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Tradeshows: They’re Back, Baby

(March 2012) posted on Tue Mar 06, 2012

Insight gained from attending the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.


By Craig Miller

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The hall interior was similarly graphics-intensive. Every tradeshow has informational and directional signage, and for shows like CES this represents hundreds of signs and aisle banners. Because of the newsworthiness of CES and all of the public interest in consumer electronics, there were mini television studios in every hall with their identity and sponsors plastered on temporary walls. People were walking the show with digitally produced sponsor shirts. And every one of the 3100 exhibit booths had at least one digitally printed graphic, while some booths were completely fabricated from graphically printed material.

The soft-signage connection
As graphics professionals, we have a big responsibility to the tradeshow industry. We provide exhibitors with one of the most important elements of their show presence. The purpose of a booth, after all, is to entice attendees to enter the exhibit so the exhibitor can then engage them. The exhibiting company’s brand and image are at stake as well. Our contribution as print and solutions providers is a big deal. The visual graphics we produce, fabricate, and sometimes install can make or break the success of a company’s entire tradeshow effort.

It’s a huge expense for companies to exhibit. There’s the space rental, the cost of the booth itself, shipping, and the costs of transporting staff as well as housing, feeding, and paying them during the event. And keep in mind that the largest shows, like CES, are truly international, drawing companies from afar. In this year’s CES official show directory, for example, I counted 14 pages of companies whose name began with Shenzhen (I bought an HD video camera the size of a tube of ChapStick from one of these). If a company is traveling all the way from the Guangdong Province of China, they had better do a good job of presenting themselves once they get here. If not, they’ll amount to no more than a flyspeck among the 197 other Shenzhens.

At Pictographics, if an exhibitor customer is leaning toward scrimping on graphics, we’ll ask: “Why would you go to the time, trouble, and expense of having a booth if you’re not willing to invest in the last step to bring positive attention to your company and your products?” This question usually results in the customer rethinking their errant strategy.


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