Category Archives: Attracting Attendees

Top 10 Signs You Need a New Tradeshow Booth or Graphic Design

The situations on this list, while presented with humor, lead to results which are anything but funny. Unfortunately, we have seen (and corrected) every one of these mistakes over the last 15 years!

If you can’t read through it without a glimmer of recognition — chances are you are coming up short on achieving the trade show results you are looking for.

Top 10 Signs You Might Need a New Booth

We’ll work our way up from number 10 in classic late-night TV Top 10 List fashion.

#10 A sure sign you need to get a new booth is when you have clients saying “You do that?” even after just seeing you at the trade show where you announced a new product or service.

#9 A sign it’s past time for a revamp is when your booth sports a color scheme — and logo — that’s been changed, at least twice, since.

#8 You might be ready for a new booth if you’ve gotten tired of watching your competitors essentially open their arms and put their booth up in two minutes when it takes you an hour or two and a ladder.

Or your competitors have one of the hybrid fabric and extrusion models that only look like they require paying for labor from the general contractor, and you are paying for setup, with overtime too.

#7 A sign the timing is perfect for a new booth is you’ve just made a big move like purchasing another company or snagging some major clients, and you want to step up the style of your display to replace the same-old, same-old pop up you’ve relied on for years.

#6 An obvious sign is when your boss finally admits that his wife’s nephew did the design for a school project.  Or your marketing agency designed it when they did your brochures — and they look exactly the same, only the brochures work and the trade show booth design does not.

(Hint: you’re not saving money by using someone who does not know how to create impact with trade show graphics. You will have to pay to replace them to get the results you are looking for!)

#5 A painful sign (and maybe no one is telling you) is when your sales people or field marketing reps won’t put up the display you think they’re using. It weighs more than they do or is so difficult to set up, it cuts into their face time with prospects. Or they have decided it requires too much effort to explain its message, and the inflexible booth layout does not allow easy adaptation for their specific audiences or product lines.

#4 Another reason it could be time to reconsider your booth design is when people keep asking if you’re a startup — and you’re not. Or you are a startup with great new ideas and everyone sees the same stock photographs they see on other booths, so they don’t pay any attention to you.

#3 You know you need to get out of a rut when you get lost coming back from the bathroom, or prospects ask for help in finding your company.  This means, your booth looks too much like everyone else’s, your company name or tagline does not stand out, and even you can’t read most of its overly small print when you’re standing next to it.

#2 A truly bad sign that you need a new booth is — it’s not doing its job. Instead of connecting with leads pre-qualified by its message, you end up talking to the wrong people.

And the #1 most obvious and most worrisome sign that you need a new booth is when people pause, stare at your display, then look at you and ask, “So what is it you do anyway?”

Do you find yourself agreeing — or even suspecting — that any of these situations describes your own booth?

Take a look at our range of portable trade show displays or modular trade show exhibits – or give us a call to talk about updating your booth graphics.

We want you to get new prospects, expand your current client relationships, and be a trade show exhibiting success!  We provide the expertise of an exhibit house without the overhead. Reach out today for help assessing your current situation.


Deborah Elms is a co-founder of Imprinted Originals, a division of The Originals Group.  She is passionate about helping new and growing businesses create and retain customers through the effective use of trade shows & events.




Using QR Codes For Trade Show/Event Sales & Marketing


Are QR codes just a fad — or on their way into the mainstream? How can you use them to turn that glance from a prospect into meaningful engagement at your next trade show, conference, and other face-to-face event and move them down your sales pipeline?

Here are my suggestions for both event organizers and exhibitors,  plus some links to more resources.  And the offer to help you move in this direction, of course.

What are QR codes?

Just a brief explanation, if you have never seen a QR code, or have seen them but don’t know how they work.

QR stands for Quick Response. It’s a kind of bar code, similar to the ones used for SKUs on retail products, but able to carry more information. What makes them quick is that someone with a smart phone just takes a picture, which an application on the phone translates into some kind of action, usually taking them somewhere on the Internet.

Typically the application brings up the URL of a landing page with anything from a poll to a coupon to a white paper to a video.

How Might It Work for You As a Tradeshow Exhibitor?

The most basic advice for exhibitors is that you want as much interaction with your tradeshow booth visitor as possible. Factors which impact interactivity include how many people are staffing your booth, your pre-show marketing, your in-booth promotional activities, the complexity of your offer, and the length of your sales cycle — plus who your target audience is.

QR codes will not replace the primacy of human-to-human contact.

They can supplement it by allowing you to create additional targeted touch points.  You get a prospect to move themselves from a glance to a more engaged interaction, which you have devised for them.

How QR Codes Are Being Used Now

  • Retailers are moving people from advertisements to micro sites for specific offers or to sign-up for more information on items of interest.
  • Manufacturers use codes to serve up a specific page for instructions based on their particular purchase.
  • Starbucks has created an essentially two-way application, where people add money to an account which is deducted when a barista scans the customer’s personal QR code on their phone.

How Can Event Organizers Use QR/2D Codes?

  • Invitations. The first obvious application has been to include QR codes in printed invites, so potential attendees get to information quickly and can register right then and there, or easily get back to the sign-in location.
  • Registrations/Check-ins. A second use, still taking hold, is to speed up in-person event registration and check-in lines by including QR codes on confirmation sheets attendees print and bring with them

Other opportunities:

  • Name Tags. Add codes to name tags so that not just exhibitors can scan attendee name tags, but attendees can share contact information amongst themselves easily.
  • Sponsor Call-outs. Provide as a benefit for sponsors — in show materials, on websites and as a special mark within their event display area.  Use in event journals or show listings to provide a map to the sponsor’s location or special offers they are providing.
  • Temporary Tattoo/Icebreakers. Lara McCulloch-Carter mentions several more options in her in her Ready2Spark blog entry on Event Planners and QR codes (see link below).  I liked her suggestion to use codes as temporary tattoos, with 2 people sharing 1 code, so that finding each other works as an icebreaker in large events.

How Can Tradeshow Exhibitors or Event Sponsors Use Codes?

You can use QR codes in easily integrated ways, including your pre-show marketing, at-show promotional activities, post show follow-up, and even booth graphic design to help you deepen your connection and keep it moving forward.

  • Event Landing Page. Have at least one QR code that leads to a particular landing page for each event,  allowing you to hone offers and help you track results by campaign.  Note that you can keep updating information after the event to keep the interaction going.
  • Incorporate in your Graphic Design.  You can integrate a QR tag within your major graphic display to carry a major message or simplify getting information to people unlikely to pickup and carry printed materials back to the office or home.
  • Multiple Products or Services? Even better — especially if you have multiple products or services which you are highlighting or demonstrating — have a separate code at each kiosk or as a standalone display, with a unique QR code for each specific item.
  • Pre-show Campaign with PURL Driving Customization. Include a barcode on your preshow postcard or e-mail which drives a prospect to a PURL (private landing page), where they enter their interests, create their own code, and then, at your exhibit — your booth staff only needs to scan that code in order to direct them to the correct person to talk to, or a specialized demonstration or other personalized attention.
  • Personalized Rewards. Especially in the case where you want to drive a prime prospect to their PURL and get them to your booth — promise and give them a great gift.

Other ideas:

  • Marketing Collateral. Include a QR code on your business cards or sell sheets
  • Build Buzz with Wearable Codes. Wear your code — or better yet, let your prospects wear it on a brightly colored giveaway such as a shirt or cap or button — with a great tagline to catch interest and make others want to scan it and get one of their own.
  • Social Media. Offer a way that attendees can “like” your FB page or sign up for Twitter feeds or otherwise connect via social media sites.
  • Convenient Gifts. Offer prizes which will be sent to the office instead of having to lug back from event, based on tiering of gift, of course.
  • Activities. Set up treasure hunt or other interactgive game, possibly with your marketing or channel partners at show.
  • Promotional items. Get your message back to the office with a QR code, which is especially important if you do not have direct contact with the decision-maker.
  • Make Them the Star. Take a video or picture of a prospect, maybe with a celebrity, and post it to a PURL which will be accessible using their scan. Of course this needs to be after they have participated in a presentation or demonstration, or otherwise qualified themselves or you may be over run with non-qualified participants.
  • Beyond the Booth. Does the show offer opportunities for hall banners or floor space for use for advertisements? Post a QR code which will lure them in.


  • Be Helpful. Don’t assume everyone has a QR reader or smartphone. Be sure to include information on how to download a reader for those who have smartphones, and post website URLs for those who do not.
  • Be Visible. If you can, send them to a .mobi site or, at a minimum, a page friendly to phones! Be wary of Flash, large documents, and awkward placement on the page as these can negatively impact your results. And needless to say, there must be cell phones reception.
  • Be interesting. Don’t forget to include specfic benefits and acall to action.
  • Test! Use a/b testing and don’t forget to make sure your code works as planned, using a range of QR code readers.

Wave of the Future? Or a Fad?

QR codes have been around since the mid-1990s but their use was limited while phone cameras and technology caught up with them.

How far they go now, as smartphones become more ubiquitous, is anybody’s guess. I believe there is such potential to create interactions which empower the prospect and allow for smart marketing, that their use should be explored, and not just by the “big kahunas” but also smaller, nimbler exhibitors and event planners who want to step ahead of the curve.

Need Help Implementing QR Codes at Tradeshows and Events?

Feel free to shoot questions my way.

Imprinted Originals can help with design and production of booths, displays, accessories and promotional products which carry and utilize QR / 2D codes.

We also partner with experienced event planners, marketing and branding gurus, and printing, direct marketing and fulfillment resources with customization experience that I can recommend.

More information:

Lara McCulloch-Carter’s Ready2Spark blog:  QR Codes for Event Planners — many additional event-oriented ideas

From  HOW TO: Create and Deploy Your Own QR Codes and 2-D codes: The 10 Commandments for Marketers




Skillfully used banter, a winning personality, and an engaging manner are all tools the smiling woman uses to draw people into your booth.

Then she presents a carefully crafted demonstration of your new product or most profitable service – as she has at regular intervals, unflaggingly and adroitly, for the past two days at your number one industry trade show.

Who is this woman, what is she doing there, and what can she help you achieve?

She could be one of any number of presenters but let’s say it was Emilie Barta, one of the top trade show presentation professionals in the country.

I spoke with Barta recently, after having made her acquaintance through tradeshow-oriented discussions in “Twitter”.  Of course, I was looking for input on how she, and others like her, could help my clients.

“Launching a brand new product, introducing a new version of an existing product, doing something different than your competition, and ensuring that attendees know about your service offerings are just a few ways in which a professional trade show presenter can assist you in your trade show marketing efforts”, Barta told me.

She continued, “numerous studies have shown that trade shows offer one of the most cost-effective ways to reach a large number of prospects, all at one time, all in one place, so why not work with someone who can take full advantage of that situation?”

Why not just use your own staff?

First, this sort of focused, dynamic exchange may be a stretch for them, and you’d be better off hiring a high energy professional who is an expert at gathering a crowd of attendees and keeping them engaged while answering individual questions.

In addition, the time professional presenters have spent learning about your products and services means they can help pre-qualify prospects before handing them off to appropriate company employees.

This means your staff can focus their time where they will produce the greatest results: creating relationships with “hot leads” in more detailed conversations and connecting more deeply with existing customers.

Professional presenters can also help in tradeshow preparations.

They can assist with honing your message into an effective script, as someone who has been there/done that and knows what works.

They can provide invaluable input, working with your booth designer, on strategic staging layout to optimize traffic flow, interest and interaction with your booth staff.  And they can even help select appropriate giveaways to reinforce your message well after prospects leave the tradeshow.

And one last thing I learned from Emilie Barta?  Services such as hers probably cost a lot less than you think.  A focused marketing message + great booth design + a well trained staff + a professional presenter = a recipe for success!

Presenters are one of several alternatives to supplementing your booth staff.  We’d be happy to help you learn more about these options and introduce you to reliable pros!

PS – For more, read Barta on 10 Reasons to Have a Presentation in Your Booth.



Congratulations! You’re planning ahead on how to improve your trade show marketing.

Now.  How to get prospects into your booth?

First, a few no-no’s we’ve mentioned in tips before:

  1. Don’t create a moat between yourself and attendees with a table at the front.
  2. Don’t let your staff sit down, huddle together or otherwise signal disinterest.
  3. Don’t let a graphics designer without large-format experience design your booth like a giant sales brochure!
  4. Don’t expect the tradeshow or conference organizers to do all the work attracting YOUR prospects!

What to do to instead of “showing up and waiting”:

Be proactive!

Send emails or postcards so clients and prospects know you are exhibiting.  Include information about what they can expect to see and learn about by visiting your booth, and any special offers.    Even if they do not attend – this still provides you with a “because” to reach out to clients and prospects with relationship-nurturing contact.

Be targeted as well as proactive!

Use pre-show mailers with a puzzle piece or a part of a gift to all or selected prospects. To claim their prize, they must come to your booth. These techniques are proven to attract not only more prospects, they help you ensure that you see your preferred prospects, if done properly.

Be demonstrative!

  • Create an interactive or educational environment
  • Hire a professional presenter
  • Bring in an entertainer, buy a game wheel, or create a “quiz show”

Create buzz with your booth!

For one client, we designed a 20 foot booth that featured a 50’s cafe on one side, complete with old-fashioned tables and chairs, and a “drive-in movie theatre” where demonstration videos where shown on the other.  It was the exhibit that “everyone had to see” at its show!



Inspired by a trip to the largest promotional products tradeshow on the East Coast – ideas for more impact for YOUR brand at YOUR trade shows (besides the booth):

#1 – Electroluminescent Illuminated Branded Apparel

Definitely an “eye-catching” idea: a T-shirt or Cap branded with your logo in lights which flashes to the beat of your selected song!

“The next big thing in branded outerwear” – shirts and caps with integrated light technology to flash designs or text in a predetermined pattern.  Custom or standard designs.  Minimum quantities required.

Available for certain thin illuminated display applications in booth design as well.

#2 – The WOW! Customized, personal “concierge” service branded just for you!

Turn your booth visitors (or other prospects and clients) into VIPs with the WOW! Card, which provides customized “concierge” service, branded not just with your visual logo, but also your name and 2 messages within each of their calls for assistance!

Recipients call a toll-free number to access live personal assistants 24 hours a day, with the response branded with your company name and book-ended with your customizable greeting and closing messages on every call.  Your recipients will keep these cards close at hand and then use them to call for on-the-spot answers.

For traveling tradeshow visitors, think how appreciative they will be when they can get nearby restaurant recommendations and reservations, hunt down tickets for sporting events, and get gate or flight updates.  Not to mention, settle bar bets or get directions to the rental car lot when they’re running late!

Still not sure what it’s about?  Go check it out for yourself here – WOW! Branded Personal Assistance.

Be sure to sign up for a complimentary demonstration … and if you need help thinking about what to ask – here are examples of popular requests.

#3 – Ideas which are not brand new but are still cool, and definitely bring folks into your booth:

* All kinds of things to help your traveling prospects cope with life on the road … including folding maps with location-specific information on one side, and custom information about your company, products or services on the other.

* Puzzle pieces sent in pre-show mailings, to be checked against a “prize board” in your booth.  Choose how many “grand”, “second place” and “consolation” prize pieces are sent out.  (And select prizes your target customers will want to collect!)

* Non-slip grips for cell phones and other electronics will be kept for the life of the object.  Now available with “recovery-for-reward” tags with over 85% of lost items recovered, at no added cost, and no annual fees or charges for end users.

* Completely custom ideas – which we can source reliably for you.

Of course, you can always call or visit our website for additional ideas!

And if you still haven’t taken a look … go on, check it out – WOW! Concierge Cards



Do you give away promotional items to visitors to your trade show booth?  If you do, what should you give?

It has become such a commonplace that “something” should be given out at a show that all too often just “anything” is.  In that case, it probably won’t do any good.

Let’s take a closer look.

First, why use promotional giveaways?

  • The obvious answer, first – they attract people to your booth
  • They reinforce your brand, products, or services in customers’ minds
  • They promote what you offer as an alternative to their current supplier
  • They promote goodwill
  • They can educate or inform about new products and services
  • They return with prospect to home or office to keep your message and your contact information in sight

Essential Rules of Giveaways

There are a few key points to remember when you select promotional items for your business or organization, whether for holiday thank you’s or as trade show giveaways.

The most successful giveaways should:

  • Be easily linked in your prospect’s mind to your product or service
  • Provide something that will be of value or interest to them
  • Do something clever or fun that will catch their eye or create goodwill

Next, let’s look at how to link your goals for a show with the items you select.

#1 Are you trying to get as many people as possible into your booth?

If your business is consumer oriented, uses a “mass marketing” business model, or is new and trying to introduce its products or services as widely as possible – you want high booth volume.

In this case, you need a giveaway that is generally well-received but not too expensive because of the quantities required.

Candy provides a strong draw, as do fun or interactive items. But remember, though these will get people in your booth – they won’t do anything in themselves to make them remember you. If your goal is simply to attract lots of people – to fill out a questionnaire or to hand a coupon, for instance, then you do not need an imprinted giveaway.

If your goal is to draw lots of people you plan to qualify further, though, you probably will want a second item, imprinted with your company’s brand or product information, to be given only to those who have qualified.

#2 Are you looking for a particular kind of prospect?

If your services or products are geared only to specific industries or individuals, then your goal is to find viable prospects without giving out a lot of costly gifts or spending too much time with inappropriate visitors.

An excellent way to have your prospects pre-qualify themselves is by offering something that matches their needs or interests, but has little appeal to others.

Provide a gift that your prospect will take and keep on hand long past the end of the show – but make sure it is clearly branded to keep your company name in your prospect’s mind or it is a waste of your money.

For example, once upon a time, I received a “Dogbert” stress toy at a show. I kept it for years because it was well targeted to my professional profile, in the software industry – but since it did not have a company name or logo, all those years of potential positive branding were lost to whoever decided to “save” on the expense of imprinting.

#3 Are you looking to reinforce relationships and promote your brand through increased product/service knowledge?

In this case, your promotional goal is to get specific information to current customers to motivate them to expand your relationship, say through an upgrade or add-on purchase. In addition, this is a situation in which you could clearly benefit from the planning and execution of a pre-show promotion.

A pre-show promotion works by advertising your involvement with the show in advance, to current customers and known prospects. This usually involves an enticement to bring them to your booth. If they bring the coupon you have sent or emailed them, or mention a particular offer number, for instance, they will receive a special gift.

A twist on this theme is to send part of a gift to them, with the remainder available at the show. An amazing percentage of people will arrive with half of their imprinted gift or puzzle piece, ready to receive the rest of the item. This may be the chance you have been waiting for to talk with specific high-profile prospects.

#4 Are you looking for increased name recognition?

An established vendor in a niche market might take a giveaway and add a spin to it to grab buzz at a show.

For instance, one manufacturer at a clothing industry show gave away hundreds of bright red shirts, along with raffle tickets. They offered a cash prize once an hour to someone spotted wearing the shirt in the convention hall.  Near the end of the show, they drew a raffle ticket for a new highend laptop.  To win, you had to be wearing your red shirt, of course!

This whole process was expensive – but by the end of the show there was close to 100% recognition of what had been a lesser player in that industry because by the final day of the show, there were literally hundreds of people wearing identical red shirts.

Who Will They Call?

If you consider your show goals and your target audience carefully, your giveaways can not only help get the right people into your booth, but also be kept long past the day of the show.

Promotional products that make it back to the office or to the home for use and/or viewing by your prospect have been shown to be associated not just with more “eyeballs” on your brand, but with increased likelihood of giving you a call, when the time is right, and your product or service is needed.

Should you use promotional products at trade shows?

Only you can decide if they make sense in your overall plan.  If budgets are tight, it’s far better to spend money on your booth and getting professional graphic design than to purchase “stuff” blindly.

If you use your giveaways as part of your strategy, they can help you reach and communicate with your prospects for a more successful trade show!