Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Trade Show Marketing’

How to Excel at Marketing for Different Types of Events

February 21st, 2024 COMMENTS
Types of Events

BBQ is BBQ, right? Not if you’re from Carolina, or Memphis, or Texas, or Kansas City, or 50 other locations in the United States. Each region has their unique take not only on the sauce but also on the meat and preparation. The same could be said for exhibit marketing at different types of events like trade shows, conventions, conferences, or private events. No two audiences are the same, and how marketers interact with potential clients has a distinct rhythm and process. 

Mastering Marketing for Different Types of Events

At some point, you’ve heard the following terms, often used interchangeably:  

  • Trade Shows
  • Conventions
  • Exhibitions
  • Expos
  • Symposiums
  • Events
  • Webinars

Each represents a gathering of individuals or groups with a shared interest or professional connection. But there are subtle differences. For example, trade shows (also called trade fairs) frequently are large multi-company events where exhibitors compete to attract attendees on a floor packed with hundreds of other exhibitors. Conversely, conventions tend to be more education and meeting-focused with a smaller trade show component. 

A targeted marketing approach will depend not only on your products and services but also on the audience and types the events. In other words, it requires a plan specific to that show, expo, convention, or symposium. 

Types of Events & Marketing 

If you’re a marketing professional, you already know how to identify your objectives, your audience, the medium (event, expo, etc.), and your intended outcome.  The hardest part, especially if you’re new to face-to-face marketing, is understanding how to deliver your message efficiently and effectively at these types of events. 

Start by contacting the show organizer or association. Ask for guidance. They are motivated to help you for 3 reasons:  

  1. They want their event to be successful 
  2. They want participants to view the event as valuable. 
  3. They want to make money. 

Don’t be shy about tapping into their expertise. They know their customers and have years of experience. All too often, marketers will assume a successful promotion at one event will translate into an equally successful promotion at another event. Or a sponsorship will carry the same prestige and access to potential clients at all types of events. 

For example, at a symposium, a breakfast sponsorship may be a HUGE opportunity since it attracts the largest crowd and often features a keynote speaker. A convention, however, may have a strong education focus with classes, training, and certification seminars. Teaching classes brings credibility to your company, along with one-to-one interaction with potential clients. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask colleagues who have attended the event before for their advice. Nothing beats the advice from someone who has experienced the event in person. 

Strategies for Experiential Event Marketing

Experiential event marketing, also known as engagement marketing, live marketing, or event marketing, is a way for brands to connect with their target audience through immersive, interactive experiences. Instead of traditional marketing methods like ads or commercials, it focuses on creating memorable, hands-on activities that build emotional connections between the brand and the consumer.

Instead of telling people how great your products or services are, you let them experience it firsthand.

Key Points about Experiential Event Marketing:

  • Focus on Engagement: It’s all about getting people actively involved with the brand, not passively receiving information. This can involve workshops, games, demonstrations, product testing, or unique installations.
  • Emotional Connection: The goal is to create a positive and memorable experience that fosters loyalty and builds brand affinity.
  • Tailored to the Audience: Successful campaigns are designed specifically for the target demographic, considering their interests, preferences, and challenges.
  • Not Limited to Events: While often used for events, experiential marketing can also be implemented in pop-up shops, in-store activations, or other interactive experiences.

Benefits of Using Experiential Event Marketing:

  • Increased Brand Awareness: A unique and engaging experience generates buzz and gets people talking about your brand.
  • More Engagement: People are more likely to remember and be impacted by an experience than a traditional ad.
  • Stronger Brand Connections: Positive experiences create emotional bonds with the brand, leading to loyalty and advocacy.
  • Better Lead Generation: Events can be a great way to capture leads and collect valuable customer data.
  • Higher Sales: By showcasing your product or service in action, you can convince people to buy.

Examples of Experiential Event Marketing:

  • A pop-up shop where people can test out new products and interact with the brand.
  • A VR experience that allows people to explore a new destination.
  • A cooking class hosted by a food brand.
  • A music festival sponsored by a clothing company.

If you’re looking for a creative and effective way to connect with your target audience, experiential event marketing could be a great option. Just remember to keep your audience in mind and create an experience that is truly memorable and engaging.

experiential event marketing

Creative Trade Show Marketing Ideas

Trade shows are an excellent opportunity to be seen and make a lasting impression on potential clients. Here are some creative trade show marketing ideas to spark your imagination:

Pre-Show Buzz:

  • Run Pre-show Contests or Giveaways: Offer exclusive early access or discounts to generate interest and attract attendees to your booth.
  • Host a Virtual Event or Q&A: Use social media or webinars to answer questions, showcase your product, and build anticipation for the trade show.
  • Partner with Another Company: Collaborate with a complementary brand to share booth space, resources, and reach a wider audience.

Interactive Exhibit Design:

  • Create a Unique and Engaging Visual Experience: Go beyond the standard banners and backdrops. Use lighting, props, or even AR/VR to create a memorable atmosphere.
  • Offer Interactive Product Demos: Let attendees test your product themselves, rather than just watching a presentation.
  • Include Games or Challenges: Gamify your booth with contests, quizzes, or activities that encourage participation and lead generation.
  • Design a Comfortable and Inviting Space: Provide seating, charging stations, or refreshments to make visitors feel welcome and linger longer.

Social Media Integration:

  • Run a Booth Hashtag Contest: Encourage attendees to share photos and videos using your hashtag for a chance to win prizes.
  • Live Stream Demos or Interviews: Let people who can’t attend the show experience your presence virtually.
  • Offer Social Media-specific Giveaways: Reward attendees who follow your accounts or tag friends in posts at your booth.

Experiential Activities:

  • Host a Workshop or mini-seminar: Share your expertise and provide valuable insights to attract and engage attendees.
  • Offer Product Customizations or Personalization: Show the benefits of your product by tailoring it to individual needs.
  • Organize a Charity Initiative: Give back to the community and associate your brand with a positive cause.
  • Partner with an Influencer: Invite a relevant influencer to your booth for meet-and-greets or product demonstrations.


  • Target your Audience: Tailor your activities and giveaways to the specific interests and needs of your ideal customer.
  • Have Fun and Be Yourself: Let your brand personality shine through to create a genuine and memorable experience.

By thinking outside the box and adding a touch of creativity, you can make your trade show marketing leave a lasting impression on potential clients.

convention marketing

Crafting Effective Convention Marketing Campaigns

You may be wondering, “What’s the difference between a convention vs. a trade show?” Conventions and trade shows share similarities, but there are key differences in their aims, audiences, and activities:

Purpose: Conventions typically focus on community building, networking, and professional development within a specific industry, organization, or interest group. They involve educational sessions, workshops, guest speakers, and social events. Trade shows are more about promoting products and services.

Audience: Conventions attract members of a specific community or industry, often with shared interests and goals. Attendees might be professionals, enthusiasts, or hobbyists. Trade show attendees are primarily interested in making informed purchasing decisions.

Activities: Conventions offer a wider range of activities besides product demonstrations, including keynote speeches, educational sessions, workshops, networking events, social gatherings, and awards ceremonies. Trade shows may include similar activities but are usually secondary to product demonstrations. Sales meetings, and lead activations. 

Effective convention marketing strategies require a multi-pronged approach that targets both pre-event excitement and on-site engagement. Here are some key areas to focus on:

7 Convention Marketing Strategies:

1. Define Your Target Audience: Understanding who you want to attract is crucial. Consider demographics, interests, and pain points to tailor your message and channels.

2. Create a Compelling Brand Story: Go beyond features and benefits. Highlight the value proposition, uniqueness, and impact your convention offers.

3. Leverage Digital Marketing: Utilize various channels like:

  • Website: Optimize it for relevant keywords, showcase speakers and programs, offer early bird discounts.
  • Social Media: Engage with potential attendees, share updates, run contests, use relevant hashtags.
  • Email Marketing: Build an email list, send targeted campaigns with valuable content, and offer exclusive deals.
  • Paid Advertising: Consider targeting ads on platforms like LinkedIn or industry publications.

4. Partner with Influencers and convention management: Collaborate with industry experts, show organizers, or relevant personalities to promote your convention to their audience.

5. Public Relations: Issue press releases, pitch stories to relevant media outlets, and participate in industry podcasts or interviews.

6. Offer Valuable Experiences: Host workshops, demonstrations, product showcases, or networking events to provide attendees with actionable knowledge and connections. 

7. Networking Opportunities: Facilitate networking events, receptions, or designated spaces for attendees to connect and build relationships.

conference marketing

Conference Marketing: Networking and Engagement

Conferences play a crucial role in facilitating knowledge sharing, professional development, and fostering connections within specific communities. It typically focuses on a specific topic or theme, bringing together attendees to share knowledge, ideas, and experiences. To be successful at conference marketing, you need to understand the key characteristics of a conference and how it differs from similar events. 

Key Characteristics of Conferences:

Formal Setting: Conferences are usually formal events with planned schedules, presentations, and activities.

Specific Theme or Topic: They revolve around a central theme or area of interest, attracting attendees with shared knowledge or passion for that subject.

Learning and Discussion: The primary goal is to share information, exchange ideas, and spark discussions among attendees.

Networking Opportunities: They offer dedicated time and space for attendees to connect, build relationships, and foster collaboration.

Varied Formats: Conferences can range in size and duration, from small one-day events to large multi-day gatherings. They often incorporate presentations, workshops, panels, exhibitions, and social events.

Compared to Other Types of Events:

Trade Shows: Primarily focused on businesses showcasing products and services to potential buyers, with less emphasis on community building and learning.

Conventions: Often cater to larger communities within an industry or organization, offering broader programs and social activities beyond product demonstrations.

Seminars: Smaller, more focused events usually centered on a single topic or skill development, with lectures and workshops as the primary format.

Conference marketing strategies encompass both pre-event and on-site efforts to attract attendees, generate buzz, and create a successful experience.

Here are Some Key Strategies to Consider:

Target Audience:

  • Define your Ideal Attendee: Understanding demographics, interests, and pain points helps tailor your message and channels.
  • Segment your Audience: Group attendees based on interests to personalize communication and offers.

Building Excitement:

  • Compelling Brand Story: Highlight the value proposition, uniqueness, and impact your conference offers.
  • Digital Marketing: Leverage websites, social media (relevant hashtags, contests), email marketing, and paid advertising.
  • Influencer Partnerships: Collaborate with industry experts or relevant personalities to promote your conference.
  • Public Relations: Issue press releases, pitch stories to media outlets, and participate in industry podcasts or interviews.

Engaging Experience:

  • Interactive Booths: Design an eye-catching space with activities, product demos, and networking opportunities.
  • Valuable Sessions: Offer workshops, panels, and presentations catering to diverse interests and needs.
  • Technology Integration: Enhance engagement with AR/VR, gamification, interactive presentations, etc.
  • Networking Events: Facilitate opportunities for attendees to connect and build relationships.

Lead Generation & Retention:

  • Data Collection: Capture leads through registration forms, contests, or interactive activities.
  • Social Media Advocacy: Encourage attendee content sharing using a unique hashtag.
  • Personalized Post-event Communication: Follow up with attendees and offer relevant content or opportunities.

Ultimately, conferences play a crucial role in facilitating knowledge sharing, professional development, and fostering connections within specific communities.

trade show marketing ideas for different types of events

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For 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been a leader in the exhibit industry, designing and building exhibits and sharing our knowledge of exhibit marketing with our Distributor Partners and their clients. As North America’s largest private-label exhibit manufacturer, we have the unmatched capability, capacity, and creativity to create 3D projects ranging from 10 x 10 inline displays to 60 x 80 double-deck islands. 

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Are You a Trade Show Gambler?

October 24th, 2023 COMMENTS
Trade Show Marketing and Gambling
What are your odds of succees on the trade show floor?

Ever wonder why so many trade shows are held in Las Vegas. Hint:  It’s not because Donny Osmond and Carrot Top are headliners. It’s gambling. Frankly, I love gambling, even if I’m not much of a gambler. The chance to turn $20 into $1000’s, maybe even millions of dollars, is scary seductive.

Gambling may also be the reason I love trade show marketing. It’s playing the odds. Trade shows, just like all games of chance, have very specific odds. While there’s always going to be some luck involved, it’s up to the trade show marketer to choose what “games” they play and how much they wager. Frankly, some of us choose wisely… while others do not. There are no guarantees, only choices based on experience, research, and hunches.

What kind of trade show gambler are you? See below.

Powerball/Mega Millions Lotteries

While not Las Vegas gambling, it’s gambling we know and understand. It’s hard to resist the lure of a lottery when the prize approaches $500 million. You bet $2 to $100 and continue buying tickets until someone wins the grand prize. The odds of winning are not good, actually terrible, but that’s OK. It wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t a lot, and you were going to the convenience store anyway to get an energy drink. Many lottery players don’t even bother checking their tickets if they’re not the BIG winner.

The Multiplier Marketer

You’ve met this trade show exhibitor. They buy an inexpensive display, participate in the BIG show year after year, put little effort into it, and toss away most leads. But next year… they’ll land that multi-million dollar order, and it will all be worthwhile. They’ve bought into the whole “you can’t win if you don’t play” philosophy, which sounds suspiciously like “We go because, we’ve always gone to the show.”

Trade Show Marketing and Slot Machines

Slot Machines

Who doesn’t love the noise, the lights, and the movement of slot machines? They’re fun and seemingly affordable. True, the odds aren’t great, but they’re better than the lottery, keno, or even roulette. The rules (if there are any) are easy to learn. Best of all, someone is always winning, because you hear the jackpots and the lights flashing. Keep at it, you’ll eventually break even if you just put another $20 into the slot machine.

Wonder Woman Marketer

Plug and play is hard to resist for many trade show marketers. After all, it’s the show organizer’s job to bring attendees to the show. Their hardest decision is which display to choose, and hopefully, the one they select (Wheel of Fortune) will have better odds than the other choices (Game of Thrones or Wonder Woman). Just keep playing you tell yourself and eventually (if you hold your head just right and wear your lucky shoes), you might land that one-in-a-million Progressive client.

Trade Show Marketing and Blackjack


In blackjack, you don’t control the cards, but knowing the rules and understanding blackjack strategy can improve your chances of winning. The casual blackjack player may win occasionally, but the professional blackjack player wins consistently. Skill and strategy will alter the odds just enough to give the expert a slight advantage over the house. And if they know how to count cards, then all bets are off for the house advantage.  

Splitting Aces Marketer

Unlike slot machines, blackjack skills can be taught and strategies learned. There’s a wide range of trade show marketers in this category, but most have a working knowledge of the rules and regulations and the time to study them. Great marketers tap into the knowledge of those who have been successful at trade shows for years. There’s still some luck involved, but they try to control what’s controllable. And just like blackjack, the “house” will occasionally change the rules to make winning more challenging. It’s up to the exhibitor to find creative ways to improve their odds which can mean shifting to another show if the odds are better.   

Trade Show Marketing and Poker


Unlike the games previously mentioned, the house makes its money by taking a rake, entry fee, or timed fee from the players. And just like with blackjack, knowing the odds and understanding poker strategy will improve a player’s chances of winning. Yes, there’s luck, but poker adds another dimension… reading people. In poker, it’s possible to have a losing hand and still win. Professional poker players study their opponents, not just while playing but also weeks or months in advance looking for “tells” that will give them an advantage. Preparation, focus, and decisiveness can be the difference between losing everything or winning not just the pot, but the tournament.

I’m All In! Marketer

The trade show marketer, who acts like a professional poker player, controls what they can control. That includes their exhibit, the show services, the location, the attendees, the pre- and post-show marketing, the staff, and the ROI or ROO. They recognize that a successful trade show is always possible if they improve their odds. They’re more likely to attract the right clients to their booth, provide them with a memorable experience, gather the appropriate sales information, and contact them promptly after the show.

But mostly, they’re in control. They don’t get distracted, and they don’t allow their team to play the slots when they should be sitting down for a game of poker.

Not Everyone Gambles

One important note: not everyone at a trade show is a gambler. Some don’t have to be because the “non-gamblers” control the games, set the odds, and determine the rules and regulations. They win the moment someone enters the building. It’s simply a matter of how much they win. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, we should all applaud any business savvy and smart enough to create a profitable strategy.

Always Bet on Yourself

As a trade show marketer, you have enormous power as an exhibitor. First of all, you get to choose which shows deserve your business. Not every show does, even if they’re The Major Show for your industry.  Secondly, you can negotiate or influence rates, sponsorships, and the fees and regulations of future shows. Will you always be successful? No. But saying silent means the answer is always No.

Finally, smart exhibitors assume their trade show success depends on them, not the show organizers, not the General Show Contractor, not other exhibitors. They control the outcome and do everything possible to manage their expenses, their exhibit experience, and their pre- and post-show marketing. In other words, while they gamble, they always choose games where winning is in their control.  

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


Behind the Scenes Interview– Marlys Arnold, Author of Build a Better Trade Show Image

April 3rd, 2023 COMMENTS

When Marlys Arnold wrote the book, Build a Better Trade Show Image, her goal was to create a how-to manual for new exhibitors. Since then, her book has been a must-read guide in the trade show industry for over 20 years. The updated version includes many new examples of creative exhibit designs, promotions, attractions and beyond. You’ll find fresh ideas, as well as advice that has stood the test of time.

Marlys was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the book, her background, and the challenge of updating Build a Better Trade Show Image.

Why did you write the book in the first place?

When I wrote the first edition, I had been collecting notes and ideas as I either walked a show or when I exhibited or worked at shows. So basically it was the how-to manual that I wish I would have had as a beginning exhibitor. I wanted to walk people through the entire process of what to do before, during, and after the show to have better results and really make it more worth their time and investment.

Why did you use the analogy of building a house?

Even if someone hasn’t actually built their own house, they understand the concept that first you have to lay the foundation, then you build the framework. Once you get the house built, then you work on the interior and you want to have good curb appeal. There were all these different pieces that I could then align with the process of doing a trade show. Building the foundation is the idea of setting goals and preparing for the show ahead of time. Curb appeal is doing your promotions and getting attention and drawing people into your booth. So there were a lot of ways that I could draw those parallels between the two ideas.

So what prompted you to revise the book?

marlys arnold

When I initially wrote and debuted it back in 2002, I never had any idea that I ever would do it again. I really didn’t ever plan on doing it again. But over the years, people began asking if I would consider doing an updated edition. And especially about the time that we all went into lockdown, I had people starting to ask because there were things in the first edition, like we don’t use faxes anymore. And then there were a lot of brand new things … social media didn’t exist back then, and people didn’t carry smartphones in their pockets back then. So there were a lot of new ways and new strategies that people could implement now that weren’t even available to us way back then.

So I finally decided it was a good idea — but I should have started on it a little sooner than what I did and worked on it during lockdown. Instead, late in 2021 I got the idea to starting the second edition just as everything was opening up and we were all starting to get really busy again.

How have face-to-face events changed, especially post-pandemic?

Well that’s a tough one because I would like to say yes, they’ve changed dramatically and they’ve improved. But unfortunately, in a lot of ways — a lot of the wrong ways — they haven’t. Walking shows now, I still see what I call the Ten Commandments of Booth Staffing, things like people eating in the booth, people sitting and ignoring the traffic that’s walking by. There’s still all this bad behavior.

We had this wonderful opportunity during lockdown to completely revise and improve and move forward. And a lot of exhibitors and a lot of shows didn’t really take advantage of that opportunity. So now is a good time to just reset and move forward and do a better job. My goal is to see every exhibitor at every show have the best show they’ve ever had now, as opposed to last year or even pre-lockdown. I want to see exhibitors take the strategies and tools and really build on it and make their shows more productive and more valuable.

What was the most challenging part of doing the update?

Well, there were a lot of parts that were more challenging than I expected. I mean, just things like trying to do some of the research and find updated statistics. Sometimes it was really tough to find updated studies or research that correlated with what was there 20 years ago. And of course there are a lot of companies that are gone, so there were industry resources that don’t exist anymore. Other than CEIR, which obviously has great statistics — but some of the other stats were hard to research now.

It was also tough because everybody was starting to get busy right about the time that I began working on the new edition. I remember one person in particular that I reached out to in June or July, and I was finally able to do an interview with him in October so that I could include his story in the book. It was challenging trying to gather all of the great examples and information that I really wanted to include, but of course there’s no way to ever include everything. I squeezed in as much as I could, but obviously I couldn’t fit everything into the book.

So who’s the audience for this book?

Ultimately, I wrote it with the hope that it will be relevant to any exhibitor, no matter the level of experience or size or what industry that they’re in. I include a lot of very universal principles in there, but my passion is always to help the newbie exhibitor, somebody who’s just getting started, or maybe a really small company. A lot of exhibitors that I’ve consulted with over the years have been those in the 10’x10’ or 10’x20’ spaces, because they know they need to work hard to try to compete and get attention when there’s all these huge booths and household-name exhibitors on the show floor.

I know right now it’s definitely a challenge because so many people have left the industry. Long-term exhibitors and vendors — people that had years or decades of experience are now gone. And so a lot of the people who are coming in are newbies that have zero experience and don’t know what they’re doing.

I really want the book to be a tool that they can pick up and use. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of exhibitors say they use it as a how-to manual, and that’s really what I wrote it to be. But I’ve also included a lot of next-level ideas in there as well. So even somebody who’s been exhibiting for 10 or 15 years can pick up the book and discover new tips and examples and find some aha moments that they can implement as well.

And finally, what are two or three pieces of advice you’d share with your clients about trade show success?

The key is what you do before, during, and after the show — because it’s not just what happens on the show floor, and it’s also not just a checklist of things to do. A lot of times exhibitors that have been doing shows for a long time may just look at it as a checklist: We have to get our booth designed, we have to order our promotional products for giveaways. They’re not really looking at the strategy behind it all. It’s just become a routine. It’s almost like they’re on autopilot.

So what I really tell exhibitors is focus on the strategy. Why are you going? What are you wanting to accomplish? What is your core message? Then use that and work backwards and figure out what are the tasks that I need to do, or even better … what are the things that I should include, or the things I should not include that don’t necessarily enhance that strategy.

Another thing is, like I mentioned earlier, the whole idea of what I call the Ten Commandments — having good booth staff behavior. That can be as simple as paying attention and being engaged in the booth, instead of checking your cell phone, or everybody on your team standing around in a huddle, having a conversation instead of being proactive and interacting with the people that walk by. I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement, even with long-time exhibitors. I go to shows like EXHIBITORLive, and I still see a lot of these bad booth behaviors. So it’s something that everybody has to consciously work on and make sure that they’re putting their best face forward in the booth.

 About Marlys

As an exhibit marketing strategist, Marlys Arnold combines image expertise and real-world marketing experience with a passion for trade shows. Not only has she been an exhibitor, but also the organizer of several expos and events. This unique perspective of the industry allows her to share new insights with both beginning and experienced exhibitors, teaching how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads.

She’s led workshops for groups including Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the International Association of Exhibitions & Events (IAEE)TSNN and EXHIBITOR, as well as providing exhibitor training for events in a variety of industries, ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S.

Marlys K. Arnold, ImageSpecialist
Educator & Advocate for Trade Show Success

Author of:
   – Exhibit Design That Works
   – Build a Better Trade Show Image
Founder of the Exhibit Marketers Academy
Host of the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast

40 Things You Do @ Trade Shows (You Would Never Do Anywhere Else)

February 7th, 2023 17 COMMENTS
Trade Show Etiquette

Every group has its own rules and etiquette. Trade shows are no different whether you are an exhibitor, attendee, or an industry insider. While many behaviors might seem normal to you as a member of the trade show community, others are downright bizarre to those who rarely set foot in a trade show hall.

Here are 40 Things You Do @ Trade Shows You Would Never Do Anywhere Else. It was originally much longer, but this is a PG-rated blog.

Drinking doesn’t count. We know you drink. You just don’t always start at lunch. And for the sake of discretion (and possible litigation), we’ve ignored trade shows where other forms of “relaxation” are legal.

Feel free to contribute in the comments. And enjoy!

Wear Matching Unisex Clothing

  1. Throw trash in the aisle and expect others to clean it up
  2. Spend $8.50 for a 12 oz. bottle of Aquafina
  3. Bribe someone to look the other direction. Brag about it later
  4. Have Accounting panic because you just max-out your credit card on one transaction (drayage perhaps?)
  5. Wear matching unisex clothing 
  6. Take anything that appears to have a value of less than $10 (candy, hats, pens, mugs…)
  7. Share “steamy” industry gossip with competitors
  8. Chat with 500 strangers in 72 hours
  9. Gush about the double-padded carpet in booth #1108
  10. Buy a gaudy new belt in the casino shop for $165 (after forgetting to pack one) 
Vacuuming at a Trade Show

Spend $350 to Vacuum Your Carpet

  1. Party until 3 am with Steve in Accounting, Larry in HR, Melissa in Engineering, and Rebecca in Quality Control
  2. Bum breath mints from strangers
  3. Arrive at work at 11 am. Leave at 3:30 pm
  4. Get agitated when someone walks across the corner of your booth space
  5. Take a Lyft to Lowe’s or Best Buy at 9 am
  6. Pretend you don’t smell that awful face-melting smell
  7. Debate the existential meaning of portable, modular, and custom
  8. Act interested in (insert topic)
  9. Complain about how much it costs to vacuum 400 sq. ft. of carpet. Vow to do something about it
  10. Allow strangers to take your stuff without a receipt for three days and not know where it is, how it’s getting stored (or if it will be returned undamaged), and that you have zero ability to get it back early. 
Badge Scanning at a Trade Show

Steam Your Clothing in the Shower

  1. Let someone point a scanning device or smartphone camera in the general vicinity of your chest and crotch. Repeatedly.
  2. Be convinced a 15-minute conversation will lead to $500,000 in new business
  3. Assemble a 3D structure that costs somewhere between a new car and a McMansion, only to disassemble it three days later
  4. Spend 20% of your entire annual marketing budget over five days. Never calculate the ROI
  5. Compare the work ethic in Philadelphia, Boston, NYC, Chicago, Orlando, Anaheim, San Francisco, and Las Vegas to the work ethic in your hometown. Vow to do something about it.
  6. Hang your clothing in the bathroom with the shower running for 30 minutes to steam out the wrinkles  
  7. Explain, once again, to your family and friends that it’s a “business trip” and not a vacation
  8. Get visibly excited about the phrase “traffic congestion”
  9. Guard your giveaways like a momma bear (Day #1). Beg show labor to take them in bulk (Day #3)
  10. Sneak off to the bathroom just to find a quiet place to work
Finding a Quiet Spot to Work at a Trade Show

Hide in a Storage Closet

  1. Hide in a storage closet to scarf down a Starbuck’s scone, while dusting your co-workers coats, purses, and briefcases with gooey crumbs
  2. Judge people based solely on their trade show name badge  
  3. Convince your boss that the 300 fishbowl leads are new clients clamoring for your product (and not the iPad giveaway)
  4. Pretend the President’s son is not still drunk. Allow him to talk to potential clients and competitors (I know I said I wouldn’t include drinking but this one was too good to exclude) 
  5. Spend 3 days with 100 of your best friends and not speak or see them again for 362 days
  6. Fly from the Midwest in January to Las Vegas, Orlando, or New Orleans and NEVER leave the hotel/convention center complex
  7. Reintroduce yourself to the same person three times. Act embarrassed 
  8. Toss the sales literature you carefully collected over three days so there’s more room for tschotskes. Pretend it’s for your children 
  9. Be REALLY, REALLY EXCITED to leave Las Vegas or Orlando!
  10. Finally… Wonder (after scanning the room and mumbling quietly to yourself) why the Federal Government hasn’t filed RICO charges against certain segments of the trade show industry. Vow to do something about it. 

That’s it. Please share your “Trade Show Things” below. And thanks for playing along.

–Mel White


Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including SuperNova LED Lightboxes. 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

Are We Asking Exhibitors the Wrong Questions?

January 26th, 2023 COMMENTS
Trade Show Marketing Questions
Goals? Objectives? Or Something Else.

Recently I attended a charity event with a social mixer. Several introductions later, I was conversing with a CEO about trade shows.

He grumbled about drayage, shipping, and labor. I sympathized. Then he shifted to ROI. His company’s trade show ROI was terrible. Not surprisingly, his company didn’t have clear trade show objectives or a pre-show or post-show strategy.

It Got Me Thinking

Are we asking our clients the wrong questions?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be asking exhibitors about their trade show goals or objectives. Instead, we should encourage them to share everything they don’t want to happen. In other words, ask them to describe their trade show hell. We know the list will be LONG and DETAILED, and include topics like terrible booth traffic, the wrong prospects, worthless lead management. Or disengaged staff, ugly graphics, insufficient storage, or simply a boring booth.

Suddenly, your boring 5–10-minute conversation about goals becomes an intense (and entertaining) 30-minute session about their trade show nightmares.  Guess what… They’ve told you what they don’t want. Now guide them toward the solutions they need. I suspect they’ll be more receptive. And the conversation will be a lot more fun!

I challenge you to test this technique. What do you have to lose? You just might turn a disengaged trade show marketer into a dynamic trade show marketing cheerleader. Sans the pom poms.

Classic Exhibits has been designing and building solutions since 1993. We’ve been honored as an Exhibitor Magazine Find-It Top 40 Exhibit Producers and an Event Marketer Fab 50 Exhibit Builders multiple times. Along with numerous Portable Modular Awards. 

With over 200 Distributor Partners throughout North America, there’s a Classic representative close by to assist with any rental project. Contact us today whether you need an inline rental display, a double-deck island exhibit, or a contemporary kiosk rental. At Classic, we’re not just different. We’re better.