Friday, October 15, 2010

The Postmortem

It really isn't as final as it sounds. But it is one of the final things you do after you return from a show.

You need to look back and assess the show so you have some lessons learned for future shows.

The basic elements of a postmortem to consider are:
  1. Call a meeting of key participants in the process: the marketing manager, the sales manager, the key tech guy, possibly your exhibit supplier.
  2. Make it a one-hour meeting.
  3. Plan on reporting performance (expenses versus plan, lead count, key events)
  4. Before the meeting (which should be within a week of the ending of the show; no more than two weeks), set an agenda and ask some key questions, including:
  • What worked?
  • What didn't?
  • Would you go again?
  • Did you meet any key customers?

Roll this up at the end of the meeting with action items (if any) for the participants.

Apply the lessons to the next show on the schedule or the next year's show.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Really now,.....

.....did you really think show attendees wouldn't notice your makeshift demo?

Anybody else seen a suitcase demo propped up on a chair before at a show?


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Starting the Postmortem Discussion

It starts at the show--usually during set up: the "what-worked-what didn't" list.

This list is comprised of the items that you need to improve or fix but also the things that did work. For example, on the NACS show we are in the midst of today, there are a number of fixes we had to make on show site, but there are long-term things, too. I have three categories of fixes:
  • Immediate
  • Must-have when we return
  • Nice-to-have when we return
Immediate are things like lights, broken or damaged things that can be fixed on site that impair demos or keep business from being conducted. A broken monitor, missing panel or damaged carpet.

Must haves are similar but can't be fixed on site, but need to be repaired for long-term use of the exhibit. Think a door that doesn't have to be used.

In the nice-to-have category are things like: can this counter be higher? do we need that structure? Customer interaction would improve if we had an enclosed conference room or storage needs to be added.

And don't just limit it to exhibit structural things. Consider strategic ideas as well as tactical considerations.

At any rate, start the list now and complete it by the end of the show. At your postmortem meeting, you'll have a talking paper.

What's that? What's a postmortem meeting? We'll talk about that in another post.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Attention to Detail

Are the lights the right color? Are the monitors paired correctly? Is that graphic hung right?

It is the devil--details are, that it. It's getting close to show time and it seems time and motion slow down while the clock is spinning. The first day of set up with the major structure going up went quickly. Now, all of the detail work, seems to slow things down. A few details to consider:
  • Graphics--are they mounted in the right locations and correct?
  • Carpet--seams straight? Cuts from previous shows hidden?
  • Booth structure--chips covered? Panel seams aligned?
  • Other parts--fabric steamed and without wrinkles?
  • Reception counter--stocked with pens, paper, staples, mints?
  • Staff support--do you know where the rest rooms are? Meeting spaces?
  • Other booths--competitor's, partner's booth locations relative to your location?
There are tons of other things to add to this list. Let's start with this today. More later.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

First Things First: Before the Set Starts

There are a number of things you can do when you first arrive at a set up. In fact, it can set the tone for the whole show.

When you first show up, a quick visit to the site and your space can put at ease and get you started.

I usually arrive mid- to late-afternoon the day before we are scheduled to start set up. Some of the things I do, if I have time are:
  • Confirm electrical order and/or placement
  • Make sure a hanging sign is in place or ready to be hung
  • Spot freight for easy installation or confirm freight is to be unloaded
  • If the service center is open, check n your orders
  • Check out the hall location with reference to the hotel and meeting rooms
  • Pick up or change badges
  • Say hello to the association staff and get an schedule changes

There are other things. But the fact you are there early gives you a slight edge to your start of work on Day 1.


Preparing the Staff Before a Show

We've been gearing up for this show for months now. Things are all in place for a successful show. Did I forget anything?

Does the staff know all they need to know?

This process actually starts long before we all arrive at the show. There are a series of things to do with the staff to make sure they all know what's going to happen leading up to and at the show. The tool I've used the past few years is a process that involves a package referred to as "show notes" and a series of meetings and communications (e-mail and phone). The centerpiece is a memo that, in PDF form, goes out to the team periodically prior to the show in 6-, 3- and 1-week intervals. This package includes:

  • Show hours, days and dates
  • Set up days and dates
  • A list of the team members attending and who's in charge
  • Date and time for booth staff meetings
  • A floorplan of both the hall and booth
  • A list of demos and in-booth activities
  • Expectations on lead gathering
  • Key customers who will attend
  • Instructions on what do do with media
  • Hotel confirmation numbers
  • Ground transportation options
  • Contact information for on-site team members

Anything else isn't left to the imagination: team members are encouraged to contact with questions (and they do). I am fortunate to have a crew who knows me and the drill, so our shows go off as planned (usually).


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Leaving Early from a Show

We've all done it (or at least thought about it): packing before show hours are over and being packed and gone as early as possible. Usually we consider this option because it's the last day of the show, things are slow and the aisles are empty.

You could be setting yourself up. Don't do it.

Case in point came from my friend, Joe. The other evening we were trading show stories and he recollected that one of his first experiences with a show was back when he was a teenager. Joe would go out on the road with his dad, a store fixture salesman, to set up, tear down and generally help out at local shows. On the last day of a show, dad left the hall early to get some packing stuff and get the car, leaving young Joe to man the booth. While Joe was holding down the fort, a buyer came by the booth. During the course of conversation, the woman bought a rather large, pricey fixture from Joe. It was one of the bigger sales of the whole show.

Another story comes from the old National Hardware Show in Chicago. This back when the big box retailers were just coming in and pushing out the smaller retailers (and changing the face of the industry in the process). This was a 4-day show that wound down (at glacial speed) on a Tuesday afternoon. Historically, many exhibitors would start tearing down before the end of the show. However, after one year when Home Depot made their baying walk on a Tuesday afternoon, that stopped. Those that were still in their booths and doing business, got to talk to HD. Needless to say, the early-departure practice ended.

The point is, if you leave early you may be leaving business (and money) on the table. Consider that you bought that space for all of the show hours and should squeeze every minute out of them.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Exhibit Preview

Previewing the exhibit before a show doesn't always have to be done, but many times it is a good idea and worth the expense.

What we're talking about is standing the exhibit properties up in the shop to make sure everything fits and works. There are a number of reasons you would take the time to do this:
  • Review graphic placement and fitting of demos.
  • Determination of which properties will be used and shipped.
  • Confirmation of the actual shipment.
  • A preview for management.
You can also use this as a time to ease your set up. For one client we actually rolled out the carpet and taped the location of where major exhibit components would be placed. Making notes on the manifest, we also staged crates around the space in the hall to ensure ease of set up in the hall.

Things to consider before you do a pre-shipment, pre-show preview:The labor cost to set up the both and repack.
  • Timing--do you have reasonable time before the show?
  • Being prepared for any changes management or other factors will bring.
We'll be doing one of these previews for a client early next week, so watch this space for a report.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Three-Year Plan

Most trade show and event programs are pretty much in place. They run themselves, mostly, because of the nature of the business and the tried-and-true expectations of management, suppliers, promoters, associations and trade show managers.

But what if you had to make over your program?

Relevance and reinvention are a way of life in the world today. How we shop, how we eat and how we work have been transformed by economic forces and technology. One of the best examples of an industry that has been transformed is photography. With digital cameras and being able to download and print images ourselves, the old-style photofinishing store is all but gone. We buy equipment and take classes on line rather than visit a camera store. However, more photos are shot by more people people than ever before.

So it is with the trade show industry. Revenues by general contractors are down 35 to 50 percent, traditional exhibit houses are downsizing, going out of business or looking for new revenue streams. And exhibitors are squeezed with being asked to do more with less budget and staff.

All these facts lead to reinvention: if you had to do it, could you reinvent your exhibit marketing program (let's call it what it is) in 3 years or less? Let's make a short list:

  1. Year 1: assess the show list, the properties, the budgets and history of the program. Maybe let it run as-is except where things are really out of whack. But watch and learn. Look ahead.
  2. Year 2: make changes where you are losing money, eliminate shows that are not targeted or relevant, reduce overhead and continue building with the strategic direction of the company. Start to include new ideas (captive customer events, new one-on-one sales tools). Look ahead.
  3. Year 3: out with the useless, in with the relevant. Eliminate the last of the poor-performing shows and unused properties, recast the budget, solidify those key internal relationships. Look ahead.
Sure, this is oversimplification, but it is a basic roadmap. Change takes time, particularly when you are new to a company or business. But change is inevitable, so get used to it.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Report from the Field: Farnborough 2010

Our colleague, Kimberly Williamson of Aviall, attended and worked the 2010 edition of the Farnborough Airshow. Here is her report:

Aviall's presence at the show was a flurry of activity between interviews and a full staff being on board. The economy is showing signs of improvement with many companies sending multiple personnel as opposed to the Paris Airshow last year. Numbers appeared to be up, but nothing has been released yet that I know of. We had good traffic, especially being right next door to Rolls-Royce (since we are exclusive on three of their engine lines).

This year Farnborough rolled out what they called Future's Day on Friday (the last trade day of the show). Future's Day was basically an opportunity for companies to invite school children to visit the airshow to promote aviation. Yes, it sounds like a great idea, but for most of really wasn't. There were over 4,000 school children running amuck like locusts through the exhibit halls. All of our neighboring exhibitors (with the exception of Rolls) were very unhappy and ended up closing shop early (some left as early as noon).

Sounds like things are coming back and show management is trying innovative things to build traffic and good will with their various audiences.

Thanks, Kim.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Staffing: when is too many too much?

A colleague related to me the other day about a show experience she had with her company and booth staffing.

At a recent trade show, her company sent a contingent of 17 to staff the booth and work the show. Glad to see they want to participate and be a part of the experience. However, there was a fundamental problem:

My friend's company had a 10 x 20 booth space.

And it gets worse: they were sharing it with another division from the corporation who sent a group of three to man staff their "half" of the booth.

If I do the math right, that's at least five times the number of people needed for this space.

While there are rules of thumb on how to staff a space (usually 2 to 3 people per 100 square feet), you really can go overboard. But 20 for 200 square feet? Let's get real.

As always, consider the value and usefulness of all who attend a show for your company.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Report from the Field: Observations on Four Types of Booth Staff

Our colleague, Scott Cytron, and I recently were trading stories about trade show experiences. Scott comes from a different circle of shows than I do, but his experiences are very similar. He came up with this report talking about the four types of trade show reps:

"I’ve told this story quite a few times over the last few months – always to be met with some great laughter, so I thought I would share it here.

I think there are four types of trade show people – not the attendees, but the company reps who work the shows to gain leads for business:

  1. The Go-Getters. This group is the one that excels, always thinking ahead to the next stop-by attendee and truly putting his or her best foot forward. The Go-Getter often is in front of the booth instead of behind a table or behind a kiosk, welcoming each and every attendee and talking to any potential leads as possible. These are the ones you want working your booth.
  2. The Italian Suit Guys. These are the Mr. Slicks--the guys who are more concerned with their appearance than they are with selling a product or service. They are always on their cell phones, combing their hair and looking in the mirror to ensure they are all put together.
  3. The Sit-Down Laggards. ow many times have you been to a trade show in which the reps are sitting down, totally unconcerned with booth traffic and just about anything else. They are unconcerned and usually checking e-mail, and are not the ones you want on your team. Yuck.
  4. The Logo Shirts. Images of cheerleaders come to mind, although “energy” is not a bad thing; still, you do not want to be mowed over with corporate speak when it comes to trade show reps. These folk live and breathe the company mantra. OK – that’s not so bad either, but it’s often too deliberate and too in-your-face for my taste.
OK – now it’s your turn. Give Scott and me some feedback and some stories on your favorite or unlikeable trade show reps. Or other trade show stories.

Thanks, Scott.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Report from the Field, Farnborough 2010: To Chalet or Not To Chalet

Our colleague, Peggy Keene of Esterline Corporation, was at this year's Farnborough Air Show in the UK this past two weeks. She filed this report for us to paint a picture of what is happening on the international trade show scene:

In more than 25 years' work experience, I've never seen more austere times. Nobody wants to look like they're spending money frivolously at trade shows. In fact, no one wants to look like they're spending money at all.

At the Farnborough International Air Show, held every other July outside London, can companies convey a prosperous image, but not too prosperous? Farnborough, along with the Paris Air Show, has the reputation as the most prestigious aerospace event in the world. Billionaires jetted in on their private 747s. Heads of state toured the exhibits. The new Boeing 787 performed tricks for the ogling crowds. This year's bomb scare emptied my stand. If it happens in aerospace, it happens at Farnborough. But can companies justify the expense of a chalet along the flightline? How can they translate this six-figure expense into sales orders?

The simple answer is that they can't. It's can be a matter of habit and tradition, and they play a big role at this show. Some quotes from colleagues to help paint the picture:

  • "We've always had a chalet--if we don't this year, customers will think we're not doing well."
  • "My CEO looks at the show as a combination of work and pleasure. He'd never go if he had to do stand duty!"
  • "We're pursuing one foreign government contract. If we can get the minister of defense to our chalet, we can clinch the deal--he needs to see we're for real."

On the other side, one major manufacturer pulled out of the show completely. I'd guess they spent $600K to 800K in years past. I was told that their new CEO, the third in five years, "doesn't believe in trade shows". Hmmmm. I used to work for this company, and they're currently getting their rears kicked by their largest competitor. Wonder if this CEO will be around for the long haul?

One of my suppliers has traditionally had a chalet, but opted out this year. Instead, they chose to hold a luncheon at a prestigious hotel overlooking the runway. Sounds smart these days, right?

Well, I walked about 15 minutes in heels and the heat to the hotel, and nobody seemed to know what room the luncheon was in. I was eventually escorted into a lovely reception, given a flute of Veuve-Cliquot, and then told I was in the wrong place. OK, I had made it to the luncheon, and my supplier's video presentation didn't work. We've all been there, and I really felt for them. The sales team did a good job ad-libbing, and said they'd present the video after we ate. Great. Unfortunately, the food didn't show up either.

By now I've been away from my stand for two hours, haven't learned much, and I'm tired of nibbling bread and making small talk. I excuse myself and shove a Power Bar into my mouth as I hurry back to the stand. Should this company have kept their chalet? It won't prevent me from doing future business with them, as I understand their desire to cut back, but I was a little cranky.

There are no easy answers in this economy--every company has to make their own decision. Making connections at chalets can be special--they combine social and business, and that's especially important outside the serious-minded U.S.

Already, my company is making plans for the Paris Air Show next June. The organizers tell me the chalets are being booked at a healthy rate. That's good for business. I wonder if my supplier will book one this time?

Thanks, PK, for a great, up-to-the-minute report. Always good to hear from the field.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Location, location, location

Do you know where your exhibit is placed in the hall of your next trade show?

As the real estate folks always say: location, location, location.

Where you are in the hall impacts just about everything concerning the set up and configuration of your booth:

  • Whether you can have a hanging sign (if you have an island booth)
  • How you will place elements and demos within the space
  • When you can move in
  • How you might conduct business in the booth

Consider the following when you look at a floor plan:

  • Traffic flow: which way are people turning and walking when they come in the hall?
  • Where are your competitors?
  • Are you near food or otehr services (rest rooms)?
  • How high is the ceiling?
  • Where are you in relation to the dock doors and entrances?
  • Who is in the booths around you?

Hanging signs are determined by ceiling height and other considerations. If you are planning one, be sure and understand the rules.

The choice to place and conduct elements is based upon lots of things: which side of the booth has the most traffic? Is there a slow side of the booth? What does the structure allow for?

Targeted move-ins are based on where an exhibitor is on the floor. For example, if your booth is number 1685 and booths 1400-1800 move in on Sunday at 8 am, that's when your truck should arrive and when you should schedule labor.

Depending on traffic and competitor location, where will you place a demo or graphic? Who will you have in your booth at what time during the show? What do you want your your competitors to see (or not)?

Lots to consider.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thinking Ahead

It may only be June, but that October show is only a few months away. Is it on your radar yet? Have you thought about:

  • The ship date?
  • Which exhibit you are going to use?
  • The deadlines to order services?
  • Pre-show promotions?
  • Key customers who will be at the show?
  • If you bought space?
  • Did you make hotel reservations?
  • When is the badge deadline?
  • Are you hiring any subcontractors?
  • Do graphics need to be revised?
  • Will you be holding a hosted event on site?
  • Are there any conflicting shows on your schedule?
  • Will your executives be expected? Is it on their calendar?

Just make this list and start to think about it. But not too long--the show opens in only 90 days.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Report from the Field: Eurosatory 2010 in Paris

Our colleague, Peggy Keene at Korry Electronics/Esterline, was at Eurosatory 2010 in Paris this past month. Here is her report from the show site.

Defense trade shows pose a unique challenge to exhibitors, as witnessed at this year's Eurosatory exhibition, held every other June at Parc des Expositions, north of Paris.

How do you tastefully and effectively promote armaments to an international audience? Many exhibitors here seem to go for the atmospheric look--lots of draped camouflage, large backlit graphics of explosions, that sort of thing. Closer inspection is the only way to figure out what many are really promoting. One Israeli company used live actors (attractive women, dressed a la mode) to explain the happenings on the video wall.

The defense industry is doing robust business in Paris, for better or worse--the only hint of controversy is the white-robed Quakers staging a taped-mouth protest at the train station.

For a trade show veteran, you take it in stride, sore feet and all. In 12 hours, you're on your 11 hour flight home, then on to the next show.

International exhibiting is quite a different experience as we have learned from these posts. Drop me a line and I am happy to share your stories, too.

Thanks, PK.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Returning Shipments

OK, the show is over, and all of the freight has been packed and the bills turned in.

Now what?

Well, the stuff (freight, goods, graphics, exhibits, demo equipment) is going back somewhere (or multiple somewheres). What are you going to do with it when it gets there? And what if things are damaged?

Make a list, a plan, to make sure all of these things get done upon return. But also be prepared for the worst: do you have a detailed manifest of each skid, roll and crate including contents and weights?

What this will save you is being able to recover the cost of lost goods if you have the details. You also have ammo if your weight differs from what the trucker and the general contractor at the show have, which could save you lotsa bucks.

Be prepared on the out and the back and you won't lose things or money.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Aviall Exhibits at EBACE

The 10th annual European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) ended its three-day conference earlier this month in Geneva, Switzerland. Our colleague, Gary Donatell of Freeman Exhibits, was there with Aviall. He filed this report for our blog.

The exhibition was sold out and 11,174 attended the event.There was a general air of optimism that the global industry’s economic outlook is on the upswing, EBACE reported. Event organizers also pointed to positive signs, such as the sense of enthusiasm among exhibitors and attendees.

Aviall continues to increase their presence at this show, while being very budget conscious. The roughly 20' x 20' exhibit is twice the size of their exhibit in 2009.

“I would categorize their display as a rental ‘custom turn-key’ exhibit,” Gary said. He goes on to report that the budget for this exhibit, not including graphic design and production provided by Zachry and Associates, and transportation of the white fabric cube was US$25K. This total includes the 7.6% VAT.

This works out to about $62.50 per square foot, and represents a real value in today's economy. Consider that recent industry studies even put stateside rentals at twice that number, this makes international exhibiting seem affordable.

“Speaking of the white fabric cube,” Gary continued. "It has become an icon that Aviall uses at various trade shows they attend. At EBACE, there were restrictions on hanging anything from the ceiling, so the booth had to be designed to have it rest on top of the exhibit. It worked out nicely.”

Thanks, Gary. We’ll pass on your report on the whole show in a future post.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Putting Together an Exhibit from Stray Pieces, Part V: It Comes To Life

We finally made it to the NACStech show. The concept is now reality.

The idea of taking truss and enveloping it in fabric is an idea that really has merit. While it still has its challenges, it is a way to revitalize standard-looking properties and turn them into something customized for the client.

By including zippers, this could become even more tailored to specific business units.

Adding lighting gives it all another dimension.

The upside:
  • You can achieve a different look with a simple fabric sleeve
  • It weighs a lot less than a traditional hard-structure booth
  • The size of the shipment is reduced

The downside:
  • Lots of small pieces and that can be a trap for crews not used to assembling modular exhibits.
  • Limits on where monitors and accessories can be placed
  • Can tear if not cut and grommetted correctly
  • Have to be cleaned and steamed

The partners on this project include the following people and organizations. These projects can only be accomplished by cooperation and good work done in a timely fashion.
  • Retalix, the client, and Dar Hackbarth, their Director of Marketing Communications
  • The Taylor Group, Dallas, led by Tim Hampton, for the management of the exhibit properties and the basic idea that was suggested to the client
  • FSD, Dan Hughes' company in Denver, who produced the actual fabric "sleeves"
  • Zachry Associates' lead designer, Danny Flanagan, for the design concept and translation of the Retalix brand
This was a fun project and one that shows that imagination, even in its simplest form, is alive and well in the exhibit industry.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Trade shows are fun when...

...they are over.

...the client is happy. can fix all the things that need fixing in time.

...the staff knows how to engage prospects and gather and qualify leads.

...those with positive feedback don't gush too much. By the same token, those that aren't happy are not overly vocal and critical. get to share a meal or a drink with a valued colleague and learn of yet another aspect of their personality.

Care to add any to this list?


Report from the Field: NACStech 2010, Surviving the Verticalization of Trade Shows?

From the one-day set to the shrinking number of exhibitors, this is NACStech 2010. This show really is a good slice of the technology pie from C-Stores, but for some reason, lacks the high-end support it needs to be sustained.

I hope that changes.

The future of trade shows, in my opinion, is in being vertical. At one time, healthcare had broad-based, horizontal shows like AHA (American Hospital Association). Now the focus (as the industry itself has shifted) to many verticals: healthcare construction, devices, medications, treatments, management and so on.

Why can't convenience and grocery be treated the same way?

Sure, from an exhibit supplier standpoint, this isn't really what works with the model. We all want large exhibits to build, ship, dray and set up. Truth is, the exhibit industry customer wants to see more prospects, suspects and existing clients by spending their dollars in a clearly focused fashion.

Do more smaller shows better and reach more clients? What a concept!

Why not C-Stores?


Friday, April 30, 2010

Putting Together an Exhibit from Stray Pieces, Part IV: In the Home Stretch

The fabric enclosures arrived and we fit them to the wall and football shapes. They look like the concepts.

The concept is by the Taylor Group Dallas. The client wanted something to transform the basic Skyline Inliten truss. This accomplishes that.

FSD in Denver took the design and made it into the stretchy fabric pieces. The image design is by Zachry Associates in North Texas.

Working all these elements together takes patience and planning.

Next stop: New Orleans and the NACStech Show, booth 659. The next challenge is assembling this all in one day.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Putting Together an Exhibit from Stray Pieces, Part III

We have the basic structure and a plan. Now we need to wrap the pieces up so they look good.

One of the challenges is the design of the graphic panels and how they interact with the hardware they have to fit around. The design of the graphic features some photos and a brand-driven colorful design element. A catch phrase has also found its way into the design.

We engaged FSD in Denver to produce the fabric graphics and Zachry Associates of North Texas to do the design. Careful measurement and coordination is key, along with buy-in from the client on brand direction. The interim sheathing of the booth structure was done electronically to simulate what the finished product would look like.

The next step will be to marry the finished graphic to the frame before it is packed and shipped to show site. Given that we have only one work day to assemble this exhibit and install the technical demos, we know we have to stage all the pieces and parts correctly before they arrive on show site.

One of the critical challenges was fitting the monitors for the demos onto the structure so that they didn't obviously interfere with the graphic design.

Tune in next week as this "loaves and fishes" exercise continues.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Putting Together an Exhibit from Stray Pieces, Part II

This past week I spent an afternoon at my client's exhibit house with them and the exhibit house rep. We're making progress on our "portfolio" exhibit.

We lined up the parts and pieces and got out the tape measure and sketch pad. We paced off the 20x30 space and helped the client visualize the scale and scope of what they will see in New Orleans at the NACStech Show (

Voila! A plan and options emerged from the discussion. The parts and pieces are starting to look like an exhibit. It is a bit of a game of "loaves and fishes" but, if done carefully and with a strategy, it can work. Saving money is one thing, but looking the part is another. You need to do both.

We started with previously used Skyline Inliten components. The truss was assembled into "football" shapes to give the exhibit mass and workstation locations. The structures will be wrapped in graphic fabric "socks" not unlike a Moss-type hanging sign or other fabric-over-frame graphics.

Add in some previously used cabinets with new tops and there is surface for demos and lockable storage. In this configuration you could have two cabinets per side of the major structure, or as many as 4 per unit. We are choosing to use two "football" shapes, with one cabinet station per side. Monitors will hang above the cabinets using the stock Skyline monitor bracket, possibly modified to hold multiple monitors.

An Inliten "wall" becomes a surround for a conference area. This surface gives us both privacy and another "canvas" for messaging and brand. While it isn't completely private, it shields the meeting space from the aisle.

A rental carpet will be underfoot and a reskinned hanging sign frame with hang above the booth.

Next step: graphic design.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Putting Together an Exhibit from Stray Pieces

We coming up on 60 days before our next show and my client an I have a challenge: finding an exhibit.

My client's problem is common: every few years on their show schedule there is a conflict between two major shos. Both demand the use of the custom properties, but one market prevails.

One way to deal with it would be to ship the exhibit between shows (from site to site). However, in this case, one show ends in New Orleans on the 7th and the next one opens in Vegas on the 9th. Too little time to ship too much and still get it down and up.

What else can we do?

Take a look at what properties you have in your invetory. Can you piece together parts to make a workable exhibit?

Can you rent something that fits your needs and doesn't compromise your brand?

Both are viable, but we are choosing the former. We have enough, but may have to build to add to the inventory.

I'll keep you posted in this space on what transpires between now and when the NEw Orleans show opens on May 6.

Stay tuned. What would you all do?


Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Industry Isn't Dead

After returning from the EXHIBITOR Show in Las Vegas last week, I've come to the (mixed) conclusion that the trade show industry isn't dead.

It's just trying to figure things out before moving on.

The good news is that I sat in classes that had anywhere from 100 to 140 people. Of those people (as polled in one of "Trade Show Bob" Milam's classes), nearly a third claimed to have less than 3 years' experience in trade shows.

The good news: companies see the value in doing trade shows and are hiring and training people to do this for their companies. There is business out there and companies are reaching out via trade shows to engage customers.

The bad news: the majority of these people are under 30 and most likely vastly underpaid for what they do. That probably means these young people will move on (and/or up) and that management doesn't value the function enough to pay for it by buying experience and a long-term employee. However, from a business perspective, it makes sense in that it probably is cheaper to pay lower wages and retrain replacements every few years rather than nurture a professional trade show person.

The industry is changing whether we admit it or not. Something in the model has to change, and most of it has to do with the perception of marketing, particularly trade show (face-to-face) marketing.

Inside companies, we need to work on making marketing a strategic part of their business approaches and plans.

Outside, we, as professionals and suppliers in the industry, need to examine whe we do, how it is perceived by the customer and forecast the best direction for the trade show and events industry. Standing pat with an aging business model won't make it right--or make change go away. How shows are conducted, how they are sold, the elements and how they are used all need to be examined.

I think we can all have some fun taking the next steps. Nothing like a challenge.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Personalities of Our Industry

After Day 1 of the 2010 Exhibitor's Show, I am again reminded just how lucky we are to have some of the personalities we have in this industry.

I would say "characters", but I want to be fair and balanced here. they all have character, but are certainly not caricatures.

"Trade Show" Bob Milam, "Booth Mom" Candy Adams, Jerry Gerson, Elaine Cohen, Mark Bendickson, the Nagles of Czarnowski, the Freemans, Ray Andrews and dozens of others. These people all have contributed and continue to contribute to the trade show and events industry. These people and many others have helped found exhibit companies, created everyday concepts we take for granted and taught us how to make things work on the show floor and with our marketing plans.

The good news, both for the industry and those coming after us, is that they are sharing their knowledge.

I sat in several sessions yesterday. All three classes were required for the CTSM program and were filled: 120 to 140 people in each. And nearly 60% of these attendees have less than 3 years of experience as trade shows and events people for their companies.

Think about that for a second.

Business leaders think enough of trade shows and events as a marketing tool to (1) hire someone to manage them and (2) send them for training out of the office for several days. Must be some business out there.

Thanks to the veterans and to those who want to learn.


Monday, March 15, 2010

At the Exhibitor's Show 2010

Off the plane last night and safely set up at my hotel, I'm off this morning to Mandalay Bay and the 2010 edition of the Exhibitor's Show.

I'm here all week to report on and keep up with the latest in education, trends and networking associated with the trade show and events industry.

First up today are classes on show operations (from Candy Adams) and project management. The exhibit area opens this afternoon and networking fills in the gaps and tops the evening.

Also look for posts at my other portal over at Zachry Associates (

More later today.


Friday, February 26, 2010

HeliExpo 2010 ideas: video

This past weekend I was in Houston for the annual HeliExpo trade show. Over the next few posts I'll feature a few trends and ideas I saw there.

Video presentations.

The biggest and most prominent use of video was at the Eurocopter exhibit. These flat-panel, touchscreen units were intriguing and informative. At first glance, they appear to be flat and self contained. However, upon closer examination, there is a projector hidden near the tailcone of the helicopter staged near the plex station.

In the same booth, the overhead screens worked well and used both live and created content. There were at least three large 9-foot by 12-foot panels accepting projected images. During live events in the booth, the images were broadcast on the screen. A superior audio system supported these screens. At other times the content varied but were generally overview-type images of products, people and their helicopters at work, music-video style.

BF Goodrich was a bit more traditional, but used video in clean package. The images seemed to alternate from video to doubling as computer workstations. The green plex surrounds made the image space fit into the theme and look of the rest of the booth.

Over at Universal Avionics, this 2x4 set of monitors had some great transitions. John Hamby, the marketing manager from their Tucson, AZ, headquarters, told me he originated the content. Still images alternated with video and major areas of interest and content were separated by animated transitions of a jet flying across the multi-screen field.

Good ideas to emulate or build upon.