After ten plus years in the exhibit industry, I tend to make assumptions about trade shows. To me, they are convention halls, pipe and drape, carpeting, hanging banners, and trade show displays. They are drayage, union labor, and confusing electrical forms. You expect the typical exhibit hall to be 50 percent “show” and 50 percent “trade” once the doors open.
Admittedly, my perception is a bit skewed. I work for a portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit manufacturer, and tend to see every show as a healthy dose of our designs with a smattering of custom exhibits and a sprinkling of banner stands. Those are trade shows, all set within a large exposition hall. That said . . . I’m not naïve. I know a typical arts and crafts fair, Chamber of Commerce show, or local health fair doesn’t have all the pomp and circumstance of a traditional trade show. However, even those shows have professional table top displays, pop ups, and banner stands. I have always believed (and preached) that if you want your show to be successful, you should follow the advice of industry experts.
No Carpeting, No Pipe and Drape, No Drayage
Two weeks ago, I discovered otherwise. I learned, through personal experience, that you can hold a successful show without carpeting, without hanging banners, and largely without professional displays. People will come if the event speaks to their hobby or their lifestyle. And, in many situations, a more casual approach may give the event more credibility – especially in the beginning.
About three months ago, I volunteered to assist with a local vegan/vegetarian festival, called the Portland VegFest 2009. This isn’t a new event. In fact, this year marks the 5th year, but this was the first year the VegFest was to be held in the Oregon Convention Center. The previous events were held in a local high school cafeteria. As the newbie on the planning committee, I quickly learned that the committee was well-organized, professional, and knowledgeable, but that the event had little money for the normal bells and whistles of a trade show. There would be no carpeting or hanging banners. Signage would be minimal, and even the printing of the black and white program was held to 1500 copies.