I made my way to Boston a few weeks ago for The TS2 Show, also known as “The Tradeshow for Tradeshows”, one of two primary annual shows within the industry itself.
Since we are expanding our reconfigurable, island booth and rental offerings, it made sense to take advantage of what makes trade shows irreplaceable — being able to investigate new vendors and get an up close view of potential new exhibit products, to make sure they meet our standards for quality, impact and usability.
That effort was very successful — we have many exciting new product offerings. We are still in the process of adding them to our website and in our “Introducing … ” new products blog category, but they are available now.
Exhibitors at this show include both manufacturers reaching out to companies to resell their products and companies like ours, looking for new and updating existing clients. In addition, the show offers a great opportunity to check out what’s new, what’s working, and what should probably be avoided.
I will highlight some of my impressions from the show, as a way to share some current trends.
Illuminated Fabric Displays
There were wonderful examples of some of my favorite new products in use– illuminated fabric displays. Created with beautifully “living” dye-sublimated fabric graphics, backlit and side-lit within handsome aluminum supports, these products provide a true high-end look at an almost unbelievably affordable price.
Sized in portable dimensions, tower and custom sizes — they can add emphasis to an existing booth or can be put to work in a central role within newly designed structures.
One example of this type of product — at a size perfect for highlighting a key message, introducing a new product or service, or simply reinforcing the brand visibility — can be seen here: Double-sided Backlit Fabric Lightbox Display.
Note: there are also Tower and custom-sized versions available, not yet on the site.
Creative Uses of 10′ x 20′ Booth Spaces
An in-line booth which consisted of an approximately double-height backdrop was quite dramatic in a relatively small space. I thought its hodgepodge design, meant to show an array of effects, may not have made the best use of it, however.
Even more interesting, to me, were Island Booths created in 10′ x 20′ spaces.
One used its wood-colored flooring very much like an island, positioning at its center what would normally be a cabinet style display for the back of a booth. Props of lobster traps were positioned around the booth to support the theme which was nautical, also well represented within the display design. Staff correctly positioned themselves facing in the different directions to engage with passersby.
Another 10′ x 20′ island booth was used to show off features of the exhibitors’ offerings using three distinct elements in a way that suggested a larger booth but left open spaces for visitors to walk in from any direction and engage in conversation with booth staff. This setup reduced costs involved in shipping, drayage and set up, while still projecting a much larger and very finished look.
Even the larger footprint island booths seemed to accentuate their open space at this show, rather than walling in their “turf”. Chances are some exhibitors were given upgrades to larger island spaces, which could account for less “display” per square foot of booth, but the net effect was quite positive. It felt good not to be hemmed in, and allowed for more natural interactions.
Social Media on Tradeshow Floor
Professionals in the tradeshow, meetings and events industries are paying a lot of attention to social media tools, and the benefit they bring both to show organizers and exhibitors. So of course there was a Twitter hashtag promoted by the show organizers, and used widely by electronic “participants” from afar and on-site. If you do a search at search.twitter.com using #TS2show as your query, chances are you may still find comments being made weeks later.
I was also impressed to discover that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center’s twitter handle @bcecnav was actively engaged in providing information throughout, alerting us to lunch hour, where there was free coffee, and when shuttle buses were available, etc.
Then there was the InZone — a 40′ x 40′ space dedicated to gathering, entertaining and educating an interactive “hybrid” audience, made up partly of tradeshow attendees and partly those who watched via video feed and participated via Twitter and other online communities.
A professional tradeshow presenter (Emilie Barta, interviewed elsewhere on this blog) led conversations between experts and end-users about tradeshow and social media topics, especially but not exclusively focusing on the technologies and techniques which were making this experiment possible. In addition, many of the participants who had previously “met” through networking using Twitter groups such as #eventprofs or #engage365 were able to have a well-appreciated face-to-face conversation.
This was basically a pilot for a concept that associations can use at their conferences, or an exhibitor seeking to create special “buzz” at an important show could implement. There is great potential in this idea.
To see videos from the InZone, and learn more visit: http://ts2.3d-mediagroup.com/index.php . And yes it had/has its own Twitter hashtag #inzone.
I have yet to write a blog entry about my experiences participating in and helping create these kinds of hybrid events – but it’s coming!
Electronics and Event Technology
There were a range of electronic products for lead capturing, as well as interactive and 3-D displays for when it is impractical to bring actual products for demonstrations. Many of these either used or mimicked iPad or Smart Phone technology.
There was also a product which provides Internet access for a reasonable rental fee — look out convention centers and exhibition organizers in the habit of overcharging!
I look forward to addressing some of these new products in a later blog entry.
Also Worth Noting
Let me mention a few other things that I believe are worth noting from the show, even though not brand-new ideas.
Not surprisingly, based on the work we’ve done for our own clients the last several years, the show was dominated by fabric booths and display components, including portable booths such as: Xpressions Snap, Entasi, and HopUp, as well as reconfigurable and rentable extrusion frames with silicon edged graphics (SEG). There is good reason for that — lowered shipping and set up costs, ease of use, dramatic results and versatility appeal to essentially all exhibitors these days!
Though sometimes experts warn that using colored carpeting which contrasts with the show’s can create a barrier to attendees entering one’s booth, what I saw reconfirmed my experience that a well chosen color scheme which coordinates flooring with a booth’s graphical theme or coloring can have a quite positive result.
It is so easy to install one’s own wood-style flooring tiles now that there were several booths where exhibitors used it successfully to highlight their space. It’s also worth noting that we now can offer standard carpeting and carpet tiles that are “green”.
What’s A Tradeshow Without Giveaways?
One odd thing I observed was a booth which made a very big deal about having barrels of beach sandals of different sizes to give away — but made no connection between them and any theme, message, or action item that I saw. And I can think of so many ways to tie a message to those particular gifts! It seemed to be a lost opportunity to create a deeper impression.
On the other hand, I will admit that a small part of my choosing to attend the show on the first day that the exhibit hall was open was an offer made by one of the exhibitors, “free flexible keypad for the first X visitors to our booth”. Despite the fact that I can get a sample of almost any promotional item for free or at a reduced cost, it set this exhibitor apart and motivated me even that slight bit more to get to their booth early enough to snag one.
The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center
This was my first visit to the new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and from what I saw I was impressed. They seem to be dedicated to providing a 21st century electronically-enabled experience — complete with Twitter handle and messaging mentioned above.
It’s also extremely handy to get to the BCEC from Logan Airport on the T via the Silver Bus Line SL1, and it only takes a few minutes.
Even though TS2 was smaller in size than previous trips, I found it very worth my while. Participating in industry shows doesn’t just help us, it enhances our ability to support our clients exhibiting successfully at tradeshows. I could only capture the tip of the iceberg here but I’ll be sharing more with clients throughout the fall season I’m sure.
Because someone will ask – the other major industry tradeshow is Exhibitor, held in March in Las Vegas and much larger. I was disappointed this year to see that social media was not used particulary effectively by organizers or exhibitors in 2010, but I predict that will change in 2011. If you are looking for implementation ideas, or help – feel free to reach out to us!
Deborah Elms is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals. She is passionate about helping new and growing businesses, non-profit organizations and associations create and retain customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events.
Exhibiting Success: http://www.imprintedoriginals.com/blog