An interview on something everyone in the 3D printing industry should take note of: How to have a successful 3D print trade show booth with guest Jessica Larimore. So much of what we have seen at trade shows makes us cringe, avoid a flop at a major event with her tips on how to represent yourself, your company, your brand well. She shares how to create your 3D print trade show booth to ensure success for your business.
We are going to do something a little different today with an interview that many of you who are in 3D print industry could really use some of her advice. Although you might not first think that it is directly related to your business. It doesn’t matter if you have a business or if you are just a maker who is at craft fairs or farmer’s markets or other things like that. It is one of those things where you should pay attention to what she has to say.
Tom and I go to so many trade shows and so much of what we see just makes us cringe, especially when you see people showing at a large expensive trade show. The large ones make me cringe more like CES or something big like that. It costs a lot of money to even just get that real estate, that little 10×10 square of space.
This is the thing, you and I both don’t think you need to spend a ton of money. There are a lot of DIY things to do. You are a maker, you can do stuff, and make things. But not having a plan and not thinking it all the way through, it makes the whole thing a waste of money. If you don’t represent well, then what is the point in paying the money for the booth? Just showing up isn’t going to make people want to buy from your company or buy what you have. It takes a little more than just showing up. Sometimes, your message in your great technology can be completely derailed by how you act and how your booth looks.
Jessica Larimore, our guest today, is an expert in trade show booths and really presenting yourself at trade shows. Her specialty is coming up with a plan and she does it in a more DIY way. She has this great event that she runs that we will talk about at the end of the interview. It is a “learn to do it yourself” event. I love that concept. I met Jessica at another event, Secret Knock. I met her before at one of these things called a dolphin tank that we participated in which I usually am on the panel. We say things about what people make a pitch and then we critique it nicely to help them grow so that they get better at being able to pitch their business.
Evidently, whatever I said, I honestly don’t remember because we had 20 pitches. There were so many people there. I don’t remember exactly I said to her about it, but whatever it was, it stuck with her. The next time she saw me, she basically stalked me at the bathroom at the Secret Knock. It is the funniest thing. She is still talking to me while I am in the stall. Finally, I came out and I go, “You know, first off, you really impressed me. Secondly, you didn’t stalk me in a creepy way. You stalked me in a pretty good way and kept me interested. Now I would love to talk to you. In fact, I would love to have you on my podcast.”
She was like, “I was wondering if I should say anything to you.” My point in bringing this up is, “Absolutely, you should say something.” If you see someone later and say, “You know, I met you at such an event and you said this….. It resonated with me and I changed my business to do that.” Wow, the power in that. She just established a great rapport with me, and look where she is now – on our podcast. I am going to her event to write it up for Inc. as well.
Side note, this is just about taking advantage of opportunities as a person either in business or either in life; whether you are in school, or they may be a competition, or you have an opportunity to apply for something. Look, nothing comes to you in life or in business on a silver platter. You got to go out there and take advantage of the opportunities. I am surprised she actually felt apprehensive about approaching you at the Secret Knock when she hasn’t seen you before. Why the heck shouldn’t ask you a question or see you? You see someone at a trade show who relates to your business or you want to learn from or you want to complement, or whatever it may be, be bold. Go out and do it.
That is exactly it. That is why I bring it up, because she mentioned that she almost hesitated to say something, mostly because it is in the bathroom, but partially because, ” Would I remember her or whatever?” It doesn’t matter. Go ahead and talk to me like you met me before. Explain where you met me and talk to me like you did. It absolutely worked. Whether someone remembers if they met you there, giving a frame of reference gives you more consideration than if you just out of the blue saying, “Hey can I ask you a question. I’ve never met you before.” I just want to emphasize that point, and we can go on to today’s subject which is about trade show booths, which all of us probably deal with one time or another; whether you are actually viewing one as an attendee at a trade show, or if you are a business who is showing at a trade show. You want to be as effective as possible especially if it is a 3D print trade show.
Listen to the podcast here:
Rock Your 3D Print Trade Show Booth
Jessica thanks so much for joining us to talk to us about setting up a 3D print trade show booth. I am excited to talk about Rock Your Booth.
Thank you, thank you for having me.
I thought the most interesting thing about it, and the reason why I want to have you on the show is you really talk about booth creation and not being sort of pretty or corporately synergistic, but about it being “the best reaction wins.” I love that message. Tell us a little bit about why you have that experience and why you have that message you bring.
First of all, it depends on the type of event. You really have to focus on researching the event and the type of audience you are going to have to know how to get that attraction and to know who your target market is, and ideal client is. Once you have that figured out, and then you can go into how do I attract them? What do they want to see? What do they excited about? You go from there and then you incorporate your own business philosophy or ideal atmosphere of your business, and you bring that to whatever event you are doing that attracts what you are going for.
Like attracts like. That is interesting because so often today, a lot of companies treat a 3D print trade show booth as the technical side of demoing. We have to do this. They let their engineering and technical side deal with it. The marketing is sort of, “We’ll send it out on social media. We are going to be there.” But really, if you are going to spend the money on that, you need to treat it as tightly and closely as you treat spending advertising dollars on Facebook.
Yes absolutely. It means, when you look at it on the perspective of being an investment, when you invest money into your business, what is it that you want to get out of that investment? If that is not clear to you, then you need to sit down and rethink what it is that you are doing.
What about different stages of business? Sometimes, when you are at the really early stages, this is more than just, “Gosh, I need to get some publicity. I got to be seen.” What would be the different things that you might do at that level?
It can be very challenging at the beginning stages of the business. The budget may be really tight. That is where your opportunity lies to get really creative. If you don’t have that knack for creativity, then to organize a team, even a volunteer team, which can bring that creativity to the table that understands your business, the philosophy of your business, and who your target market is.
We see so many kinds of trade show booths in the 3D printing industry which is obviously what our listeners are involved in and what we are all about. They are all over the map, from the start-ups that could barely afford there, to some serious productions. I think, maybe the Consumer Electronic Show would be the last major show where we saw that. We were all over the map. It was super expensive show just in terms of real estate in there. Some people are clearly spending middle five and low and middle six figure numbers on the trade show booth.
One of the things I am curious to know about in terms of like you are talking about grabbing people’s attention. What do you think about giveaways? I think in the 3D printing industry, there is a tendency to think that, “Hey, we can 3D print something and give it away that will help them remember us.” How do you feel about that as a component of your trade show exhibit; Is it very important, or is it really contrived? What would you think of that?
Giveaways are one of the greatest ways to attract people because who doesn’t like getting a free gift? Now, how you incorporate those giveaways is the tricky part. Do you really want someone to come by and grab something and you never touch base with them again? They don’t remember who you are. If you are going to do 3D printing giveaways, as you guys spoke about on a previous episode on your show doing the giveaways, I agree with you that to make sure you are giving away a quality product that won’t break, that is branded with your business, and why not ask them to do something in order to get the gift? Maybe you ask them to give you some of their information so that you can follow up with them. Use it as lead generation to get those leads so that you can reach back out to them and see if there is a relationship that can be built there.
I like that. I think I would probably come up with a giveaway that is a two part thing. You have something that can take away right there. Give them some satisfaction, have some identity of your company, but there is more to it. In order to get that, they have to go to your website and enter their information and then it will be sent to them later or something.
That is an excellent idea. One thing I noticed with businesses in general with doing a booth at different types of events, they want to do a raffle. They want to get people’s information and then call them later to let them know if they won the item or not. The downside of that, it is human nature to want instant gratification. If you don’t have something that you can give to them in that moment, they may not want to give you their information. In having something you can give away at that moment, get them excited about it, they would be more than happy to give you their information. I love the idea that you have about making a two step process so that they can get something more when you touch base with them. It starts building that relationship.
That reminds me at CES, I was scanned for eyeglasses. They did this whole great little scan on my face; we took a video of it and did the whole thing. There was zero follow up. I think having a follow up system before you go to your event is critical. If you gather their information and then be unable to follow up on it, and then what is the point of doing it?
That is one of the things I talk about in my workshop or during my consulting with the business or with the entrepreneur, is the follow up plan. Before you go and do any event, you have everything in place for everything. You have to research which events you are doing, why you are doing them. You got to plan out how you are going to do your booth. You just don’t take your stuff there the day before and figure it out. You got to have that plan in place. Part of that plan includes the follow up plan. If you are going to send out an email to those leads after the event, have your email template already in place and know what is going to be in that email. Know when you send it out. Mark it on your calendar. That is one of the things that I have also seen with events is,
one of the biggest takeaways you can get form doing an event is the lead generation. Getting those leads; sometimes you are even able to qualify those leads at the event. If you are, that is great because you get to go and follow up some more. If you haven’t qualified, you can do that in the follow-up process as well. One of the things that I have seen a lot is they get all these leads and they end up in a pile tucked away in their office. They go untouched. That is losing in the investment of doing a booth at an event.
I agree. We go to a lot of business networking events. We teach at some of them and the whole point of being there, aside from the educational aspect of learning things you don’t know about business in this case, is to network with others and whether they have what you are looking for, or are your customer or not. If they are not, they know someone who is. Everybody gets a stack of reference cards. I have been shocked so many times I followed up on some of these and the person on the other end says, “Wow, you are the first person that followed up with me from the event,” and it’s two or three weeks later. I’m always shocked at that.
We already feel bad that it took that long. We have a friend, Kelly Holmes, who has a wonderful networking company. She talks about the fact that you come home from an event with a stack of business cards. The problem is that you put those business cards on your desk. You are excited but you are exhausted from the event. You say that you will get to that tomorrow. You look at it the next day and then slowly as the week goes by, they start to get shoved behind your computer, cause it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” One day, you are going to be like, “Ohhh yeah….” and now it’s too late to follow up. That is what not having a system makes it that difficult.
One of the other things too that I have come across in being one of the issues what the follow-up is there are some businesses that will do multiple networking events or events where they showcase their product or service. What happens is that they say to themselves they will follow up with the leads, and they get more leads from another event, and they get mixed up. They can’t remember which one is from which event. If you have to have a system in place for collecting leads that when you get back to your office or home or wherever, you have a filing system and you also mark in your calendar, “Okay, I need to follow up with the leads from this event,” and you know right where they are because you put them in an envelope or the file system or something of that nature.That helps you to remember who is from what event so that you can follow up appropriately.
That is great. We usually when we go to an event, we have our assistant who comes with us to staple the business cards to a card on which you can write. Sometimes the business cards, you can’t write on them. We made the mistake of having a completely black business card on both sides, which we no longer have. We have the white ones now. It is such a mistake until you want to go right the first thing, “Oh darn, that doesn’t work.” They looked really cool though.
I know, I have been there and done that.
I could kick myself because I am a color expert and we made that mistake. Everybody does stuff like that, but stapling it to an index card and writing straight on it,”Follow it up on this date,” or whatever it is and put an action item on it, I found that it is really useful for us. One of the reasons why you need some volunteers and to get extra people to help you out. We drag along our oldest daughter to the trade shows with us to be that extra assistant. You almost sometimes need an assistant for your assistant.
Let’s go over, you have some great do’s and don’t tips that you go over in your workshop. Lots of our listeners won’t be able to make it to that. What are some just basic things that they should remember if they are going to do? Keep in mind some of our listeners will do some major tech trade show. Some of them will also do your local farmer’s market, and craft fairs and things like that as well.
One of the first things I like to say as one of the do’s and don’ts is make sure that you are approachable. Don’t be sitting in a chair on your phone thinking that people are just going to walk up and engage with you. One of the things I see, it is not even their first time doing an event, it could be the second, third, or fourth. They fall for this common fallacy that everyone is going to love everything that they have or do. They feel that way because they are so excited about their product or service, that they just think, “Well, everybody has to love this!”
But the reality of it is, that is not the case. You have to make yourself approachable for your target market to be able to come up to you. Don’t be sitting in a chair on your phone. Make yourself approachable.
The other tip I would like to give is to not pitch your business, when you are engaging with somebody, start building that relationship. Make it about them, and not so much about your business. People will get turned off by that if they feel it is in for yourself and you are not really there to help them. Those are two of my biggest tips that I can offer.
When you get into the creative side of doing your booth, there are a couple things that come into play that just naturally attracts the human eye. One of them is colors. I like to talk about colors. If you are using more than one color, this sounds so simple and silly but it really makes a difference. If you are using a table cloth, whatever you are putting on the table, make sure that it is a good contrast with the color of your table cloth or vice versa. You don’t want what is on your table to blend in to the table cloth or to go against that color. The other thing is, even if your business colors are not bright, try to incorporate bright color in the branding of your booth in some way. The eye is naturally attracted to bright colors.
Another great tip is if you can somehow create movement within your booth, this could be for any type of event; anything from a festival or street fair all the way to doing the big trade shows and expos. If you have something in your booth that is moving, the human is naturally attracted to movement. You see something move out of the corner of your eye, you turn your head. This is a natural instinct that we have. It could be as something as simple as blowing bubbles for kids at a festival. Just make sure that whatever the activity is, however you incorporate the movement, it is in alignment with the type of event you are doing and it is in alignment with your business.
That is a great tip. I am so glad you brought up color. It is my pet peeve. Sometimes you try to – and I can tell you how many times you try to take a photograph of something and Instagram something while you are right there and you can’t see it because it is just blending completely into the table cloth. There is no other place to stick it and you end up holding it in your hand. It doesn’t look good at the end of the day. You then are just like, “Forget it, I’m not going to Instagram that.” That creates a big problem for creating word of mouth about your booth and your product.
Another thing is too, if you have a table for 3D printing, you may be showcasing some of the products that you printed in the past or something that you have done especially for the event. You want to make sure that you showcase them on the table in a way that is attractive. You just don’t want to set a bunch of stuff on the table and think it is attractive because there is a bunch of stuff on the table. Adding height to your booth or table helps, like if you have risers or you so dome kind of shelving in the background or something of that nature. Everything has its place. You are not just putting stuff on a table.
Another thing is that your marketing materials, your business cards, flyers, pamphlets, or whatever, don’t spread them all over the place. Don’t spread it. You don’t want your booth to look cluttered. That takes me to that hoarding mentality.
I have seen a few booths like that.
It is not attractive to the eye. It is not. It looks cluttered. This goes for any business, including 3D printing or anything out there, what happens is it makes it so that your guest at your booth can’t make a decision on what they like or don’t like because there is so much to look at at one time. They can’t make a decision on what they want to walk away with if you have marketing materials or a giveaway. They can’t decide and they walk away. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen that happen.
Those are such good tips. We are a little electronic intensive here. I think that some people don’t realize that that requires some advanced planning. How do you deal with that when you are dealing with booth design so that you don’t have chords and extensions? It is never what you expected to be when you get to the venue.
That is one of the things that I talk about. First of all, that is where your research comes into play. Make sure you get in contact with the event coordinator and you know exactly what is going to be in your booth and where. If you have the opportunity to go on site and check out where your space is going to be, if that is possible, then do that. The other thing that I would recommend is: do a mock setup of your booth at home or at your business before doing the event. So you have a good idea of how everything is going to lay out.
It could be as simple as asking an event coordinator on where the outlets are going to be at my booth; are they going to be in the back and to the left? That way you can plan how you are going to arrange your booth so that all the wires and all that stuff aren’t making a big mess of your booth.
Be over prepared. You can never have enough extension chords or power strips.
Absolutely. I have this thing. It is called the Rock Your Booth Planner. It is a great way for you to go through the motions of planning. It’s got all the checklists in there and all the possible things you could possibly need. You never know what is going to happen. You never know what you are going to need. If you go prepared and you have these things with you, you should be able to combat almost any unforeseen issue or obstacle.
That sounds amazing. Can they find you on Facebook or someplace like that to inquire about that?
I really want to know, you give us these tips of do’s and don’ts and that is incredibly valuable. That is really going to be nitty gritty helpful to a lot of people listening to this podcast. I am curious, what is the worst thing you have ever seen at a trade show that someone has done in their booth that you can tell us? Hopefully wasn’t your client?
I won’t say the name of the company or the person or anything like that. It was for a health product, and they were showcasing a new health product. The product itself came in a bag and it sounds silly to be the worst thing, but it really is because it is terrible. Instead of showcasing the product sealed in the bag, the bag itself was empty and they took pieces of a plastic table cloth and stuffed it inside the plastic bag that the health product would come in, like it was fanned out. It is as if it was a gift bag. They did this. It was a lime, and they all came in these bags. They placed them all around their booth.
So the bags were mock filled and staged around the booth?
The plastic table cloth filling that they put inside matched their plastic table cloths on their tables.
Oh my gosh. That sound like somebody had a really bad idea, and nobody said don’t do that.
I am sure there was probably some worse things I have seen, but that one has always stuck in my mind and I use that one as an example in my workshops.
Being the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen. I have to say, I had this off putting thing happen at CES. The guys who had that resin printer from Canada, that was super fast, and so that was this really cool and the speed of the printer and the way it ran. They were just demoing it. There wasn’t anything physically wrong with the booth. It was their attitude as they were demoing it that was really off putting. They are like “We’re here because we want to get investors.” They were like straight up about it. They were like, “We don’t want your card; we don’t care getting back to you. We just want to take investors and to sell these off.” I couldn’t believe that attitude. I wouldn’t refer them to anyone I knew.
There are so many things I have seen and obviously that is what brought me to what I am now doing. I have been involved in planning festivals. I am seeing a lot and that is one of the things I have seen. The first tips I as giving is how to compose yourself when you are in the booth. Regardless of how your booth looks, that will play a huge part of whether people want to approach your booth or not.
Oh gosh, Jessica, thank you so much for being on the show. Hopefully, you guys out there have gotten some great tips and we will make sure to connect to you especially those of you who are in the Encinitas area of California. Jessica is having a workshop later this week. Thank you so much. We really appreciate all these tips and these great ideas you have brought.
I want to extend something to your listeners if that is possible. First, I want to say thank you for having me on the show. As a thank you, if any of you listeners in the area would want to attend the workshop when they go to check out, they can enter the code WTFFF and they will get a 20% discount off the admission.
Great, the admission is $57. That is great. Wonderful. Thank you so much for that we appreciate it.
Absolutely, thank you for having me.
Rock Your 3D Print Trade Show Booth – Final Thoughts
I really like those tips for a 3D print trade show booth, or just a trade show booth in general. They are so useful. Those are very nitty gritty and practical stuff that everybody needs to pay attention to. I really love the tips. The other thing I guess that I want to say about those tips and about anybody who has a trade show booth especially in the 3D print trade show booth scene is that you really can’t take it too personally – the trade show booth. Don’t let it be your baby. You need to ask others even if you can’t get professional help like Jessica right now.
Ask others how effective is something and what do they think about it and accept that criticism on your 3D print trade show booth. Ask random strangers and not your friends and family who will just say nice things about you; If you are the owner of the company, don’t ask your employees because they are going to be afraid to tell you the truth, unless you have a really good relationship with someone who will tell you the truth and you will not hold it against them. More often than not, employees are the yes people to the boss. Don’t ask an employee unless you are sure you can get an honest answer and you are willing to accept it.
That is the other thing. If you are going to ask for input and they give their honest input, and then you disregard everything they say, which is okay as long as you explain why you are disregarding it or go into, “Yes, I just want to try it,” but when it fails miserably later, you apologize to them. “I really should have listened to you,” you know that kind of thing. Or you take their advice and consider it or make some minor modifications to do the things and incorporate it, and thank them for that. If you fail to do those things, they are not going to come back. It is too risky for them. They do not have enough stake on it to give you an honest answer on it at that point.
Thinking of a few 3D print trade show booth over the last year that we have seen and one that is a major standout was the Algix 3D print trade show booth at CES because you could tell that they planned it, spent a lot of time on it, and there was some money spent on it too. It was kind of techy cool. It wasn’t just techy though, it has that ruthlessness to it. They incorporated their message with it. It is staying with their message. So often, you get a cool 3D print trade show booth but it has nothing to do with your technology or nothing to do with your message.
You want to really make sure that your message is getting across. That is so clear to understanding and knowing what your message is. It all starts at the core of what Jessica is talking about. In the 3D printing space, we tend to want to make a lot of little 3D printed items and spread them out on the table in our 3D print trade show booth. I can’t even tell you how many times I have seen that. They are so awful. It is the wront way to go. You are devaluing and belittling the value of the 3D printed items by just spreading them out on the table and letting people pick them up and touch and put it back wherever, there is no intentional display there.
The companies that end up creating intentional 3D print trade show booth displays that are behind plastic or glass in a case of some kind, you elevate the design, and you elevate the quality of the print. There are many things you can do that are intentional. It is not just your own products that you are devaluing. You are devaluing the whole industry as a whole. Please stop doing it. We beg you. I can’t tell you how many podcasts we have done on that. Certainly after CES, we have a commentary on the booths and what we saw there. We talked about before was Robo3Ds, they have a great display. The guitar that was 3D printed that was on display was under glass. It was in a phone booth glass display elevated and it made it precious.
The 3D Systems booth was all like that, with tons of things that are designed by high end designers. They paid money for that to happen. They were in partnership with that with someone to happen. There are a lot of ways to do this inexpensively. Find yourself some partners. It is not that hard. There are a lot of people out there, trying to get it. They don’t want to pay money for a booth, they are willing to share with you if you are going to promote them. You have to do that. You have to treat them not like their design is junk and stick it on a table with a bunch of other pieces that got downloaded from the internet.
You got to give them the co branding they deserve if they are going to participate with you. Especially hearing from Jessica about some of the advice she gave and how she has seen things that haven’t worked before, she tries to give proper advice to people going forward Get some advice if you don’t know yourself. Find a way to really try to communicate the real value of what it is you are offering. How are you going to make that stand out? How are you communicate your unique value proposition?
Be sure to check out Jessica and her deal that she is offering and her connection to future events that she will be offering in the near future. I think she mentioned she is going to have one coming up in October and I’m going to be covering the event tomorrow in San Diego. I will be writing an Inc article about it with any additional tips that I see what we may not have been able to go over with Jessica that are about general trade shows and not just 3D print trade show booth specific.
Jessica Larimore has been having fun planning parties and events since she was a young girl. From birthday parties and holiday gatherings to festivals. She has always had an eye for detail and a mind exploding with creativity. She loves helping people succeed and be the best they can in life and business. With her experience, creativity, clear understanding of attraction marketing, and a strong desire to help you succeed, Jessica has become the expert of rockin’ a stellar booth!
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