Tag Archives: Exhibiting

Tradeshows Do Work If Exhibitors Get Training (& Organizers Should Help)

Expo, conference and trade show organizers – do you really want to help prove that “trade shows don’t work”?

Trade Shows Work — When Done Right

I sometimes tell people – “it’s very easy to prove that ‘trade shows don’t work’.  You just do what way too many people do: don’t plan in advance, show up without pre-show marketing or training, and expect miracles”.

On the other hand, trade shows DO work if you do them right:

IF you have done a bit of homework to come up with a plan,

IF your booth is well designed (by a large format graphics designer, not a brochures or web site designer ),

IF your folks know how to work a booth, and

IF you’ve planned your followup in advance.

Plus include booth presentations and/or promotional marketing, or however it works best for you/your industry.

It will take more work, but it makes all the difference in whether exhibiting is an expense or an investment.

The Role of Show Organizers in Exhibitor Success (or Turnover)

As for those who organize shows?  If they do not offer some kind of support, especially to those who are new to trade shows, they are asking for higher exhibitor turnover.

I can’t imagine why more organizers haven’t figured out that it’s easier to create and keep satisfied exhibitors by having them well prepared than to try to get new ones to replace the ones who did them poorly and won’t return.

And yes, I have often given pre-show training.  The problem with some shows that do this?  They offer it the day of the event or a few weeks before, which is almost worthless except to remind people not to chew gum or sit down in their booths.

A webinar series some time in advance of the show would be the best idea to account for geography/time constraints.

Note – I’m writing this entry based on an answer I gave to a LinkedIn question on whether trade show organizers should offer support to their exhibitors.  Obviously I gave a definitive ‘Yes’!  And yes, we provide such trainings because it breaks our hearts to see money essentially wasted on great booths and exhibit design because of no or poor tradeshow strategy, preparation and training.

For anyone needing to get a better idea about how to exhibit, who does not have access to such support or training, take a look at this page and find specific areas for help:

Tradeshow Tips for Effective Tradeshow Exhibiting.

Or give me a call if you need support proving that tradeshows DO work.  I’ll be glad to help.


Deborah Elms is head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping businesses and organizations create and retain customers through the effective use of trade shows & other face-to-face events.


7 Keys to Regaining Control of Conversations At Tradeshows

How Can You Handle Talkative Tom’s and Chatty Cathy’s?

When you are at a tradeshow, convention or other event, your most valuable assets are time and focus.  You need to invest them well to succeed, either as exhibitor or as attendee.

Having tactics to help you disengage from conversations, at the right moment, is as important as preparing how to start a conversation.

Here are 7 keys to help you regain control of the conversation – first from the point of view of you as exhibitor, dealing with someone overstaying their visit, and then when you, as attendee, cannot get free from an overzealous booth staffer.

1: Show appreciation and solidify the connection

Once you have asked/heard enough to qualify (or disqualify) your visitor, say “I’d like to be able to give you my fullest attention.”

2: Set up the next step

Then lead them to the next step, which should be a followup call or appointment.  Right then and there, you can gauge their interest by asking how soon and in what fashion they’d like to continue.

Say: “I’d really like to talk about this more.  Shall we pick this up the next time we talk?  Would phone or email be best to followup with you? Mornings or afternoons?”

Or if they are raising questions which are better dealt with in a longer conversation or by connecting them with someone else, say “I have to research this when I get back to the office.  I will …. ” (and then note what you commit to).

3: Fast-track the next step at the show

What if you don’t want to diminish your effectiveness in the booth, but they seem like a really good lead and you don’t want them to lose them to a competitor with more time on their hands?

Your best bet is to set up a specific time at that show to continue the conversation.  If you’ve been able to staff appropriately, you can take them to a quiet area then, or you will have specific times set up for appointments at the show, and have available slots to offer. If you need to improvise, set up a meeting at a meal or break.

4: Treat everyone well even if they don’t seem to be a good match

If you suspect they’re just lonely and figure you for an easy audience, look them in the face and say, “I wish I had time to talk to everyone as long as I’d like, but I’m afraid I cannot.”   It’s true and it’s not offensive.

If you start asking about next steps and they suddenly get vague, then you’ve clarified it’s not a match.

On the other hand, when you get down to specifics — they might actually ‘fess up to having an RFP they’re working on that’s about to go out.

5: Are you the attendee and it’s the exhibitor who’s latched onto you?

Even as an attendee, you can simply say “I don’t want to keep you from meeting up with other attendees” or “I wish we could talk more but I’m afraid I don’t have enough time.”

This poor exhibitor is either so insecure that they’ve latched onto you, or so poorly trained that they think they should be “selling” you on the spot. In either case, they are well on their way to “proving” to themselves or their boss that “tradeshows don’t work”!

6: There’s power in the truth

Fib or tell the truth? Some suggest it’s easiest to say you need to go to the bathroom or fake a phone call.  I would not make something up.

There’s power in speaking the truth, and I’d always suggest wording it with a sense of etiquette.

Talky Tom or Chatty Cathy could – handled appropriately – become a great client, vendor or resource.

7:  Your time is limited, you must keep your focus on your objectives

You need to be able to control your time and your focus when you are at tradeshows and other events, either as exhibitor or visitor.

Take these steps to disengage when it’s time and keep focusing on your objectives, and you will be one of the ones who knows that “tradeshows do work when we work them effectively”.

Comments?  I’d love to hear if any of these ideas resonate with you.


Deborah Elms is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping businesses grow by creating and retaining customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events, including high impact, professionally designed display booths, promotional marketing and guidance on what works and what does not.

You can follow Deborah on Twitter at @D_Elms and Imprinted Originals at @TradeshowsMdEZ.

(c) 2011 Imprinted Originals LLC


Looking Past the Tip of the Iceberg: Tradeshow Planning for Success

Which part of the iceberg is dangerous?

I often say to clients, and when presenting to tradeshow newbies: thinking about a tradeshow or conference in terms of “the day of” is like thinking about an iceberg in terms of what you see above the water.

It’s only the tip of what’s going on, and if you avoid thinking about (and handling) the rest of it, you are likely to have a very bad experience!

For specifics, check out:

Elements of Tradeshow Planning

Preparing for Your Tradeshow

and other items in our strategy, planning and preparation categories.

Or give us a call and see how we can help you step up your tradeshow exhibiting to success!


Deborah Elms (@D_Elms) is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping businesses grow by creating and retaining customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events, including high impact, professionally designed display booths, promotional marketing and guidance on what works and what does not.


The Face-to-Face Buzz of Tradeshows Large and Small

Within the last 8 days, I was both an attendee  – at the key annual tradeshow for the tradeshow industry, Exhibitor2011, and an exhibitor – at the SCWBEC Expo, a local show of women business owners.

As different as the shows were, what they had in common is what makes tradeshows so effective as a marketing platform.

Differences between the little trade show and the big? That’s easy.
  • The size of the hall: a Hyatt Regency ballroom vs. the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
  • The type of show: local women-owned businesses, their prospects and those who want to sell to them vs. an industry tradeshow that draws international attendance.
  • Attendee Info. While touch-pad badge-scanning equipment was highlighted at Exhibitor2011, the local show relied on the time-honored method of exchanging business cards.
  • Displays. The local trade show was table-top displays at best, sometimes even handmade and occasionally just a carefully placed presentation of wares.
  • We were an exception, turning our area into a mini-booth to show rather than tell what we do with small versions of some of our high-impact easy-to-use fabric displays.  It’s pretty much not a tradeshow if I’m not collapsing and raising our sample  XSnap display with one hand and remarking that my pocketbook weighs more!
  • At Exhibitor2011, the typical booth was a 20′ x 20′ island display.  While convenience and ease of use were highlighted by the vendors I spent the most time querying on behalf of my clients — booth height is “back”.  There were more ceiling-hung fabric shapes and 2-story booths than in recent years, a sure sign of confidence.
  • As a “starter” tradeshow, there were a lot more exhibitors sitting down at the local show — but many were as savvy as their “big show” counterparts and stayed where they could interact and connect with their colleages and prospects.
The similarities? Here’s where the fun is:
  • Attendance was up! As we keep hearing across industries and shows this year.
  • Energy, tons of energy. There’s nothing like a hall of people in full meet-each-other mode to get the energy stirred up.  In one case, I shook hands (and shared a few hugs) with our vendors and potential vendors, putting faces to voices I’d sometimes “known” for years without meeting.  In the other case, it was handshakes and hugs with some of our own clients, networking colleagues, cross-referral partners — and potential clients for whom I won’t be just another voice or email from now on.
  • Information gathering. The passing of knowledge, shared experiences and in-depth questioning at live presentations, classes, workshops  — it’s the way that adults learn best.
  • Catching up. There were product updates, there was personal catching up, there was just the buzz of talking to people who are engaged in the same things you are, who understand and every once in a while can use the reality check of asking each other — so what’s new for you? What are you seeing and hearing these days? How can we help you better?
  • Sizing up. At the industry show, of course, I was focused on not just seeing products and learning about alternatives — I was sizing up the people, the presentation and the overall presence of my potential vendors.  Who has the kind of products we can trust to sell our clients, and who can we rely on?  At local shows, the information may be more informal.  Partnerships made at this show last year bore fruit in projects since.
  • What’s working? At any show, a mindful attendee or exhibitor arrives with a plan of what they intend to achieve, and then pays attention. What’s the competition doing?  Where are people being drawn, what’s catching their attention?  What are my peers saying? What’s fluff and what is the next thing I need to learn about now so I’ll be ready?
Does size matter?

I have to justify every show I attend or exhibit at. While I would never fly across the country to attend, much less exhibit, at a show with less than a hundred tables, and often with companies with small or non-existent trade show budgets, I might go to the next town, and there I could (and did) make and deepen viable connections.

In tradeshows, as in most of marketing and sales, it isn’t about the 96 who are not your target, that you have nothing to sell to, buy from or learn from. It’s about the 4 who make the time worth your while.

I don’t go to Exhibitor every year, but I attempt to every few years to check things out for myself.

All the emails I get about new products, all the searches of the web I can make, and all the webinars I can attend, never make up for what I can make happen at a tradeshow.

It’s that face-to-face interaction that makes it all come alive, whether I’m an attendee looking for vendors or an exhibitor looking for prospects.


HIA 09 2

Deborah Elms (@D_Elms) is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping businesses grow by creating and retaining customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events, including high impact, professionally designed display booths, promotional marketing and guidance on what works and what does not.


Could A “Moat” Destroy Your Tradeshow ROI?

The Case of the Mysterious ROI-Destroying Moat

This happens all too often at trade shows, and it’s heartbreaking.  A simple but major mistake leads to disappointing results. 

Here’s the situation:  a business spends good money to purchase a display and have it professionally designed  to catch the eye of its best prospects so they will stop and start a conversation.

But then, without a second thought, the table that the trade show has provided is placed across the front of the booth space, with piles of literature and/or promotional products scattered across it, and salespeople sitting behind it.

Here’s the problem:  instead of using their entire space to interact with prospects, to get to know them better and gain their confidence, these exhibitors have essentially set up a moat – with their sales force stationed like defenders of the castle on one side, and their prospects on the other side, stuck in the aisle.

With such poor possibilities for genuine interaction, it’s unlikely that enough useful information will be collected to turn the people who have passed by the booth into genuine leads.

The ROI from such a show will almost certainly be low, and another exhibitor will conclude “trade shows don’t work for me”.

How can you make sure not to make the same mistake?

  • Design your booth layout in advance.
  • Train your staff on how to optimize the use of your space.
  • Situate your table to the side, if needed; never sit behind it!
  • Don’t leave literature or promotional products sitting around – be sure to swap them for a business card or badge swipe.

What if – as an occasional client of ours insists – your prospects are touchy-feely, non-verbal types (think engineers) and you think it’s easier to start a conversation if product is “close by”?

Even if physical props are important to engaging your prospects, you still don’t want to block the entire front of your booth. Use a small table as near to the front of the booth as you find necessary, and then if you need more table or counter space, add it to the sides.  A counter-height cocktail table can be a perfect compromise which sets the right tone.

The moat makes your prospect a long-distance audience.

Taking away the moat makes a conversation easier to start, and reminds you or your booth staff that the point IS to invite your prospects into your castle territory.

If you would like more detail on these points, or help with your particular booth arrangement  — feel free to give us a call.  We’re always happy to help with your Exhibiting Success!


Deborah Elms is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping businesses and non-profit organizations create and retain customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events.




I recently attended a presentation by sales expert Duane Cashin,  which riveted the entrepreneurs at the TAB Long Island Prosperity Series on March 9th, 2010.  (The Alternative Board is a peer advisory group for business owners.)

He spoke about “Sales in The New Normal” to a room eager to understand the new world as business owners.

It got me thinking about the trends our clients are facing in sales, marketing, and exhibiting, and I jotted these notes down afterwards.  There may be deeper and longer thoughts later.

1) The “New Normal” in selling:  your product or service is not just competing with your competitors’ products but with other budget items, so you must make a compelling business case for its purchase.  (This was one of Duane Cashin’s key ideas.)

2) The “New Normal” in marketing:  in a networked, social media-oriented marketplace, communication is not one way from you to your client, and it isn’t even 2 way; communications are multi-node integrated experiences between many different conversations, plus traditional forms of marketing communications.

(This is informed by Duane’s presentation, but also grown from experiences I had at #EventCamp2010, explorations with #eventprofs in Twitter and my own observations)

3) The “New Normal” in tradeshow exhibiting and other events – my thoughts:

In the “New Normal”, exhibitors need to produce better results with less budget, staff and time.   They’re competing for budget with every other marketing project, and marketing is competing with every other idea that can impact the bottom line.

Exhibitors need to be more nimble, more targeted, and quicker to differentiate themselves with their prospects.  How?  They must compete less on the superiority of their products or services and more on their ability to “get” – and help with – their own prospects’ “New Normal” in order to make a connection.

Got questions on how the “New Normal” is impacting you?  Or need ideas on how to implement?  Let’s start a conversation.  Reach out at http://www.twitter.com/d_elms, leave a comment, or call (631) 979-0283 or (888) 912-9116.


Deborah Elms is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping businesses, non-profit organizations and associations create and retain customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events.


Duane Cashin http://twitpic.com/1cmqrq next to one of displays Imprinted Originals designed and produced for TAB Prosperity Event (as well as for most of the sponsors).  Duane Cashin’s website: http://www.duanecashin.com

Duane after his presentation.  (Like the bannerstand?)

The Alternative Board of Suffolk County:  http://www.tabny.com

The Alternative Board of Naussau County: http://www.tabli.com


Exhibiting: SCWBEC Trade Show, Monday, April 12, 2010

Imprinted Originals will be showing some of our “high impact, low hassle, light weight” displays on Monday, April 12th, at the SCWBEC Tradeshow: http://www.scwbec.org

The show is open to busineses interested in working with the women entrepreneurs of the Suffolk County Women’s Business Enterprise Coalition.

Expo, Seminars and Workshops:  9 am – 1 pm (free)

Lunch: 1 – 3 pm

Fellow exhibitors with displays from Imprinted Originals:

The Alternative Board

Certified Payroll

Habanero, Inc.

Long Island Science

The Quest Connection

Molloy College