Tag Archives: tradeshow

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.



Tip of the Iceberg

Are you new to tradeshows or having a tough time getting the results you’re looking for?

Success starts with understanding one key secret: the time spent at the show is only the tip of the iceberg.  Success or failure depends on what you do after and – especially – before the show.

Exhibitors with poor results often rely solely on the at-show efforts of their booth staff – often poorly trained and ill-prepared – to make a show a success.  They make the mistake of confusing logistics administration with true strategic planning.  They blame the exhibition management for not bringing in enough of the right prospects, or the economy, or the booth design.   Worse yet, they sometimes decide that “trade shows don’t work” and give up rather than learn how to succeed.

Great results can be had, in almost any situation, with proper planning, preparation and support, based on a clearly defined set of goals.

And since successful tradeshow exhibiting allows you to introduce yourself to new markets and new prospects, solidifies relationships with existing customers, and speeds up your sales cycle with prospects, planning correctly is well worth the time and effort.

High Level or Annual Planning

Planning for individual shows will be easiest if there is an annual marketing plan which includes an overall tradeshow plan, even at a high level.  Fortunately, you can create a good individual plan on its own, which can be used later to start an overall plan.

A high level plan:
– sets a consistent overall strategy
– helps you evaluate specific opportunities for fit
– suggests how & when different marketing approaches can reinforce each other
– creates a consistent framework for evaluating results
– saves time in preparing for individual shows

Tradeshow Planning: Setting Strategic Objectives vs Logistics Management

“Tradeshow planning” is often confused with handling the logistics of the show: budgets, deadlines, and the “stuff” involved whether it is the booth, the clothes, or the giveaways.

Preparing for the logistics is critical.  And costly if done incorrectly  – it only takes one show with missed deadlines, and rush charges for everything  from production to shipping to show services, to make this point clear.  This planning and tracking is often handed to someone who is good at handling details, which is appropriate.

However – the single most critical aspect of planning for a successful tradeshow is – to borrow a well known idea – to start with the end in mind.  (Thank you Dr Covey, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”)

The key is being clear about – and keeping a laser-like focus on – your business objectives, target audience, branding, strategies for implementing each objective, and ways to measure results.   All show preparations must be geared towards achieving these goals.

Meet the deadlines, of course.  But start at the beginning, with a plan to succeed.

An individual (or marketing campaign-level) tradeshow plan:

  • Sets specific business objectives to be met, aligned with overall strategic goals
  • Defines target audience, including demographics and key pain/purchase points
  • Clearly identifies tactics, goals and measurements for each objective
  • Establishes a budget and ROI rationale
  • Sets up a timeline including planning, logistics, marketing and promotional efforts, staff preparation to support goals, etc.
  • Provides a clear evaluation process

Let’s look briefly at each of these topics.

Business Objectives for Tradeshows

In the long run, tradeshows are all about building your business.  That may mean generating sale-ready leads, and it may not.  There are many ways to use tradeshows to support your business or organization.

Trade Shows Can Be Used To:

  • Generate quality leads
  • Reinforce existing relationships
  • Strengthen company, product or brand awareness
  • Reach the media or provide input for blog
  • Announce or measure interest in new products or services
  • Perform competitive analysis
  • Find vendors / potential partners
  • Use as “because” to contact customers, prospects and dormant leads

Target Audience

You need to specifically who you will be targeting at each show.  This is because your marketing message – the one that will move you towards your selected objective – must be based on the needs and interests of your target audience.    It’s all about WIIFM – “what’s in it for me”.  If you don’t know who, how can you direct your message?

You want your booth to be designed in a way that reaches out to the right people, filters out the others, and starts a conversation.  This is why one of the very first things we ask for when we prepare to design a tradeshow display is “who do you need to reach – at this show”.

Tactics, Goals and Measurement

“Build sales” is not helpful as an objective.

“Build sales by setting appointments” – that is actionable and measurable.  You can train your booth staff how to qualify attendees, how much to say in the booth, and when to move to “make a sale” of an appointment time.  If you’re handing out gifts, to know the correct moment to present them.   You can decide how to lay out your booth based on this goal.  You can determine how to word your marketing collaterol.

And before the show?  This goal now leads to specific pre-show tactics like promotional mail or email, offering them an opportunity to meet you in person.

Here’s a few things you can measure already in this scenario:

  • How many invited prospects came
  • How many additional people were attracted by other at-show activities
  • How many signed up for appointments
  • The results of those appointments
  • The number and size of sales resulting

Of course, setting appointments may not be the next step from a show for your business.  What is?  Select your objective, then determine what needs to happen before the show, at the show and afterwards to make it happen.

Know your objectives, set up tactics, make them measurable, and focus your efforts based on these.


There is a lot to juggle in preparing for one show, never mind if you have a series of shows.  You need to read and understand the show book, with its rules and deadlines.  Preparing a project plan with milestones and deadlines, is not a bad idea.  You may need to “rent” this service from your tradeshow provider, or you may be able to keep it in-house by getting the most organized person on your staff to keep track and pay attention when they say a deadline is looming.

Some of our tips can be found here:  TRADE SHOW PLANNING – A TIMELINE FOR SUCCESS


You need to evaluate every show.   Evaluate based on the objectives you set, for effectiveness.  Also evaluate your staff on how well they met their individual goals, and ask for their input on what could have been done better in preparing them, in setting up and executing on your plan.

The essence of a plan is to take a good look at how events can support the major corporate objectives, who will be reached, how and when, with what budget and in order to reach what measurable results.

Need help starting, thinking through, or implementing your plan?  We’d be happy to help.


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.




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.



Step and Repeat Logo Backdrops – Now with Design

Our fabric Step-and-Repeat Display has proven to be a very popular and cost effective choice for logo-branded photo opportunities at award shows, non-profit fundraising events, association conferences, and media organizations.

These displays are great looking, extremely easy to set up, and money-saving.  Made with lightweight frames and dye sublimated graphic panels which stay on between uses (and yet are replaceable), they can be carried over the shoulder and set up in seconds.

The fabric graphic takes away the danger of glare caused by vinyl banners, making it perfect for photography, filming and videography.

Due to popular demand, we offer a design package which translating any logo into a Step and Repeat pattern – suitable for charity events, sports events, photo ops, TV interviews, press rooms, new product launches, fashion marketing, and corporate events.



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 care about the environment? As well as your budget?

If you’re like many, you want to say yes to both, and yet believe you must make trade-offs between “being green” and “saving money” when it comes to trade shows and events.

There is a lot you can do that is “eco-friendly” without extra cost. Even where there are upfront costs, in most cases, they are offset by a lower overall cost of exhibiting.

And you may already be more “green” than you think! An increasing % of the products we’ve sold over the last few years had “green” components or processes, whether our customers knew it or not!

In addition, even where there are upfront costs, in most cases, they are offset by a lower overall cost of exhibiting.

In this tip, we look at:

  • What do exhibitors say makes a display “green”?
  • How can you know if products meet your “green” goals?
  • Doesn’t “green” cost more?


In its 2008 report “An Inconvenient Booth”, Exhibitor Magazine included the results of a survey of exhibitors on the factors they use in determining what makes for a greener display or exhibit product.

The following factors, ranked by their mean ratings, were considered to be the most important [based on a scale from 1, not at all important, to 7, extremely important]:

1.  Product design more efficient to ship (5.90)

2.  Whether the product has or avoids toxic or harmful components (5.68)

3.  Whether the product is made from products that are endangered or in short supply (5.63)

4.  The extent to which a product has a modular design, allowing flexibility and reuse of components (5.54)

5.  Product designed to consume less materials overall (5.45)

6.  How recyclable is the product (5.30)

7.  How much product is built from recycled materials (5.22)


For greener displays and products, look for the following characteristics:

Efficiency in design and shipping:

  • Constructed with new materials leading to greater flexibility in design
  • Reconfiguration rather than replacing entire booth for each show
  • Design and packaging for efficiency in shipping: fewer cases, which may double as podiums and can be shipped via UPS or FedEx

Manufacturing Processes which involve:

  • Replacing harmful chemicals with products with lower or no toxicity (i.e. using water-based solvents instead of high VOC chemicals)
  • Reclaiming scraps for recycling (aluminum, plastic or organic)
  • Reduced manufacturing steps & lower energy requirements

Components which are:

  • Recycled from post-consumer or post-industrial products, either fully or in part (i.e. EcoFi-based materials which use fibers made 100% from recycled soda bottles)
  • Recyclable – not thrown out after use, reclaimed and reused in creating other products (aluminum, plastic, Ecofi fabrics)
  • Renewable or Sustainable – built from organic materials which are replaced through natural or protected growth (i.e. bamboo, eucalyptus)
  • Much lighter, reducing fuel requirements for shipment and therefore leading to reduced “carbon” impact

Planning and execution which include:

  • Less energy-intensive lighting (low voltage or LED lights)
  • Reusable packaging materials such as blankets rather than plastic
  • Re-purposing of packaging, cases and crates as part of exhibits
  • Rental – customization hybrids
  • Local storage – rather than storing and shipping heavy booths to regional shows, designing appropriate small displays for local offices
  • Limited use of marketing collateral – printed close to the show instead of shipped, using print-on-demand, or handing out USBs
  • Taking advantage of functional, reusable giveaways made from recycled, repurposed, biodegradable or otherwise “green” materials
  • Using versatile exhibit products which reconfigure for different size booths, allowing re-use rather than full replacement

Being able to include any of these factors will increase the level of eco-friendliness of your trade show or event program.


The perception that “green costs more” is increasingly out of line. Often, the eco-friendly alternative costs no more or has become standard, as with most dye sublimation processes for stretch and tension fabric products.

Even when the upfront costs are higher, the overall cost of ownership is often lower, when all aspects of a trade show program are factored in.

Which components may cost more?

  • Some fabric products which use fibers made from 100% recycled bottles still cost more – but not all
  • Sustainable products such as bamboo come at a premium
  • Aluminum which contains recycled aluminum still costs more

Note: as products become more mainstream, prices are dropping

In what ways does “green” lower overall cost of ownership?

  • Lighter weight for exhibits leads to dramatic savings in shipping and drayage which quickly offsets additional upfront costs
  • Components are consciously repurposed instead of discarded
  • Easier setups lead to reduced staffing or hired labor costs
  • In our hearts, we all know that, in the bigger picture, the less impact we each have on the planet, the less time, money and energy will be required “fixing” our planet Earth later.

At Imprinted Originals, we’re happy to say – the products we offer are getting greener and greener, and the price points have become increasingly more budget-friendly every year.

As with an increasing number of conscientious display designers and producers, we are happy to help you balance out your requirements so that you can “do what you can” to do your part!



We’re often asked about the timing for planning for trade shows.

Use the following template as a guideline.  Your actual timeline – and checklist – for each show will vary depending on its size, location, type and importance.

Long-range planning (annual)

  • Define overall trade show strategy based on corporate goals
  • Determine which shows will help achieve that strategy
  • Get information, including past attendee numbers, from event producers
  • Set a projected annual budget & get approvals

9 – 12 months in advance

  • Select and register for the particular show
  • Visit the previous year’s or a similar show if possible
  • Get exhibitor packet and review for restrictions, guidelines and deadlines
  • Select booth size and location
  • Investigate sponsorship, speaking and other opportunities

6 – 9 months in advance

  • Define primary objective for show and how results will be measured
  • Choose theme to develop
  • Develop trade show marketing plan
  • Set preliminary budget
  • Select vendor(s) for exhibit booth, clothing and promotional products

3 – 6 months in advance

  • Design booth display and marketing materials based on goals and theme
  • Select appropriate promotional products and booth apparel
  • Confirm timelines & deadines with event organizers and exhibit vendors
  • Determine staffing requirements for your booth
  • Identify strategies for attracting visitors to booth

2 – 3 months in advance

  • Develop advertising or other pre-show promotions
  • Develop demonstrations, educational and other support materials
  • Prepare media kits and staff briefing packets, if applicable
  • Obtain insurance if necessary
  • Make transportation and hotel arrangements
  • Make sure everything is on track and all orders are in

1 – 2 months in advance

  • Review progress on all projects
  • Implement pre-show promotional marketing
  • Define lead capture forms and tracking systems
  • Choose and train staff (behavior as well as products/services)
  • Prepare packets and letters for follow up

2 weeks to 1 month in advance

  • Preview exhibit and other components
  • Follow up on shipping, installation, and onsite services
  • Confirm reservations for housing and transportation
  • Pre-show briefings with management, product managers, staff
  • Continue pre-show marketing, set up & confirm on-site appointments

1 week before show

  • Confirm all arrangements
  • Review goals and final points with staff
  • Review “Exhibitor Do’s and Don’ts” with staff
  • Plan for contingencies


  • Booth staff travels early and gets plenty of rest.
  • Check booth set-up and equipment before show
  • Qualify all leads, capture and score information on each
  • Hand off leads to off-site lead manager for followup
  • Daily debriefings with staff