Archives for posts with tag: Exhibition Stands

You read that right. Screw the competition. It just doesn’t matter.

As marketers I know you are being encouraged to watch what your competitors are doing: you can set RSS feeds, notifications can pop up alerting you to news stories, you can get data on you competitors social media stats, insider gossip….and all for what? It will paint a vivid picture of what your competitors are doing, but question is, what service or product are you creating of value in the world? Every moment spent agonising over what the other mob is doing is time lost that could have been spent better marketing your own product or service.

Every business I know struggles with this. An event I sat in on recently for one of my large multinational clients addressed this very issue around competition and how you handle it. The CEO’s message was beautifully succinct: keep doing great work that matters in the world. Don’t get so distracted by what your competitors are doing that you abandon your ability to innovate or neglect talking with your customers to see what problems you can solve.

The competition….it just doesn’t matter.

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

I’ve got some examples about how I’ve given the competition the two-fingered salute in recent times.

First up, I was on stand at Ozwater 2014 waiting for my client at handover when another trade show provider sauntered up and thinking I was the client (top tip: check the logo of my shirt next time pal, you’ll save yourself some pain in looking like a arse hat) started banging on about whatever the stand cost, his firm could do it for half that amount. Notice a couple of things here.  There was no question to the “client” over what they are struggling with so they can gain a deeper understanding of how they could truly help, no offer of adding more value, no suggestions about how more leads could be achieved, no ideas about improving the post show follow-up ….the pitch was only about savagely cutting costs.  I smiled at the sock puppet, disclosed I was the stand builder and thanked them for being a dick.  Years ago I would have torn strips off them…and then hang around to then tear strips off their stand after hours.  But I got wise.  The competition…it just doesn’t matter.  My clients don’t come to me for the cheapest stand, it is because I offer shockingly awesome service and solid strategy backed up with amazing designs.  And I also believe that is plenty of work for all trade show providers.  Even sock puppets that can only compete on price.

I also stuck up my two fingers to the competition in the Rowing State Masters this past weekend. I got in my can’t-touch-this bubble a few days out from the event, fine tuning my warm up sequence with Nathan The Demonic Personal Trainer, not even looking at the event draw and who I was up against.  On race day I kept it tight, arriving well before my race to do a warm up and sauntering up to the boat just before we launched so I could not buy into the pre-race “What chance do we have in this race” speculation.  Rowing to the start, I kept my eyes in my own lane and I was so focussed on what I had to do in the race, I still can’t tell you how many crews I lined up against.  In the race itself, I was not aware of the other crews, just counting off sets of 20 strokes in my head and making sure each twenty was better than the last. When we crossed the line and I took a moment to pant….it hit me we had just won gold. Cue mass hysteria!  I can’t tell you how different this approach was to previous years of twisting myself into an anxious state scanning the start list trying to determine what crews I had a chance against and then in the race itself, swivelling my head around checking to see our position in the race.  Here’s my new plan: keep my eyes in my lane, focus on only what I can do that will make a difference to the outcome – that is, row like I stole it.

Hands up who doesn't give a stuff about the competition?

Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Here’s a kicky tune for another mob who could give a staff about the competition.  KISS.  Do you reckon they cared about the musical competition when they formed in the 70’s?  They totally created their own niche with face paint, platforms, a bass player with a tongue that may or may not have been an implant from a cow and some serious brain frying drug addictions.  But the competition?  It didn’t matter!

Want to get some seriously fab tips on creating an AMAZING display that won’t result in hair pulling….yours or someone else’s?  Go here to download your guide.

See you next week!

This post involves me climbing up on Dobbin, my personal hobby-horse so if you are looking for a sun-shiney, all things are AWESOME post….best you move right along. This is an old school RANT.

First up; the good news.  Australia is now seeing more international shows – especially in the medical field – being held in venues across this great land.  This is fab, it means a boost for our local industry and suppliers, brings cashed up delegates pouring money into economy and some kangaroos get patted.

The bad news: with international shows, brings international organisers and their way of doing things including their own suppliers.  Nothing too evil in that but a number of the international organisers have tie ups with international logistics providers and this means heart stopping charges in relation to getting your stand and client gear off a truck and onto the show floor.  By heart stopping I mean whatever you are paying now for forklifting to and from the truck and the stand and THEN the storage of your empty crates and road cases whilst the show is on, goes up by 3 or 4 times (or more) what you would normally pay an Australian provider to do.  Now I won’t be riding Dobbin so hard if the international logistics providers were providing logistics labour that looked like Tom Morello or Josh Homme, turned up with Haighs chocolates and offered to do my ironing but the level of service is on par with what is experienced at non-international shows. So on a straight comparison on services provided by an international organiser tie up and the local services, there is no perceivable difference.  And therefore, no reason that exhibitors and stand builders are being stung with charges 400% and beyond of what they normally pay for logistics services.  GAH!

We have been pretty lucky in Australia that we have been immune to the rort otherwise known as drayage that our American eagle friends have to live with on a daily basis.  Drayage is essentially the on site logistics handling services that get your gear on / off track and to / from your stand. With the prices you pay you would expect a team of white-gloved efficiency experts lovingly placing your goods on gold-edged flat-topped trolleys and then gently pushing them through the show aisles with the utmost care.  But no.  For costs that rival some countries GNP, you get some clapped out forklift driven by some bloke called Bubba get your gear to your stand sometime between “What? Never saw your gear lady…” and “I am on SMOKO”.  Hell, they are always on smoko.

Dobbin, my personal hobby horse

Dobbin, my personal hobby horse

So with some many companies questioning the value of their exhibit program, we need these high logistics costs like a NRL player needs another sleeve tattoo.  And I’m calling it as it is, it’s a rort, with kickbacks between the international organisers and the international logistics firms ensuring that the exhibitors and the service providers are getting billed way in excess of what they should. But it is just not enough to bang on about it in a blog post.  Here are some tips to tackle this bullshit:

  • Get in touch with the organisers and explain – perhaps with use of a map and a stuffed koala – that we are in Australia and we don’t do drayage.
  • Write letters to the organisers and telling them the costs are outrageous and ask what the hell they are on about.  People get all freaky with letters these days as so few people actually write them.  We get all worked up about something, like a post on Facebook thinking that will bring effective change and then forget about it.  But agitating for change takes work and we can’t be flakey about this.  It takes work but if you are committed, you can make a difference.
  • Demand a fixed price for the logistics services in writing.  This really puts the international logistics provider on the spot as they like to issue a sliding scale of fees, based on another currency, with penalty rates added in that are all so complicated to figure out they assume that you will give up and sign off on anything.  Be tenacious about this.  This is your money they are siphoning off. Insist upon measuring your gear yourself, compact your delivery into a small enough footprint as possible (think of these Russian Dolls with stuff sleeved inside other stuff) and give them the two fingers by bringing in whatever you can via the carpark and your own hand trolley.
  • Be pleasant about it but when on site ask the organisers why the charges are so high. Come at it from a curiosity point of view rather than white-hot anger that has the veins in your neck bulging as we are trying to get a positive outcome here, not an apprehended violence order issued against us.

Ok, so Dobbin and I have to move along as I feel compelled to tackle other issues like Christopher Pyne being…Christopher Pyne.  In the meantime, add to add your suggestion in the comments section to tackling the wackness that is creep in of drayage across this great land.

And!  Want to get your FREE 11 step checklist for awesome and stress free exhibitions and displays? Go here to get your immediate download.

Let’s end this rant on a happy vibe with a gorgeous slice of pop from LEN.

See you next week!

I am very, very late with this *weekly* blog post. Partly through staring out into middle distance with my jaw hanging open from all the life altering music I have experienced so far this year.  I am still buzzing after seeing The Boss in Sydney in February. February! The concert was almost 3 months ago and I am still oh-my-godding over it! Confession time: up until the concert, I did not own any actual records of Brooce and had only purchased a sprinkling of songs of his off iTunes but I find him a really intriguing person and having heard about how mind blowing his concerts were, I just knew I had to see him when his 2014 Sydney dates were announced.  As for his concert, I got a master class in performance, passion and entertainment. The Boss also has some juicy lessons for marketers in trade show management too:

1. You’ll do better with some help

When the band strolled out onto the stage I spied a figure I recognised with his guitar riding high on his body.  Could it be…NO WAY!! It was Tom Morello ex-Rage Against the Machine, one of the most unique guitarists of the past 25 years was a now part of the E-Street band.  I went NUTS as he injected his own style into Bruce’s songs with a sense of urgency and purpose.  I love that Bruce recognises that even for himself – if not the audience – he has to surround himself with the very best musicians so his songs are recreated perfectly.  This lesson applies to trade shows too.  To succeed in the crowded trade show environment, you need the very best stand designers and builders who take pride in their work and suppliers who take your calls and respond to every request.  There are no shortage of people vying for your business in trade shows and displays but you need to align yourself with the best as they will ensure the results you are seeking through attending exhibitions are exceeded show after show.

I'm over here Bruce!

I’m over here Bruce!

 2. Put your own spin on the classics

Throughout this recent Australian / New Zealand tour, Bruce become known for the covers he did.  So there was this pre-show anticipation build up around guessing what local and loved tunes Bruce would cover.  I have always been lukewarm in INXS and their music but even I discovered something new in his cover of “Don’t change”. I really loved hearing how Bruce and the band found something new in songs lie “Friday on my Mind” that have been flogged to death.  It is similar with trade shows.  A lot of things that get used repeatedly on show stands are ones that have been done to death but the trick and the magic comes through finding new ways to interpret and present them.  For example can the garden-variety reception counter be turned into a coffee bar with seats to encourage discussions?  Or have touch screens builds into side panels so people can help themselves to information they need?  Just because your team tell you they need the same items on the stand show after show does not mean they have to be displayed in the same way, it just takes some creative thinking to turn the ordinary into something that stops people in their tracks and come in for a closer look.

3. Surprise and delight your audience

With a rich back catalogue like Bruce’s you have no idea what the set list will be before the show. Across social media and Bruce’s own site, punters debate what songs should be played and argue spiritedly about the case to play their favourite.  At the concert Bruce picks out hand made cardboard signs pleading for a particular song from the audience and with one song ending, the newly requested one commences.  The band are that tight and in sync with each other, they can switch from playing an entire album like they did at my Sydney concert to throwing in covers and playing songs from the latest release. There was no obvious build to an encore.  The spirit and passion that was poured into each song ensured EVERY song was an encore.  Imagine if you could surprise and delight your trade show audience like Bruce does.  What if you followed up leads with a hand written note and not the go-to email that everyone else uses?  What if you listed to what your customers are really struggling with and try and solve that rather than memorising a sales pitch and repeating that to every client you encounter?  What if you walled off your stand and only invited your target market inside?  What if the stand was being built during the actual show?  What if you had a guest speaker on your stand that was not from your industry but talked about things like time hacks, the 5 best meals that you can eat while on the go, how to get the best hotel / flight / travel upgrades you can.  So many opportunities exist for doing something creative and unusual and I’m sad that so many of these opportunities get wasted.  (And then I think of Tom Morello and I am happy again!)

 4. Do what you do but do it outrageously well

Look, a rock concert is a rock concert. There are guitars, drums, keyboards, horn sections, backup singers and other musicians.  There’s the stage, lighting and screens. So far, so common.  But they real talent comes through taking common ingredients and executing the outcome so well, it almost becomes an art form.  I met people at the Springsteen concert that had tickets to all dates he played in Oz.  People almost become evangelical when they talked of what they got from his concerts.  Forty thousand people jammed inside a soulless venue and each of us felt this personal connection to some 5 foot something fella and his exceptional band.  To build that connection with your audience – and an audience that has seem you many times, elevates you to almost legend status.  Trade show marketers who apply this same level of detail to their own programs where they make the customer the hero and providing demos, displays and staff that the customer wants to engage with will always see outstanding results from their trade show efforts.  If you do a single – or multiple – trade shows in a year, make it exceptional with enthusiastic staff.  If your budget is tight and your stand small, apply quirky elements that will guarantee you are a go-to stand. If your stand is large and product heavy, offer personalised demonstrations with beautifully presented food and beverage.  There is absolutely no excuse to being sheep in the trade show environment especially when so many ways exist to make you stand out.

Large banner style for Munipharma @ TSANZ 2014

Large banner style for Munipharma @ TSANZ 2014

5. Keep it fresh

While Bruce has a key core of E-street band members, he does change it up so people like my future husband Tom Morello (sorry…did I mention I can really shred?) can join for a single or multiple tours. He is also able to add horns to the signature sound of the Clarence Clements saxophone sound they pioneered.  Backing singers are added and subtracted depending on song choice and where he wants to raise the temperature or quieten the vibe.  He pivots from one career-defining track to an obscure song not played in years.  He keeps it fresh because his muse depends on it.  The trade show environment is prefect for trialing fresh ideas.  You can do cost effective tweaks like ditching the paper sign up form to using business card swipe technology to capture leads.  You can make grand sweeping changes by using the space above your stand with soaring printed banners.  Just because you do a number of shows a year does not mean it has to be the same time after time.  Poll your staff about the changes they would like to see and then implement them – even for just a single show to test.  Look for ways you can include your other marking channels like social media, out of home advertising, print and TV to help support what you do on the trade show floor.  But most importantly don’t just think about doing something new, go try it out!  Thoughts and ideas are worth buggar all unless you are willing to back them up with action.

My year of life changing concerts is not done yet.  I have Arctic Monkeys next week to attend with one of my favourite marketing mavens and then I will be into planning my next round of to-die for music experiences.

This week’s tune is not surprisingly by The Boss.  However, it not one of his better known songs but one that I have always loved for its real life take on relationships and love once it moves on from the initial first blush.  Enjoy and I will be back in touch next week!



Recently I’ve heard of a particular firm in the Australian exhibition industry who aggressively targets prospects by calling them up and offering them to cut the cost of doing tradeshows with their current provider by at least 30%. Now while this is one type of approach to get clients by offering the cheapest possible price it also highlights the confusion and uncertainty around what an actual tradeshow stand should cost. How are prices determined?  Do I have a giant lotto style contraption that I pull random numbers out of?  Do I just like the figure $78,690? Do I just charge what I think I can get away with? Apart from the lotto device the answer is, no.

In all my 20+ years of being in the trade show industry I have never seen a quote that lists every single component that is required to deliver a trade show stand. Truly, to list each and every item on a quote would melt your mind! It’s like listing the ingredient of marshmellows, sometimes, you are better off not knowing.  But in the interest of opening the kimono (ooooh, settle) listed below are items that commonly get used on a trade show stand and that are factored into the quote prepared by your tradeshow provider. By no means is this an exhaustive list and as soon as I press published on this blog I’m sure I will think of more, but it is a good starting point to pull back the curtain and reveal what you are paying for:

  • 3-D renderings
  • Working and detailed drawings of cabinetry /constructed items
  • Layouts showing positioning of graphics on the stand
  • Project management including client liaison, meetings with all key stakeholders, sourcing of materials and selection of finishes, liaising with suppliers including face-to-face meetings to work through issues around stand construction and setting up of all documentation, timelines, quote requests, OH&S manuals, orders, and on-site manuals
  • Insurances including public liability, professional indemnity, workers compensations, business insurance
  • Wages / consultancy fees of your trade show partner
  • Your trade show partner’s overheads in running a business ie. rent / utilities / business machines, consumables
  • Cake (not kidding)
  • Flooring
  • Walling
  • Reception counters
  • Workstations and demo bases
  • Specification panels
  • Printed mural graphics, light box transparencies, promo graphics, taglines, messaging, logos, feature graphics
  • Showcases
  • Catering
  • Discussion areas
  • Furniture
  • My pony Buttercup (might be kidding)
  • Meeting rooms
  • Storage facilities
  • Overhead rigging
  • Overhead banners
  • Arm lights, LED Cove lighting, like boxes, specialist lighting techniques, go those, projected imagery,
  • Monitor screens, computers and peripherals, touchscreens, tablets, LCD screens, and tiles, backlit projection, forward projection,
  • Immersive technology, interactive technology,
  • Power, water, compressed air
  • Forklift, scissor lift, plant hire
  • My electric guitar lessons so I can play in the Foo Fighters (ok, kidding)
  • Transport of all items to and from venue
  • Installation and dismantling of all items
  • Cleaning and preparation of stand
  • Photography of stand
  • On stand events
  • Storage of crating whilst show is on
  • Parking at venue
  • Handover of stand to client including any airfares, accommodation and travel fees
  • Writing of stand operation document
  • Post-show report
  • Finalisation of invoicing
  • Compilation of files for client to use in-house and on social media

Okay so while not all tradeshow stand would have every element that is listed above, many would and you can start to see how much is actually involved with each and every trade show stand.  There is probably a very good reason now that many clients look at a quote and think “Holy cats, I could build a HOUSE for that!”  Because yeah, in a lots of ways you are building a house.  A temporary one, but a house with all the trimmings nonetheless.

The pricing of the trade show stand is never just about the dollar cost though. It is also about the value. The murky thing is: value is not easily quantified. Because it means something different to each and every person. For example I love buying products from Mecca Cosmetica. I love being fussed over, I love free offers to try new products, I love being invited to the VIP days where world renowned make-up artists trying convince me that I really can wear strong red lip. I fully understand that I’m paying more than I would if I was buying similar products on but for me, the value I get from buying my products direct from Mecca means so much more than a cheap price to me.

And so it goes with trade show stands.

Making decisions around the price you put on value can be answered by this: how well do you want to be take care of during the whole entire process of organising a trade show stand? Do you want to pay for the first class experience of a total turn-key solution where you simply turn up on the day unfussed and stress-free having relied on your trade show provider to handle each and every detail with care?  Or are you prepared to sacrifice this red carpet service to save some coin, work overtime to do things yourself in an industry you only barely understand so you turn up on show day harried and OVER IT?

This stand cost less than $10K to do!

This stand cost less than $10K to do!

Anyone can give you a cheap price for a stand and I can promise you now that the cheap price is also applicable to the cheap service, the casual attitude towards really understanding the needs and objectives of their clients, and the total lack of addressing any issues raised either during the preshow or on-site build up. The all-important value comes in when you deal with people who truly love what they do, who continue to educate themselves in all things tradeshows and marketing, who can offer sound advice and steer their clients away from making costly mistakes, who can be on-call, that can offer alternatives, who will be responsive, and will treat you as their only client. Now while not every company wants to pay for that top level service or may even see no value in all those extras it certainly does make a difference to the success of your trade show and obtaining the all-important return on investment.

This stand cost close to $1million dollars to produce!

This stand cost close to $1million dollars to produce!

Price should always be a factor in determining the trade show provider you partner with BUT their ability to provide added value should also be considered equally. If your provider is only ever competing on price, their business model is on shaky ground because there will always be another company that can do it at a cheaper price. Rarer are those trade show providers that can actually deliver so much mind-bending value that they end up making price irrelevant. And you want to seek out these firms because they make an effort to understand your company, will nail your show objectives, show you how to get the best return on your investment, do what they say they will do and are just damn good people to work with.

Speaking of the red lip that I envy but can’t seem to pull off I’d like to share with you this great track from a lady that knows a thing or two about the power of the pout.  And how to shred a guitar in heels.

See you next week!

One of my favourite marketing mavens has a sticky situation on her cute paws where some of her brand mangers want an upcoming trade show stand packed and stacked with all their latest gadgets and thingos (technical term) whereas our Ms Maven wants a clean looking stand that invites delegates to come into the space and chat with the brand managers.

To help Ms Maven have some clout with her argument that a lean, clean stand will deliver the business more opportunities to dive deep with existing and potential customers and therefore open to the door to future business, I went on the hunt for some data or research on the stacked stand vs. the clean networking space.  I might have been looking in all the wrong places (I did get waylaid on the awesome and the sites, to be fair) but I did not find a comprehensive article arguing the toss either way.  So I decided instead to use this conundrum and let it form the basis of my blog this week.

Based on current trade show stand data out of the USA (from the Centre of Exhibition Industry Research) I was able to glean the following stats:

  • In 2011, 95% of exhibitors wanted to reach / identify new customers or sales leads whereas 80% wanted to either launch or promote new products or services.  From this data we can see that the face-to-face marketing (read: the ability to exchange information and present problems and challenges that require solutions in person) that exhibitions provide outweighed the need for product demos and displays.
  • The average spend on an exhibition stand in the USA (and this takes in every shape and size from the small inline booths through to the Brandzilla stands that take up entire exhibition halls) is shrinking.  In 2009 the average spend was $18.5K and in 2011 we were rolling back to $17.7K.  And I suspect that the dollar figure has shrunk further now as exhibitors are under pressure to do more with less.  By cutting the amount of product shown on a stand, you cut significant transport and storage costs.  The space that would have been given over to numerous displays could be configured more cost effectively with a hospitality or presentation area.  The majority of product displays are passive; they are unlikely to be powered up, operational and are shown out of context on an exhibition floor.  The use of space for networking, meetings and presentations on a stand guarantees active participation.  You can hold seminars, launches, host a keynote address, stage a happy hour and the good news with events and activities like these you are drawing people to your stand and encouraging their participation.  No longer are delegates simply moving through your stand space “looking” at widgets.  They are talking to your sales staff, they are participating in hosted buyer events, and they are asking questions of the special guest presenter that you have invited onto your stand.  One of the main aims of any exhibition should be capitalise on the unique face to face marketing opportunity that trade show displays provide by actually creating events and activities that will allow this to take place.  And added bonus to the networking focused stand is that delegates tend to spend longer on this type of stand as they will hang for the presentation, launch, hospitality and so on.
This stand is stacked with widgets!

This stand is stacked with widgets!

Lean, clean stand based around on stand networking

Lean, clean stand based around on stand networking

Further data I found backing up some of my main points above was drawn from the 2013 Economic Outlook survey and detailed in Exhibitor March 2013:

  • 25% respondents anticipate overall marketing budget will increase in 2014, 52% will maintain.  So my take away from that data is 75% of exhibitors will either maintain or reduce their marketing spend in 2014.  Or, exhibiting companies and their marketers will need to continue doing more with less.  If you want a hot tip of increasing your trade show marketing spend, you need to prove the return on investment in displays to your financial department, your board, your mum or whoever’s hand signs the cheques.  It is always hard to quantify people who cross your stand space and simply look at widgets and displays.  Contrast that against being able to do head counts and data capture on attendees to on stand events, participation in demos and launches and so on.  The benefit of a lean and clean stand that is focussed around networking is really beginning to sell itself, don’t you think?
  • 18% of companies will be reducing their exhibit space (over and above exhibit promotion / exhibit properties / show services).  With almost a fifth of companies shrinking the floor space they traditionally take at trade shows, now, more than ever, close scrutiny needs to be applied to every item, display, widget and thingo that is earmarked for inclusion on the stand.  Does the inclusion of this item fit with the overall objectives?  How can we use it to tell a story, create some buzz or leverage off it pre and post show?  And seriously what if we bucked the trend, ditched the item and did something different….what then?
Racked and stacked!

Racked and stacked!

Lean and clean!

Lean and clean!

You know, I get it totally.  There are many trade show booth staff that feel more confident and comfortable talking about the widget as it is a natural way of starting a conversation. You can stand in front of your “thingo” and wax lyrical about its benefits.  But the tethering yourself to a particular thing is dangerous as you miss so many other opportunities to hear about your customers other needs and pain points that your company can assist and even solve.  My most helpful tip I can offer with opening up a conversation on a trade show stand between exhibitor and delegate is start your conversations with open ended questions like “Tell me about….”, “What are you…”  These are such more user friendly that the standard questions that elicit a “Yes” or “No” answer. And once you have the delegate opening about their challenges they are facing or what they are really wanting to see or experience on the trade show floor, you are off and running.

So my latest musical crush is the Arctic Monkeys.  I had been indifferent to them but having heard sterling stuff about their new release “AM”, I dropped some cash on it, stuck it in my car’s CD player, pointed my car in the direction of my parents joint on the Central Coast and then lost my mind.  I listened to the opening track “Do I wanna know” sixteen times on repeat.  Yes, it was that good.

See you next week!

So you might have gleaned from a number of my posts, I have a deep and abiding love for rock music and one of my favourite bands is Nine Inch Nails.   This video I am sharing today shows the lead up to their new tour and the thing of particular interest for the exhibition industry is the showcasing of new lighting, staging and audio visual techniques.

Relocatable screens that register human movement?  Hell yes!

LED frames that are made of strips that show both content and then can be blasted with light from behind so they become skeletal?  Holy cats, YES!

Trent Reznor, my future husband being all intense striving for new effects and new experiences for his audience? Oh please make it so!

Ok, yes you do need coin to employ a lot of these techniques but even the firm with the smallest budget can draw something from this video even if it is to ape Trent’s desire to better serve his audience by delivering an immersive, authentic experience of his brand (and band) through the skewering of existing technologies and effects.  Don’t let all the rigging, audio visual set pieces and middle aged rocker dudes milling about obscure the message of “Do great work, repeatedly”

Now I must go done my tight black T-shirt and stick a pack of Winfield Blues up my shirt sleeve….time to ROCK!

See you next week and if you have any queries about the technologies shown, leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer.

The exhibitor that packs up and leaves before the end of a trade show is a bad look.  The show ends when the show ends and for delegates to be faced with cleaned out exhibition stands save for a few random boxes and forgotten donkey (it happens), well, it is really not selling the importance of face to face marketing that trade shows provide.  Earlier this year I was interviewed by IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events) about some of the ideas I might have to keep the early leavers at bay and here are my ideas:

(1) Why are exhibitors tempted to leave early when they run out of merchandise?

Because they should not have been exhibiting at the show in the first place.  If you main objective for attending a show is to give out free stuff, then my advice would be please, save yourself time and money by not exhibiting.  If you have the opportunity to interact with people face to face that have attended the show because that have enough interest in your industry to take time out of their busy day, to pay crazy stupid amounts for parking – or have even come into town for the show – suffered through deep fried whatever food for you just to shove some free stuff their way….Holy cats, please don’t attend.  Trade shows are so, so unique as a marketing tool as it is THE way to interact personally with your customers and potential customers. Flinging free stuff at anyone who comes by your stand without talking to them about your product and even determining if they are part of the target market is just so flawed.  The exhibitors that do leave once the free stuff has gone have the view that “Well, now we have given out all the stuff, we’ll jet off” whereas the smart exhibitor will recognise that one the free stuff is gone, opportunities still abound.   You know, have a reason to call on people with the line “Hey, I am sorry but we are all out of samples at the moment but I will be in your area next week, can I stop in and see you then and give you the sample you are after then?  BOOM!  You just got a reason the stay in touch and a sales call!  The smart exhibitor knows also that until the show closes, anyone, ANYONE might be he one to place an order, request a follow up call or require information.  If you are the muppet exhibitor that is in the bar after they have given away all the free stuff, all these opportunities have passed you by.

Fully Sic!  But no one home...

Fully Sic! But no one home…

 (2) How does that affect the other exhibitors, the attendees, and the show?

If I was an exhibitor I would think “Praise to baby Jesus!” as I now have a potential competitor out of the way and the chance of getting my message across in a crowded market has just become that much easier!  For attendees, I think you would be disappointed or think it a little weird that a show stand is unmanned and unless you were highly motivated you would not seek out that company post show.  As a show organiser, you would be quite understandably upset have unmanned booths but you could turn it into something amusing by putting up a handwritten cardboard sign in the unmanned booth saying “We regret to inform you that Stand X is not manned due to an alien abduction but stands Y and Z have booth staff that dodged the alien capture and would be happy to chat with you.”  I think if you treat it with a sense of humour outwardly while inside you could be seething would help stop complaints from other exhibitors and attendees.

 (3) What strategies can a show organizer adopt to keep exhibitors at a show until the very end?

Firstly, it needs to be written into the hiring of the stand space contract.  Something as basic at staying to show close seems pretty freakin’ obvious but unless it is written down, don’t assume that everyone gets it.  I would also suggest that if it happens, the exhibitor that left before show close is banned from attending the show again.  In extreme cases,show organisers might want to introduce a bond amount of a thousand dollars or so that they hold the credit card details on and if the exhibitor leaves before show end, happy days, $1K goes to the charity of choice.

 (4) If an exhibitor wants to leave early, how should a show organizer explain the importance of sticking around?

The show organiser should get them some information of Trade Show Exhibiting 101.  A youtube video could be made, so simply and for low cost that runs for 5 mins or less explaining that being a face to face form of marketing, you need to make sure your FACE is there at the show until the very end.  You could even have the video transcribed for them if videos are not everyone’s cup of tea.  Whatever the method, provide key points on the benefits and how to leverage face to face interactions.

 (5) What are the most important things that show organizers and exhibitors should know about exhibitors staying until the end of a show?

1. Your last enquiry of the day could be you best and biggest order ever or your dream client.  Who knows?  But you certainly won’t if you leave the show early.

2. If your approach as an exhibitor is simply to give out stuff at a show, then don’t come.  Best you leave whatever free stuff you were to give out in the middle of the street for anyone to take as that will be cheaper for you than attending the show and it will provide you with the same outcome ie. poor quality leads, more people just wanting free stuff off you.

3.  As an organiser, you don’t want the dump and run exhibitors at your event.  Either spend a little bit of time putting some training in place or cut them off from attending future shows / go nuts on their credit card bond!

So I feeling like some old school Madonna.  Let’s get into the groove for a Friday, baby!

See you next week!

I recently had a lunch date with a fav client and she shared her recent challenging experiences organising transport for her promo items at trade shows. She’d had a bumpy time arranging weekend deliveries and getting the actual gear from the loading dock to her stand. I think she was almost willing to look at giving up participating at trade shows all through the semi-trailer blues (there is a county & western song in that) and I’m sure she is not the only one scratching their head over trade show logistics.

So here are 5 tips to help smooth the logistics path:

1. Use the show service provider

That show manual is not just something to rest your coffee cup on. It also provides useful information about show providers or preferred suppliers. The really thorough manuals also include an address label for you to whack on your goods to be delivered. You do not have to use the show provider, say someone like Agility, you can use your own provider and there are pros and cons both ways.  The show service provider will have someone typically on site so you can eyeball and find out where you freight is. Hanging out by their on site desk is certainly preferable to hanging on the phone line listening to the umpteenth version of Greensleeves! On the other hand, being a preferred supplier could mean they are guaranteed the bulk of show logistics so cost might not be as competitive if there were a number of providers on the source list. A recent supplier to a show was trying to charge three times the going rate for 15 minutes of forklift glory. At that rate, a bullock team is looking pretty cost effective! A couple of bonus tips when dealing with logistics firms and your show freight:

  • Be honest about what you’re sending. Don’t tell them you are sending a couple of A4 boxes in the hope of getting a cheaper rate when you really have 800kgs of machinery requiring a chain block to lift. It’s not cool trying to gyp the transport firm and you’ll end up having to pay a premium anyway.
  • Not an A4 box!

    Not an A4 box!

  • Be a dog with a bone. If your gear has gone MIA, you are well within your rights to seek updates and ensure that someone is working on getting your wayward good to you ASAP.  Just be friendly about it and smile always – killer tip for always getting what you want!
  • Truck with your missing gear on it that is no where near your stand!

    Truck with your missing gear on it that is no where near your stand!

2. Ship less

Well, dur. I know so obvious, but so overlooked.  In these times where you have access to downloads, dropboxes, QR codes, digital files, splash pages, USB sticks loaded up with catalogues and manuals, it makes total sense to ship less gear to the show. Less gear = less transport costs and less time strutting the show in heels looking for your gear that is “somewhere” in the hall.  If you need further convincing, think of it as a transaction.  I meet you on the stand and you give me your brochure.  Or I meet you on the stand and you ask if you can send your  complete library of product info via a digital download.  You get my email address and contact details and now have the chance to extend our relationship beyond the show floor.  Hey presto!  No need for even a Stanley knife and a roll of shrink-wrap!

3. Ask your shows organiser for help

Ok, so if you do need to send a shedload of gear to the event and there is no way it will all fit on the stand as you are planning a give away of biblical proportions (the giving out of show bags at home and consumer shows springs to mind as a good example here), have a chat with your show organizer.  Those crafty little buggars tend to have a room or two available somewhere at a show or know of a nook you can stash excess goodies.  So ask them (nicely and all the time smiling) if they can help you with your tricky problem.

4. Keep notes like you worked for a spy agency

Booking a transport firm for your show logistics?  Take a note from the Bourne Identity movies and take notes like your life depended on it.  What is the driver’s name?  What number can they be contacted on?  What other number can they be contacted on? What are their know aliases i.e. Johnno, Maverick of Chook?  What is the consignment note number?  What is the after hours number?  You need copious and detailed notes including what you are shipping, how many boxes, the size and weights and the pick up / drop off points.  I’d even suggest going so far as taking a digital photo of your packaged gear before it left the depot for the show as it is much easier flashing up on your smart phone screen the photo of the goods you are looking for on site to a logistics provider rather than giving them the vague details of “Well I am looking for something big and wrapped in plastic” (that sort of vagueness could land you with Laura Palmer). You will rely heavily on these notes if something goes wrong so prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

Something big and also wrapped in plastic!

Something big and also wrapped in plastic!

5. Tap your exhibit builder for some assistance

It is likely that your items for the show will arrive to site before you will and it will usually happen when your stand builder is underway with the construction of your stand.  Why not ask your exhibition house to keep an eye out for the gear and to let you know when it has arrived.  Help your builder out (they will have a lengthy to-do list on site) with sending through the digital photos of the packages so they know what they are looking for.  I offer this service for my clients and it certainly helps knowing that either your gear has safely arrived or that it is time to hit the phones and start chasing up errant couriers well before show start.

Hey!  Look, I found my client's gear!

Hey! Look, I found my client’s gear!

If you have a query bout trade show logistics, leave in the comment section below or email me here.

Tune time! This week I’m really digging on some Queens of the Stone Age and their crunchy beats. Hit it!

See you next week!

I love marketers. Those crazy kids who are seen as cost centres who spend shedloads driving customers to buy products and services from the company that employs them in these austere times.  I like renegades and therefore I love marketers!

Two micro business entrepreneurs rocked my world this week. And they covered themselves in marketing glory.

An aside…what type of weirdo gets on a plane with 4 litres of laundry liquid as part of their carry on?!?! I’m writing this blog on a plane and into the middle seat has slid a young lady toting the mega value pack laundry liquid. Before I go off on all sorts of tangents wondering why anyone needs extreme cleaning power on a flight, best I get back to the theme of the week…

A card arrived in the mail this week and I was totally gobbed. It was from this small business who I had to buy no more than $30 worth of electrical gear to repair my Himalayan salt lamp.  Don’t judge until you’ve reclined in the soft glow of the lamp when listening to Nine Inch Nails. It soothes a frayed psyche. There was no little reminder to buy more product or tout a monthly special, just a simple thank you and the most gorgeous photo ever of the owners of his small business. Yet, do not be fooled by this seemingly charming yet ordinary couple. They are hard-core marketing pros. Who do you think I am going to go to if I need anything in the realm of crystal, alternate therapies or just general whacky shit? They have got me for life. If I just get a card or a $30 spend, how much do you reckon they love what they do and totally embody the “be excellent to each other” of the spiritual space.  I bow to such simple marketing. It cost them a dollar for the card and 60 cents for the stamp and they got themselves imprinted themselves on my loyalty list.

Hard core marketing pros!

Hard core marketing pros!

Next up on the love letter is my demonic personal trainer Nathan Morris. We’ve just kicked through a year if working together and I was clearly in the drop off zone in terms of commitment in turning up and doing the work. I am six weeks out from finishing the rowing season and I was coasting. I was turning up late under the guise of a good excuse and still dining out on my rowing successes. To celebrate our first year together did I get flowers? A gluten-free protein bar?  A photo book detailing before and after shots of me tackling the TRX?  No, I got a freakin’ “Come to Jesus” talk!  Nathan knew after a year together and hitting some high points that was in that zone of “Well, that was nice, lifted a few weights, did some mobility stuff but it is now time to ease up and get on the lounge with a cheesecake” and I could have tapered off my involvement with him.  Nathan’s marketing pitch for us to continue working together was explaining that it was my choice and my money but I was not getting the best out of him and our time together and that I needed to show up on time fully warmed up to get results.  He could have just shut up and taken the money but he recognized that having a personal training business depended on having committed clients that show up and are pushing hard on the gym floor. Other potential customers can see how hard he works his clients and adds in advice about nutrition and having correct form. Nathan’s marketing spiel worked.  I am getting there early doing my warm up and am fully committed to at least trying to love jumping around like an excitable bunny under the assumption that this is doing something really rad for my body.

Oh yes, thought I would also share my Himalayan salt lamp with you!

Oh yes, thought I would also share my Himalayan salt lamp with you!

So how could you uses these examples to produce outrageously good marketing in the trade show environment?

Could you send a hand written card to the top prospects, thanking them for visiting your stand?

Could you practice some radical honesty with a prospect about your products and services and steer them towards a better fit, even if it is with an opposition firm?

Over to you, what would you like to share about some mind warping marketing you have seen or experienced recently?  And can you explain 4 litres of laundry liquid on a plane?!?

This weeks tune is a song I reckon is one of the 10 best Australian songs ever written.  Have no idea what they are banging on about but that line “I’m the re-run that you’ll always force yourself to sit through”.  KILLER!

See you next week!

In the past few days I have compiled some data for a client of mine on their yearly trade show spend and it has highlighted some interesting metrics around hiring a 1 off trade show for each event versus purchasing a trade show stand that you can use repeatedly for your entire trade show program.  More on that data later in the post but first let me explain some of the pros and cons for the 1 off and the repeat use stand.


The one-off stand usually refers to the one-off hire of a trade show stand or booth at an exhibition.  The cost will traditionally include the design, the hire of the items, transport to and from the venue and labour to install and dismantle.  At the completion of the show, in most cases, you will retain nothing and this can be also refereed to as a “build and burn”.  You can do a hybrid of 1 off hire items supplementing that with items such as banners and key graphics that you use and keep across your trade show run.

Bayer @ VNCA 1 off Hire Stand

Bayer @ VNCA 1 off Hire Stand

Bayer @ AVA 2012 1 off Hire Stand

Bayer @ AVA 2012 1 off Hire Stand


  • You can change the look and the theme for each trade show event you attend.
  • You are not locked into the same size space for each event as you have a stand that only fits a pre-determined size eg. 6m W x 3m D.  This allows you to take more space at the shows where you want to make an impact and downscale at the shows of lesser importance.
  • You do not have to pay for storage of your stand in a warehouse when not in use.


  • You have to re-start the design and sourcing products and services anew each time you do a show.
  • There can be a lack of consistency across the look and feel of your trade show as it has a different vibe every show you attend.  Consistency in the marketing of your brand to existing and prospective customers is SO vital, so don’t underestimate how valuable consistency is!
  • It can do your head in.  All you want is the same freakin’ stool in green because it matches your logo and across the 5 shows you do in a year, you have more variation in your stool that there are discoverable languages in the world.  So the key take away from doing one-off stands is that you will have to build in some flexibility with finishes and selections as there is A LOT of variance from both supplier and  hire location!


This typically refers to the stand that you, the exhibiting company own and store.  Normally you would partner up with an exhibit firm to design a stand that you can use across your trade show program and the exhibit house is responsible for the warehousing, transport and install / dismantle of it.  I think my best advice here it to go with a kit form of items that allow you to have large or smaller stands depending on your requirements rather than be looked into a permanent size footprint – say 6m x 6m.

Thiess @ Ausrail 2011 6 x 3 Reusable Stand

Thiess @ Ausrail 2011 6 x 3 Reusable Stand

Thiess @ Ozwater 6 x 6 Reusable Stand

Thiess @ Ozwater 6 x 6 Reusable Stand


  • You have a consistent look across your trade show program and once you have developed and locked down the stand design, you aren’t faced with “what the HELL are we going do for THIS trade show”.
  • You can predict your costs for the trade show calendar up front.  As you know the stand you will be using, you can then get your exhibit house to provide costs for each show you attend well in advance.
  • Although the stand is reusable, you can build in the flexibility of updating graphics and messaging and even changing the colour of the stand.  Just because it is a reusable stand does not mean that it is set in stone!


  • You will have to store the stand – at either your own premises or that of a third-party.  Your exhibit house will usually have a network of storage facilities that you can park your stand in.
  • If you make the investment in building a repeat use stand, you will be locked into it to get the return on investment for around 2 – 3 years.  Upshot of this?  Don’t build yourself a stand so ugly it burns your retinas.  Take time to get it right and ride your exhibit company like a pony at a church fete to make sure they develop something that will blow your hair back.  In a good way.
  • Make sure you have buy-in from all the stakeholders in your company to have a repeat use, modular stand.  I know of one company a few years ago who decided to do a reusable stand that did not run it across the desk of the CEO with enough detail so the response when Boss-man turned up on site was “What the (rhymes duck) is THIS?!?”  He was right, it was particularly ugly stand done by an inept contactor with bubbling laminate and 300 x 300 bathroom tiles used on the floor.  And the poor buggar was stuck with it.  So start well in advance and get everyone on board the “YES!” bus.

You will notice that I did not mention cost benefits for either the 1 off stand or the repeat use stand in the pros and cons above . That’s because – largely – it is determined on a case by case basis.  But I can tell you from the data I have collected based on my client’s example I mentioned in the intro above, the repeat use stand is more cost-effective than the 1 off stands across a 2 year show run. Figures? About $400 difference from the more cost-effective repeat use stands to the higher cost of doing 1 off’s.  Any exhibit house of value can run the figures out for you if you want to look at your options so why not do just that?

Tune for this week is one of my favourite one hit wonders…Plastic Bertrand!  God with talent like that, I can’t believe that bloke only knocked out one single killer song….

See you next week!