Making events & trade shows work for you

3rd November 2009 by Pete

In many company blogs, marketing teams often have lots to say (or at least, they’re pretty hard to keep quiet). With MOO this isn’t always the case – our customers usually give the rest of the team so much to blog about, we barely get a look in.

One marketing ‘channel’ (yes, sorry, some marketing buzzwords and jargon coming up) that has given us lots to talk about over the last year however, is events and trade-shows. MOO has visited Austin, Boston, Las Vegas, London, New York, Providence, San Diego, and we are at Washington DC this week. In total we have spoken to tens of thousands of photographers, graphic designers, artists, fashion designers, students and more. We have met hundreds of businesses along the way, and while it’s been pretty tiring, it has also been lots of fun, and very educational.

Trade-shows can be very expensive, time consuming and demanding, so it’s really important to get as much from them as possible.

Today, we thought we’d share five things that worked for us – hopefully some of this will be useful for those of you considering trade-shows as part of your ‘marketing mix’ next year (I did warn you about the jargon!).


Where possible, MOO builds its own booth. That means no cookie-cutter plinths and stands, no shiny black velvet drapes, no bar stools and definitely no $100 waste-paper baskets. A good company has a brand worth protecting, and it’s visual identity is a huge part of that. This remains the case at a live event – any old furniture and fuscia coloured carpet shouldn’t suddenly become acceptable. As an on online business, an event may be one of the few times a year you have a physical presence in the real world. So we invest in design and customisation. Our current booths are created by our marketing and design teams, from scratch. They begin with a brief and a blank piece of paper, and then we work out what we want to achieve, but more importantly what will customers and visitors want to experience at a MOO booth. It ends up looking something like this;


We often talk about short print runs helping relevancy. Making postcards specifically for a job interview, or tailoring your business cards to the trade show you are about to attend helps you to stand out and get noticed. The same should go for when you are exhibiting – marketing materials shouldn’t be left over from a different exhibition – the money you save handing out the leftovers may well be negated by the customers who take their business to someone with a more relevant offering. MOO tries to make sure everything we hand out is fresh, current and targeted to its recipient. At the HOW Design Conference we talked about vector art, graphics and illustration. At PhotoPlus, we talked jpegs and megapixels.


If you are speaking to creative people, it helps to speak their language, and prove you understand their values. Make the effort to be creative. Some booths pop out from a mile away, even if they are tiny – because they look vibrant, or clinical or crazy or fun – what matters is that they support the company brand, and appeal to the type of customers you want to engage with.


People walk up to a booth and ask ‘what kind of show specials do you have?’ – you need to decide if discounts and specials are part of your events plan, but you can be generous in other ways. Give people some time, listen, ask them some questions and find out a little about them. If I know a bit about the person in-front of me, it’s much easier explaining how they could use MOO, and how a creative print project would benefit their business or project. Leaving a booth with a firm idea in mind that might benefit your business is far more powerful than a discount flyer or a mouse-mat. At PhotoPlus in New York, we designed and printed Blurb books full of ideas and inspiration on how to use MOO products, and the response was far more positive than any promotional material.

Going for a walk

This one is simple – the best way to learn what works well at any specific show is see for yourself. Look at every booth (both the busy ones and the quiet ones), and speak to the teams working there. Carry lots of Business cards – and make some connections.

And finally?

Well we have one more show, the InDesign Conference in Washington DC, which runs (this very week) from the 4th to the 6th of November 2009. If you are close by, we would love you to pay us a visit. Then after that, a rest.

PS If you have some more tips, we’d love to hear what works for you.

Comments (4)

  1. Gianfranco Chicco:

    ice and clear post, it’s good to learn from your experience. Another important issue is the people that manage your booth. Many companies tend to send some of their employees there as punishment (long waiting hours, cold spaces, etc). The people that manage your booth are as important -or even more- than the physical space you create and they are a key success factor for a great visitor experience. Some characteristics these people should have? They should enjoy engaging & networking with people (“connectors”), be knowledgeable on your product and services (“mavens”) and be good sales people… at least have the right dose of commercial proposition (if I wanted to complete the Gladwell trilogy I should write “salesmen” :-)

    Bored people at a booth put you off from visiting…

  2. joefairs:

    Where is this Blurb book you guys. I take it you have ticked the box to say others could buy a copy. I’d be interested to see it!

    Joe Fairs. *(UK)

  3. Denise:

    Hi Joe, at the moment the book isn’t for sale. We’re going to make a couple of revisions (and maybe add some more things) and are hoping to make it available soon.

  4. anne vinsel:

    i’m thinking about how i could use either the business cards or the postcards in graduate medical education (intern through fellow). not sure yet, but it’s coming. when the residents see a project i’m working on for kids with cancer, they go gaga. they have these white coats w/pockets and can sneak a little learning/boards review while they work, but they can’t use a book, and they’re very visual. culturally speaking, they hate text and love photos w/good production values. i’ll probably start w/surgery. big market out there…..

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