Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pop up displays

Many companies use pop up displays when they venture in to the trade show arena. They are great for beginning exhibitors since [most of them] are very easy to set up, they are compact and pack into one case and can ship UPS, FedEx or in your car.

Many large companies also have a few pop up displays on hand because of their minimal costs for showing as opposed to their large custom displays that require van line shipping, drayage and labor to set it up.

These are great for relaying your companies message in a dynamic way and, for the most part, the graphics that you decide on will make or break your presentation.

The drawback to the standard pop up displays are their limitations to the available extra items and additions that you can include with your display.

In the past few years, there have been a lot of exciting new variations on the standard pop up exhibit. You can change the shape of the pop up frame that curves from top to bottom. You can have individual graphics in each panel. You can go withe fabric for your backwall panels that is permanently attached to the frame:

(Craig Mlasko is the owner of The Works Displays & Exhibits in San Jose, CA and has 20 years experience in the trade show and marketing industries.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to pick a trade show display company

Being in the trade show industry for over 20 years, the biggest decision that I hear that trade show coordinators or Mar Comm managers have to make is which trade show company to use. There are a lot of individual components to consider in making your decision on what to do for your trade show display and who to use.

Questions such as what will be the extent of your company's trade show program? How many trade shows do you plan on exhibiting at per year? What is the size of your booth space? What type of exhibit to use? If you are a start-up company, you may need to start out in a small 10' x 10' space and work up to a larger size as your business. How much 'hand holding' will you need? Besides the exhibit itself, what other services do you require? These and others.

Trade show companies come in all sorts of sizes and services.

You can buy very cheap, inexpensive pop up display or panel displays online for less then $1,000!!! These trade show displays, for the most part, are made in China. I really cannot recommend these type of displays!!! They will last you about 1 - 3 shows and the fabric will start pealing away from the panels or components may start breaking. It's the old 'you get what you pay for' scenario. Since these companies sell online, there is very little customer support after the purchase and very few options for your display. You get a down and dirty display and it serves it's purpose. These companies rely on volume from online sales.

On the other side of the spectrum are the very large custom exhibit display houses. Everything is inclusive - sales, design, construction, storage and customer service. Because it takes a lot of people to handle these items, the overhead is large and therefore you pay for that.

With the current status of our economy, companies are looking to doing it for less. In the middle of the online companies and the large custom houses are the smaller to mid-size companies that can provide pop up displays or modular exhibits and full custom displays with all the graphics and services needed to support them.

You may feel that you need the comfort of the big company and if you have the money to pay for it, then great, but if you do your homework and work closely with your representative, you can develop a nice program that will not break your budget.

Some suggestions to keep in mind in choosing a company are:
  1. Information - The more information that you give a trade show company, the better that they can produce a program that best fits your needs. Included in that, providing a budget is very important! This tells us what we can or cannot do to come in at or under budget. Other information such as your message, elements in the display, what is the competition doing, what additional services are needed, etc help design your display and program.
  2. Service - This is probably more important than the display itself. Regardless of if you are a veteran trade show coordinator or brand new, your trade show company can assist from arranging shipping, making arrangements for the show, show site supervision, etc. What is the level of service that you need and they can provide?
  3. Referrals - I am surprised that more companies do not ask for a list of references!!! You want to talk to those companies! It's like someone applying for a job at your company. Even if you are getting only the 'good' references, you should be able to distinguish a good company from a bad one.

To summarize, you need to do your homework. In this tough economy, you need to count every penny and need to make sure that your trade show company is working for you.

Your trade show company is an extension of your company! They need to be on the same page as you are with the same direction and understanding of your long term goals. They need to understand your budget constraints, what the goals are for each show, your message that you want to present and they need to be easy to work with.

With a little homework, you will have a successful exhibit and program that will service your needs and grow along with you.

(Craig Mlasko is the owner of The Works Displays & Exhibits in San Jose, CA and has 20 yrs experience in the trade show and marketing industries.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Marketing and trade show displays

With all the news on job losses, what about those companies that are still doing OK? You still have a business to run, you still need to market your products and services and you still need to make sales.

The quick knee-jerk response that I see these days is to cut back, cut back, cut back and we can't do this or we can't spend on this. This is a BIG mistake!!!

Take the recent decision by Apple to stop exhibiting at Macworld. Their reason that they said was that since they get enough customers coming in to their stores, they now do not see the need to exhibit at Macworld anymore. With Apple being as large as they are, I would have expected that SOMEONE in there might have said "Ummm, but why are they coming to the stores in the first place?" Because all the new products that they introduce at the show get so much news coverage and web coverage that it starts a huge buzz that generates interest that gets them coming to the stores!!!!

Trade shows are your BEST marketing investments whether as a buyer or as an exhibitor. There is no better way to see and talk to potential customers or to introduce your new product or service where you get the most bang for your buck!

The biggest problem that a lot of companies have, especially start-ups, is that they do not have a clear, drawn out plan on what their end result is for attending a trade show. Why are they there? It costs a lot to exhibit at a trade show, HOWEVER, if you train your booth staff, have clear goals to attain at the show, pre-show buzz, smart trade show exhibit design, you will see a nice payoff.

Being in the trade show industry for over 20 years, you can quickly assess those companies that are on the ball and those that won't be around for very long.

I hope to use this space to offer some [hopefully] helpful info, advise, suggestions that make sense in this fragile yet opportunistic times.

(Craig Mlasko is the owner of The Works Displays & Exhibits ( that offers all types of exhibits and marketing services.)