refrigerators or freezers in your booth, you should consider ordering 24 hour service.
You will also need to provide the electrical diagram to the show electricians. They will use your electrical order and diagram to route extension cords on the floor to the locations specified. The diagram is normally faxed in with the electrical order. If things change, be sure to fax the updated electrical drawing before you go to the show. The electricians typically go to work right after the booths are taped out on the floor.
A word about safety… One of the most common complaints heard from exhibitors is that they have to pay an electrician $90.00 to plug in their lights. While the cost does seem high, there is a very good reason for an electrician to make the connection. This process insures that the electrician has an opportunity to inspect the wiring in your display. This may seem like a hassle, but keep in mind that on the night of January 16, 1967, while the biggest tradeshow of the year was hours from opening, a fire that was later traced to faulty wiring in an exhibit, burned Chicago’s McCormick Place to the ground. One person died and economic loss included the building, all of the exhibits and products.
I'm sure you can agree, it's much better safe than sorry.
Does your exhibit company provide electrical service as part of their preparation procedure? Need help? Lets get started.
Value Of A Used Trade Show Display
There are a large number of corporations who purchased new tradeshow exhibits of all types a few years ago before the economy took a dive.
Now that tradeshow marketing budgets have been slashed, resulting in participation in fewer shows and smaller booth spaces, these too large, too heavy and too expensive to set up trade show displays are sitting in warehouses collecting dust and costing their owners money in storage fees.
Before considering your disposal options, you must first consider the fact that the tradeshow display probably appears as an asset on the company’s books. So, if disposed of, it will result in a loss on financial statements. Add to this the fact that the display consists of some hazardous materials, so disposal costs will be significant and you can see why disposal is not likely to be a popular move in the eyes of the bean counters.
Also, be realistic about the value of a used tradeshow display. Companies generally want to design a new booth to their own specifications. Even if your display closely matches their needs, the cost of refurbishment, changing finishes and colors and producing new graphics can quickly add dramatically to the cost. It is not unusual for tradeshow booths that originally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to be nearly worthless in the used market.
Options For Your Old Trade Show Booth
So… what are your options?
- Bite the bullet. Get a quote from your display company, pay the handling and disposal fees, write off the loss, and move on. (This is a major reason many companies choose to only rent their displays).
- Try to sell your old tradeshow booth. Gather as much information about the display as possible. Photos, drawings and inventory lists are critical to success. Post the display on a used exhibit web site (www.exhibitrader.com for example). Ebay and Craigslist might work to sell portable exhibits but larger displays probably won’t get much attention. Be realistic about an asking price.
- Make a deal with your exhibit company. Roll the old booth into the purchase or rental of a new display. Showing a “trade in allowance” on the contract will be much easier on the financial statements and also eliminate your disposal liability.
- Donate your booth. Try to find a charity that might have some use for all or part of the display. Admittedly, this is a long shot, but is worth checking into.
No matter which direction you take, it is always a shame that something so exciting and valuable when it was originally built ends up such a pain to get rid of.
It is no secret that exhibiting at trade shows, while widely considered the best dollar-for-dollar marketing investment, are chock full of costs. When it comes to saving money at shows, the devil is certainly in the details. Sometimes you can grossly over pay for services you might not think about until you even get to the show.
When exhibiting, people are going to be coming and going in and out of your booth all day for as many days as you are exhibiting. If you have carpet, you are probably going to need to think about vacuuming if you want to keep your booth presentable. If you are not careful, this can result in major costs for you once you get on the floor.
One of my clients, a software company based in California, was exhibiting at a five day show in Chicago. They had a carpeted 20’ x 40’ booth, so they knew they were going to need some vacuuming services. When they requested this service, we looked into the hall for vacuuming prices. Having the booth vacuumed once every night by the hall would have cost our client over $1000!
Most trade shows will allow you to vacuum your own booth, but if you want someone else to do it, you must use the designated contractor.
Instead of having our client pay such a ridiculous price for something that one of their staff members could do in less than 10 minutes we came up with a solution. We simply made space in one of the shipping crates and included a vacuum cleaner that could be assembled on the floor and then stored in their trade show booth. Their carpet was swept everyday for the show, they got the word out about their new products, and the show was a success.
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Your company has invested a great deal of money into a beautiful tradeshow exhibit and you've been selected to work the booth. How do you prepare yourself to make the most of this opportunity?
Here are some helpful tips:
- Create a preshow plan. Profile the type of prospect you wish to attract to better focus your efforts. Get a preregistration attendee list and contact as many of the suitable prospects as possible before the show. Extend a personal invitation to your tradeshow booth and give the attendee a reason to stop by - something new for them to see works well. You should contact any very important prospects to try to set up an appointment at the tradeshow.
- Familiarize yourself with the entire convention agenda. Be aware of keynote speakers, educational sessions and social events. Prioritize them and make sure to attend. Be prepared to discuss these sessions with prospects who come to the booth.
- Study the design of your exhibit. Read and understand the graphics. Have a plan for giving the prospects a quick tour of the booth and recording lead information for follow-up.
- Develop a plan to deal with current customers efficiently so that they do not monopolize precious prospecting time.
- Memorize a few greetings. Try not to ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Your goal should be to encourage the prospect to talk about themselves or their company, so that you can tailor your presentation to their interests.
- Be approachable. Refrain from eating in the tradeshow booth, checking your Blackberry, or holding extended conversations with coworkers. It is human nature not to be rude and interrupt people and it will make your tradeshow exhibit seem uninviting.
- Be sure to have a disengagement line or two. The best one is "thanks for stopping by", but if you are talking to an important prospect it might be better to say "where do we go from here?" or "how would you like me to follow up?"
- Take notes. There are so many people and so little time. Brief notes will help you to be more effective with your follow-up.
- Try to schedule breaks throughout the day to deal with voicemail, email, and just catch your breath. Remember, quality is more important than quantity.
- Follow up in a timely manner, meaning the next day. Don't risk letting your prospect forget you.
Are you interested in exhibit management for your entire tradeshow program? Our exhibit management is based entirely on strategic planning. Contact us today if you are in need of trade show help.
Trade Show Display Lighting Can Make Your Booth Stand Out From The Competition
The explosion of LED lamps and fixtures onto the trade show display scene has changed the face of lighting going forward. Five years ago, lighting companies’ could not produce enough lumens from an led, whereas today, certain types of LED lamps and fixtures rival traditional incandescent in light output. Although this might be a reason to consider using led over traditional lamps, and, aside from their “green” technology for the “sustainable” people out there, there are just as many cons to consider.
If you don’t pack extra LED lamps and fixtures in your set-up kit, it might be very hard to replace them if something breaks. Sure, a local contractor or hardware store might have something similar, but with all of the product lines, and variety of manufacturers out there, getting an exact match will be tough on the fly.
Advice: pack an extra box of lamps, and a spare fixture if using LED.
It’s amazing the reduction in energy consumed by LED over traditional incandescent or arc lamps. Couple this with the promise of “long Life” and you have what would seem to be an environmentally friendly “green dream” come true. Beware, all that glitters is not green. Or rather, all that is green does not glitter, at least not for long. What’s this? Well, certain 100,000 hour lamps have a tremendous amount of light degradation over the life of the lamp. What “popped” and rendered beautiful color new, will fade and dim over time. So even though it may last 100,000 hours, you will certainly not want to use it after 40,000 as the lumens emitted fall, and the color rendering degrade dramatically.
Advice: do a little homework, and don’t buy the cheapest lamps.
There are many uses for LED lamps in a booth, however, understand, throw distances are still limited versus traditional spot or flood lamps. If you are lighting a jewelry case, or smaller product from a close distance, LED may work just fine to add that extra “pop”. However, attempting to get a full wall wash or focus a spot light from a distance will be tough if you try to wing it with LED. Understand the throw distance for a particular lamp before you specify it in a booth. Throw distance is the distance from the face of the lamp, to the item you are attempting to light. Also taken into consideration, should be the width of the lighting pattern, and light lost over the throw distance.
Advice: don’t just use led thinking it is the panacea for all things green, understand what you are trying to light, and the impact LED may, or may not have.
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Thinking About Changing Exhibit Companies?
Feel like your current tradeshow exhibit service company is holding you hostage? Are you getting the level of service you deserve at a reasonable cost? Is it time to look into a new provider? The most common way to start this process is to do some research, contact a few companies, and request some proposals. The problem, however, is that when the proposals come in, none of them end up looking alike. How are you to compare?
When looking for a new tradeshow booth or services provider it is important to seek out "apples-to-apples" pricing: competitive quotations that are all including the same types of services.
Request an Apples-to-Apples Quotation
There are many different ways a tradeshow exhibit services company can write a quote, which can make comparing them difficult. Also, depending on the company you are dealing with, there can also be many different ways to hide costs that come after everything is said and done. It is important to make sure that all of the quotes you are comparing include everything you need. Otherwise, you may choose what looked to be the most inexpensive quote, but when your tradeshow ends, you can find yourself looking at an invoice with thousands of dollars you were not expecting to have to pay.
The best way to make sure that you are getting an apples-to-apples quotation is by sending companies a format for their proposals. All you have to do is take a current tradeshow exhibit services invoice and copy the descriptions of each line item, and ask prospective vendors to fill in their prices for the same items. This way they know exactly what services to price and the final product will be quotations that you can easily compare. You can also learn a great deal about each bidder by seeing how willing they are to participate and how well they follow your directions.
Once you have the numbers, make sure to review each proposal for disclaimers and fine print. Once you've narrowed the field, interview each company that is being seriously considered and check their references.
These kinds of apples-to-apples quotations will save you time, and quite possibly a great deal of money. Are you thinking about changing exhibit companies? Click here to find out the top 10 reasons why you should switch to Alexis Exhibits!
Why are sales leads collected at tradeshow exhibits viewed as having very little real value by management and the sales staff? Why are 75% of tradeshow leads never followed up? Since most sales organizations are composed of aggressive, proactive, money motivated, commissioned sales people, it just doesn’t seem to make sense
Gathering Sales Leads With Value at your Tradeshow
So, what is the biggest problem with tradeshow leads? In my experience: Tradeshow leads are difficult to follow up effectively.
If you consider the impersonal nature of taking leads at a show, it only makes sense. Attendees are given a magnetic striped card that is scanned when they come to the tradeshow display. This automatically provides an exhibitor with basic information about the prospect - name, title, company, address, email, phone etc. Most lead retrieval units also provide an opportunity to categorize the lead - "hot lead, contact immediately" or "send information only." While this is an efficient means of collecting information at a tradeshow booth, it provides very little information to the salesperson who contacts the prospect after the show.
Your Leads are Human, not Barcodes - Custom Design your Tradeshow Lead Card
A much better way to assure effective follow-up is to design a lead card that asks a few targeted questions that will be important in post-tradeshow follow-up. When defining lead card questions, the best source of information is the people who will responsible for following up. Some ideas to consider:
- What products are you most interested in?
- Who are you currently purchasing this product from?
- What problems do you have with your current supplier?
- What could we do to earn your business?
Other helpful tips to keep in mind:
- Keep the tradeshow lead card as short as possible and consider providing the prospects with a premium item as a reward for taking time to answer your questions.
- Always swipe the attendee's badge so that you have their basic information for follow-up.
- Energize your booth staff by offering a prize to the person who collects the most completed lead cards each day.
Try this at your next tradeshow booth and you will notice an immediate increase in results.
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