Bling My Booth

A novice’s guide to working the tradeshow floor

Written by Susan Ratliff on March 25th, 2012. Posted in Attending a tradeshow, the value of exhibit marketing

Attending a tradeshow can be a daunting experience, especially for a newbee.  Time is money and no more so than now when many companies have reduced the time they allot for their employees to spend at a tradeshow.  Here are ten tips for maximizing that time and effort.

1.  Plan ahead.
Tradeshows are an assault on your senses and can be a brain drain for the novice attendee.  Before you go to the show look up the event website and review the list of exhibitors. Make a list of the companies that offer the products, services and information you are after.  Go to each company’s website for more information.  Make a list of the company names, booth numbers and aisle numbers. Compile a list of questions you want to ask them at each booth. 

2.  Check out the activities taking place at the expo and affiliated convention.  Are there educational sessions, demonstrations of products, celebrities in the industry appearing at the
show?  Are there any social mixers or first-timer events where you could mix and mingle with other attendees who might be new to the tradeshow experience? By researching in advance you are better prepared to get the most out of the show and you won’t  miss out on any once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to meet and learn from the industry pros. 

3.  Print out the show floor plan, take your list of must see exhibitors and map out your game plan. Design your route to each booth that maximizes your time and schedule. More importantly, bring along information to give to the company representative that will help them help you.  Your needs in writing with a description of your budget, delivery deadlines, quantity or other requirements and your contact information with a date by which to reply to you. This will be very helpful to the company and expedite the follow up process.

4.  Arrive the moment the doors open.  Use your map to visit each of the exhibiting companies on your list in the order you planned.  Ask your pressing questions, capture
the informtion you need and leave them with your request sheet.  

5.  Keep track of the timeline for the extra activities, seminars, appearances and demonstrations so you don’t miss a thing. 

6.  If you can attend two days, go back the second day and walk the entire show floor. If not, do this after your first round. Look at all the exhibits and take literature on
any programs, products or services that interest you.  If the exhibitors are using an electronic lead capturing machine let them send you their information instead of carting
it around all day. Take advantage of some of the super give-aways, games and contests that make tradeshows so much fun.  

7. Wear comfortable shoes. Bring a camera because you never know who you might get your picture next to or what fascinating things you will see. Be sure to check if there are any restrictions on photography from show management. Carry plenty of business cards for the drawings and for networking. Bring more than you think you will need. 
Carry a pen so you can write notes on the business cards you pick up and a notepad for extra details.  

8.  By the end of your visit you will have bags of stuff.  Much of it you won’t need. Dump it out on your hotel bed, review what you have, then toss what you don’t want. Consider packing an extra fold up tote in case you really want to bring it all home. Some events or venues offer shipping services so you can package it all up and mail it to yourself.

9. Plan to have some fun. Be pro-active, smile a lot, ask questions, soak it all up.  Make a note of what you liked and didn’t like about the show and if you would return next year. 

 10. Follow up on your hot leads within three days of your return.  Make a folder for the event with your notes and the event program.  You can refer to it next year to determine whether to attend again and what changes you would make or additions you would include.

For more tips on maximizing your tradeshow experience as either an exhibitor or an attendee contact Susan Ratliff, The Exhibit Expert.  

Tradeshows are busy again

Written by Susan Ratliff on January 21st, 2012. Posted in tradeshow news

I don’t know about you, but I am seeing some optimistic activity in the tradeshow business this month. Companies seem to be loosening up on their purse strings and forking
over the dough for new exhibits and graphics. The phones are ringing and the deals are closing which is good news for exhibit houses across the country. A big mistake many companies make when the economy is in the tank, is to cut their marketing budget. Of course that’s the worst thing you can do because if you stop going to tradeshows customers are going to want to know why.  Your competition will have a field day spreading rumors about why you are not in your usual spot.   If you go with worn out displays and crappy graphics then prospects will be questioning the quality of your offeringsand the stability of your business, because we all know that image in everything in the show floor.

So take a look at your exhibit materials and see where you can spruce up your look and refresh your graphics for your next show. You won’t want to miss any chances to impress attendees, because you can never be sure when the next dip will hit. 

Want to talk about the state of the industry or how you can increase your profits at your next show?  I’m here anytime.  Susan Ratliff, The Exhibit Expert,,

Success Strategies for Tradeshows 2012

Written by Susan Ratliff on December 24th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

Make this tradeshow season great. Just a few simple steps and a little attention to detail can make the difference between success and failure at a tradeshow. 

Here are ten top tips to consider. 

Plan ahead: Prepare for every event well in advance. Order show services and schedule shipping early. Evaluate display properties for damage.  Order graphics ahead of time. Attention to details will eliminate headaches and save you time and money 

Set Objectives: Know what you want to accomplish at the show. Create a list of goals with the staff.  Make expectations clear.  Reward exceptional productivity.

Incorporate social media: Expand your reach to the attendee list, important prospects and the public at large.  Create some buzz before the show and let everyone know you will be there. Consider encouraging interaction with a game or contest with your followers.

 Design A Dynamic Display: Image is everything on the show floor. You have only seconds to attract attention.  Increase visibility by coordinating every display element around a clever theme. Keep the focus on customer needs.

Go for the “Wow” factor: Create a marketing message with impact. Incorporate large,eye-catching pictures and vibrant colors. Keep wording succinct. Sell benefits. 

Project a positive image:First impressions are critical. Every display element must reflect your company professionalism, personality, integrity and style. 

Train you staff: 80% of attendees base their opinion of your company on the actions of the employees at your booth. Prepare your people. 

 Develop a sales strategy:  Tracking results from random presentations from different sales people is difficult. Script a presentation that engages the prospect, qualifies their interest, explains how you will help them and why you are the best choice. Brainstorm with the staff, write your strategy down, memorize and use it consistently. 

Follow up effectively: Contact all leads within one week. Phone, fax, email or mail information that solicits a sale, appointment or interview. Include a deadline or call to action.

 Exude Enthusiasm: Nothing makes a more memorable impression than happy, smiling employees eager to assist inquisitive prospects. 

Factor in some fun: Loosen up. Don’t be too conservative. Show attendees want to be entertained as well as informed. Successful exhibitors combine the two.

 For more information on how to turn your booth into a powerful profit center contact Susan Ratliff, The Exhibit Expert  602-828-1177


A Marine’s Journey- A story of thanks

Written by Susan Ratliff on November 24th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

On this day of Thanksgiving and only a few weeks past Veterans Day please let me share this amazing story that is a great celebration of both.

This happened two weeks before Thanksgiving a few years ago, when my husband’s Mom was 84 and still working everyday (that’s another story). She was living by herself after Carey’s Dad, a Marine, had passed away on July 4th a year before.  Trudy came home from a busy day at work to find the arcadia door smashed in and the house ransacked by thieves. We are pretty sure she surprised the intruders when she opened the garage and believe they escaped out the back door. She called my husband who rushed over to comfort her and review the damage. Drawers were emptied, closets opened, jewelry and money gone. The house was a mess and glass was everywhere. The police were on their way.  After a thorough inventory they had another surprise. Dad was gone. The burglers actually stole the beautiful cremation urn that rested on the table in the living room. Its finely crafted shape and the blue velvet drawstring bag must have made it look very valuable. Unfortunatly the thieves did not realize the true value was in it’s beloved contents.  The next day I am at work telling this story to a
business associate who owns a Public Relations firm. She was shocked by the incredible details and the irony of the date. It was veterans Day.  She immediately had an idea for
getting the urn back. She made a few phone calls and in 20 minutes five TV stations were on the phone begging to speak to the victim, come to the house to view the scene, get a picture of the deceased or the urn or both. You know, a real media frenzy. No way would my husband or his Mom agree. Trudy was really scared at this point and did not want anyone to know how, why or where this happened. I certainly understood and wanted to protect her. I also knew that some media attention might help locate the urn.  We decided that I would tell the story. In the next hours two TV camera men and a reporter came to my business office. I wanted to stay anonymous so they filmed me in shadow and only used my first name. I repeated the story and described the urn with the funeral home’s address on the bottom, hoping for a good samaritan or a thief with a conscience. Luck was with us because a few hours later the funeral home called. Someone actually found Dad on the side of the road. How fitting that he left this world on the 4th of July and he returned to us on Veterans Day. Those Marines are

Tradeshows are like the circus

Written by Susan Ratliff on November 12th, 2011. Posted in Booth Blunders

Tradeshows are like the circus.  At the circus you see things that are amusing, astonishing and sometimes hard to believe, just like at some tradeshows I’ve been to.  Like the other day when I actually saw the sales rep for a well known pest control company having his dinner and a beer while seated on a bar stool behind the counter located at the front of his booth.  He smiled to passers-by as he chomped on his stir fry and swigged a cold one. 

Then there was the women at the Pet Expo reading a novel in the back corner of her ten foot booth, right next to her pop up display where her graphics promised personal attention to detail and stellar service.  

My favorite, was the Bank at a large financial tradeshow that had four men in nicely tailored suits, standing shoulder to shoulder, across the front of their display chatting to each other.  I actually stood there for a few minutes watching people pass by without even a nod from any one of the four representatives. They continued their intense dialog with each other as I saw three people stop, pick up a few pens and sticky pads and walk off.  I was so agast I went over there myself, stood there fingering the freebees and counted ten seconds before one of the idiots said anything to me.  I glanced at their name tags as I politely declined assistance.  Everyone had Vice President before their name.  That night I could not get that experience off my mind. 

The next day I called the local branch to speak to the Bank manager.  I prefaced the confession with a warning that I knew this would be upsetting, but, as The Exhibit Expert, I was compelled to tell him what I had seen and how he might want to make some changes in the future.  I said my piece, as kindly as possible and we hung up.  I was surprised when I got a call back from that manager the next day.  He said it took him the night to calm down.  He wanted to thank me for my report, insight and suggestions and promised he would speak to his entire staff and that would never happen again.  I told him his brand and the bank would benefit from that change.

So, what do you think?  Are these rare occurances?  Not!  Protect your brand image.  Remember first impressions are critical, especially on the show floor.  I suggest training your staff and have a discussion about booth etiquette.   Get on it because you never know when I  might come by and snap a photo of your top saleperson sleeping on the job (yes, I have seen that too)   For tips on training your exhibit marketing team, contact me, Susan Ratliff, The Exhibit Expert