Articles Tagged with: Memorable
What the exhibition industry can learn from a Nine Inch Nails Tour
So you might have gleaned from a number of my posts, I have a deep and abiding love for rock music and one of my favourite bands is Nine Inch Nails.   This video I am sharing today shows the lead up to their new tour and the thing of particular interest for the exhibition industry is the showcasing of new lighting, staging and audio visual techniques.

Relocatable screens that register human movement?  Hell yes!

LED frames that are made of strips that show both content and then can be blasted with light from behind so they become skeletal?  Holy cats, YES!

Trent Reznor, my future husband being all intense striving for new effects and new experiences for his audience? Oh please make it so!

Ok, yes you do need coin to employ a lot of these techniques but even the firm with the smallest budget can draw something from this video even if it is to ape Trent’s desire to better serve his audience by delivering an immersive, authentic experience of his brand (and band) through the skewering of existing technologies and effects.  Don’t let all the rigging, audio visual set pieces and middle aged rocker dudes milling about obscure the message of “Do great work, repeatedly”

Now I must go done my tight black T-shirt and stick a pack of Winfield Blues up my shirt sleeve….time to ROCK!

See you next week and if you have any queries about the technologies shown, leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer.

What Singapore can teach the trade show industry
My trip to Singapore did not go to plan.  Rather than painting the town a nice shade of crimson and sinking Singapore Slings, I was sick, dammit.  The kind of sick that saps your energy and makes you linger in the dessert section of the room service menu.  At 7.15 in the morning.  Between sessions flaked in front of MTV and the “50 best R&B tunes of the 90’s”, I did manage to stagger through some parts of Singapore and I found it provided some key lessons for the trade show industry.

1. Forget projection, pump your coin into LED screens.

I have had a spate of clients wanting to use projection screens on their stands. And my advice is don’t bother.  There are too many factors out of your control like venue lighting, natural light within the exhibit hall (hello SCEC!) and the need to drop an expensive black ceiling above your stand.  Best direct your budget into LED screens where you can guarantee the outcome and vibrancy of the AV presentation.  The exit foyer in Gardens By the Bay totally this with interactive LED screens all set in a dark as night hallway.  Result!

Flower Gallery @ Singapore

Flower Gallery @ Singapore

2. Shock, and therefore awe.

Do you ever feel like you have seen everything and there is nothing new.  Yeah, this feeling partially inspired my trip to Singapore as I was hungry for new inspiration.  My first slack-jawed moment in Singapore cam when I entered the Cloud Forrest Pavilion and was met by this soaring man-made waterfall,spitting water and thundering through the vertical garden.  Well…WOW.  This is a potent lesson for your exhibition stand.  You have to work so much harder to break through and deliver the “WOW” moment as we have so many distractions on the trade show floor.  There’s my phone that’s ringing, I am trying to figure out where I get some water, I need to call this person by 2.30pm, I need to figure out what to have to dinner tonight that is NOT cheesecake and…do you see what I am saying?  This is just a slice of my thoughts at any one time (I took out the part where I think about marrying Dave Grohl and joining his band) and your trade show stand has to compete against this constant chatter as well as your competitor stands.  So for the love of all things hairy, STAND OUT by being different, being a freak, zigging where other zag, showing some emotion and just being AWEsome.

Cloud Forest @ Singapore

Cloud Forest @ Singapore

3.  Ye olde, not mould(y)

One of the most visited sites in Singapore is Raffles.  My take on this is it represents a time when Singapore was at it colonial peak, a time that has passed but looked on with curiosity.  It represent old world-class, secret rendezvous, hand-held embroidered fans and wafting cigar smoke. In a time where Singapore is seriously pushing new architecture boundaries with unique shapes and forms, Raffles still attracts the crowds, if only because its reputation.  Your trade show program could tap into old world hospitality like Raffles has done.  You could serve high tea (not the ubiquitous coffee) on your stand, you could offer comfortable seating or a concierge to deal with small errands that delegates need taken care off.  You could do what you say you are going to do and follow-up on stand enquiries.  You could offer such amazing and non skeezy service on the stand your company becomes known for its fully dialled in trade show staff.  We all get wistful about times that have passed especially in service levels…can you imagine the response if an exhibitor focussed only on providing the best service, no excuses, on the trade show stand?  That, would be something indeed.

Raffles @ Singapore

Raffles @ Singapore

4. Touch is underused in the trade show industry

Settle, now.  Looking through my happy snaps I realised that I took lots of photos of textures while in Singapore.  From the smooth orb of the Art & Science museum, to the cubes on the Ticket Box Office, to the drunkards path timber pattern on the School of Art, I just got wild about textures.  I think texture and the sense of touch is shockingly underused in the trade show industry. Yes, touch screen technology is being increasing used but why are so many stands consumed by the roll coat paint finish where there are so many more attractive and surface techniques that scream “touch this” to be used.

Retail Wall @ Singapore

Retail Wall @ Singapore

If you have had a trip open your eyes to a new way of working or ideas you could apply to your industry, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

So with spending a fair whack of time listening to R&B tunes of the 90s while eating layered mousse cake (excellent healing properties BTW), I re-discovered this slice of whackness.  Pull on your shirt with shoulder pads and let’s do this!

See you next week!

The 2012 Gratitude with Attitude List
You know it, I know it, it’s that time of year where we kick off the heels, pour a glass of something and reflect on the past year.  Now while I am fully immersed in my gratefulness, it does not mean that it is all white light beams and halos.  And here’s where the attitude comes in.  There are a (more than a couple) of things that got my goat and I dish on this as well.  Hold tight, my gratitude with attitude list looks a little like this:

1. Family, friends and the Diva Council

I am never going to win the lottery, that’s not my style of luck. The luck I have is better, richer, deeper.  I am lucky in being able to draw the very best type of person into my life.  With both the friends and family I have in my life I have a limitless supply of love, support, strength, cheer leading, seriously funny types that push me forward and keep me honest.  The Diva Council has been in operation for a few years now but this year, its ranks were bolstered by the prowess of Denise Duffield Thomas, Nathan the demonic personal trainer, Elizabeth Carabetta, Kelly Surtees, Betty Means Business and Angela Raspass, for starters.

There are also others on my Diva Council that I have never met but provide that fire for my inspiration furnace. Seth Godin, Patti Smith, Pearl Jam, Danielle Laporte….I am richer for having fell into their genius work.

2. My suppliers with super powers and killer client list

I thought about doing a separate shout out for my suppliers and client but they are tightly bound.  Diva Works is me, Fiona, but without my suppliers to chew over a juicy idea, find a way to consistently deliver kudos winning projects, then I would not have the fabulous clients I do.  Two weeks ago I celebrated 2012 with Diva’s suppliers and some members of the Diva Council in Melbourne and I am still basking in the glow of gratitude for having these people in my life.  For my clients, I am humbled by them having faith in me and my team to deliver on the promise of a simple 3D drawing.  My clients definitely pass the champagne, cards and prawn test.  If you can’t imagine having your clients around to your pad for a night of cards, champers and prawns, then you have no business doing business with them.


3. I freakin’ love cheese and 2012 saw me go nuts with the goats cheese. Yeah, about 6 years after everyone else, but like the proverb says, when you are ready, the right teacher shows up.

4. Lovin’ Asana, the on-line project management portal that keeps my in the flow.  And from ripping out tufts of hair. (Not always my own).

5. So grateful I live in a county with very restrictive gun laws.

6. New York and Hawks Nest.  So very different, so very awesome.


7. My Mixmaster.  I finally feel like a grown up with a heavy-duty mixmaster that…would whip up tasty treat if only I could stop tasting the mixture and get it in the oven.

8. I love, LOVE marketing.  Such a rich area to work in where challenges provide so many opportunities to innovate.

9. The American voters.  Big thanks for not putting in the dude who ties his dog to the top of the SUV to go on holidays.  No matter what your politics, I think we can all agree that the fool that treats his animals so poorly is not fit to hold any form of office.

10. My pad and pen / pencil.  After so many resources on-line and in the digital form. I still love sketching and drawing out ideas on crisp white, thick paper.

Ok, time to throw down the attitude list:

11. EEAA, our industry body.  Through the knock down and rebuild of Australia’s largest exhibition centre, the EEAA has been, I don’t know, brushing it’s hair?!?  I am really freaked out that those that will need to work in the new centre have been so rarely consulted on the shape and function and that the EEAA are OK with this.

12. Tony Abbott = angry sock puppet

13. I don’t like hating on someone else’s art but Brad Pitt’s furniture line and Yoko Ono’s line of fella clothing was epically awful.  File under: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

14. Yep, tried red wine again & nope, still not a believer

And I deliberately missed one off my gratitude list and saved it for now.  I am grateful for you, dear reader.  In these crazy busy times, I am very grateful to have your read my blogs and receive emails and calls me letting me know that you like what you read.  When you could be doing anything else like figuring out if a packet Lime and Black Pepper chips exceeds your daily salt intake (it doesn’t) or if now is the time to mulch (it is), I am so lucky to have a slice of your valuable time on my semi-regular blog and you take the time to provide feedback.

For the final tune of the year, I gift you my very favourite song of the year. Ah no, it was not released this year but I just found myself humming it during the best and worst moments of 2012.

Feel free to add your own gratitude / attitude in the comments below. Much Diva love and  a happy, healthy and sparkly 2013 to you and your tribe.

Why I don’t follow exhibition stand design trends.
Some months ago I was asked by an agency I work with to provide examples of the latest trends in exhibition and displays.  I really struggled with this as just because something is considered a trend, does not mean it is worth jumping on or is applicable to the business in question.  For example, this trend of young fellas having all their hair force -tamed over to one side of their head like they have had the misfortune to stumble sideways into a wind tunnel…is it good?  Should  every young fella this side of 32 be scrambling to copy it?  Hells no.  The dudes that sport it look like 17 flavours of wrong.

And a disclaimer.  I was born in Newcastle.  I love hard rock music. I love Def Leppard in a non-ironic way.  I love wearing jeans and heels (note: I did not say wedges).  I only love wearing blacks and blues, colour blocking makes me look like a clown freak show.  I still wear frosted eye shadow and eat cake for breakfast and would rather chew glass than drink green juice.  So trends and I?  Let’s call it a very long distance relationship and we don’t check in with each other much.  Not even at Christmas.

But here’s what I know.  I know what works for a client in the exhibition and design field.  It might be considered a trend but more often that not, it is a solution that just elegantly solves a particular problem a client has asked me to solve.  Trends seem a little like wearable fashion to me: popular and experienced by many but suits very few. It reminds me of the rush towards touch screen technology on many exhibition stands.  Everyone’s got to have it but very few understand the nuances of using it and have poor content, no strategy surrounding its lead capturing abilities and no clue how it might fold into the marketing plan.  Touch screens are like the high waisted bum skimming shorts of the trade show stand.  Think carefully before doing it and when you do decide to work it, work it HARD.

So while I’ll pass on following slavishly the trends of the exhibition industry, I can do a show and tell on what is lighting me up and  that I am loving playing with right now.  I’ll include a few before and after shots here so you can see how, by introducing some simple ideas and techniques the “blah” can be made “RAH!”.  And who doesn’t love a transformational before and after photo?!?


Ooooh, I am just loving texture right now.  Veneers, fabrics, soft plastics, hard shiny metals, the folding plant fronds, smooth surfaces, roughed up painted flats, I’m just cracked out on textures and love introducing a tactile element to the displays I work on.  For a client of mine, Vital Diagnostics,  it was time for a new trade show stand after 5 years of faithful service from their previous one.  One of the main features of the new stand was the moulded wall panels on the back wall of the stand that tied in nicely with the overhead signage rings.

Vital-Diagnostics Before & After

Vital-Diagnostics Before & After


Working with Siemens on their new stand kit, we have been stripping out the normal load up of machinery on display and replaced with informal discussion areas and large planter displays. I can’t tell you how much some well placed sculptural style of greenery just lifts the look and feel of a stand.  A display can go from cold and corporate to relaxed and welcoming with some well-chosen and positioned pieces.

Siemens Before & After

Siemens Before & After


I am a total slave to a well-lit display.  Truly, I see so many interesting stands and they are poorly lit, it is such a bummer.  So when I worked with AV Jennings on their Arlington sales office, a tight budget was overcome with using cheap chinese paper lanterns to help define a discussion area.  A playful element was added that was a total fit with the beachy, coastal lifestyle the development was offering.

Arlington Before & After

Arlington Before & After


Yeah, I am still digging it!  And texture does not just have to be used for texture’s sake, you can push it so it has more relevance to the brand.  For example, working with Brown Property Group on The Avenue land sales office, I had the logo of Brown laser cut into the timber surface. It was done as an overall pattern so it was not belting the visitor over the head with logo overload and it integrated the brand into the display in a unique way.



Those are just a few of the things I am loving working with right now. I am less concerned with following trends than I am with providing my clients with unique solutions.  I think this approach can also act as an anti-aging technique that keep the display fresh and not slip from what is considered a “current trend”.  If you would like to ask a question on what else I am working on or suggest something else to investigate, please leave your queries and suggestions in the comments section below.  I will happily talk turkey!

Ok, I mentioned Def Leppard early on in the post so you just know I have to spin one of their tunes.  Play it while wearing your best (TIGHT) stone washed jeans.

See you next week!

My insider view on the big auto brands abandoning the Sydney Motor Show.
Interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 17 by Steve Colquhoun describing the high absentee rate amongst auto brands at this years Sydney Motor Show. Marques such as BMW, Chrysler, Jeep, Renault, Volvo and – hang onto your peals – Rolls Royce are all missing in action.  For one of the most prominent and largest crowd puller (200,000 paying punters are expected through the doors) exhibitions held in Australia, does this mean doom for the exhibition industry?

Nah.  More on that soon but there were some intriguing points raised in Steve’s article.

First up we had Edward Rowe from European Automotive Importers who distribute high price luxury brands such as Ferrari, Maserati and Lotus explain his absence from the show as “We have to sell cars in the most cost efficient manner. We’re not in the entertainment business”.  Steve, matey, I don’t mind you taking a pass on exhibiting at the Sydney Motor Show but the entertainment industry is EXACTLY the business you are in. The Ferraris and Maseratis all represent high-class, sexy motoring that will thrill both the driver and their social circle.

And then we had Clyde Campbell the managing director of Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Fiat saying about this about his brand’s non-attendance, “We think it’s more important to have direct contact with our customers, and our marketing has been working well,” he says. Sweet Jesus, exhibitions are all about-face to face marketing Clyde and if there is more direct form, I reckon there would be an “R” rating and Barry White playing in the background.

Those kind of comments get me a little bit cranky – not with the views held by Edward and Clyde – but with the exhibition industry.  We are doing a pretty poor job of explaining the value of exhibiting if the basics of face-to-face marketing and creating an entertaining and immersive experience is not understood.

Returning to the insider view, I was the project manager and part of the design team at Acumen Design for stands such as Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Maybach, Suzuki, Seat, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles from 1999 to 2005.  Back in the day, the Motor Shows were done as a circuit.  Starting in Sydney in October, it then cruised through Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and finished in Perth in May the following year.  At each capital city, the stands varied in size according to the venue, audience and my need for the lucky rabbits foot got less and less.  In those heady pre-GFC days, marques could not get enough space to display all the range of cars they wanted and they was much argy bargy about securing enough space. Space was generally awarded based on market share but the luxury brands that were recognized as a big crowd puller, were afforded a generous space offering.

So then the GFC happened, the world exploded, ice caps melted and dodgey bankers got bailed out.  The Motor Show circuit has been trimmed from a five city circus to yearly alternating between Melbourne and Sydney.  And everyone – not just car makers – are looking closer on the return on investment and how their marketing dollar is spent.  I know some people might gasp and reach for the smelling salts when figures like $1 million dollar investment to participate in a Motor Show is thrown about but how many cars do you reckon need to be sold by a marque to recoup these costs?  For your Holdens, Fords and Mazdas, quite a few as the average car they sell is in the low to medium price range so their markup is kept pretty lean.  How many cars does it take a luxury marque to recoup their investment?  Three.  That’s right.  Three. Back in the early 90’s in Brisbane, Mercedes-Benz sold 3 cars off their stand meaning they had a positive return on investment in the low hundred thousands.  And one of those cars was a scare-the-sheep purple colour!  I don’t doubt that the same returns would be on offer today for the car markers.

What the car markers don’t want to admit is that with annual car sales exceeding pre-GFC levels, the market got savvier and more segmented.  With the rise of internet marketing, the introduction of Asia car markers into the Australian market and new niche car types like SUV’s, hybrids and so on, it has made selling cars more challenging.

So why wouldn’t a car maker use an opportunity like a Motor Show to build brand awareness and do some really cool stuff rather than treat their stand space like a glorified show room?  Ford has been doing this really well since 2010.  Their stand has been flooded with punters as they use simple, engaging interactives to explain the behind the scenes design processes and safety features.  The punters are going nuts not only getting to see the latest Ford vehicles but getting a peek behind the curtain.  Ford totally got it.  It is all about entertainment.  If people hare handing over $19 to walk through the door with parking and a Gaytime ice cream on top of that, you’d freaking well hope you have got more to offer them that a car on a polished timber floor.


Mercedes-Benz also got it.  While so many of their Motor Show attendees could not afford their mid to top end range of luxury cars, there were a large number of attendees that were aspirational tradies who could purchase the Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicle range when it was released.  By showing it at the Motor Show and adding the Mercedes-Benz bling to the display and promotion of it, the range was guaranteed a successful launch.

I am with Russ Tyrie, the director of the Motor Show and all round nicest blokes you could ever meet.  Motor Shows have a future.  And that future belongs to marques that deliver an entertaining experience that elevates it from the typical show room presence and justifies the effort and expense punters have put into getting their butts along.

In keeping with the car theme, here is what I am blasting on my Jazz’s stereo at the moment.  Fu Manchu’s “Squash that Fly”.    I am so going to have a problem with hearing later in life but hot damn, what a way to go!

See you next week!

5 hot tips on how to make your trade show stand memorable

Current industry thinking says you have around 3 seconds to make an impact with your trade show stand and within those tiny 3 seconds, your potential customer is weighing up whether to set foot on your stand.

Holy cats…3 seconds! That is less than the time it takes for me to decide what heels to wear (patent black with shiny buckles if you are interested)!

So let’s look at what makes a trade show stand memorable.

1. We all like pretty!

This means all sorts of thing to members of the mob but in general terms, think of an exhibition stand’s aesthetics like a ideal date partner: clean, well put together,considered and unique. You are highly unlikely to visit or remember a stand that looks messed up and weird…and weird in not a good way. As with all things in life that matter, put your best high heeled foot forward.

2. Tap that emotional gauge

Now when I mentioned “unique” above, this might also be interchangeable with whimsical, powerful, quirky, bold and so on. The key thing here is connecting the look of the stand with making your ideal customer feel something.  Emotions are intense markers, if you elicit something in your audience that prompts a raised eyebrow, a smirk, a sense of wonder, you are barking up the right trade show tree.

3. What did you just say?

One of the biggest single killers of memorable is the twin threat of mixed messaging and many messages. And I hear you, this is so hard to keep it tight when ever single brand manger insists that they must have a messaging statement.  With supporting graphics. With a plasma screen showing a scrolling presentation. And supporting copy.  Siemens faced a similar type of challenge with their trade shows. In previous years we had a cavalcade of text and graphics that totally overwhelmed at the visitor.


Now, with the support of key members of the Siemens marketing team we have got out the pinking shears and trimmed the messaging overgrowth.


I partner with The Display Builders on a number of trade shows, including those of Siemens.  See more of our work here:

4. Different….and unusual!

So yah, you do trade shows all the time and it’s working OK for you.  But what if you could do one thing differently than you normally do? What if you were a car manufacturer at a motor show but you had this crazy-awesome lighting and projection where it seemed like the car was actually moving on the stand? I project managed motor show stands for yonks and for the life of me I could not work out why something designed to move you was presented so statically.  Or what about, you sold wallpaper and you were exhibiting at a design show and you employed a wallpaper installer to continually re-wallpaper the stand walls throughout the show thereby ensuring visitors returned to your stand again and again to see the latest change? So many options, so be brave.

5. I’ll call you!

We are made so many promises: “this is good for you”, “I’ll pick your daughter up at eight”, “The fridge will be delivered on Tuesday”. We are so used to little or no follow through, we are thrown and also hugely impressed when someone does what they say they will do. So when you are talking to your customers on the stand and telling them you will send the email with the PDF brochure, or you will ask one of the sales reps to deliver the promised samples or call them with that piece of information that they really need…then just bloody do it. Your word is your promise so follow through and become instantly memorable.

If you like what you have read here and think we might be able to create something memorable, please get in touch:

In keeping with our memorable theme, I’d like to share this music video to illustrate point 4. Those garden variety treadmills were elevated to memorable through clever choreography and a natty shirt selection. Remember if you like the song, buy it and see you next week!