Back-to-School List – 10 Tips for Trade Shows

There’s a new year beginning now – the school year.
Whether you have children attending for the first time or
finishing university, it’s always hectic to get into the
back-to-school routine. And, if you don’t have school in your
family, there might be your own remembrance of the
excitement of starting afresh and learning something new.

This is a great time to review your trade show program in
the same way you prepare for school.

Pick Your School = Industry

It’s a business school question – Are you a railroad or a
transportation company? In other words, what business are
you in? If you consider your industry a railroad, you will be
concerned with rolling stock, laying track and logistics. If you
consider your industry to be transportation, you will consider
the railroad as a method of transportation – the same
principles apply whether you run rail cars or airplanes.
There’s a engine, a carrier compartment, and now most
importantly, customer focus. Railroads have to lay track,
airlines have to have airfields, so there’s difficulty in
physically moving to meet customer demand. But railroads
adapted by allowing piggybacking – truck trailers on flatbed
rail cars. Airlines serve more markets with the hub and
spoke system. You should look deeply into your own
industry and determine customer focus for the next 12
weeks and 12 months.

Pick Your Classes = Shows

While your firm is part of an Industry, in times of slowing
business there are two avenues you can take to garner
more sales. One is to hunker down and bore deeply into
your niche, the other is to expand into other industries. In
both cases, you may want to look at trade shows beyond the
ones you have on your current docket. For example, if going
deeper into your industry niche, you can consider local or
regional shows, international expos, or shows which focus
on discrete research in your niche allowing you an
intellectual advantage. If expanding into other industries, you
have a wide range of choices but the advice is to research,
research, research before investing.

Pick Your Teachers = Find the Best for You

Not all executives of Fortune 500 companies went to an Ivy
League or MIT caliber school, but considering the vast
number of colleges and universities, a disproportionate
number of these executives are graduates of the elite
universities. Translated to trade shows, that means you
should align yourself with well regarded shows, organizers
attuned to forward thinking, and professional organization
and management.

Pick Your Major = Marketing Message

When you declare a major, it’s your intention to complete the
requirements and pursue a career in that field. People
remember that you started off in theatre, switched to
psychology, graduated in medieval history and then became
a salesman. At a trade show, you don’t get a second chance
to change your marketing message. All the promotion
before the show, the exhibit and goodies need to revolve
around The Message. In essence, a trade show is not the
time to change majors, confuse people and say “I really
don’t know what I’m doing here.”

Pick Your Books = Marketing Tools

A trade show is not an isolated marketing event but a
continuum of your marketing efforts, so you won’t be limited
to books. Along the way, your marketing tools are selected
for the best impact on the right people, whether you use
print, video or the Internet. Once you understand the
demographics of your audience, you use the right medium
for the message. For example, a firm with a high-tech
operation will expect to see detailed information about your
firm on your web site – it’s the first place they will look A
low-tech firm will expect print materials and detailed
manuals. And, yes, there are still people who don’t have
computers, don’t like computers and will never use the
electronic goodies in your life as appreciatively as you do.

Pick Your Clothes = Exhibit

We always want to look our best. Just as your clothes are a
representation of your personality, your position in a firm
and your sense of style (how you view yourself), so too is
your exhibit a representation of your company. It’s the first
physical impression many people have of your firm. It tells
attendees at a glance if you’re an ordinary company or a
daring one. If you are high fashion (which may mean
expensive and faddish) or if your firm has strong traditional
roots. People absorb not only the color and the design of
your exhibit but the language of the signage and the image
of your graphics. They look at the presentation of the
information you have available – whether it’s simple
brochures or high tech interactives. And they judge you both
in a overall sense and by subconsciously picking apart
those segments which they either strongly like or dislike.

Pick Your Friends = Staff

You can’t always play with your buddies, but you do want to
be in a group which balances strengths and weaknesses to
get the job done. Selection of the right trade show staff is the
most important factor in the success of a trade show. If your
exhibit is an award winner design but your staff is bored,
can’t answer attendee’s questions or is boorish, most
people will walk away. Time is too short for the attendee to
teach your staff proper trade show etiquette and sales
techniques.

Stand Up to Playground Bullies = Pick Your Battles

During the trade show process, there will be times when
you think something isn’t fair, or is too expensive or really
inconveniences you. Sometimes, it’s because you don’t
understand the contracts and the flow of how a trade show
is put together. When in doubt, just ask for an explanation.
You don’t have to take “That’s the way it is…” for an answer.
Find the top level of authority and make your concerns
known. A losing battle for the current show includes
contracts signed which obligate you to use certain labor
pools at certain rates. You can make your views know for
next year, but this year it is in stone. On the other hand, if you
find a competitor next to you (this happens very rarely as
show management is very conscious of this potential
squabble), ask that one of you be moved. Make sure your
complaints are legitimate. When you pick the right battles,
you should win. Otherwise, you’re just a whiner or a gossip.

Pick Your Sports = Extracurricular Activities

Trade shows are seldom just a time to set up an exhibit,
showcase your products, and leave. Increasingly, trade
shows are bracketed by educational sessions, social
events, informal networking time and fund-raising. Golf and
tennistournaments are becoming fashionable either as a
fund-raiser or just social time. Firms will entertain clients
during the non-show hours by utilizing a hotel Hospitality
Suite or an off-site venue. It’s easy to overload your
calendar, overfill your glass and plate and think your only job
is to have a good time. Wrong! You are your company’s
representative, so whatever behavior you demonstrate is
what people perceive as acceptable by your company. It’s
best to be on your best behavior.

Pack Your Lunch = Take Care of Yourself

When you’re on the road, it’s easy to fall into the grab-a-bite
routine as you rush through the airport. Or the
I-deserve-this- dessert syndrome as you dine alone waiting
for the next plane. Too much sugar, too much booze and too
much stress take their toll whether you’re going to or
coming from a show. Experienced business travelers have
these words of wisdom –

* Listen to your normal body clock as much possible

* Acknowledge when you need rest

* Drink lots of water and fluids

* Don’t drink alcohol when flying

* Maintain an exercise routine, even if it’s just walking
around the airport

* Wear stylish and comfortable clothes – don’t look like you
just came from the gym. You will be more quickly accepted
and get better service when you dress professionally

* Pack lightly. There are no naked people where you’re
going – there’s always a store

* Have an emergency kit with you. Whether you have a
headache, you arrive at the hotel past room service hours,
or you feel lonely, take care of yourself. You should take a
medicine kit, pocket knife, small flash light, snacks, extra ID
and pictures of the family.

Going to school for the first time is scary but then it
becomes routine. Keep a little bit of that first-time fear in
your trade show routine. It will make you more aware of your
surroundings and opportunities.

Julia O’Connor – Speaker, Author, Consultant – writes about practical aspects of trade shows. As president of Trade Show Training, inc,, now celebrating its 10th year, she works with companies in a variety of industries to improve their bottom line and marketing opportunities at trade shows.

Is a Live Trade Show A-V Presentation in Your Exhibiting Future?

While most trade show exhibits highlight individual product presentations, there are times when an exhibitor might do well to stage a live presentation/demonstration to better present, explain and demonstrate its products and services in the often confusing trade show environment.

The idea of staging a live product presentation/demonstration is not at all new. Many corporations over the years have successfully used the live medium to communicate complicated product information to large audiences. There are many products and services whose features, benefits and sometimes complex applications might be more easily and effectively communicated by staging a live presentation/demonstration type show, rather than trying to rely solely on individual face to face sales in an exhibitor’s booth.

Studies show that sight is the most used human sense and that 75% of all environmental stimuli are received through visual reception compared to 38% from audio messages. According to a recent University of California at Los Angeles study, 55% percent of what an audience learns comes directly from the visual messages.

A Wharton Research Center study has also shown that the retention rate of verbal only presentations is approximately 10%. However, when you combine visual messages with verbal communication, you increase the retention rate to nearly 50%. And a cleaver use of audio, visual with an added feature of a light entertainment factor promises to increase retention even more dramatically.

A primary objective in deciding to embark on presenting a live presentation/demonstration at a trade show should be to have enough time and environmental control to cleverly and clearly communicate and deliver your information to more prospects and customers at one time than you could with the standard form using individual booth duty personnel.

There are many advantages and opportunities to be gained by designing, develo