Big news in the trade show industry this week as the MPEA, who controls the operations at McCormick Place and other Chicago convention venues, announced that they are considering sweeping changes meant to keep shows in Chicago. (For more information, read the article on exhibitcitynews.com)
The MPEA Recommended Changes to Reduce the Cost of Exhibiting in Chicago
This is quite a step for one of the oldest and largest convention cities. All of the recommended changes are designed to reduce the cost of exhibiting in Chicago. The changes are in response to the news that Chicago recently lost two major trade shows, the National Plastics Exposition (NPE) which has taken place In Chicago for many years and the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) which moves to different cities every year. Undoubtedly, this is a step in the right direction, but will it have the desired effect?
I believe that you need to look at each show individually to come to a conclusion. Chicago is truly a world-class destination. Trade shows like the Radiology Society of North America (RSNA) work very well in Chicago. This is the largest medical trade show in the country and the exhibitors and attendees seem to be able to afford the higher cost of hotel rooms, meals, transportation, parking, etc. There has always been (and likely always will be), complaining about costs, but when you are selling CAT scan machines, it just makes sense to be in Chicago. RSNA has threatened to move several times over the years, but as long as professional attendance continues to grow, the show will likely stay put.
Other shows have a much different demographic. The Housewares show used to be in Chicago twice a year. It is still in Chicago but only once a year. I am not sure that it needs to stay in Chicago and maybe exhibitors and attendees would prefer to go to Orlando or Las Vegas in March. The Hardware Show was in Chicago for many years (think Howard Cunningham from Happy Days) and is now in Las Vegas. The recession has made it much more difficult for shows to sell booth spaces, and exhibiting companies are pinching marketing pennies across the board.
In my opinion, the proposed changes in Chicago will help, but the city should be prepared to host fewer shows in the future than they have in the past. What do you think? Will lower trade show costs keep Chicago the premier destination for trade shows? Leave your comments below.
Scheduling and keeping track of booth staffers is a vital bit of information that should not be overlooked during tradeshow preparation. Planning should begin well in advance of the show.
A master schedule binder should be created that includes:
- All planned meetings in the booth, including times and attendees
- A list of booth staffer responsibilities, assigning tasks, and a designated time to perform tasks
- A detailed log of times staffers will be in the booth, on break, or dining.
This binder will be most useful if it is kept at the main reception counter for any staffer to view. A master log of meetings should indicate who the attendee plans to see, and what will be discussed. If a private or semi-private meeting is in order, a conference room or sit down area should be available for guests and staff. Log these times accordingly, and block out conference rooms for this time slot. Some exhibit managers will even go as far to know the potential dollar amount in revenues each and every planned visitor could mean to the company. This is incredibly valuable information to share with all booth staffers, so when an important guests walks in, they are treated cordially and respectfully.
Use your schedule to make responsibilities clear to all staff. If a different group of staff is assigned to setting up, or prepping the booth prior to the show, demand that they be there on time. During the show, indicate who will lock up, power down laptops, and secure valuables at the end of the day. Make sure everyone knows who has locking storage keys, and where they are to be found. Have a crew come in early on days two and three, to power-up, check that everything is working, clean-up, and wipe down any dirty areas. Make sure that the booth is absolutely “show ready” ten minutes prior to the show floor opening.
Have a master phone list available in your binder as well. All staffer phones and emails should be easily available to any and all people in the booth. Include arrival/departure times for each staffer, hotel lodging information, and an emergency contact for each staffer. Be sure to have staffers notify someone if they are running late, or may miss a meeting. Someone else may need to cover for them in the event they cannot make an important meeting, otherwise, an attendee may be put-off and not return. Make sure to include anyone hosting or attending a press conference, and, if it is off location, indicate where and in what rooms. It is critical to know where key people are at all times.
It may sound like a bit of extra work prior to the show, and your schedule can be as simple or complex as you choose, but the time spent is well worth the investment. You will find that adding this level of organization will result in a more organized, responsible, and thoughtful staff, better prepared to meet any challenges on an oftentimes hectic show floor.
Make sure your Trade Show Costs fit into your Budget
One of the biggest challenges that exhibit marketers face is that their bosses give them a solid budget to do a show, but the vendors that they need to make it all happen refuse to lock into a quotation. This problem exists in just about every area of tradeshow expense.
Most display companies will provide quotes for design and construction but do only “budgetary estimates” for field services. This leaves the door wide open to budget-blowing additional charges after the show. When clients ask for firm quotes for drayage, I&D, or electrical, their Account Executives deliver a well-rehearsed speech that they "cannot quote services that they can’t control," or some other excuse their bosses have taught them.
Also, General Services Contractors provide forms and other tools to allow trade show exhibitors to estimate their own field services costs but then insist on a credit card on file so that actual charges can be tacked on after the show. How in the heck do you budget for this?
There are exhibit companies that provide “turn key quotations” - if you absolutely cannot exceed a certain budget for a show, I would recommend that you find one. You will always have problems budgeting for hotel accommodations, travel expenses and other show related costs, but you'll at least be able to get the cost of your display, shipping, setup and dismantle, and utilities locked in.
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Hiring tradeshow talent and booth staff can provide an exhibitor much better returns on investment than in years past, providing that one understands the need, and seeks the most qualified candidate(s) to fill that need.
Pre-Qualify Prospects: Trade Show Talent Acts as an Ambassador for Your Booth
Browse the internet for convention and tradeshow models, and you'll find that there are hundreds of agencies providing this type of service. With so much to choose from, where to begin? First, prioritize your needs as an exhibitor. The early days of carshow models & booth babes have expanded into tradeshow talent that can not only greet attendees, but also demonstrate product and engage attendees in conversation. When considering hiring staff, be sure to consider what the role of this hired talent will be?
When Hiring Talent for your Tradeshow Booth Find a Reputable Agency
If you expect superior communication skills, good eye contact, and a witty personality, then you shouldn’t just go online and start looking for price quotes. You'll want to start by finding a reputable agency, preferrably one recommended by a display house, that has numerous testimonials and references. Furthermore, you will want to outline, in writing, precisely what you will expect from your hired tradeshow staff. They are after all, an extension of your sales staff, as the CMT agency states on it’s website “More important than just being attractive, they know and exemplify the fact that being outgoing, friendly, engaging and professional are what matter most on the tradeshow floor.”
Base your search for hired staff on your written outline of criteria. Speak to the agency about the qualifications and experience of each booth model. Ask the agency the tough questions, don’t be afraid to shop around. You will find that some agencies book superior talent, far beyond what might be considered standard or acceptable, including interpreters, product presenters, costume characters or entertainers. Find some talent with more than just a pretty smile. You might find that a well-qualified presenter just happens to be available during your show days, and needs the work. Why settle for a bikini model when you can have an excellent ambassador in your booth?
Include Tradeshow Booth Talent in Your Booth Staff Training
Before the show, outline a plan for your hired staffers. Share it with them well in advance so they may ask questions and get clarification. Expect them to show up well before the show starts each day, and have a briefing about expectations and or goals. INCLUDE THEM IN YOUR BOOTH STAFF TRAINING! You will want to emphasize the importance of pre-qualifying prospects, a major part of booth staff training. At the end of the day, have a wrap-up meeting, and again, include them with your staff. You are, after all, paying a premium - so why not demand a little more? If you make your staffing choices well, you can not only increase traffic and lead generation, you will also ratchet up tradeshow ROI.