Linux for Suits - Showtime

Can we fix tradeshows? Our veteran showman suggests some open-source solutions.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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Re: Linux for Suits: Showtime

Anonymous's picture

Good items Doc!

There's one big one I would like to add:

Make certain there are worthwhile networking
opportunities in the evening.

Seriously, some of the best connections can be
made after the tradeshow floor wraps up.

I recall being at a telcom trade show in San Jose
which had NO evening events - discovered that
Palm Source (held in Santa Clara - a trip on the
light rail) did.

I discovered that Palm Source was a really good
trade show/conference. Guess which show I hit
the next year after that...


Re: Linux for Suits: Showtime

Doc's picture

At his blog, Ryan Skadberg says Overall, lots of great ideas, I just wish I could have seen some interesting ideas about the vendor part of the show. I'm always looking to make our booth more exciting and different.

And he's right that I left booth advice out of the piece. So here's some.

1) If you've got tech to show, demonstrate it. Don't just show off boxes or boards or whatever it is you sell.

2) Bring your geeks and do on-site tech support. Customers often come looking for help they can't get on the phone. And new customers of technical products need to be able to relate to the geeks who know those products best.

3) Forget the schwag. In nearly all cases, gimmicky give-aways don't work. One exception: t-shirts. They're good for building loyalty with employees as well as visitors and customers.

4) If you have people from the company speaking in lecture rooms, post it at the booth. Say so-and-so will be speaking about such-and-such at Room C-13 or whatever.

5) Pack cell phones and keep them on. Have a master list of everybody's phone at the booth. Shows are for meeting people, talking trash, and showing stuff off. Make it as easy as possible for the right reporters, or the right customers, to talk to the right staffers. Also for the staffers to find each other.

6) Set up meeting space. Seats and tables, stuff like that, if you have room for it at all. If not, create a routine for going offsite nearby somewhere to do the same.

7) Even if you're not showing stuff off, rent a Net connection and some electricity and set up at least one desktop with a Web connection. Makes itself useful countless ways. If you can get it past the unions or the hotel's crazy connection system, set up a wi-fi base station with Net access too. Name the SSID after your company, so users will know who to thank.

Okay, I'm out of time here at the airport where I'm writing this. Any other ideas from the rest of ya'll?

Re: Linux for Suits: Showtime

Anonymous's picture

No! Not T-Shirts!



1) Give me a prepaid Starbucks Card (or 7-11 or some sort of prepaid debit card with your logo) with a couple bucks on it and then fill it up once in awhile when I come back to your site or interact with you. Get contact info so you can follow up with the promotion.

2) Cold Water, Cold Drinks, Something To Drink - so I don't have to leave the floor to pay $5 for a sip of water. A bottle is a nice place to put your logo on.

3) Offer to FedEx/UPS back my bag o' stuff to my office (like many companies do for the press) You now have accurate contact information.

4) Subscription to a select magazine. (Again, you get accurate contact info)

5) Blank CDRs or DVDs with your logo on it... or even partially blank... have demo software and the rest the user can use for their own purpose.

6) Shoes from Customatix with your logo on them (OK, that is a bit pricy... but a cool giveaway)

7) Hints to the Movie Line Of The Week @

8) Sleep... oh wait...that is what I need. :)


Re: Linux for Suits: Showtime

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the great suggestions. I too have survuved trade shows and conferences with sore feet and not much to show for it. About the schwag. I have collected a variety of it over the years but I seriously doubt it has ever persuaded me to buy a product or even enter real dialogue with a representative. I try and avoid it these days.

The sales people are important and form a valuable service but the best results I have had as a technical customer have been when I got past the sales people and got to chat to the engineer sitting in the back of the booth. I must say there have been a few exceptions to this. A few sales people know the technology of their product inside out and are very intersting and useful to talk to.

Thanks for the article.
Richard Helps

Re: Linux for Suits: Showtime

Anonymous's picture

The Burton Group's Catalyst conference is pretty similar
to the recommended setup:

I'm not affiliated with them in any way, but I've been pleasantly surprised by this show in the past.