"Best of Show" is a relative term.
The fact is that I saw hundreds of cool and useful products and learned about lots of amazing non-profits, services, and inventions.
But the experience of a brand is as important as the thing itself -- especially at a trade show. The people at the booth, how they display and talk about their products/services, and the level of enthusiasm they convey make a huge difference.
To watch some moments live from the show floor, just click here.
Here are my top 12 “best of show” picks for 2017. They are based on a combination of innovation, presentation, and quality of interaction with the team in the booth. How you sell is as important as what you sell these days!
- Non-Profit: Project Bike Tech: Teaches kids how to repair and service bikes, so they have a marketable skill. With about 20 million bikes sold in the U.S. each year, these kids will have lots to keep them busy and employed!
- Fashion: The Sock Guy. Cycling or not, we need to keep our feet safe and warm. And, if you're not quite ready for a tat, you can show your unique personality through your footwear. Every year, they release new quirky patterns (and are kind enough to gift the media with a free pair.)
- Fashion: Bolle. Not just fashionable, but prudent too. Your feet aren't the only body part that need protection. Helmets and a wide range of sunglasses -- for sport and just hanging out -- filled their booth.
- Fashion: SheBeest. Despite the number of women who ride, the cycling industry still tends to be a bit of a boys' club. This company has been around for a while and their styles are female-flattering and fun.
- Food & Beverage: Nuun. Company culture is as important as hydration and energy. This company blew me away -- their booth staff was informed and personable and the CEO (Kevin Rutherford) spent time on the show floor, talking to customers and colleagues and setting a great example for his team.
- Food & Beverage: RX Bar. How many companies are bold enough to put their ingredients on the front of their packaging? In a big font, in fact. A long-time fan, I'm always delighted to meet the people behind the bar.
- Tech: Lightspeed. What's behind the retail counter is as important as what's on the handlebars of the bike. POS (point of sale) systems are the lifeblood of retail. They may not be as sexy as spandex, but they keep businesses in gear.
- Tech: GoPro. People today are compelled to capture and share their adventurous moments. And GoPro specializes in equipment to make the capture easier and more professional. Ironically, GoPro's devices are made for storytelling, no one in the booth was "authorized" to explain what's new this year. But I managed to find this blurb about QuikStories, which is a cool little app.
- Tech/Safety: Brightz. Kids used to festoon their spokes with trading cards and their handlebars with horns. Now kids of all ages can bling-up their rides so that they can't be missed at dusk. You can even sync your tunes to your lights via bluetooth!
- Tech/Safety: GoLock. You're sitting at Starbucks and meanwhile someone is trying to boost your new bike. You get an alert on your phone and (if you choose) the police are notified too. And, of course, a shrieking alarm is involved. Old school safety meets high tech communication.
- Bikes: Vintage Electric. OK, I confess. I'm a little obsessed. Because my business brand (theONswitch) is all about combining the best of old and new, I'm partial to companies that do the same. As with Nuun, the CEO himself was in the booth, talking to customers and explaining his vision. Founders and leaders who take the time to sell and support their teams are true heros.
- Bikes: Joovy. You're never too young to ride! This U.S.-based company specializes in combining innovative design with affordable and safe products for the youngest riders. Whether a tike is being pushed or peddled, she'll ride in style with their wheels.
A well-intentioned tip to those of you who sat in your booths staring at your phones and texting or talking to your co-workers while media and potential buyers streamed by: Look up and engage with humans! We'll never find out what you do if you don't talk to us at trade shows! And make sure the people who are working your booth are prepared to talk to the media. It's a simple way to get your product/service "out there" to the folks who aren't at the show.
Speaking of which...I'll be continuing and expanding my (Trade) Show Girl Talk column, speaker series, and vlog throughout 2018. If you are exhibiting at or producing a show and would like me to visit, lead a workshop, and share exhibitor stories, please get in touch!
My fave industries are retail, food & beverage, travel, women leaders, and tech (including SaaS). but I'm open to others as well!