The Best and Worst of Photonics West 2017

Posted by Sarah Campagna on Fri, Feb 10, 2017


Booth design isn’t the only thing that can make or break a company’s trade show presence. Engaged, knowledgeable staff members who are eager to share their expertise are a must-have. A cool demo doesn’t hurt either. Check out the companies and events we thought shined at this year’s SPIE Photonics West, and what could have been better.


The Best


1. Engaged Engineers

Engineers are at the heart of most of the companies at Photonics West, but not all the engineers and technical team members truly understand what is going on at a trade show like this. It’s not just about making deals; it’s about building brand awareness, expanding market knowledge of your capabilities, identifying suppliers, and taking part in the next wave of technology.

Advanced Cooling Technologies, based in Lancaster, PA, found a creative way to engage their engineers in the months leading up to Photonics West. Their engineering team was charged with creating a demo unit that could be displayed in their booth and used to attract passersby. The ACT marketing team received 13 entries and selected four to use in their 2017 booth. The results were eye-catching and creatively demonstrated ACT’s products and capabilities, including two phase cooling demo units and the largest heat pipe demo ACT has ever had.



2. The Booth with the Longest Line Wins

There is something to be said for a booth that draws the largest crowds year after year. DPSS Lasers once again pleased attendees with laser-engraved pens. There are two criteria for a successful in-booth campaign like this (outside of budget):

  1. Proper booth staffing – You will need the team member running the promotion to ask qualifying questions and at least one other knowledgeable team member available for technical discussions. The DPSS booth was certainly well staffed this year.
  2. Automated marketing tools – With a platform like HubSpot, your marketing team can upload your lead list and use an automated program to nurture these leads. Members of your sales team can then decide who to call based on the most qualified leads’ online behavior (downloading additional content, visiting your website, etc).

Casting a wide net will garner a high volume of unqualified leads, but it typically means a higher number of qualified leads when all is said and done. 

DPSS Lasers-web2.jpg


3. FREE Headshots

Damon Headshot.jpgSPIE provided an excellent service to conference attendees this year—bringing in Two Dudes and a Booth to take professional headshots! The photographers provided those who took the time to wait in line with multiple high resolution shots, sent via email, to choose from.

Whether you’re using them on your corporate website or for your LinkedIn profile, a new headshot can be a breath of fresh air for your online presence. A photo over five years old is almost never acceptable, yet I see it all the time on corporate sites and even social media. Thanks for keeping us honest, SPIE. We hope this will become an annual Photonics West tradition.  


4. Allen Nogee’s Overview of the Global Laser Market

This presentation was sponsored by Laser Focus World. Nogee, a senior analyst with PennWell and President of Laser Market Research, spoke for an hour on the trends of 2016 and the anticipated growth in the 2017 labor market. Nogee presented the most up-to-date industry data, much of which could be used to drive both strategic business decisions as well as marketing decisions in the coming year.


The Worst


1. The Daily Paper that No One Reads

Not only do I feel bad for the people hired to stand at the top of the escalators and pass out the daily papers to all of the attendees entering the show, but I also feel bad for the trees that lost their lives for a publication that no one seems to read. They litter the Moscone Center for days, and I’m just grateful that I’m around to keep my clients from advertising in this publication. Your money would be better spent promoting your booth number in an ad with Laser Focus World or Photonics Spectra.


2. Presentations that Felt Like Commercials

One extremely large optics company was criticized for hosting a technical presentation that began with a list of their job openings (projected on the screen) and then launched into what one attendee described as “a live reading of their catalog.” They presented very little educational information. We’re grateful that SPIE is usually able to weed out speakers who take this approach, but we might just send them a finger pointing email about this particular company.


3. Pop-Up Banners with Too Much Text

My biggest complaint with pop-up banners, specifically those placed near the exhibition hall doors, is corporate logos placed at the bottom of the banner—directly at foot level. But this year I noticed more banners than usual with a large number of words on them. We’re not talking about 15 or 20 words—we’re talking entire paragraphs of text or full lists of spec capabilities in teeny tiny bullets. One would have had to stand six or eight feet back just to be able to read all of the text. If attendees can’t decipher—while still walking—your name, booth number and what you sell, you’ve missed the point of the banner. Exhibitors can benefit from working with a trained designer who knows and will argue for the value of white space.


4. Moscone Construction

Though the construction at the Moscone Center certainly didn’t keep people from coming to Photonics West, it did limit foot traffic between halls. In years past, there was far more crossing from one hall to another in a given day. This year it seemed that more people opted for a single visit to the North Hall rather than the steadier back and forth we are sure will return next year.


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Topics: Trade Show Strategy