Tag Archives: Tradeshow Products

Exhibitor2012 – The Tradeshow and Exhibit World Gathers & Makes Its Own Show

Exhibitor 2012 came early this year, the first week of March, almost as if to show how eager the members of the trade show and exhibition world are to head out of the doldrums of past years.  And the results seem to suggest we are well on our way.

If you don’t know, Exhibitor is a trade show “of and by and for” the tradeshow industry: including exhibiting companies and their marketing mavens, as well as the manufacturers and distributors of products and services.

Imprinted Originals Goes to Las Vegas for Exhibitor Trade Show

Imprinted Originals management treks to Exhibitor every year or two, motivated by the desire to visit our existing manufacturers to see “what’s new”, track down potential new suppliers to see who has “the right stuff”, check out the competition.  And keep an eye on the trends.

We sound pretty much like any attendee at any tradeshow, right?

Which is part of the point – being on “that side” of the show.  Of course, with us, it’s something of a “busman’s holiday” as the booths themselves “are” a large part of what we come to see.

While Deborah the Marketing Director glad-handed company representatives in each booth, and talked product benefits, target audiences, and positioning, Veronica the Creative Director poked around and looked at all the details, the stitching, the materials, the print quality and the overall look. Together we vetted the businesses and their processes, as well as approving (or disapproving) the products being shown.

The Results of Our Vetting Process?

Foremost in our minds was to check in with our main manufacturing partners, and we were not disappointed.

They had the right answers to our questions and were eager to step up to client challenges we presented them. We liked the quality and range of new offerings, ranging from very portable through island sized modular booths and rental design properties. And it’s always great to see the folks we work with over phone and email, in person.

We also were able to look closer at products from other vendors.  There the results were mixed.

One potential new resource (that we “met” for the first time at the show) was crossed off our list when the “white glove” approach revealed they’d dressed their own booth in a sloppy way.  There’s no way we could trust them to provide the quality and reliability we expect, if that’s the best they can bring to a show like this.

In another case, a supplier of one product we are happy to represent is trying to expand into truss systems, and the result was not pretty.  We will stick with our current supplier, whose products are solidly built in the US, look great and carry a lifetime warranty.

On the other hand, we ran into a supplier we had used for exactly one job (in a rush situation).  His was a small but well-prepared booth. Our client had been very happy, and so were we when we looked more closely at what else he could offer.   We also liked what he had to say about his company’s business practices – predictable, based on quality and focused on support.  His products will be coming on board in a bigger way as a result.

Last but not least, there were specific exhibitors we went to the show to check out.  Based on what we knew, we wanted to add their product lines, but – there’s nothing like experience first hand and face-to-face for this kind of evaluation.

The good news is they did meet our standards, and as a result we are expanding our offerings with some very exciting new product lines which we will be introducing this spring and summer.

What Were the Trade Show Exhibit Trends ?

Part of attending any trade show is looking for trends in your industry.  You can see if you’ve been keeping up, and if there’s anything new you should be tracking down.

This year – I wouldn’t say there was a lot of new new things.  Some people seemed to be disappointed by this.

The biggest “trend” in my eyes was actually balance – nothing over dominated the show.  Last year it seemed everywhere you turned, it was about technology and electronics; the year before it was “green”; and before that it was fabric and extrusion. 2012 feels like a year in which what have been “new ideas” got the validation of being continuing trends.

But don’t get me wrong, there were new ideas and new approaches this year, with new fabric booth systems options, event technology that’s less about promises and more about results, and the evolution of lighting options.

A More Normal Booth Size Distribution

One thing that struck me in 2011 was the huge number of 2-story 20×20 booths.  It was as if the manufacturers were all trying to signal a positive trend, that tradeshows were coming back, without sticking their necks out too far.

In 2012, there was a much more organic distribution of booth space sizes.  What had been a 10 foot booth for a few years, might now be a 20 ft inline.  20 foot inlines grew to 30 ft.   And the 20×20’s that had been stacked up in a line, like a parking lot full of double-decker buses grew in 2012 into true island booths.

Fabric Display Options

Fabric of course retains its prominence in the design world because of its flexibility, ease of use and light weight – and now can be handled with extremely large format printers.  What was a bit new this year was that fabric didn’t have to dominate to make the point – so there is a balancing of fabric and form.

What were custom ideas are now being turned into systems and kits that can be used in semi-custom designs like the ones we specialize in.

Representative of some of the new fabric booths and display product lines we are bringing on board:

Event Technology

Event technology remains important, but now it includes a balance of large touchscreens and iPad/tablet kiosks of all sorts, which we’re excited about because let’s face it – with a large percentage of enterprise technology and manufacturer clients, we deal with a lot of requests for these tech display options.

Booth Lighting

Everything was not LED lighting (was that last year or the year before?) but LED was used in  creative fashions.

One of our lighting companies’ booth programmed their lights to outline a 6 foot high light bulb which changed colors.  Another had a display “cube” with internal lighting that could be set up to rotate its colors or otherwise grab attention for an exhibitor’s products.

And backlighting can now be fabric panel-specific at a very reasonable price for one of our client favorite portable displays, the Xpresssions Snap.

There are lots of opportunities for impact using light and color!

Trade Show Best Practices at Exhbitor2012

One thing that stands out at industry tradeshows is whether exhibitors there practice what they preach – do the conferences themselves use (or even invent) best practices?

Here’s two that impressed me this year:

  • After the show, I was emailed the list of booths that scanned my badge. It’s incredibly smart to give the attendees the same information that the exhibitors are getting. And it was refreshing not to have to wait for exhibitors to get back to me to have this information so I could reach out myself.
  • Exhibitor Media Group – the magazine publisher behind the Exhibitor shows – always publishes pictures of “Best in Show” booths and New Products (as submitted by exhiting companies).  This is a slam dunk – they publish the magazine Exhibitor in hardcopy and on the web.  I noticed this year they went a step further and published pictures taken at the show of each booth next to the name of the exhibiting company. (it’s possible I simply realized this for the first time this year).  This is very supportive of both of their sets of customers – the exhibitors as well as the show attendees.  This should be a new standard practice to keep the connection going between exhibitors and attendees.

The Exhibitor Show’s Statistics – Harbinger of What’s Coming in 2012?

You can probably tell from my comments that this felt like an even more positive year than 2011, where the optimism felt just a bit forced.

And the stats about the show apparently bear me out.   There were 12% more exhibitors in 2012 compared to 2011, as well as 9% more attendees.  The show floor was expanded twice to account for new and larger booths, including the growth from 53 to 65 exhibit spaces larger than 20’x30′ .

I’m looking forward to seeing what 2012 brings to the world of tradeshow exhibiting.

Why I Love Tradeshows – If It’s Not Obvious

If why I love, and believe in, tradeshows is not obvious from the above, I’ve done a very poor job writing this piece.

What we gain as a business from attending tradeshows in our industry is irreplaceable. I find it hard to imagine any industry or profession where learning about new products, services, skills and/or trends is not equally important.

Many of the businesses whose booths we visited gained from their new or expanded relationships with us.

And our clients, current and future, gain when we attend industry shows. Expanding our product and service options, and deepening our skillsets,  allows us to help them achieve greater exhibiting success at their own trade shows and special events.


Written by Deborah Elms, 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.


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.


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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.


Not Green Enough For a Green Tradeshow or Event?

When is green not green?

Recently a client told me about a “green product” tradeshow for businesses to showcase for purchasing agents at a large local governmental facility.

When I wrote for information about participating, I received a reply that said that, based on our website, our products are not green.   I was flabbergasted.   Then I realized, it was just a matter of perception:  we’re not selling anything “solar”, don’t provide organic cleaning materials, and trees don’t get planted in the Amazon basin through our efforts.

Because we DO sell “green”.   The last several years have seen the development of many “green” or at least “greener” products for exhibiting at tradeshows.

What makes a tradeshow display product “green” or “eco-friendly”?

When one or more of the following are true:
  • Designed to use less materials, reducing both direct and indirect impact on the Earth.
  • Uses less or no VOC inks in the printing of the graphics  –  referring to Volatile Organic Compounds which give off toxic gas fumes.  Think of your typical “ink” smell.  Now, erase that smell, and you see the difference.
  • Replacing toxic PVC-based vinyl graphic panels (printed using VOC inks) with fabric material (printed using low or no-VOC inks).
  • Built with significant amounts of recycled materials  – e.g. plastic bottles turned into fabric panels and old aluminum within new extrusions.  This not only reduces what goes into landfills, it helps preserve natural resources that otherwise would need to  be extracted, prepared and shipped.
  • Many components can be recycled after use.
  • Designed-in flexibility allows components to be re-used instead of being jettisoned after one show, or used only rarely.  They can often be re-configured either for small 10’x10′ or 10’x20′ booths and as elements within larger island exhibits.
  • Designed to reduce weight, dramatically, which minimizes the jetfuel and gasoline required to ship them.  Not just by a few pounds but in many cases by half, three-quarters or even more.  Why set up carbon offsets when you can reduce the carbon load?
  • As a side-benefit of their re-configurable and light-weight structures, these display products generally require much less time to install and dismantle, reducing I&D costs, or removing them entirely.
  • Collapsible aluminum structures, constructed from smaller components, means smaller storage requirements too.
  • Easy adaptability.   A change in branding or message requires nothing more than printing and sending light-weight fabric panels weighing a few pounds, in what could be as small a package as an overnight letter!

As you see, many of our display products and the processes used to decorate them are directly and indirectly “green”, whether or not it is obvious.

So hearing about our “not being green” did make made me realize that there’s still a need – on my part and on the part of many people in the tradeshow and event industry – to explain that everything that is “green” does not need to contain solar panels.

In fact, I am surprised at the number of “green” businesses which exhibit at tradeshows using very un-“green” displays.

Looking to green your tradeshow booth or event display products?

The rep of “green” products, in any industry, is that they must cost more.  As you can see from the above list, even when products occasionally have higher up-front costs, many of the costs associated with shipping, storage, drayage and I&D are so reduced, that very soon, your earth-friendly products have become budget-friendly as well.

We are dedicate to helping our clients understand and act on green initiatives, in a cost-effective way, whether it’s a big push or an incremental-over-time policy change.

We’ve started coding products to make it easier to spot what is green, and why.  If there are any questions about your options, and how to move in the green direction –  we’re happy to help.

~ Look for an upcoming list of The Twelve (Easiest) Ways to Green Your Tradeshow ~

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.