Alexis Exhibits

Avoid Being Part of the “Boring Sea of Tradeshow Sameness”

I attend a lot of trade shows – hardware, books, electronics, men’s wear, food service, medical equipment, etc. – if there is a trade show, odds are I’ve probably been to it. It’s part of my job. Sometimes it is a delightful part of what I do – but all too often I can walk an entire trade show floor and not see one new, inspiring idea.

So far this year at the shows I have attended, I have found that most booths are professional looking and nicely designed but I often don’t remember anything the minute I move on to the next aisle. The words that come to mind: boring, formulaic, and devoid of any discernable brand personality.

Everything is perfectly planned, so why aren’t you more successful?

You have a great location for the show – right up front, with lots of traffic. You have a beautifully designed booth that is uncluttered and well-merchandised. You have great people who know that a positive attitude is essential. Yet people just keep passing by, and don’t even slow down.

Ask yourself, why should someone stop at your booth?

Think about what it is like to attend this show or conference. After three hours of seminars and speeches, the conference attendees finally get a break. They enter the exhibit hall and are greeted with hundreds of booths and the din of people chattering, music and sales presentations. They quickly walk down the aisles and select a few booths to visit. What can you do to make your booth one of those stops?

Avoid being part of this “boring sea of sameness”?

Do something different and unexpected. Break out of the “just another trade show exhibit” pack. And do it in a way that sells your product and builds your brand. I know it is much easier said than done, but here are a few breakout ideas:

  • Entertainment: If it is appropriate to your overall message and product, hire a professional performer to be part of your booth but give it a twist. One small book publisher was promoting a new series of activity books include a book on juggling. They secured two booths located directly across from each other. Then they hired a two-person comedy juggler team who did a juggling show across the aisle. It was hard for anyone who saw this simple spectacle to pass them by without stopping. More importantly, it was hard to forget that the publisher had a juggling book coming out.
  • Create a place to “escape” from the show. Provide a place to really relax that gives you a sales opportunity. Many exhibitors provide comfortable seating or have conference tables with chairs for meeting with prospects or set up beverage bars with stools. This just creates a place to relax and avoid a sales message. Often it creates a place for your staff to sit where no one can see them. The breakout idea is to incorporate the escape into the overall sales message. A travel incentive company who promotes South Pacific Getaways created a tropical beach getaway with a couple real palm trees, some fresh exotic flowers, beach chairs and tropical beverages. They added ambient sound with tropical birds and waves and simple lighting effects. The staff was dressed in tropical business attire and was actively engaged in greeting people and answering questions – they were not relaxing at the beach, they were smiling, attentive and working all the time. It was the most popular place at the entire show. Everyone who entered received a “Tourist Guide and Passport” that provided information about the company’s travel incentives.
  • Incorporate an interactive demonstration. Make your booth interactive and experiential by turning the sales process into an active, dynamic experience. It doesn’t need to be a technological wonder and it should always involve 1-to-1 interaction between the sales staff and the prospect. Have something unusual for people to do, touch, smell or even taste. Bring your products to life with interactive demonstrations that focus on the key sales proposition. And if you do incorporate technology, make sure that it is not complete “self-service”. A medical technology company used an Interactive 3D display to allow prospects to explore their product, zoom, see internal mechanics, and even go a simulated “test drive”. The 3D simulation provided the company the opportunity to introduce key prospects to a very costly medical device but required some assistance from the booth staff so that there was a natural opportunity to start a dialog.
  • Everybody wins. If you are going to have a prize drawing, come up with something more enticing than a fishbowl for the entries and a random drawing sometime in the future when most of the entrants are already left the show. Attendees remember events, games, and competitions. One clever exhibitor created an “everybody wins” contest with thousands of prizes. Instead of being just another booth with a free logoed giveaway, they enticed people into entering their booth and spinning a gigantic wheel of fortune. Even most of the people who won the smallest prize – a promotional item with the company’s name, website, and phone number – remembered the company because they won their prize.
  • Open and inviting. The simplest way to increase the effectiveness of your trade show marketing is to open up your booth. Get rid of the table across the front and get rid of any barriers. Eliminate all the clutter. Design your trade show exhibit for graphic impact with large, attractive images and clean, simple and bold elements that will draw one’s attention. Add dramatic lighting and motion that welcomes people into your booth.

Have you seen any unique and enticing booth ideas that created buzz on the exhibition floor and attracted visitors?

Design for Success: Branded Trade Show Booths Generate Sales

surprisedA trade show exhibit is a rare opportunity to surround your key prospects with your brand experience. An exhibit is not an impersonal 2-D experience like a TV commercial. It is not virtual and passively interactive like your company website. An exhibit can be a real 360-degree brand experience, alive with people and almost completely in your control.

When you invite key prospects into a 360-degree brand experience, your booth has a chance to be one of those few memorable moments from the entire show. And the exhibitors who create these memorable moments are almost always the show sales leaders.

Be true to your brand position and personality.

Make sure that you start out with a platform that is consistent with your brand position and personality. If you are a technology company, you can be playful and use a comic book superhero theme. On the other hand, the same theme is probably not appropriate for a health care benefits company who needs to establish credibility and trust. Similarly, if your company manufactures euro-design furniture, your booth can be sleek, experimental and minimalistic. But if your company makes traditional American style furniture with a focus on fine craftsmanship, your booth design should reflect that heritage.

“Surprise and Delight” your target customers.

To create a memorable moment with your booth, you need an overarching theme and concept that will surprise and delight your target customers. You are looking for something that will break out of the endless sea of logos, photos of smiling customers, and product images. Based on surveys of trade show attendees and exhibitors, the memorable booths are not the biggest booths, they are the ones that had one big idea and focused on it.

I can’t give you a list of foolproof big ideas. You’ll need to work with your team and exhibit design company to create the concept. I can pass on one secret – get your internal and external team members to think only about your brand and what would really “Surprise and Delight” your target customers. Don’t be distracted by what your competition did last year or even what your company did last year. Brainstorm first, then evaluate the ideas once you have a list.

Once you have a concept, everything else will fall into place.

One unifying concept will pull everything together. If you have multiple products or divisions involved with the show, use the concept to unify everything. Make sure every aspect of the entire exhibit – accessories, product displays, signage and lighting – builds on the big idea.

And never forget: when it comes to a great trade show exhibit, less is more really applies. Focus relentlessly on your brand and your concept.

Make a Big Impact With a Small Trade Show Exhibit

You may be planning a small trade show booth, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a big impact. Here are a few ways to make any exhibit a big win.

Keep it simple
Your exhibit will stand out if you create a very simple booth. Keep it uncluttered, only include the essentials, and make it open and inviting.

Look professional
Make sure that every aspect of your booth is professional – from your exhibit, to your sales collateral, to your booth staff. A professional looking booth is critical to building credibility and to attracting traffic.

Be dramatic
Use distinctive materials, tension fabrics, woods, colored metal and layered graphics to present a current look and build visual interest.

tallgiraffeThink tall
Design a booth that incorporates one tall element that is visible above the crowd. It can be as simple as an overhead sign with a unique design, shape and movement, or something more unusual like moving lights on a group of hanging banners.

Get the best booth staff
In a small booth, the staff can be the difference between engaging attendees and just blending into the background. Make sure to have an outgoing, knowledgeable team at the show.

Start your marketing before the show
About 75% of show attendees decide on exhibit visits and seminar attendance in advance. Set up meetings with clients, prospects, and press ahead of time.

Follow-up after the show
Don’t let one hot lead fall through the cracks; make sure to follow-up all the qualified leads after the show.

It doesn’t matter if your trade show exhibit is the largest at the show or a smaller booth, the same principles of great trade show presentation still apply. Make sure your trade show exhibit stands out from the rest of the show, that your team executes flawlessly and every element works to bring your brand to life.

Trade Show Design: Audience Boredom is the Real Challenge

You’re heading to the biggest trade show of the year. You’ve checked out your competition and your exhibit looks as good as theirs looks. You have last year’s team back. Everything will be as good as it was last year. You are ready to make the most the show. But are you ready for the real competition? An audience that is totally and completely bored.

You Have Only a Brief Moment to Make an Impression at a Tradeshow! Attendees Only Recall 15% of the Displays Visited.

A rendering of a question mark mazePeople are surrounded with so much slick mass entertainment, on-demand info, interactive experiences, and noise and hype that they have moved beyond oversaturation – they are now tuning most of it out. Trade show attendees – and your target customers – are a product of this environment. They quickly scan a booth and make a very rapid decision about whether to invest more time or effort in a visit. Now, you not only have to beat your competition, you need to capture the heart and minds of your prospects that are harder than ever to engage.

Studies have found that on average trade show attendees can only recall 10% to 15% of the displays they visited 24 hours later, but the most valuable customers remember over 40% of exhibits even a year later. That is the dilemma – the casual show attendees won’t remember much but do not really matter; the high- value buyers probably remember what you did last year.

You have only one brief moment to make an impression. Do you want your target customers to see your trade show exhibit and think, “been there, done that”? (Don’t forget – your most valuable prospects never miss a show and they saw your booth last year.)

So ask this simple question: When was the last time you changed the appearance of your exhibit?

If the answer is more than two years, pick up the phone and call the best trade show exhibit designer you can find (we can help!). If your booth was typically forgettable, it will look dated. If your booth was the star of the show, it will be unforgettable and remembered as last year’s exhibit. No matter what, a dated exhibit will send the wrong message about your company and the wrong message about how you feel about the attendees of this show.

In this fast-paced, competitive world, trade show visitors want “new”. That doesn’t mean that you need a completely new exhibit, perhaps it just needs to be refreshed. But, now more than ever, it is important to show that your company understands how to succeed in this hyper-competitive marketplace.

In a Blink of an Eye, a Trade Show Decision is Made

Swarms of attendees are in the aisles, but who will come into your booth? Is one of the attendees your next big prospect? They could be…

The bestselling book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell, informs us: eye“A person watching a silent two-second video clip of a teacher he or she has never met will reach conclusions about how good that teacher is that are very similar to those of a student who has sat in the teacher’s class for an entire semester. That’s the power of our adaptive unconscious.”

Considering the implications of this in trade show terms, here are some items to be aware of in working with buyers and prospects in your exhibit and creating the best possible impression.

The snap judgments derived in those seconds will determine whether someone perceives you worthy of their time. And whether they will move towards any type of engagement.

When you are creating your booth property you must remember that it will be placed in a sea of other sights and sounds. How do you create a physical structure that is welcoming and delivers your core marketing message to the trade show audience? Not an easy task.

Can your booth live up to its marketing potential? Here are a few questions your team should consider as you prepare for the show.

  • Will a person who is unfamiliar with our company know who we are and what we do via our graphics?
  • Do we clearly communicate our solution message in our booth in images and text?
  • Is your booth open and inviting so that someone is drawn into it?
  • How can you tactfully interrupt someone who is walking the aisle and engage them with video, music, graphics, a demonstration, etc.?

We know that most attendees come to the show with an agenda, and use the time to evaluate vendors before making a final decision. When a buyer is in the information gathering mode, as is generally the case at an event, there is a relatively small window of opportunity to grab their attention. What happens is they use this time to count in and leave out suppliers based upon their experience in the booth with them.

Starting the Conversation with a Prospect

Let’s assume that your booth has caught the attention of someone walking the aisle. The first step in any engagement process is a conversation. It is conversation which is focused on the attendee, not you.

Do not start the conversation with, “Can I help you?” This is an immediate turn-off! Use open- ended questions to probe if this person is a prospect at all.

The best booth personnel don’t sell, instead they “gather” the information on what type of prospect they are engaging. Gathering information is the opposite of selling.

Start the conversation with a “pick up line” that will solicit a thoughtful reply, like one of these:

  • What conference session has been the best one, thus far?
  • Wasn’t the [keynote speakers name] funny, entertaining, etc. What did you think of him/her?
  • What booth on the floor has been the most compelling for you?
  • What’s the best thing you’ve seen at the show?

What are the qualifying questions that let YOU determine if they are a prospect for you? If you get these questions answered, then you know where to take it from there!

Once you have the conversation started, then you can ask other open-ended questions which can help you qualify them. Here are some examples for you:

  • What’s your biggest challenge this year?
  • What did you hope to find at the show?

Now that you have their attention…are they someone you want to talk to? Ask a question about THEIR responsibility at the company. Like:

  • “Are you responsible for _________”
    If no…ask “who is?”
  • “Are you involved with _________”

They may be a source of information about potential projects. If they are not the right person, don’t waste another second with this person while potential “hot” prospects are walking by the booth. Escort this person out of the booth quickly and politely so you can engage with the right prospect.

Now if you find a decision-maker for your target company-type…take it a step further and find out if a project is on the horizon by asking:

  • “Is your company planning a __________?”
  • “Have you chosen a vendor?”
  • “When will you make that decision?”
  • “What are the criteria for ______?”
  • “What is the budget for ______?”

The questions you are asking should match the lead gathering device the booth personnel have. You could be using a lead card, an electronic device, or a handheld smart phone to capture relevant information. Make sure all members of your booth team know what pieces of information you want gathered and someone is monitoring for quality.

By gathering as much information and recording it on the show floor, it will make the follow- up process more robust. In a future post we will discuss several proven follow-up activities that can separate you from the competition and move the prospect along the sales funnel.