Alexis Exhibits

Trade Show Exhibit Design: “Think outside the box”

I have a friend who always seems to come up with a new, successful angle for every trade show. Recently, I asked her, “How do you do it?” The simple reply, “I always force myself and my team to think outside the box. I challenge everyone involved to do the unexpected and come up with new ways to attract attention and create excitement.”

I thought about this advice for a moment. It rattled around in my head. At first, I thought, “I always think outside the box.” Then I started to really evaluate what this common expression means. It is an appealing concept, but is it the right approach for every company, for every brand? And did I really always “think outside the box”? Yes, or at least my goal is always to come up with new ideas and “out of the box” solutions. I just never used that expression to describe my efforts.

What is the “box”?

The trade show’s “box” can be big or small. It can have lighting and dramatic banners. It is the expected trade show exhibit, staffed by smiling people representing a company trying to get leads, offering a free gift or a few samples or some sales material. The box is ordinary, stamped out, one after another just the same in different colors. The box is forgettable.

“Outside the box” exhibits

These are the exhibits that give an attendee a new perspective. These are the exhibits that make lasting impressions on the people who see them. To be effective they require more than just being novel, creative ideas; they need to be thoughtful and suitable for the target audience and the brand. Very few trade show exhibits truly rise to this challenge.

Should every company strive to do the unexpected?

As long as the exhibit is consistent with the brand position and brand values, and successfully promotes your products or services, the answer is, “Yes!” It is a real trick to balance inspiring creative with the hard-hitting sales message that this tough economy demands, but when you achieve it, the results can be stunning.

How to get “outside the box” ideas

The first step in creating a breakthrough exhibit is to build a team that shares that commitment. Once you have assembled that team, make sure that they consistently focus on really solving the marketing challenge that faces you in new and interesting ways.

Trade Show Exhibit Design: Motion Captures Attention

Few exhibitors use motion to draw visitors to their trade show exhibit, and this presents an opportunity for the exhibitors who do make effective use of motion. Impactful motion can be created in 2-D with digital video or interactive displays, or in 3-D with people or other moving objects.

Effective 2-D Motion Techniques

Trade show floors are loaded with digital display monitors but they are rarely used to create motion. Most often they are used to show videos of products, digital slide shows or other programming that is meant to be watched from a few feet away. This can be an important element of a booth but may not draw someone into your booth.

To attract passersby place displays above head level and in a location that can be seen easily from at least 10 or 20 feet away. Using large display screens or an array of displays can help make a big statement.

If you want to attract people with something moving, the programming is what really matters. Program your display with attention-getting video or graphics. Use large graphic images, bright colors, stark contrast and incorporate motion.

Effective 3-D Motion Techniques

A few exhibitors have created trade show exhibits that incorporate the latest 3-D technology, but most 3-D motion elements used in trade show exhibits are people or objects that are in motion.

People are the most common 3-D motion elements. A product demonstration filled with activity and animated behavior attracts attention. A performer doing any kinetic activity – dancing, juggling, walking on stilts, and so on – can attract large crowds.

The other common 3-D motion elements are physical objects that move. A motion element can include banners, streamers or tension fabric structures that are well above eye level and in motion.

Effective Use of Motion

Motion elements are highly memorable and can leave a lasting impression with trade show attendees. The most effective way to incorporate motion techniques into a trade show booth is to make sure that the moving element reinforces the brand identity and the booth concept. As with every powerful communications tool, integration is essential to success and using motion elements as a gimmick just to attract attention without properly integrating the message can actually undermine your overall efforts.

Used wisely, motion can attract visitors to your trade show exhibit and has the capacity to build awareness and leave a lasting impression of your company and brand.

Putting the Show back into Trade Show Exhibits!

ExhibitorOnline published a case history about a trade show exhibit that brilliantly executed a complete 360 degree trade show exhibit. The exhibit was presented by PayLock LLC, a manufacturer of a self-release car-booting system called the SmartBoot at the International Parking Institute Conference & Expo (IPI) in Las Vegas.

Since the company’s 2004 launch, PayLock’s president, Cory Marchasin, hoped to snuff out traditional car boots. “My partners and I acquired a car-boot company in 2004, but rather than continue with this traditional technology, we looked for ways to develop a competitive edge and differentiate ourselves from the competition,” Marchasin says. “As part of our creative process to build a better boot, we decided it wasn’t actually the product that needed refining so much as it was the business process itself. Traditional boots and the process associated with them just didn’t seem to make sense anymore.”

PayLock decided to bury competing products with a funeral-based booth theme. Their exhibit including everything from in-booth caskets to after-hours wakes, PayLock’s “morose strategy used dead-pan humor to rub out the competition — and slay its own expectations in the process.” Here are a few highlights:

  1. The entire trade show exhibit and program was infused with product messages and tongue-in-cheek tactics to keep the laughs coming.
  2. Pre-show promotion: An obituary for the traditional boot ran in the show directory, available starting the day before the show opened.
  3. Two memory boards with images of the traditional boot and the paper permit paid homage to the Smart-Boot’s “deceased” competitors.
  4. Following the show’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, PayLock pallbearers hoisted the coffins onto their shoulders and led a processional to PayLock’s booth. A five-piece jazz band accompanied the processional, recreating a New Orleans-style funeral march.
  5. The two coffins were positioned near the back of the exhibit. Monitors above the coffins displayed the time of the next funeral presentation along with whimsical images during the eulogies.
  6. Tissue boxes, black carpet, and casket sprays adorned the surreal 16-seat in-booth funeral parlor.
  7. PayLock staffers read the eulogy, which explained the traditional boot’s fate through excerpts from the traditional boot’s journal. Attendees that read pre-scripted eulogies of their own were entered into a drawing for an iPad.
  8. After the funeral, the bereaved filed past the caskets to pay their respects and collect free T-shirts.

The exhibit was not a hit with competitors, but was very popular with show attendees, and, most importantly, generated a lot of qualified sales leads. The most impressive aspect of this exhibit was how it seamlessly integrated the company’s sales message into an unlikely and memorable branded event.

You can read the entire case history at, click here!

Study concludes Face-to-Face Trade Shows Capture Attention Best

As companies look to find ways to make every marketing dollar work harder, some trade show exhibitors have tried to reduce expenses by participating in virtual trade shows. Initial results have shown that virtual trade shows generate few leads and a higher percentage of unqualified leads. Now a report from Cornell University has started to shed some light on the behavioral effect of live vs. virtual meetings.

The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University recently released a report, The Future of Meetings: The Case or Face to Face, that concluded, “The intangibles of face-to-face meetings can be more potent than virtual and online technology when it comes to capturing the imaginations and enthusiasm of attendees.”

The study authors found that “real” events hold the attention of attendees and allow the formation of valuable personal relationships making trade shows, conventions and corporate events well worth the investment.

The report stated, “Large face-to-face meetings and events are the best option when a business or organization needs to capture attention necessary for a new or different strategy, relationship or product.”

The report concluded that face-to-face events are the best option for:

  • Capturing attention: Attendees have fewer distractions on the exhibit floor and are less tempted to check e-mails or do other multi-tasking chores than they would when taking part in a virtual event.
  • Inspiring a positive emotional climate: Attendees like to associate with their peers. Even people working on virtual technology attend physical conferences.
  • Networking and relationship building: Socializing and making new friends in an industry can have great appeal. Experts predict informal networks of people within an organization that are bonded by a group loyalty will become even more important than traditional chains of command as the economy recovers.

The entire report can be found at Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research website.


Trade Show Exhibit Strategies: Be the “Talk of the Show”

Become the “Talk of the Trade Show”

Every show has that one exhibitor that everyone talks about – the “Talk of the Show”. It is not always the biggest or most expensive booth, but it is often the booth that has the best marketing idea. Here are some ways that unlikely exhibitors became the “Talk of the Show”:

  1. Rare autographed merchandise that appeals to the target customer.
    Pick the right item and the right celebrity for your target customer and, if used as part of a themed exhibit and contest, your exhibit could be a show standout. Select a rare, one-of-a-kind item to be used in a prize drawing, add some related, less expensive items to make the contest more exciting. Then come up with a themed contest and exhibit to make the entire concept and booth an entertainment event.
  2. Film a live show and make attendee the stars.
    Most people love to see themselves on camera. Set up a Live Cam and Web Cam from the show floor and put on a show. Broadcast your “show” on monitors so people can watch their colleagues be stars. At one trade show, an exhibitor created a talk show set and broadcast live at the trade show and online. They had a “band” with a couple of musicians and recorded music, a show host and invited attendees to be their guests on the show. Guests could be interviewed about the product or sing favorite songs with modified lyrics that integrated the featured product. The program got the highest ratings at this show.
  3. A housewares magic act.
    Many exhibitors hire magicians or entertainers to attract exhibit traffic, but every now and then a company comes up with an act that breaks out of the ordinary. A ceramic knife manufacturer took a knife throwing act to a new level – pitting their ceramic knives against the competition. The knife throwing act demonstrated that while some ceramic knives shattered easily, the company’s knives were truly shatter resistant and could survive even knife throwing.
  4. Extreme Demos.
    If you have an extreme product, consider having an extreme demo. At one trade show, Taser offered to shock attendees, and hundreds took up the offer and ended up on the floor.
  5. Great food.
    If you are exhibiting at a non-food show, think about offering a crowd-pleasing, made-to-order food item. The trick is to avoid the commonly offered freshly baked cookies and coffee drinks. For example, at a tech show, Fios, Inc. of Portland offered smoothies – and had people lined up for hours. While attendees waited for their smoothie, the booth staff scanned their badges and introduced attendees to Fios e-discovery legal support services and software.

There are many ways to attract attention – prizes, demos, entertainers and free food are common – but when done in an unexpected way, it can make your booth the trade show exhibit that everyone talks about.

Trade Show Secrets to Success

For small businesses, trade shows can be a great opportunity to reach out to a targeted audience and deliver your marketing message. The goal, of course, is to ultimately convert potential sales leads into satisfied, happy customers.

Despite brutal economic conditions, trade shows still offer a significant payoff for small businesses. Even in today’s business world of websites, social media, emails and voicemails, trade shows still offer one of the best opportunities for companies to build relationships with face-to-face contact.

Let’s take a look at some trade show secrets (shhh, don’t tell anyone) that could help your company succeed in the trade show world, regardless of your budget.

Pick a show in a vertical, niche market. Instead of exhibiting at a trade show at which all your competitors will be, fighting to gain the attention of the same audience, pick an offbeat, smaller show. Every business has smaller, vertical markets in which they would like to gain a foothold. The advantage is these shows typically will cost less, and you can focus on delivering your message to a new audience, not on besting your competitors’ efforts.

Don’t listen to the hype. Instead of relying on the word of salespeople desperate to sell you a booth, talk to other exhibitors to find out what type of experience they’ve had not only working with the exhibit management but also the results they have experienced from exhibiting.

Attend the event first. If you’re considering exhibiting at a really large (read: expensive) trade show, attend it first. Walk the floor and ask both the attendees and the exhibitors about their experience at the show. Find out whether they felt attending or exhibiting was worth their time and money.

Skip new trade shows. Don’t invest in unproven commodities, especially in these tough economic times when even the larger shows can struggled for survival. Save your trade show budget for shows with a proven track record of success that you know can deliver the ROI you need to justify the expense.

Speak up. If you’re a small business with limited resources, exhibiting at trade shows might be beyond your economic means. That doesn’t mean you can’t add trade shows to your marketing mix. Contact the show management and inquire as to any possible opportunities to be a speaker or panel expert.

Get them while they’re hot. After the show is over, don’t let months go by before contacting sales prospects. Follow up with those attendees who took the time to stop by and hear your company’s pitch within two weeks of the show.

Unleash the Power of PR at Tradeshows

One initiative often forgotten about at trade shows and conferences is public relations (PR). Obviously tradeshows are an excellent way to increase visibility of your company with a targeted audience of potential customers. Most companies are well aware of this and focus their efforts solely on garnering the attention of attendees in order to generate sales leads.

What many companies fail to recognize is the vast potential to also grab the attention of the media covering these events. Magazine editors, writers, consultants, and bloggers attend shows to gather information and become educated on what’s new in that particular industry. They want to know what products are being introduced, what new technologies are emerging, what companies are partnering together, and what new services are being offered.

In order to get their attention, companies must be proactive. Tradeshow organizers engage in promotional activities that include the media so be sure and look for opportunities to get your company included in any pre-show newsletter or press release distributed by show management. Contact the show’s PR staff and ask for any opportunities to contribute industry information or research, or provide industry “experts” at your company to participate in panel discussions, give speeches, or to teach product- or technology-specific classes.

Several months before the show, put together a press kit that includes: a one-page company overview; a press release on whatever you’re introducing at the show; product spec sheets on each product or service; case studies or user stories demonstrating the real-world benefits of your products or services; recent news articles; and a CD of images of your company’s products that the editors can use for publication. Also be sure and include the business card of the person within your company responsible for PR. Put press kits in the show’s media room, as well as in your booth.

A few weeks out, obtain the list of all members of the media who are pre-registered for the event. Contact the key members of the media and schedule a time for them to come to your booth and meet one-on-one with a company representative to get a demo of your product and an overview of your company. Make sure you have something newsworthy to share with them: research findings, significant new technology or products, market news, etc.

If you have significant news to share, you might consider holding a press conference. The show management can assist you in obtaining a room outside the chaotic show floor and can also help with preparations such as food or drink you might want to offer weary members of the press.

Keep in mind that good PR is about building relationships with the media and positioning your company as a thought leader in your industry. If an editor likes you—and as a result, the company you represent—he or she will be more likely to contact you for information or interviews with key personnel when they are writing an article on a topic with which your company can offer some expertise.

How to Choose Effective Trade Show Giveaways

When attendees at trade shows leave your booth, you would like them to leave with a great lasting impression of your company and its products. Giving them a great pitch on your company and an impressive demonstration of your products is an effective way to do that. Another way is to give them something to take home as a way of thanking them for their time and in the process something that will remind them of your company and its products.

These so-called “giveaways,” or promotional gifts can be super marketing tools when chosen carefully. Attendees love the idea of getting something for free, whether it’s a tote bag, a mug or a random ballpoint pen. Note: yes, attendees will take pens even when they are not intended to be giveaways. Gift giving can build goodwill, be an incentive, communicate a message, and create awareness.

Giveaways should be used to reinforce a company name, core benefit, and image, create a positive feeling, remind attendees of the company name, and to obtain contact information of prospects. Be sure that whatever item you choose as a giveaway, make sure your company logo or name is on it. Enhance your positioning strategy even more by including a branding message, slogan, and phone number as well.

So how do you choose the most memorable ones to use as tradeshow takeaways? One good way is to cross-reference your own promotional ideas with retail items that are trending high at the moment. Do this by surfing through gadget catalogs to see what’s being featured. Some item might be all the rage, and while your marketing budget might not be able to splurge on that actual item, popular accessories (a holder, portable speakers, etc.) with your company logo might be.

Also, keep in mind your objective and who exactly will be receiving the giveaway. Will it be used to enhance a theme, convey a specific message, or educate your target audience? Determining a purpose of the giveaway will go a long way towards helping you select the right gift. If you’re still stuck, consider consulting a promotional specialist to help you make the right selection.

Another important consideration will be your budget, as giveaway items will vary greatly in price, with quality, quantity, and special orders all impacting overall cost. Once you’ve determined how much you have to spend, you might also consider ordering the same item for several different shows, as the greater the quantity, the lower the individual unit price will be.

Unique trade show giveaways can help draw prospects to your booth, so make sure your sales prospects know about it in advance. Send them a teaser invite with details of the giveaway, or create a two-piece premium, sending one part out to key prospects before the show and directing them to collect the other half at your booth.

Deploying Online Marketing Strategies to Promote Trade Shows

The Internet is called the “Information Highway” for a reason, as it provides an easy way to quickly to find information on an endless array of topics. It also provides an ideal vehicle by which to educate and communicate with vast numbers of people. For all these reasons, the Internet is a great way to promote your company, its products, as well as its involvement in upcoming trade shows.

Deploying a web-based strategy can help you maximize the chances of trade show success by increasing your exposure and message frequency to your target audience. It’s important to integrate e-marketing techniques to promote trade show participation before, during, and after each event.

Before the Show.

Devote an entire section of your company’s website to highlight your participation in an upcoming trade show or event. Cross-promote this particular page and your site in traditional printed marketing materials, such as brochures, newsletter, or advertisements.

For people who are attending the show, provide an online form for them to fill out to schedule a demo, then follow up by phone to confirm the time. Have another form for people who are unable to attend the show—but are still interested—so you can provide them with information.

Contact the show’s management and seize any opportunities to utilize marketing vehicles it uses to promote the show, such as websites, publications, or newsletters. If the show has a website, look at web advertising, such as banners, links or any type of promotional copy, to lure site visitors to your site.

Generate some pre-show buzz by promoting a contest, quiz, drawing, game or other incentive on your website. Contestants should be directed to your booth during the show to receive their prize, find the answer, etc.

During the Show.

Promote your online marketing resources. Ask visitors to your booth for contact info so you can add them to your online distribution list for newsletters, e-zines, etc. These online resources provide them with helpful tips so be sure and present this as an opportunity for them to receive something of value, not just advertisements and junk email.

Give the winners of promotional contests or quizzes some face time on your web site. Highlight photos of winners collecting their prizes at the show. And, let visitors to your web site who were unable to attend the event register for contests, drawings, etc.

Update your web site with daily highlights from the show. Include news, product launches, customer interviews, speaker summaries, etc., to keep everyone who couldn’t attend the event up to date.

After the Show.

Update your web site immediately. Add streaming videos of product demos or customer testimonials from your exhibit. Your customers can often tell a more compelling and credible story than your sales people by explaining how your company’s product solved a problem for them. Prospective customers often can relate to your other customers because they possibly share the same problems, concerns, and issues that need to be resolved.

Integrate new prospect email contact info into your database to develop an ongoing web-based communications program that includes email, e-newsletters, e-zines, and other important corporate announcements.

Make sure your site is continuously updated and stocked with valuable, useful content for your existing users and potential customers. The web is an excellent place to gather information about new products and technology. Seize the opportunity to use your web site to position your company as a thought leader in its industry.

Exhibiting at International Trade Shows

As a response to the US economy’s Great Recession and as protection against future bust cycles, many organizations are increasingly thinking global, looking to expand their businesses into emerging foreign markets. Exhibiting overseas is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to identify the best foreign markets for your company’s products and services.

Exhibiting internationally introduces many new challenges for organizations and requires thorough research to determine which ones will attract your target market. A good starting point is the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (FSC), part of the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

If you’re the person put in charge of exhibit management at your company, you need to do your research to make sure your company’s significant investment into international trade shows isn’t a waste of time and money. Tactics that have proven successful in trade show exhibiting in the U.S. might fall flat in another country.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when exhibiting internationally:

Hire a translator. Probably the most important step is to hire an expert (preferably native-born) translator who not only understands the language but the culture of the country and its people. This person will prove instrumental in helping fine-tune your company’s marketing message, slogans, and marketing collateral to assure that your message is effectively delivered to this new audience.

Hire a designer. It might also be a good idea to hire a local designer who understands how this foreign market will interpret the colors, design, symbols, logo, and look of your exhibit. For example, one color might be considered lucky or prosperous in one country, yet might symbolize something completely different or have a negative connotation in another.

Check on technical and safety standards. Before you commit to a foreign show, make sure your products comply with international technical and safety standards, which may vary slightly from those in the U.S. Another important consideration is power requirements. When exhibiting overseas, your electrical equipment might need to be adapted to different power voltage outlets.

When in Rome… Things are done differently in other countries. Be sensitive to how business is conducted and how decisions are made in the host country. Read up on proper business etiquette, how the sales process typically works, and the nuances of relationship building there. In Japan, for example, a handshake at the end of a business meeting is as good as a signed contract.

Exhibiting at an international trade show can bring big benefits and open up an entirely new market for your company’s products or services. A savvy planner, however, must do their homework well in advance.

Need Exhibit Management for your Trade Show? Let’s Talk.