The Importance of Exhibit Space Selection


The Importance of Exhibit Space Selection

Booth selection shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s truly a critical process and creative art to help provide the best experience for your exhibit visitors and support your company goals.

As an account planner, I facilitate the process of partnering with the show association, analyzing current options, recommending new exhibit locations, and selecting the best new or created exhibit space to support my client’s objectives.

When evaluating the location of an exhibit, many elements should be reviewed. We’ve created a top 10 list of considerations to help exhibitors evaluate the best location for their business on the show floor.

1. Know the show

It’s most helpful to understand the flow of the show to select the best location. Exhibitors should thoroughly understand the flow of the floor, busy areas, and areas to avoid before making their location choice.

2. Custom spaces

Inquire about custom spaces with the association if you do not see the most ideal set-up for your company. With the right conversation, you might be able to have them create a new space to help achieve your goals in a more efficient way with a stronger location.

3. Maximize middle isles

There’s a science behind the technique to make your exhibit stand out. It might take more strategic work to amplify in the middle, but it can pay off.

4. Front hall

Yes, the front hall seems to be a place where people can see you first; however, the front of the hall can be overlooked by show attendees who want to get into the exhibit hall. At the same time, you can set the stage for the best display if you choose the front hall.

5. Back wall

If you’re choosing the back wall, it’s helpful to think about how you can open the space and maximize traffic. For some clients, we recommend removing the pipe and drape and choosing the corner location to catch people from both angles.

6. Sponsorships

Is your company planning to sponsor a function of the show or activity like a happy hour, break room, exhibit-wide contest, etc.? If so, selecting a space close to your area of sponsorship can be helpful to increase awareness and traffic.

7. Traffic flow

With large shows, it’s important to ask the association how traffic will flow at the event. Sometimes what may seem like the entrance, labeled "front hall," might be the back hall regarding flow.

8. Exhibit company

Like mentioned earlier, utilize your exhibit company. They are truly the experts in the field and should understand your shows better than anyone, except the association. Ask them to develop a strategy, dig into the association’s floor plan and recommend the best way forward.

9. Competitors

As exhibit spaces are selected, be sure to watch where your competitors land. A strategy for companies launching a new product might be to place their exhibit close to a competitor to capitalize on their traffic overflow which can maximize the brand awareness of your new product launch.  

10. Neighbors

It’s important to evaluate who is going to be in the surrounding booths. You want to pick a location where your neighbors are complementary to yours. An example might be, if you’re a healthcare company, you probably don’t want to sponsor the happy hour that could be placed right next to your booth. Consider the moral of your neighbors; you want their moral to be like yours.

If you are still unsure of which exhibit location is best for you, we’d love to help. It’s a strategy that we are experts on delivering to help drive the strongest show results. Reach out to us; we’d love to help.


Three Ways to Maximize Budgets


Three Ways to Maximize Budgets

For the past 15 years, we’ve been helping our clients think outside the box and work within their brand activation budgets. Here are three tips that are tried and true to help companies save money (and time)!

1.       Set clear goals and priorities and have them approved cross-functionally

Your organization’s business goals, marketing objectives and specific goals for your brand activation programs are extremely important – maybe the most important item to share with your agency partner. Whether your agency is helping you with a trade show, retail pop-up shop, VIP demo or experience, or any type brand immersion, this written document (yes, we said written) can help agencies always keep your goals top-of-mind and woven throughout the experience.

We want you to succeed and success looks different for each client, and often each team within our client’s organization, so routing the goals and priorities cross-functionally is always a win-win. We want to deliver a recommendation and solution that drives your organization towards success and if we understand your goals and priorities, we can get to your solution quicker and more efficiently, saving both time and money.

2.       Focus on the entire customer experience, versus physical exhibit space

Often, our clients come to us with very specific exhibit space elements in mind such as wanting a certain number of displays, conference rooms, tables, chairs, signage, entrances, etc. We recommend starting with the experience, instead of these details. Before kicking off a new exhibit design, align as a team and answer this question, “what is the experience we want our customers to walk away with," versus "what elements do we want in our exhibit." Starting here – after aligning on your goals, of course— helps us to get to the quickest exhibit solution by starting with the end in mind.

3.       Ask your exhibit agency to manage your show services

At nParallel, our account team manages thousands of show services for clients each year. This is an area that companies often think they should manage versus asking their agency to do so on their behalf. The benefit to having your exhibit partner manage these elements for you is that agencies have ongoing relationships with exhibit halls and vendors that makes it easier for us to find the best pricing for clients.

We love helping companies problem-solve and stretch their company’s dollars to work harder for them, no matter the brand activation experience.

Want to maximize your budget? Give us a call.


Trading Ideas: The Brand Activation & Trade Show Event of 2018


Trading Ideas: The Brand Activation & Trade Show Event of 2018

If you haven’t heard about Trading Ideas, time to tune in! The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal and nParallel are hosting an event called Trading Ideas on Wednesday, May 9 for a panel discussion with top industry leaders on brand activation. 

The event will be held at the Minneapolis Event Centers and will bring together some of the greatest leaders across the nation including: 

  • Bridgestone, Vice President Eric Higgs
  • Chief Manufacturing, Vice President of Customer Experience Laurie Englert
  • General Mills & Annie’s Homegrown, Senior Communications Planner Neely Thomas
  • nParallel, Co-Founder Don Gonse
  • PeopleNet, Senior Marketing Communications Specialist Emma Bica
  • Triad Conferences, Owner & President Ranae Hansen  
  • Wolters Kluwer, Senior Manager, Global Corporate Events Mindy Sanderson 

The event will be moderated by Exhibitor Magazine Editor-in-Chief Travis Stanton and will include a featured speaker, nParallel President Megan Diamond. 

Attendees can expect a community conversation on brand activation, trade show trends and innovations, mobile experiences, corporate events, budget management and more! The event will provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions to the panelists to get answers to relevant ideas, opportunities and challenges to their current brand activation program. 

Be sure to register today as tickets are limited, RSVP now: Trading Ideas 

If you have any questions about the event or would like to connect, send us an email, we’d love to hear from you! 

Connect with us! 


nParallel Receives Top 40 Exhibit House Award!


nParallel Receives Top 40 Exhibit House Award!

It’s been an incredible year at nParallel and it’s only March!

We were recently recognized as a Top 40 exhibit producer by Exhibit Media Group, an award-winning monthly magazine that features best practices in the trade show industry.

Exhibit houses across the United States and Canada applied for the award and were subjected to an exhaustive evaluation process including more than 50 individual criteria, all weighted to reflect how EXHIBITOR readers and Editorial Advisory Board members value them when vetting and selecting potential partners. 

“It is such an honor to be recognized as one of the best exhibit houses across the United States and Canada,” said Megan Diamond, president of nParallel. “Our team at nParallel is truly some of the best in the industry. We hold ourselves to a high caliber to ensure we are always providing our clients with strong creative, visual intrigue, inspired innovation and useful technology and we’re thrilled that our industry publication has taken notice.”

"This program is intended to spotlight the best exhibit producers in the industry, while also providing a valuable resource for exhibit managers searching for new potential partners," said Randy Acker, president and chief operating officer of Exhibitor Media Group. “The Find It – Top 40 represents the most exclusive list of U.S. and Canadian exhibit providers in the industry and serves as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval when it comes to the companies behind many of the most successful trade show stands in the world.” 

The evaluation process also included a survey of current clients and a review of entrants' past projects, selling points, and innovations, conducted by corporate exhibit managers. The myriad criteria considered were categorized into five primary areas:

·       Company and Capabilities

·       Honors and Awards

·       Thought Leadership and Industry Participation

·       Reliability and Service

·       Creativity and Key Differentiators

All companies who made the 2018 Find It –Top 40 will be featured online at and in the June issue of EXHIBITOR magazine.

Not only was this a huge accomplishment, but we also were recognized by Event Marketer with their Fab 50 award, an honor that showcases the top fabricators serving the event and trade show industry.

Thank you, EXHIBITOR, and thank you to our clients who allow us to help them bring to life their incredible work.


Natural Products Expo West


Natural Products Expo West

Last week we sent our natural and organic foodie clients off to Natural Products Expo West – a show with more than 80,000 attendees all focused on healthy products and innovation. They arrived on-site with more than four nParallel semi-trucks and exhibited 3,200-square-feet. These powerhouse companies showcased their products with innovative recyclable material and greenery like moss and live plants.

Our clients drove foot traffic and sales for their brands and were thrilled with the creative execution that our team delivered upon to make their exhibits stand out on the show floor.

We’re proud to work with these trend-setting and pioneering companies!


Our CES Takeaways


Our CES Takeaways

We sent our team to CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – and we want to share with you what we believe are the top trends that trade show leaders need to keep in mind for 2018.

Draw a Crowd & Close a Deal

No longer can companies ignore innovation and technology customer engagement as a component of their trade show program – it is now vital to success. Companies are doubling down on this element of the exhibit and it’s becoming the number one way to draw a crowd and close a deal.

TVs are Still In

No one would have guessed that TVs would still be a hot item. At CES, TVs were everywhere and huge brands like LG and Sony made them center stage. Different types of TV displays were found throughout the show floor and brands were using them to communicate a message with high impact right on the show floor. TVs are ever-versatile and can be extremely useful within exhibits whether they are the walls, ceilings, tables, etc. there are endless ways to use TVs.

VR & AR at the Top

Both are growing at a rapid rate and companies are finding new ways to utilize this technology to be specific to their brand. No matter the industry, there’s a way to implement this experience into any exhibit. To have flawless execution, it’s imperative to have a partner who can help implement the technology with experience.

Sustainable Growth

Millennials have demanded more sustainability as consumers and this demand is becoming increasingly popular amongst other generations. Sustainability is increasing, and the trade show industry is learning that it needs to catch onto the wave to connect with its consumers. Now, more than ever, companies need to begin to transform their trade show exhibits to ones that are earth-friendly. Simple ways to start this evolution might include custom rental exhibits, resourcefully made exhibit architecture and more.

Education & Knowledge

It’s important to be educated within the realm of innovation. We see countless people swamped with huge workloads in their work life and little time to read up on trends. So, if this is you, we recommend having quarterly innovation conversations with your trade show partner to inquire and learn what’s new in the industry so that you can always stay ahead of the curve.

We love having these conversations with our clients – schedule time with us. We’d love to chat and tell you how we can help you to become more innovative and close more deals.


Super Bowl LII


Super Bowl LII

Super Bowl LII was incredible. We loved helping our client, the official cap of the NFL, New Era gear up for a presence that spanned across downtown Minneapolis -- our hometown. 

Our team of trade show strategists built three experiences for New Era to bring their nationally-recognized NFL caps and lifestyle clothing to Super Bowl LII.

“When our long-time client New Era approached us with this three-prong project of helping them create a cohesive brand experience across Minneapolis, we were ecstatic,” said nParallel President Megan Diamond. “Not only do we love when we get to work locally, but we’re huge sports fans, and we knew exactly how to bring New Era to life in Minneapolis.”

The official New Era kickoff took place on Saturday, Jan. 27 and New Era opened at the NFL Experience & Shops at the Convention Center. We helped the official cap company boast an 1,100 square-foot retail shop – the Super Bowl’s largest spot for exclusive NFL merchandise. With decades of experience in retail displays, we methodically created the retail shop that showcased the merchandise in a way that drew in attendance and built upon the Super Bowl excitement.

Our team also designed and constructed a 400 square-foot space in the old Dayton’s/Macy’s building as part of the Super Bowl LIVE experience on Nicollet Avenue. This retail and brand experience provided fans with 10-days of fanfare and featured activities for everyone. 

To continue the momentum and build upon the Convention Center and Nicollet Mall, we helped New Era design and fabricate two rolling kiosk display areas that were on-site at U.S. Bank Stadium for fans who attended the Super Bowl to pick-up their memorabilia on game day.

“It was quite the honor to support one of our national clients in our backyard for one of the biggest events in Minnesota’s history,” said Diamond. “Our clients and projects range from coast-to-coast, and when we have the opportunity to work in our home state, our home city, we can’t help but bring a creative lens that is inspired by the community in which we operate and live.”


How Exhibit Dollars Were Spent in 2017 & the 2018 Forecast


How Exhibit Dollars Were Spent in 2017 & the 2018 Forecast

2018 is here, and everyone in the trade show industry is in full swing with their focus on upcoming shows. 2017 is long gone from the trade show world, and it’s truly a thing of the past. 

Today, our emphasis is on helping clients strategize around how they can differentiate on the show floor, be more memorable with their on-site presence, and further help our clients engage at trade shows.  

Before we completely forget about 2017, we received a fantastic report from the Center for Exhibit Industry Research, also known as CEIR, called 2017 How the Exhibit Dollar is Spent. When reading through, we found some really interesting nuggets about how exhibitors allocated their resources in 2017. The study also outlined a few predictions for 2018 that we think you’ll find interesting. 

Takeaways from 2017

Roughly $25 billion was spent on exhibiting in 2017! Here’s how it breaks down: 


  • Exhibit space: 37.9% 

  • Show services: 12.9% 

  • Exhibit design & fabrication (including graphics): 11.4% 

  • Travel and entertainment: 10.9% 

  • Shipping & transportation of exhibit materials: 8.9% 

  • On-site promotional materials: 5.2% 

  • Off show floor promotional expenses: 3.9% 

  • On-site sponsorship/advertising: 2.9% 

  • Lead management & measurement: 2.7% 

  • Pre-show promotions: 1.7% 

  • Exhibit staff training: 0.7% 

  • Other: 1.0% 

Exhibitors with larger booths allocated more of their resources to the design of their space as well as shipping fees.  

When looking at companies with smaller budgets, they spent slightly more on giveaways, lead management equipment, and services. 

Look-Aheads for 2018

60% of exhibitors plan to either refurbish their current booth, purchase a new one, or rent an exhibit. 

We find this point really interesting: Larger companies plan to refurbish their booths, where slightly more mid-range companies plan to invest in a completely new exhibit. 

As it relates to industry specifics, almost two-thirds of medical and health care companies that exhibit plan to use the same booth as 2017. When looking at communication and IT companies that are exhibiting in 2018, more plan to use their same booth yet have a higher intent to rent. The industrial/heavy machinery and finished business inputs industries also have more plans to rent exhibits. 

The trends from the report showcased that companies with more square footage on the show floor plan to rent an exhibit vs. those who use a smaller footprint on the show floor. 

All of this to say, the trade show industry is not slowing down, it’s continuing to grow.  

Reach out if you want to chat with our team about 2018, we’re all ears and ready to help you strategize your program. 


A Case for Projection Mapping


A Case for Projection Mapping

InQuest Marketing approached nParallel to create a custom rental exhibit solution that incorporated projection mapping for its client GREX, an industry-leading railway maintenance technology company. The goal of the exhibit was to generate excitement and awareness around the official launch of the company’s latest solution at Railway Interchange, as well as highlight its entire portfolio of products. The latest solution, the Aurora XivTM truck, combines the company’s best technologies and innovations into one vehicle.

Projection mapping is an audience engagement digital technology that nParallel offers its clients. nParallel committed to highlighting, promoting and communicating to the industry and potential customers how the new Aurora Xiv makes railroad inspections more efficient and cost-effective. In partnership with InQuest Marketing, nParallel designed and implemented the technology for GREX.

The entire custom rental exhibit solution, including the projection mapping experience, provided a heightened presentation and experience that stood out above the entire show floor at Railway Interchange. The project allowed GREX to successfully launch the Aurora Xiv while also showcasing existing product lines, generating excitement and increasing overall brand visibility.


Trending: Modernization


Trending: Modernization

Trends are always changing, and one that we’re seeing become more prevalent is modernization and a refreshment on the show floor.

As we gauge the industry through the thousands of trade shows we attend each year, we see an uptick in interest to lean on the modern, European design and esthetic while at the same time changing the way brands engage on the show floor.

Here are a few elements we see across the industry.

Fabrics for architecture

The tension that fabrics allow when used for walls and ceilings produces a lightweight look, yet offers a great way to create unique shapes and dimensions for an exhibit. Fabrics offer the clean lines and simplicity that many exhibitors are looking to portray through their on-site execution. This clean approach isn’t just for the trade show industry, but home designs, clothing, architecture, and more. It’s a trend that goes across industries.

LEDs for architecture

Speaking of architecture, another way that exhibits are transforming their space to be more modern is through large, high-resolution format LED screens. These digital constructs are being used as walls and dividers to allow for endless multimedia solutions on the show floor while still adhering to the modern approach of clean lines. LEDs have become a staple for most exhibits because of the endless customizations available.

Simple messaging

Trade show attendees are bombarded with content, content and more content. Exhibitors are standing out by providing a refreshing experience with a visibly singular message. Brands are driving home fewer messages, less content and less stuff. This allows for their focused message to be dominating and memorable so that their potential customers remember the exhibitor’s focused delivery and their unique selling proposition.

Mandatory technology

As we progress in society, we progress with technology. Technology on the trade show floor is no longer an option – it’s a requirement. Brands are finding more modern uses for exhibit guests to engage with technology in a futuristic way. We have an entirely separate blog post that talks about gesture technology, projection mapping and other ways that technology is part of the modernization of the trade show exhibit.

In 2017, we had countless clients revamp their trade show presence to reveal a new, commanding presence on the show floor. If 2018 is your company’s year to modernize, we’d love to help! Send Don on our team an email at to see how we can support.


2018 Technology Planning Tips

2018 Technology Planning Tips

Technology is one of our favorite topics at nParallel. We’ve been growing this area of our business for years now, and we’ve hired a new technology leader whose experience and passion for the industry is going to help us continue to revolutionize our digital integrations.

Technology isn’t a shoot-from-the-hip type of plan. It requires methodology and a team that can think right and left brained. Given all the emerging technology and digital work we do – from projection mapping to touch screens to technology integration work to apps and more – we have a few tips to share to help you continue to bring tech to the forefront and give it a seat at the trade show experience table.

Create a tech strategy 

It’s important to ask yourself when planning your trade show experience: what are we trying to achieve for our organization by attending XYZ trade show and how can we differentiate on the show floor with our customers? This question often can lead to developing an experiential strategy that is focused all around technology. Thoughtfully designed and implemented technology can visually pull trade show attendees from across the room to your exhibit. A tech strategy can help define how to bring your target customer to your exhibit, determine and develop what will cause them to stay engaged at your booth, and will help make your experience memorable for them.

Lean on your trade show partner, a lot

At nParallel, we believe that we are responsible for much of our client’s success on the show floor. We believe in defining the exhibit, designing the experience, and delivering – above and beyond – for our clients. And this includes technology. We are our client’s partner and designer to ensure that the technology is exactly what they need and when they need it. Our clients trust us to come up with the ideas and implement them on their behalf. So, lean on your trade show partner for everything related to technology. That’s what we’re here for! To make you look good – and technology-wise, differentiated and a cut-above.

Budget for technology

It’s important to add a technology line to your trade show budget. When creating your annual budget and plan, talk to your trade show partner - they should be able to give you a rough percentage or number based upon your exhibit’s goals to allocate into the budget. We help our clients with annual trade show planning and help them earmark an amount that allows them to stand out on the trade show floor and create an experience that truly engages their customers.

Let us know how we can help – we’d love to tell you all our ideas about how you can stand out on the trade show floor.

The 2017 World of Retail Trends

The 2017 World of Retail Trends

What's crazy about the retail world is how fast the speed of change is. We live in a customer-driven economy and the customer is in charge. Without knowing, the demands being made upon the retail industry are about keeping up with transformation and providing a disruptive and memorable experience to keep customers engaged. 

The trends in the retail space feel as if there is something new every month, if not every day. This category is one we watch very closely as our team partners with some of the world’s [yes, we said “world’s”] largest and most successful retailers.

We’re wanting to share the top five trends that we’re seeing across the board in the retail industry. The impact of these five trends is encouraging retailers to do away with the traditional department stores and focus on a concept that is unique and different.

With the pendulum swing taking place, brands quickly realize they need to make changes to keep up with the ever-changing industry.

The five trends of 2017 that are exploding with clients and retailers across the board include:

Local, community-based

Shoppers want a different experience. They want something in their community, involved with their community, and for their community. This might manifest in different ways such as same-day delivery, local and specific philanthropic programs and products designed for the area.


This one is incredible. People use Apple as an example all the time: it’s because they are continually raising the bar. They’ve shown customers and the retail industry what it’s like to think outside of the box and have technology work for you in such a different way.

If you think about Apple stores, there isn’t a check-out counter, the person who supports you at Genius Bar helps you through the purchase cycle, and you pay via a phone or iPad. Customers love this, a personalized technology component that is more intuitive and smart than any other check-out system. Their standard is making retailers think differently.

Oh, and we can't forget about the online experience and how it's evolving almost overnight.


Nordstrom is another retailer that drives trends and sets the tone. We love their new Nordstrom Local concept where this new format is all about the experience. With eight dressing rooms and personal stylists curating outfits – all the while offering manicures and beverages – the customer gets to enjoy a trip to Nordstrom where it is all experiential. Nordstrom is seeking to provide customers with a differentiated experience that is high-touch, high-engagement, and high-experience.

Authentic, quality & transparency

Earlier this year, Deloitte produced a study that showcased that the retail community seeks, “authenticity, newness, convenience, and creativity.” They want products to meet their high standards and seek the information on the products, processes, and company to make informed decisions. In short, transparency is the key to ensure customers have a line-of-sight to the vision, beliefs, and workings of the company which helps them view the company authentically. Customers find quality in the way a business is run, and the products sold based upon the level of transparency.  It seems to be a retail circle that makes businesses go around.


Need we explain this one? We all desire convenience whether that’s a quick coffee through a drive-thru, Amazon Now, online order pick-up in store, you get the point. Convenience is king, and this is where we are seeing so many of our clients come to us for help.

With smaller footprint stores trending in the biggest name brands, they need new fixtures and displays to facilitate sales within their new store format. Our team has been rapidly designing, prototyping, testing, and rolling out features for stores of every size to support their convenience strategy.

What trends of 2017 intrigue you most?

Technology Trend Must-Knows


Technology Trend Must-Knows

Technology is ever-changing, ever-emerging and often for clients, ever-overwhelming. At nParallel, we make technology integrations for our clients seamless.

We love when our customers allow us to think outside the box for them and generate technology concepts that impress their customer.

If you haven’t start thinking about technology integration, here are some ideas to get your technology juices flowing.

·       Mobile Apps provide opportunities to connect with show attendees throughout your event. These tailored, event-based apps helps companies communicate with customers, even before they arrive at the booth.

·       Virtual Reality is one that nParallel has tapped into frequently for clients. When companies have large, over-sized equipment that they would prefer to not ship onto the show floor, we’ve created on-site technology opportunities for our client’s customers to experience products, virtually and instantaneously without having the actual products on the show floor.

·       Gesture Technology has been a favorite of ours. This technology is exactly what it sounds like: customers who visit show floor exhibit can interact with products and experiences by using hand gestures to discover and learn.

·       Projection Mapping is the process of digitizing a 3-dimensional object and displaying its image on a non-flat or non-white surface to educate depth, context or detailed information. We have so much to talk about on this topic that we'll create a separate blog post just on projection mapping.

·       Upgraded Exhibit Designs use technology more and more to communicate the company’s message in a stronger way. We’ve been helping our clients with large format LED walls and screens as architectural and branding elements to provide dynamic movement and visual impact.

What technology has been your favorite that you've seen this year?


Timelines and Budgets


Timelines and Budgets

We have partnered with countless successful companies and executed upon thousands of trade shows. Our line of business allows us to witness trends in the industry and two trends we’re seeing is the increasing costs of trade shows all while the associated timelines are growing shorter. With these two realities working against companies, it is crucial for organizations to plan and prepare ahead of time by building a timeline and budget appropriately, and we’re here to help.

Importance of a timeline

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” and this couldn’t be truer for companies working hard to participate in a trade show event that could launch them into further success within their industry. Unfortunately, companies without a sufficient and known timeline are often rushed and forced to make decisions. Instead of having the time to ask the “why” behind the what, companies are obligated to make decisions more quickly than they’d like – which can be costly to their organization.

Mapping out a timeline for each trade show event will ensure to optimize the company budget. nParallel has found that timelines, in general, are getting shorter. The time to design, engineer, fabricate, and execute is expedited as a result, and companies often find themselves rushing into more expensive decisions.

Creating a timeline

At nParallel, we like to partner with our clients to create a schedule and timeline well in advance of an event. Unforeseen glitches can happen, and so we are firm believers in timelines that offer leeway in the schedule to allow sufficient margin. So, when creating a calendar, make a generous one. We suggest beginning the timeline a year before the event and starting the process with S.M.A.R.T. goals. Companies should discuss their goals and objectives on the front end so they can understand their priorities and be prepared to make decisions in-line with them when the time comes.

Creating a budget

When setting a budget, there are many things to consider. Trade show costs can vary from year to year, especially if there is a show relocation. Right along with the timeline, budgets should be created a year in advance to research and prepare for all the different financial plays a trade show demands.

The biggest area that we see companies forget to add to their budget is drayage. Let us quickly give you a synopsis of this so you can be sure this is in your budget for next year.


Drayage is the transportation of the exhibit. The detailed work it takes to move hundreds of thousands of pounds of freight and material to an event is vast. The proper understanding of what exactly drayage encompasses will help companies get ahead in eliminating unnecessary overhead and reduce trade show costs.


A big part of the drayage cost is in labor. Every step of the process takes workforce. From directing the material-handling process from one place to another to checking shipments as they arrive - there are always people making the process happen. Labor costs associated with drayage are determined based on where shipments are delivered. Surveys have discovered that labor costs are lower when companies ship directly to the show site versus to the advance warehouse.


It goes without saying, but the heavier materials are, the higher the cost will be to handle them. The type of packaging used is also key, as some are cheaper than others because they’re easier to handle and lighter. The kind of transportation carrier used is another reason prices tend to increase. A specialized carrier is going to cost more than a standard carrier.

With 2018 quickly approaching, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you’d like to talk through timelines and budgets. The process can be daunting, but our team is always ready to have timeline and budget conversations.


Exhibiting Good


Exhibiting Good

Lots of good things are happening around the office.

Today, we gathered all of our employees to kick off a new program to help us give back to the community. At nParallel, we've always been passionate about philanthropy and this year we wanted to take our efforts to a new level and offer each employee $250 to give to a nonprofit of their choice. Our new program that kicked off today is called Exhibiting Good, a play off the work we do here at nParallel.

We gathered around tables this morning, and each employee had the opportunity to share what organization they wanted to give their $250 to and why. It was an opportunity to learn more about each nParallel employee and nonprofits that are working hard to further advance our society for the better.

We love the work we do at nParallel; we get to help organizations build exhibits and develop retail spaces. Today we had the chance to step back from our work and take a look at the progress that nonprofits are making in our own backyard to make a difference, and as a team, we want to help.

As a company, our 36 team members will be donating $250 each to the outstanding organizations below. We couldn’t be more proud of our team for advocating for charities that are making such a huge difference.

My Very Own Bed


Secondhand Hounds

Autism Society of Minnesota

Animal Humane Society

The Sanneh Foundation

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

International Justice Ministry

Groves Academy

Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery

West Metro Firefighter’s Relief Association

Wounded Warrior Project

The OsteoPETrosis Society

Houston Food Bank

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance

Pitch in for Baseball

Ruff Start Rescue

Good in the Hood

American Red Cross


Second Harvest Heartland

Epilepsy Foundation Minnesota

American Heart Association


5 Trade Show Don’ts


5 Trade Show Don’ts

When a company participates in a trade show, it’s an immense amount of pressure to “get it right.” Companies have a million priorities to sort through, and as they gather together the right “DO’s” it’s important to take hold of a few trade show “DON’Ts” as well.

1.     DON’T Minimize Staff Selection

When it comes to a trade show, the staff a company selects to represent itself is everything. Exhibitors may only have a few seconds to engage with potential customers, and those staffing the exhibits are the ones responsible for multiplying the time in that window and closing deals or at least having strong leads. It is so important to choose staff carefully and wisely given that these few seconds can be the ones that lead to new clients. Most companies have the options of bringing their own people, hiring from an agency, or a little bit of both. Don’t skim on selecting who goes to the trade shows. We highly recommend investing in the best of the best; whether that’s your people or an outside group.

2.     DON’T Leave Your Leads

Whether a networking opportunity or a lead opportunity, follow-up is crucial. As they say, if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Have a plan to follow through with leads and begin right after the trade show ends. Likewise, know this follow-up plan before the show begins, and have it in mind so you know what kind of contact information you need to gather at the show and what specific conversation points you’d like to bring up later.

3.     DON’T Fail to Network

One of the purposes of a trade show is to lead generate and network. Sitting back at a trade show and watching business cards collect in a fishbowl is an event that we don’t recommend for anyone. Companies need to be aggressive, making a certified effort to meet and greet everyone at the show. This allows exhibitors to sift through the best prospects, establish a presence and generate leads. The only way to reap qualified leads is to engage with them.

4.     DON’T Use Company Jargon

Companies tend to have their own general business jargon. Whether it’s acronyms or industry-specific words, be careful to use them only with potential clients and customers who understand the jargon. It’s easy to assume that those entering your booth know the industry, but in the small chance that they don’t, using jargon unfamiliar to them could deter them from doing business with an exhibitor.

5.     DON’T Look Like Everyone Else

Exhibitors don’t need to go over the top to establish a unique presence, but it is important to differentiate among competitors. The goal is to attract people to the booth. Whether it’s a new product update, a new product launch, make it unique and creative through your exhibit display.

We could keep going with don’ts, but we want to hear from you. What other don’ts would you share?


How to Set SMART Trade Show Goals


How to Set SMART Trade Show Goals

Many of our clients desire to know the best way to evaluate the performance of a trade show. It's an excellent question and one that is answered very simply: business goals. When business goals are established, the performance of your trade show can be evaluated by how these goals were, or were not, attained. A company can put together very basic and helpful goals through a few simple steps, as well as using a helpful acronym: SMART.

The first step is answering a QUESTION. This question is foundational as companies seek to move forward in creating and executing goals: what is the company's purpose for this event? This will set the entire foundation to the goals created. Perhaps the purpose is to increase sales, showcase a service or product, or maybe this is strictly a marketing opportunity. Regardless of what it is, this question is crucial for companies to answer as they seek to establish goals for a trade show.

The next step is RESEARCH.  Let us help you with this. We know the trends and love to talk about ways to implement your ideas improve your current initiative or brainstorm a direction to take your aspiring trade show exhibit. Some specific questions we like to research and show our clients are new ways to communicate your message, service or product and how we can differentiate our clients on the show floor. Throughout this research phase, you will be able to see weaknesses in your current situation that can help identify opportunities for improvement. As you do this, remember that no team or company is perfect. Many clients of ours believe they need to have their goals written before engaging with us; however, we love to help our clients write their goals. 

Lastly, step three is WRITING SMART goals. This acronym is broken down into five key words that are guidelines to use when writing business goals. The key words are Simple & Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. All business goals should encompass these concepts. An example of a goal like this would be, "to increase attendance at trade show booth by 20% over the next year." As you can see, this goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Knowing this goal, we can help you plan for and achieve it by implementing plans and components that attract and drive attendance to your exhibit.

Once the SMART goals are established, be sure to prioritize the preparation and follow-up of each event. Many of our clients' goals are executed in the preparation and follow-up of their trade shows. They set up a social media campaign, send follow-up emails or build a customer contact list – all of which would never be reached if they were not proactive in organizing the bookends of their event.

SMART goals should be evaluated after every trade show, not only to determine if goals were accomplished but also to observe areas of improvement for future events. In the end, goals are foundational and matter greatly to the success of a trade show event. Companies are guaranteed to experience consistent growth as they routinely circle back to goals - goals that are Simple & Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Have you built goals for your trade show?



How to Increase PR at a Trade Show

How to Increase PR at a Trade Show

Trade shows are excellent ways for companies to interact with the industry press. Maximizing PR initiatives during a trade show is a low-cost solution to gain positive media coverage. Frequently the press will walk these trade show floors and mingle with brands with the intention of writing a story (or multiple). This is the time when brand’s get to set themselves apart from others with reporters.


What makes a company distinct from others? Is it a new product or service? An area of expertise? These are the important questions companies need to be engaging with to set their booth (and overall brand) apart with key differentiator messages when connecting with reporters. The press is hungry for strong first impressions; they want to be captured and allured by a company’s presence. Trade shows often drive competitors into the same room for a week, which heightens exhibitor’s needs to express their unique personality and flare. Once a company makes its presence known, the media will be hungry for more and launch more opportunities for conversation and publicity.

Be Cutting Edge

The media values innovation and a pioneer spirit. This naturally draws in consumers as well, but when talking PR it is crucial to be cutting edge. For example, providing an exclusive demo of a new product or a reinvented product is an easy way to attract a crowd. Demonstrations can help to explain the service or product in greater detail than an advertisement otherwise would. We recommend reaching out to media weeks in advance of the event and offering an exclusive demo during show hours, or even after show hours, to allow them an opportunity to have focused engagement with the company as well as experience the new product or services first-hand.

Post-Show Networking

Following most trade shows, networking events pop-up that allow for a casual interaction between companies and the press, and customers as well. This sort of event provides an opportunity for companies to gain an objective opinion of the industry and discover any competition that may be rising. Taking advantage of these events creates a more personal relationship with the press, allowing companies to ask questions. Ask the press what their best part of the trade show was or what products most impressed them. Ask them what sort of exhibits drew them in, and what didn’t. This sort of information cannot be matched and is invaluable to companies seeking to enhance their exhibits in the future.

Host a Hospitality Suite

Hospitality goes a long way in events like these. Providing a more comfortable, warm atmosphere is assured to draw people in and cultivate conversation. Host a hospitality suite as an evening event following a trade show. These suites can be located in hotels or restaurants located near the exhibit hall, and are an excellent way to dialogue with clients, potential clients, and media in a low-pressure environment. Serve hors d'oeuvres, beverages, or a meal - whatever it takes to woo a client. Offer promotional discounts, special treatments of sorts, and one-on-one consultations. Companies should extend the invitation to any and all individuals they have a desire to engage with during the event: clients and leads, specific reporters or media outlets, etc. Schedule and invite guests weeks in advance to ensure they put it in their calendars and work it into their travel itinerary. Creating tangible invitations to this exclusive event speaks value and importance to the recipients - they will feel they are a priority to the company.

Taking a few simple, extra steps to maximize the PR of a trade show event is truly an invaluable tool in the hands of a company. Trade shows are already such incredible opportunities for marketing, but why not make the event even more successful?


Practical Tips for Trade Show Staff


Practical Tips for Trade Show Staff

The success of a company’s trade show presence is supported through its on-site show floor staff. This is no small feat. Floor teams represent a company’s voice, posture, heart, mind and of course, product or service. It’s a role that should be taken seriously as these are the individuals who bring in leads, increase the company’s ROI, and showcase the overall brand experience at an event. Once you have your staff selected, it’s important to always communicate the practical elements of managing a booth, no matter how perfect they may seem for the show floor. Communicating proper show etiquette and mistakes to avoid will go a long way to ensuring your staff feels prepared. Here are a few important tips for your team to remember at your next event.


Anticipate unexpected questions

The question isn’t if trade show staff will be asked unexpected questions - it’s when. If unprepared, these questions can easily blindside an employee and hinder a smooth sale. To prevent this from happening, staff should stay up-to-date on the industry and dig deep to find if there’s anything going on in the present culture of the industry that could prompt new questions. Be on-point with any disruptions or negativity taking place in the industry or company. For example, has there been a recall? Has the industry taken a hit in recent quarters, months, or years? Is sustainability a topic within your industry? As a show floor staffer, it’s important to anticipate all the questions and work as a team to expect comments that are outside the normal bell curve of questions.

Before the event, talk through these unexpected inquiries as a team and develop messages to support each. After each day of the event, debrief together and discuss any unusual or particularly difficult questions that came up and forge out answers.

Ask good questions

The best opening line is an open-ended question. It’s easy to reflex with questions like “can I help you?” but the most fruitful conversations stem from questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Before the trade show starts, encourage your team to develop a list of strong openers and use a different one for each engagement. We always recommend starting with a conversation, not a sales pitch. People are pitched all day long at a trade show – make your exhibit one where it’s not just about the sale but a memorable conversation.

Maintain eye contact

It’s something many of us do without thinking about it, but when presenting a product or explaining a service, be sure to keep eye contact with the customer. We don’t maintain eye contact for the sake of it; we do it because it helps us understand the person we’re speaking to. By making eye contact a priority, you’ll be able to read the person better and understand if they are truly interested and if you should continue to take them through the sales funnel or if they’re ready to keep moving throughout the show floor. 


Eat or drink in the exhibit

Eating and drinking in your company’s exhibit send an unprofessional message to your customers [unless of course, the event is the Sweets and Snacks Expo, Fancy Food Show or something of the like]. We realize everyone needs to eat, but at a trade show booth, it presents an awkwardness and unprofessionalism that will deter potential leads.

Thankfully, most exhibit halls have an area for exhibitors to eat and take a break. We highly recommend networking in these break rooms. These rooms are often filled with media, potential partners for your brand and sometimes even clients. When you take your break, be sure to connect with those around you, it’s an opportunity waiting at hand that you don’t want to miss.

Don’t trash talk the competition

Trade shows are intense environments that bring all the industry competition into one room for a concentrated amount of time. Every company is fighting for leads and is making deliberate efforts for their brand to stand out. As a staffer, you’re likely to get questions about how the company you represent holds up to other brands in the room. As a rule of thumb, keep competitor names and language out of your exhibit space completely. Refrain from all negativity regarding another brand and allow the silence to reveal your professionalism and the overall company character.

Likewise, savor every minute with a potential client by keeping it about your brand and your unique selling propositions. Don’t waste precious seconds discussing another company or product - use it all as a time to generate interest in what your brand offers. If you are in a bind where a potential client says, “tell me about the competitor over there and their product compared to yours?” again, talk about your brand and the differentiators you offer, not the issues they have with theirs.

We hope these tips were helpful to you, feel free to share this article with your team to ensure a smoother trade show floor execution.


How to Plan for Trade Show Relocations


How to Plan for Trade Show Relocations

The trade show industry is complex and the variable costs tend to change from year to year. A common issue we find is that our clients are dealing with budget changes due to the increase in annual same-show costs specifically related to show relocations.

A show in Ohio this year may cost drastically more next year if the show is in San Francisco. Some locations are more expensive than others, and companies are constantly challenged by their budget considering these unpredictable year-over-year changes. So, the question remains: how can companies confidently set a budget in light of location changes from year-to-year?

With economic inflation, it’s safe to say that businesses will never be free to rely on the same budget from the previous year. Show relocations impact the company dollar, but so does labor costs and gas prices, which frequently change as well. Having said the obvious, we know that relocation costs are frustrating because of their inconsistencies, and we’re here with a few tips to help companies better plan for this influx.

How to estimate the overall budget

Multiple industry surveys have revealed that exhibit space floor rentals account for about one-third of an exhibitor’s total-show costs, this is relative, but something to keep in mind. The cost of floor space will always vary depending on the type of trade show and the location where it’s held. Be proactive in understanding this massive expense by determining what the floor space will cost in that area, and then multiply it by three. By doing this, exhibitors can see an estimated value of their overall trade show expenses in that location and can move forward with their budget outline from there. Again, this is a very rough cost but is a starting place. 

Travel expenses

After floor rental and booth space, travel expenses carry a large portion of the budget. Travel costs add up, especially when a show in based in New York City or San Francisco. Companies need to be prepared for these expensive changes tied to show relocation, and budget accordingly. Hotels, meals, show services, air travel and car rentals - they all add up, and some cities more than others. Know the number of staff you want present, as it may change according to where the show is held, and research the average travel and hospitality costs associated.

Never underestimate drayage

Shipping and drayage are two expenses that often shock companies. Don’t let the show relocation fool you: drayage is notorious to fluctuate. Shipping can carry a hefty expense, especially when the distance increases a few hundred miles. It’s crucial to not overlook these types of costs – we plan for shipping and drayage on behalf of our clients for every trade show.

Be sure to leave extra room for both shipping and drayage and just plan for an expensive city. You’d rather plan for too much than not enough.

Trade show relocations don’t have to eat company budgets alive. With careful planning and a strong trade show partner, you should be prepared for every cost. Shows are great for brands, and they’re certainly ever-evolving; every exhibitor can embrace these changes without intimidation when they understand the intricacies involved in them, and how that impacts their budget.

As companies plan for the next year, we hope these tips keep them moving toward success. If you have questions on the topic, reach out, we’re more than happy to bounce ideas around with you and help you plan accordingly.