How To Get The Most “Bang For Your Buck” (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of  Jeff Golden via Flickr
Photo courtesy of Jeff Golden via Flickr

You’ve put so much time & energy into the design of your trade show booth, backdrop & other elements… are you getting the most ‘bang for your buck’ out of these materials?

Your trade show display is designed to quickly & effectively communicate your organization’s identity and message.  One way you can ensure you’re getting a good return on investment (ROI) is to put the display to work more often.

Depending on your business & the activities in the community your company participates in, the additional opportunities to use your display will vary, but might include:

  • Summer Festivals & Fairs
    • If a good fit for the product / brand, you may consider looking for additional brand exposure at art, music & food festivals / fairs
    • Consider how can you engage new customers at these events & tie that to the positive experience they’re already having at these memorable occasions
  • Press Conferences – If you are inviting members of the media to a press conference, (to launch a new product, announce an expansion, etc.) your display could be the perfect professional backdrop
  • Community events, chamber of commerce events – Check the calendar for your local chamber of commerce events to see if there is an opportunity to introduce your organization to the business community.  Your display would be a great visual aid
  • Charity Events – Do you sponsor any events, such as a race for a charity, auction, symposium or golf tournament?  Make sure the attendees know your organization is involved!
  • HR/ Recruiting – At career/job fairs, let your HR staff attract more potential job candidates to their booth/table using the great graphics/messaging you’ve already created!
  • Lobby – When not in use at shows, consider installing elements from your trade show display in your lobby / retail space to invite visitors & improve the “first impression” they have of your organization
  • Online – Any video displays / slideshows you have designed for use at trade shows can be uploaded to YouTube to increase your internet presence
  • Company Events – Welcome guests at your summer picnic, holiday parties or hospitality events with elements from your display to let them know, “they’ve arrived” and to show the pride you have in your organization!

If you have other ideas, please share them in the discussion below!

Trade Show Trends of 2013

Photo Courtesy of Troy Stover
Photo Courtesy of Troy Stover

Once a year, trade show professionals assemble in Las Vegas for the industry’s leading conference and exposition, Exhibitor. Professionals in the trade show business have the opportunity to attend seminars, touch base with current suppliers, learn about new products, network and look into the future of trade show marketing.

Our operations manager, Troy attended Exhibitor2013 this year and returned to the office with some fresh ideas. Based on his observations from the show floor, there are 4 major trends this year in the trade show world. 

  • Interactive technology: If you were looking for a keyboard at Exhibitor, you would have been disappointed, as there were none to be found. The importance of technology of the show has increased significantly due to both the rise of social media and advances in touch screen technology.  Touch screen technology is being integrated into the displays themselves by way of large screens, into the staffers conversations with potential clients with tablets, and throughout the attendees’ experience via mobile devices. This is no different with our clients. We recently created a display for biomedical waste company BioServ that included 2 iPad stands. One iPad station will be used to run an E-procurement demo, while the other station will run a virtual golf game.
  • Fabric graphics: Fabric graphics have become the preferred graphic medium of choice, thanks to the emergence of dye sublimation (or dye sub) printing. Dye sub provides display manufacturers the opportunity to produce a high quality graphic at a lower price. Dye sub graphics also save exhibitors a considerable amount of money on shipping and repair costs, since fabric is lightweight, easy to transport, very easy to clean and less vulnerable to irreparable damage.  We have seen many of our clients move towards using fabric in their displays, including Curbell Plastics and Softlips.
  • Creating an environment vs. fabricating a display: Exhibit designers are focusing their attention on creating an experience at an exhibitor’s booth.  Display professionals have been taking a more holistic approach to exhibit design and using every tool at their disposal to create an ambiance that both engages attendees and represents the exhibitor’s branding.
  • Relaxation of booth staff uniforms:  Companies are moving away from mandating that booth staff wear the traditional suit at the company booth. Many exhibitors are choosing more “inviting” attire that helps create the feeling that staffers are approachable.  Many exhibitors have a staff uniform that is reflective of both their industry and the brand itself. For example, attendees at high-tech shows are often dressed casually and the expectation is that booth staff will be dressed casually as well.

Just like every other marketing channel, the trade show industry is constantly changing in response to advances in technology, product development and improvement efforts, and shifts in marketing ideologies. The major trends for 2013 reflect changes that are aimed at increasing attendee engagement and creating an inviting experience for attendees universally.

Going Mobile on the Trade Show Floor

Photo Courtesy of

Over the past few years, smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of everyday life. Since mobile devices are portable and can access a great deal of information within seconds, they are a natural fit for use in the trade show environment. Here are some tips for using mobile technology to your advantage at a trade show.

  • Include a highly visible QR Code on your display. The QR code should take users to a landing page that is optimized for mobile devices. The landing page can be your company’s homepage, a contest entry form, a lead qualification form, etc.
  • Use an app to collect leads. There are several apps that make lead retrieval very simple, such as iLeads and DUB, that allow you to scan a business card and enter the contact information into either your phone contacts or a database. Using a lead retrieval app will save you the headache of keeping up with hundreds of pieces of paper and trying to decipher a potential lead’s handwriting. The leads can be sent directly from your phone or tablet to your office.
  • Schedule appointments with prospects using the calendar function on your phone or tablet. This saves both you and the prospect the time of attempting to connect after the trade show and guarantees a better chance that the meeting will take place.
  • Many trade shows have an app created for the event. Download this onto your mobile devices and continually check for updates, changes, itineraries and announcements.
  • Take photos using the smartphone’s camera and share them on your company’s social media platforms. Include your booth number to encourage your followers at the show to visit your exhibit.
  • Stream video from the event to the home office, attendees and clients who were unable to attend, using social media and/or videoconferencing.
  • Ask attendees to share their own photos and videos from your exhibit through social media. To encourage attendee contributions, design a contest for attendees who share their images and videos of your exhibit through social media.
  • Design a simple, interactive game to be played on a mobile device housed at your exhibit. A game is memorable and increases attendee engagement. The game should easy to play, fun, casual and tied directly to your value proposition.
  • Process credit card payments using a device like AprivaPay, which attaches to your smartphone or tablet and allows you to swipe the client’s credit card.

Exhibitors who learn to leverage mobile technology on the trade show floor will ensure that their trade show appearance goes smoothly, while also increasing engagement with the show attendees. This leads to a greater amount of leads generated at the show and less time spent on administrative tasks associated with post-trade show follow-up, which ultimately improves ROI (return on investment).

The Year-End Trade Show Booth Tune-up Guide


The end of the year often serves as a time to analyze the performance of your marketing initiatives over the past year, while strategizing and defining goals for the next. One of the year-end assessments to complete is evaluating the condition of your trade show exhibit. Not sure where to start? Use this guide to walk you through the proces letting the display professionals inspect the display for you. They have experience working with the materials and know what repairs will need to be made.

  • If you decide to go through the materials yourself, have a notebook and pen handy. Makes notes of everything that you are checking, whether it is damaged, missing or in perfect condition.
  • Allow yourself enough time before the next trade show to thoroughly inspect the display, in case repairs are necessary.  This will help you avoid rush charges to fix it at the last minute.
  • Look over all of your shipping cases and totes. If you have a rolling case, make sure that all of the wheels are in tact. Check the locks and make sure that they fasten tightly.
  • Assemble the display as if you were at a show. This is the best way to tell if something is missing, broken or damaged.
  • Check the hardware for any damage. Probe the frame for any broken parts, loose hinges or screws, dents, scuff marks and other signs of damage.
  • Inspect graphics thoroughly for any damage, such as deep creases, staining or scuff marks. In most cases, graphics can be cleaned fairly easily.
  • Plug in any lights to make sure that they work.
  • Check all accessories that travel with the exhibit for possible damage.
  • Evaluate your graphics and decide if they need to be updated. Are they severely damaged? Do they match your current branding? Is the text outdated? Has your product line changed since the graphics were produced? Would the images still look exciting and contemporary to attendees on the show floor?
  • Take some time to reflect on your last trade show season.  Identify what went well and what could be improved upon. While this may or may not lead changes with the display itself, it will help you plan your trade show strategy for the coming season.

Inspecting and examining your trade show display as a part of your year-end activities will enable you to be better prepared for 2013 trade show season.

Halloween Costumes and Trade Show Displays: The Surprising Similarities



By Lisa Shackelford, Marketing Coordinator at FB Displays & Designs, Inc.

The end of October is an exciting time of year in my household. Pumpkins are carved, the aroma of hot cider fills the air and the fall foliage starts to create an orange and yellow blanket on my front yard. One of my most treasured fall traditions is the selection of Halloween costumes for my dogs.



Every year, our Coonhound Dulce has been donning a costume to greet the trick-or-treaters. She has been dressed as a Pumpkin, a Zebra, and a Bumblebee (as seen above). Since this year we will be celebrating with two dogs, one will be dressed as an angel and one as a devil.

What does my affinity to dress my pets in ridiculous attire have to do with trade shows? Preparing an exhibit for a trade show is much like preparing a Halloween costume. There are several similar considerations.

  • You have a budget. While you may not have an exact figure, you have a ballpark range of how much you can spend.
  • Just like a costume, your exhibit looks better when your accessories match the theme. If you decide to dress up as a firefighter, you wouldn’t wear a cowboy hat and boots.  The same philosophy applies to a trade show exhibit. All of the accessories need to match the message of the display.
  • Displays that are unique and creative stand out from the rest of the crowd. While a black cat costume consisting of cat ears and a black outfit is very forgettable, a vampire costume with fangs and meticulously designed make-up is likely to drawn quite a bit of attention.
  • The earlier in advance you plan, the better. If you wait until the last minute, you may not be able to have your display ready in time.  If something goes wrong, there is little to no time to fix it.  When you buy a costume, it is much easier to find the right materials if you begin planning weeks in advance.  Last minute preparations often look as though they were done last minute.
  •  The exhibit should be appropriate for the attendees. You would not wear a leotard with cat ears and fishnets to work or wear an overly gruesome zombie costume to an elementary school event. The same principle applies to trade show environments.  If your audience is mostly women, hiring female models to staff your booth may not be a wise choice.  If you are attending a technology show, bringing printed literature may seem out of place.
  • Just like a costume, a display represents a character. The character being depicted through your exhibit is your company and brand. The appearance of the display will shape attendees’ opinions of the “personality” of your company and brand.

When preparing your trade show display, approach the process much in the same way you would when you are planning your Halloween costume. Have a budget in mind, plan ahead make sure that all details of the exhibit emphasize your main message.




Hey, I Just Met You… Now What Do I Do? Ways to Effectively Follow Up with Your Trade Show Leads

By Lisa Shackelford

The trade show has ended. You have returned to business-as-usual, bringing with you exhaustion, excitement and most importantly, your leads.  So now that you have new leads in hand, where do you begin following up with them?

Chances are, throughout the course of the trade show, many potential clients seemed excited about your products, were in the market to buy your type of products, and got to know you and your company better. Does that translate into attendees making a mad dash to their phones the minute they get back to the office? No. You will need to follow-up.  Hear are some processes that will help you organize your lead follow-up plan.

  • Have a designated point person.  Decide before the show who will be the person in charge of the leads.  Preferably, assign this to someone who will not attend the show, since employees that are attending will be playing catch-up when they first return from the show, and the leads may get pushed to the side for later. If the point person is not attending the show, he or she can begin implementing the follow-up process before the show is over.
  • Contact your most qualified leads within 24-48 hours of the show. Follow up with all leads within a week.
  • Before the show, train booth staffers on how to properly qualify potential leads. Teach them what your criteria is for a qualified lead and what questions to ask booth visitors. This will not only allow you to focus your follow-up efforts more efficiently, but this will also give the person following up useful information about the needs of the potential customer.
  • Create a lead generation form that contains pertinent qualifying information. Lead forms do not have to be paper-based; you can create one on a tablet or laptop.  Computerized lead capturing also ensures that leads are legible and information is less likely to be incorrect or misread.
  • Call your leads in order of priority.  Have a system of coding that prioritizes leads by follow-up priority.  You can use a color system, a numerical system, alphabetical, etc. A coding system keeps the leads organized and ensures that leads that are hot are being addressed first.
  • Have a follow-up plan in place before the show begins.  The plan should include how you will divide up the leads, what methods you will use to reach them and what will be the tone of your message. Different types of leads will call for different tones, so make sure to tailor your plan to include different strategies for different types of leads.

Following up with your trade show leads in a timely, organized fashion ensures that you are talking with your hottest prospects when your meeting is fresh in their minds. The goal of your trade show appearance is to generate new customers, and the key to moving trade show leads along in the sales process after the show is following up with potential customers quickly and methodically.

 Lisa Shackelford is the Marketing Coordinator at FB Displays & Designs, Inc. 

Trade Show Trends of 2012

By Lisa Shackelford

The fall trade show season is upon us, which means exhibitors are inspecting their old displays, purchasing new displays and graphics, repairing broken parts and revising their past trade show strategies. In doing so, exhibitors will undoubtedly evaluate the upcoming trends in the trade show environment.

Here are some of the recent trends to consider when updating your trade show strategy, based on the results of Exhibit Surveys, Inc. annual Trade Show Trends report and the 2012 Social Media Marketing Survey.

  • 35% of attendees in 2011 reported that their intent to buy was more favorable after visiting a company’s exhibit.  This means that for companies that exhibit, the value of attending trade shows lies not only in meeting prospective clients, but also in building brand loyalty and brand awareness.
  • There has been a 90% increase in the amount of marketers using social media as a part of their exhibiting strategy in the past two years. Marketers utilizing social media for exhibit marketing cited benefits such as increased booth traffic, increased brand awareness, improved relationships with clients, increased event attendance, additional press coverage and increased sales as a direct result of their social media campaigns.
  • 81% of trade show attendees in 2011 had the power to make a purchasing decision or influence the purchasing decision. Despite recent economic challenges, trade shows continue to attract attendees that either are decision makers, or have are influential in the buying process.
  • Technology is becoming more integrated into trade show exhibits. IPads and tablets are not just used to show videos and photos of a company’s product. Tablets and CRM software are increasingly being partnered to streamline the lead management process.
  • 36% of attendees on average are first time attendees. Trade shows are attracting a wide variety of decision-makers; from the first-time attendee to the seasoned trade show professional.
  • Many exhibitors have been focusing on creating metrics to justify the initial investment necessary required for exhibiting. The most common metric being discussed is ROI (return on investment), but exhibitors are looking for supplementary metrics as well, such as ROO (return on objectives).

The trade show environment is rapidly evolving to make the experience on the trade show floor more interactive for attendees, by means of social media and technology. Trade shows continue to attract attendees that are decision-makers in the purchasing process, which means that trade shows continue to be a highly effective method for marketers to reach their target market.

Lisa Shackelford is the Marketing Coordinator at FB Displays & Designs. 


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