The Exhibit Industry’s Premier Training Program is Back — Shared Knowledge University. Join us for two days of training, entertaining, and (possible) raining in beautiful Portland, OR. Registration is capped at 40 attendees.
Be warned… It’s an intense experience, including interactive classroom sessions, product assembly competitions, vendor presentations, and America’s Best IPA and Pinot Noir. Even our drinking water is amazing!
Contact Jen, Tom, or Harold for details ASAP. See below to register for SKU.
Whether it’s football, checkers, business, or anything that involves a winner and a loser, competitors are always looking for an “edge” that puts them over the top. While I am certainly not suggesting cheating. I am suggesting we follow Jack Nicklaus’ advice, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in the middle-vert, most people enjoy spending time with colleagues and meeting new people under the right circumstances. For example, hosting an open house for your customers and/or prospects is a great way to entertain and educate – the perfect one-two punch. While holding an open house is not a new marketing concept, if done well, it can attract new clients and reward existing ones.
Having worked as a manufacturer’s rep in our industry for a hundred years, I’ve participated in plenty of business open houses and am delighted to share some of those greatest hits with you.
Do open houses work? Absolutely, if done right. But, you can’t whip them together in a day. Successful open houses succeed because of proper planning and exemplary execution. In other words, “If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.” You don’t need all the tactics I am suggesting below, but let’s explore some business open house ideas together and the risk/reward.
Business Open House Ideas and Important Tips
Choose Your Date Carefully.
I was recently chatting with an east coast customer about their upcoming event. They promoted their open house to customers and prospects via emailand direct mail. They followed up with phone calls. They did everything right. And judging by the early RSVPs they had received they were on track to exceed their lofty expectations with almost 20 new prospects likely to attend. Everything was set… and then came the big swing and whiff.
The open house was scheduled just days before the July 4th holiday and attendance took a last-minute hit and fell off considerably.
Fortunately, they had one lead that came in needing 25 banner stands while another needed a new 10×20. Best of all, one lead came in with a need for a new booth with a six-figure budget.
All in all, it was a successful event, but it could have been much more successful had a different date been chosen.
Have a Gimmick or a Schtick.
I was at a recent Open House where they hired the local baseball team mascot to appear and entertain the attendees. It was a nice twist that brought a few extra bodies in. Nothing life-changing, but very memorable. I’ve seen Elvis impersonators, magicians, henna tattoo artists, local celebrity chefs, you name it! One of the more successful events was held in mid-winter “up north” with a “Let’s Go to the Islands” theme. They had speakers every hour talking about the pluses and minuses of island over inline displays… They even had a musician playing Jimmy Buffett songs on an acoustic guitar in between sessions. Everyone was engaged, entertained, and informed.
At another Open House, the timing was right for an Oscar theme. So we rolled out the red carpet (literally) and had show tunes playing throughout. They had “paparazzi” taking pictures and team members asking Attendees for their autographs. Everyone was encouraged to dress to the nines. While there were no speakers there was enough going on to keep people focused, entertained, and engaged.
If You Feed Them, They Will Come.
It’s that simple. If you’re holding an all-day Open House, you might want to consider offering pastries and mimosas in the morning and hors d’oeuvres with beer and wine in the afternoon. You don’t need a sit-down meal, but people love leaving their office for a few hours to enjoy a day of education and nosh. Peanuts and chips may be OK for your football buddies, but not for your customers.
Have a Speaker with a Compelling Topic.
Whether it’s the owner, the creative director, a manufacturer’s rep, or a social media expert, choose somebody with a story. Content is key. The attendees are looking for solutions that will make their business or trade shows better. You might even consider featuring several top customers who talk about their experiences with trade show marketing. Nothing speaks louder than customers sharing positive experiences.
Hold your Open House at the same time(s) each year. For example, November/December as a holiday-themed appreciation gathering and ask your Creative Director to review the year’s design trends or an industry association speaker to come in to share the past year’s headlines.
Or maybe you offer quarterly lunch n’ learns. Pick a direction and run with it. If done right Customers will look forward to attending your events to learn a few new marketing tips, get out of the office for a few hours and enjoy a tasty little nosh-a-thon.
By providing these appreciation/education sessions your Team will be seen less as a sales organization and more as marketing experts. You’re not hard selling your clients and prospects during these Open Houses. No need. You are educating them.
With all the changes because of COVID, it’s quite likely that the person who handled the company’s trade show marketing is no longer there. That responsibility has now fallen to either the top of the company’s food chain (who doesn’t have the time or experience to do it properly) or to the new marketing intern (who doesn’t have a clue about… anything). By default,YOU become their in-house trade show expert.
Ask Your Vendors to Participate.
As suppliers, we look at Open Houses as opportunities to spend time with you and a chance to learn more about your market and Customer needs. We also get to see other vendors and share experiences and insights. At the Open Houses I’ve participated in, I typically see Taylor, Brumark, DS&L, and various freight/labor companies participating. We can bring in new products and review services, which always makes for an educational and entertaining event.
Partner Vendors should be more than happy to serve as guest speakers sharing industry trends and new products/services being offered.
You might want to ask your Partner Vendors to consider sponsoring the Blood Mary Bar or a Coffee Barista. Never hurts to ask.
Provide Swag Bags.
As customers or prospects leave your Open House you might present them with a goodie bag. While we’re not endorsing fancy-schmancy swag bags like they provide to the stars on Oscar Night (this year’s Oscars goodie bag was an extravaganza worth a whopping US $140,000, containing 52 items, experiences, and treatments),a little thank you bag can go a long way.
Invite the Local Press and Government Officials.
If you invite your local newspaper or tv station, it shouldn’t be hard to get your mayor or other local politicians to attend as well and ask them to consider making a short welcoming speech.
The Final Two Tips.
First, if your team is wearing matching corporate apparel and name badges, it will be much easier for your guests to identify their hosts. Second, consider hourly raffles to keep everyone engaged. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. A gift certificate to a local restaurant. A free car wash. Free shipping on a banner stand. Or complimentary design time with your graphic designer.
Business Open House Gift Ideas
Branded Thermal Cup or Water Bottle
Trade Show Emergency Bag (Sharpies, Velcro, X-acto knife, Tylenol, Starbucks gift card, etc.)
Top 10 Trade Show Tips (wallet-sized laminated card)
Branded Power Bank (for charging phones, etc…)
Branded Tape Measure
Upscale Badge Lanyard
Key Tag with “ReturnMe” Lost & Found Service
One-Size Fits All Comfort Shoe Insoles
Business Open House Event Ideas to Avoid
Avoid Slow/Tedious Event Check-In. Have a dedicated team on hand to quickly get attendees badged and into the event.
Skipping the Post-Event Follow-Up. The event isn’t over just because everyone’s gone home. Solicit feedback and post photos on social media.
Not Offering Food and Drinks. They’re guests in your business home. Nothing turns attendees off more than an event without refreshments.
Not Having Enough Staff on Hand. The last thing you want to have is an attendee looking for someone to answer questions and finding nobody is available.
Forgetting to Check Competing Events. Always, always, always check your calendar for conflicting events and holidays.
Low Cost or Small Business Open House Checklist
Assign a Team member to continually clean during the open house.
Have a host at the front door to greet attendees as they come in.
Make sure there is enough parking.
Provide accurate directions.
Consider music or live entertainment.
Provide name badges for all staff and attendees.
Have plenty of garbage cans available in food areas.
Set aside space for people to eat and chat.
Notify (and even invite) local business neighbors of your event.
Create a theme for the event and encourage participation.
Partnering with Classic Exhibits for Business Open House Ideas
If you need help with Open House ideas, contact us or your local event agency. A good partner will transform your good idea into a magical event that will be remembered by your guests (and employees) for years.
Congratulations! You are exhibiting at a trade show or exhibition. The next step is choosing a design. Actually, multiple designs. Whether you’re creating custom trade show exhibits or renting, the structure is just part of it. The bigger thing? Graphic design!
Graphic design on trade show displays can be overwhelming to many graphic designers. Most designers are proficient at print or online projects, but when they shift into large format projects it can be unfamiliar, both in the scale and content. Trade show graphics are like billboards. They must attract attention quickly to be successful. But unlike billboards, they’re competing with hundreds of other designs in varying heights in a chaotic environment with loud noises, unpredictable movement, and bright colors.
Graphic Design Trade Shows
Honestly, Graphic Design is TOO broad of a category. Let’s run a little scenario. You have a “marketing firm” that helps clients with websites, print campaigns, email marketing, social media, maybe even logo design, and other fun things… Then you decide it is time to design graphics for your trade show exhibit. Who do you turn to? Your marketing agency?
Here’s a secret. DESIGNING FOR TRADE SHOW DISPLAYS IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THAN ANYTHING ELSE! Hiring a graphic designer with trade show design experience is one of the most important decisions. Why? They’ve already made the mistakes that a novice at trade show design would make.
A little warning… If your exhibit house or display supplier can’t assist you with either in-house graphic design or refer you to a professional 3D graphic designer then you might want to consider working with someone else. It’s that important. A professional graphic designer will know how to source quality files, format them, design your graphics, and hit your deadline. If you don’t know what resolution, PMS color, vector art and bleed are, trust me, you don’t want to be responsible for file preparation. The graphics are as important as your physical display, if not more important, and they can make or break your trade show’s success.
Trade Shows Graphic Design Tips
There’s an often cited rule regarding trade show design and graphics. You have 2.5 seconds to catch someone’s eye at a trade show or event. Here are some high-level things to consider.
People are NOT going to read every bullet or every line of your copy. Your trade show exhibit is not a white paper or an instruction manual. It’s a 3D billboard meant to quickly communicate a problem and a solution.
Did you put graphics behind a counter, a table, or a monitor? It’s a common but avoidable mistake.
Aligning images across structural seams is VERY difficult for fabric graphics. Consider how you can create visual continuity without a line or image spanning separate panels.
Is your tagline, URL, or contact information at the bottom of your display? No one will see it…
Graphics with lots of images, color, and text can be tricky. Sometimes they’re amazing but more often they’re cluttered and busy.
Know your DPI. What works for a website or print media may not scale up for large print graphics. If you’ve ever seen a fuzzy or blurry graphic on a booth, that’s why.
Don’t forget the floor. Done well it can extend the graphic canvas available in a display. Often doubling it.
Tips for Hiring a Graphic Designer or Design Firm
If you are hiring a designer or design firm to create your trade show graphics, consider the following suggestions:
Ask for references from your agency of choice for large format, trade show exhibit design clients.
Check their website. A bullet item that says they do trade show booths or graphics, doesn’t mean they excel at trade show graphics. Ask them for examples of previous trade show work.
Is most of their work is digital marketing, web design, and social media marketing? Find another designer. Your bank account will thank you. Your patience will thank you.
Create a library of your marketing assets, logo source files, high-resolution images, etc.
If you don’t speak graphic design, then find someone who does. It’s a highly technical field and knowing the lingo will make everyone’s life easier, more efficient, and save you money.
Professional Tips for Exhibit Graphics
Here are some simple, tried and true suggestions for trade show graphic design:
Viewed from a Distance. Trade show graphics are meant to be viewed from a distance. Think about what elements you want to be seen either 6 ft. away or across the show floor. Avoid putting important elements at floor level. Higher elements will draw your customer’s attention. Those should be the ones you emphasize. Don’t use strange fonts or fancy fonts.
Up and Away. Put important messages or images, like your logo, up high for visibility. There’s a reason companies put their logo on hanging signs.
White Space Rules. Use white or empty space. Don’t be afraid of white space, especially with backlit graphics. Backlighting colors, like blue or yellow for example, will make your canvas pop.
Pantone Color Match. Use PMS colors to be sure to stay true to your brand. Reference specific Pantone swatches when color matching is critical. This goes back to working with a professional when possible. No one wants to have graphics shipped directly to the show only to find out that the nice mustard yellow they were expecting printed peach or pea green.
Don’t Font It Up. One or two fonts is enough. Any more and you’ve got an identity crisis on your hands. Legibility is key with any graphic design but especially graphics that are being viewed from a distance. Look for a clean, easy-to-read type, and then if you want a little flare, add an accent font that is more unique, but don’t overuse it. And please, don’t use a cursive or handwriting font in all caps. Just don’t. As a side note, avoid any fonts with names like Giddy-up…
Have a Plan. If this is for a large exhibit, make sure your graphics have a plan and/or coherency, don’t just place random product images on a wall because the wall is there. Be purposeful with your graphics. You have the opportunity to create graphics of a larger-than-life magnitude. Seize the day!
Graphic Design for Trade Shows with Classic Exhibits
If you need help with trade show graphic design, start with your trade show exhibit company. A good partner will either have internal resources or partners with extensive experience in large format, trade show exhibit design.