Additive Manufacturing Strategies

3D Printing Trade Show Best Practices: Food and Food for Thought

ST Medical Devices

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This is the third installment of ideas, suggestions, and best practices for your 3D printing stand from an interested observer. We previously discussed booth location and how best to connect with each other at these events. What are your thoughts and ideas? Email Joris (at)


Catering can sometimes seem impressive and luxurious, but if your business has a number of people attending from your side, it may actually make sense or even be cheaper to rely on catering. Sending an employee for pre-made, high-quality sandwiches in the morning would be a really great way to feed your people with some nice food. And it will be less expensive than buying it at the event itself. Ordering out is also cheaper and can be more fun.

For many companies who lack the big catering budget, renting an AirBnb and bringing along sandwiches each day will pay itself back quickly. On-site, a crappy sandwich and terrible coffee will be prohibitively expensive, but a short walk from the event there may be fun lunch places. Often your customers and prospects will be resigned to the same poor food options, so it is cost-effective to plan a customer lunch every day.

At Formnext, there are stand drinks, parties, and set dinners for resellers. A surprisingly high amount of people dine alone, however. Encourage your people to find new leads or contacts and eat with them unplanned. Staff dinners and drinks can be fun and cement an internal culture. But, you can also include partners to make them part of the team.

Lubrizol gave me a sandwich and I was eternally grateful. Often going a bit beyond what everyone else has is worthwhile, given the outlay. Twikit’s gin drinks and coffee service are legendary. Is there something similar that you can do for everyone? Coffee, cheesy things, Twix and wannabe petit fours are often what’s on offer. What else is possible in your budget. I’ve never seen anyone do soup, but maybe something like that?

Sometimes stands have walled gardens wherein partners and employees are entertained but others kept out. This may work for you or it may be very exclusionary.

Let’s Get Creative 

When’s the last time you saw something truly creative at a trade show? Most people do the same things, so it could pay to be truly original. This is especially true since we can use 3D printing to make original things.

Could you come up with a nice gift that people could give to their kids for example? Is there a travel accessory that people will use forever? Or can you make insoles at the site for people with aching feet? T-shirts are nice but perhaps a scarf could be a life saver for someone coming to a cold climate from a warm one. Yes, people will use your canvas bag, but what else will they need in the coming days? Comfortable socks, throat lozenges?

Is there a trip or experience that you can plan? I still think that the best idea is to hire a masseur and to give everyone foot rubs. Just generally we can all be more creative I think.


Often when looking at a stand, I can tell if a company wants to sell, get funding, or is completely clueless. In many cases, however, businesses go through the motions and just plump down a few machines and parts willy nilly. What do you want people to believe? How does the brand come alive? How will you be memorable?

There are companies that just sit in the back, checking their phones, and others that seem like they’re a fun staff reunion, but not an effective way to communicate. What is the purpose of this trade show stand and what do people hope to achieve? How can this thing ooze brand and engage?


Whereas we can see people copy trends and ideas, we tend to not see much effective improvement over time. Trade shows are very expensive and may be crucial for you. What would make your show more effective? How do you measure success?

I once switched to business cards with my photo and a new number on it and gave these away in parallel with the last remnants of my old cards. The ones with my photo received a lot more calls. What can we do to A and B test? What can we measure?

One month after Formnext, whose business card do you still remember? Whose details do you still have?

How did you meet your new contacts? How did you cement a relationship? What were you doing when you found that new customer?

As a consultant I get most of my new customers for the entire year on the final day of Formnext. I have no idea why or how, but as I walk around the dying embers of the trade show, I meet people and we connect. This is the most exciting time for me and I know I have to be out and about. Where is your golden hour?

(Photographs courtesy of Sarah Saunders)

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