Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for April, 2015

Your Trade Show Booth Staff Needs HELP!

April 10th, 2015 6 COMMENTS


This shouldn’t surprise you. You know your staff needs help. They don’t know the products. They look like hell after Day 1. And, worst of all, they don’t have a clue why they’re there. Yet, you tolerate it show after show. Why? There shouldn’t be any reason why your staff isn’t spectacular. It’s time to put on your adult pants and do it right.

Who Should Be There

That’s easy. Bring employees who know the products or services, who have charismatic people skills, who are personally invested in results, and who participate in pre-show planning or post-show implementation. Two out of four doesn’t cut it. A trade show isn’t a vacation. It’s a strategic investment.

You’ll often hear that 80% of trade show leads are wasted. Personally, I don’t trust that statistic, but I do know that bringing the right employees to the show solves that problem. They won’t let a lead sit on someone’s desk or be forgotten on a jump drive. They’re relentless about post-show follow-up because they understand how much time, effort, and money went into planning and participating in the trade show.

What Do They Know

What they know is important. What they do with that knowledge is critical. You want the Information Dream Team in your booth. Whatever the question, there’s someone there who has an answer, can get an answer, and lives to share that information.

Just knowing stuff isn’t enough. Each staffer must capture every sweet, savory nugget of information the attendee shares. Everyone thinks they’ll remember that game-changing conversation from Day 1. By Day 3, they couldn’t tell you their own spouse’s middle name even if you gave them the first three letters.

Trade shows are exhausting physically and mentally. There is zero chance you’ll remember the details even if you have an eidetic memory. Honestly, the lead retrieval system doesn’t matter. What matters is having a system your group understands and follows. You can’t be a namby-pamby about this. There should be consequences for not adhering to the information capture process.

teamBoot Camp Mentality

Trade shows are a battlefield with winners and losers. On that battlefield, strategy and implementation trumps raw brute strength every time. What are the goals? Is everyone clear about them? At a minimum, there should be a strategy and planning “booth camp” meeting before the show. Then, there should be an alignment meetings every day before the show opens. Some companies even have meetings after the show hall closes to review leads, answer questions, and prepare for the next day.

More than anything, you have to be flexible. What you thought would be the “go-to” product or service at the show may take a backseat based on attendee feedback. Then there’s going to be a wild card. Often, it’s an evolutionary or transformational new product or service introduced by a competitor. At that point, you have to decide if your show strategy changes.

Tough Love

In any pack, there are always the stragglers, the injured, and the just plain stupid. You can ignore them and allow them to be food for your competitors, or you can deal with the problem. The staffer who arrives late sweating tequila and lime, reeking of three cups of espresso, better have a good reason, like entertaining your key client until 4 am. Same with Susie Smartphone or Standing-on-the-Sidelines Sam. This isn’t a soccer tournament for 8-year-olds where everyone gets participation ribbons. It’s a competition where sales, money, and jobs are on the line. Everyone has to pull their share. At tough love companies, the Susies and the Sams get sent home via Greyhound with loose change for vending machine sandwiches.

When it comes to trade show staffs, you get what you tolerate. When you expect more, your team will rise to the challenge. Set clear expectations, communicate your goals, plan your strategy, and manage the environment, the days, and your post-show communication. It’s not easy, but your team (and your boss) will sing your praises when it’s “Go Time!”

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


Trade Show Marketing | The Bare Minimum

April 9th, 2015 COMMENTS

4 Basic Trade Show Tips


1. What are some basic tips you would suggest for a business going to their first trade show?

Even if you majored in marketing, you probably learned diddly squat about trade show marketing. Which is sad since trial and error is very, very expensive at a trade show or event. My advice is to work with a professional, or at the very least, consult with colleagues who have gone through the process several times. Trade show success isn’t hard — if you know what you are doing and have done it repeatedly. In the end, it comes down to experience, planning, and flawless execution.

2. What advice would you have for a business that spends a lot of time at trade shows?

Plan. Too often, companies treat trade shows like a last minute vacation. Successful trade show marketing requires pre-show planning and promotion, staff training, and post-show follow-up — at a minimum. Attendees no longer just arrive. They decide who to visit based on research and company needs before they arrive at the show hall. Gone are the days when attendees would meander through the show hall. They identify who they want to see and spend time at those companies. It’s rare that attendees “discover” a new vendor at a show (which is why pre-show marketing is critical).

stk313065rkn3. How can a business with a small budget design an eye-catching display at a trade show?

First, decide on your goals for the show, which can change from show to show. What is your key message? What problem are you solving? What do you need? A large monitor? An iPad? Literature trays? Product shelves? There’s nothing wrong with starting small if your graphic is appealing and the message clear. Finally, ensure the graphic is designed by someone who understands trade show graphics. Trade show graphics are very different from a magazine ad or a website, and most graphic designs are unfamiliar with trade shows. Most importantly, work with an exhibit design professional, i.e., someone with a history of successful clients not just a history of exhibit sales.

Over the long run, the real cost of a trade show is not the display, which is fixed, but everything else — travel, meals, pre-show marketing, booth space, drayage, and salaries. Those costs can be managed with careful planning.

4. How is a trade show different from doing business in a brick-and-mortar location in terms of the way  employees interact with potential customers?

You may find this surprising. Except for the venue, it’s not really different. It’s as simple as having knowledgeable people who have solid sales and customer service skills in your booth, including senior management when possible. Greet visitors, listen, ask open-ended questions, and document the answers. Don’t drink coffee in the booth, eat, or text, or read email. All the things you would tell someone working at a typical retail store.

In the end, it’s about getting to the booth on time, approaching people, and being friendly and honest. Dress appropriately, keep the workspace organized and tidy, and act professional. A trade show is not a vacation. It’s your job so arrive sober, polish your shoes, and iron your clothes. One last suggestion — Never ever check your smartphone in the booth. You might as well be picking your nose. It sends the same message — Go Away!

Have questions? Send me an email or call. I promise to give you more than my “bare minimum.”

-Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or