Image result for timpatterson trade show     Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
"The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge
and the dissemination of truth."

John F. Kennedy
Meet our Thoughtleaders:
An Interview with Tim Patterson
by Gordon Nary

Return to Tim's Webpage
Thoughtleaders Main Page

Gordon: How did you get into the tradeshow industry?


After spending 25+ years behind the microphone as a radio DJ, programmer, news anchor and reporter, I realized that the industry was changing and there was not a lot of opportunity to advance. When I was invited to speak with a local exhibit company, I was intrigued, even though I barely knew the industry existed.

Long story short, I was hired as VP of Sales and Marketing at Interpretive Exhibits, and they worked to teach me about the industry. I also made a point of using my old radio interview skills and called up a few dozen industry consultants and leaders to interview them. I posted many of those interviews on the company website, and eventually that turned into the Tradeshow Marketing Podcast, which lasted about four years. It also quickly got me up to speed on the industry.

Gordon: How do you work with clients?


Mostly as a project manager. Our company is small with low overhead, and we feel that gives us an advantage over larger companies. We work with many manufacturers, designers and vendors so we really have as much capability Ė if not more Ė than large exhibit houses that do it all in-house.

Clients will often want to bounce ideas off of me and that leads to creative discussions about how they can best move forward. They may want some help on how to approach using social media at shows, or staff training, so I either help them directly or hook them up with a pro.

Gordon: What are some of the mistakes you see companies make in their tradeshow marketing?
Tim: The biggest problem, I think, is that lack of preparation. Tradeshow marketing has a lot of moving parts, and it often takes months of preparation to get everything ready for the big show.
Gordon: Whatís the secret to having a great tradeshow booth?

Design. A 3D designer should be able to create a booth that mimics the look and feel of your brand, so that visitors know at a glance the message youíre trying to communicate. It should also have messaging that is designed to let visitors know exactly what to expect. The more specific the message, the better. It also should have all of the function needed, such as demo area, product display, and meeting and storage space.
Gordon: Why is tradeshow marketing such a challenge to so many businesses?

Itís expensive and can be a big waste of money if youíre not careful. And there are a lot of moving parts. Itís easy to let a couple of critical parts fall by the wayside. PR and Media, for example, donít always directly translate to lead generation, but they do help raise brand awareness. Iíve lost count of times an exhibitor has contacted me a few weeks before a show and wanted me to help them prepare, when realistically itís too late to do much. Seriously, they should start that process several months prior to the show.
Gordon: Why are tradeshow staffers the most important, and often most overlooked, element of tradeshow marketing?

Staffers are the front line of your exhibiting plan. They are the ones that meet and greet visitors.  You can have a great booth with attractive graphics and an effective pre-show plan, but if your staffers donít understand exactly how to interact with show delegates your lead generation and brand awareness will suffer.

A tradeshow floor is chaotic and unlike any other sales situation. Yet here you are, having spent thousands of dollars to put your company out in the open to show off your brand, your products and services, and you have an opportunity to reach buyers and decision makers at a fraction of the cost of a typical sales call. If you donít take advantage of that in every way possible, you wonít get the most of your experience. I work with staff trainers who go over the process in great detail. It comes down to having a few great questions, knowing that you are looking to qualify and disqualify visitors so youíre not wasting your time or theirs, and then once qualified, youíre gathering follow up information that is passed back to the sales team at the office for prompt follow up
Gordon: Who would benefit from your new book,Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level?

Itís aimed at exhibitors who are either new or who have done it several times and need sort of a playbook. Itís aimed mainly at small to medium businesses, but I will say that the guys at Bobís Red Mill who have been doing this for 20 years, gave me great feedback on the book and say they picked up some good tips. So any tradeshow exhibitor I think can get some good information, whether youíre going to national shows or local chamber of commerce shows. Not every step will apply to every situation.
Gordon: Your book details 14 steps to increased tradeshow success. What happens if your company isnít equipped to handle all 14 steps?
The book is really a playbook, and not every play works for every situation or company. But itís a quick read Ė you can probably go through it in a couple of hours Ė and learn what might apply to your company.
Gordon: When should an exhibitor start planning for attending a tradeshow?
Tim: Depends on the show, but the first conversation should happen at least several months, probably six months prior to the show if not earlier, so that all the team members know the timeline and the plan.
Gordon: What are some dos and doníts for booth staff in a tradeshow booth?

  • Smile∑  
  • Ask open-ended relevant questions.
  • Quickly qualify or disqualify the visitor.
  • Wear comfortable shoes!


  • Eat in the booth Ė number one turn off!
  • Be on your phone .
  • Sit in the back of the booth.
  • Stand with your arms closed Ė that body language signals to visitors that you donít want to talk to them
Gordon: What role does social media play in tradeshow and events?


Most shows has a hashtag that people use to tweet about. Twitter is probably the most active social media platform for tradeshows in the sense that if you want to know whatís going on and want to promote whatís going on at your booth, itís the place to be. Certainly Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are active, but theyíre more for follow up postings where Twitter is realtime.

With Twitter, you can post a photo or tweet and by using the hashtag, anyone whoís looking for it will see it. You can drive people from one location to another, promote products and giveaways and contests, or special appearances if you have someone famous coming by your booth. Iíve seen shows where Twitter was extremely effective at getting people to booths for giveaways.

Gordon: How does a tweet get noticed in a busy tradeshow?
Back to using the tradeshow hashtag, make sure that every time you tweet about whatís going on in your booth, use the hashtag. Photos on Twitter or Instagram are effective. Creativity and fun are also very effective, so get your most creative folks on social media.
Gordon: How can a tradeshow be used to spy on the competition?

Tradeshows are great for spying on competition. Exhibitors there are going to be showing off their new products, especially at the national expos. So those products are going to be on the shelf in the next few months sitting next to yours. You can also stop and trade industry gossip, get to know people in the industry and so on. Itís great to find out if there are job openings, personnel changes and more. Tradeshows are a great networking opportunity for a number of reasons. You can also make strategic partnerships with companies that can help you, or those that you can help.
Gordon: You recently started a monthly webinar training series. How does that work?

Weíve set up a site at where anyone can sign up for the latest webinar. Weíre currently doing one a month but may increase that as time goes on. By signing up for the next one, youíll also go on our webinar mailing list and be notified of new webinars and replays of previous ones.
Gordon: How best to find you, or follow you online?

If you go to my blog at youíll find links to all of my social media outlets. Our company website is

And we have made the book,Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level, available in a free digital version at Itís also available Itís also available on on Amazon in paperback.