Alexis Exhibits

Tradeshow Lessons from the Mall

It seems like every time my wife and I go shopping at the mall, I get a reminder of what it takes to make exhibiting at a tradeshow a great investment. I think we have all had the same experience – I’m not talking about the big department stores or even the smaller shops that take up most of the space at the mall. I’m referring to the little carts that sit out in the open.

Most of these tiny stores (or kiosks) are staffed by one young person who spends most of their time talking on their cell phone, texting or chatting with friends who stop by. Just like most companies that exhibit at tradeshows, these small businesses are depending on the visual appeal of their products to attract potential customers. While I have no firsthand knowledge of how profitable these carts are, I think it’s safe to say their owners would be thrilled if they could increase sales by 10 – 20% each day.

The exception to the rule are the carts that are selling jewelry or eyeglass cleaner. As you walk by, you will almost always be approached by someone who asks, “Excuse me, ma’am, would you allow me to clean your rings?” or “Excuse me, sir, can I clean your eyeglasses for you?.” I would venture to say that the people that work these carts have been given some training and some incentive. Not only that, I’ll bet that they sell much more of their product than the carts staffed by distracted teens.

My personal favorite is the one demonstrating and selling the foam airplanes that come right back to you when you throw them. Usually, two young people are constantly throwing the planes and they always come right back to them. Just the activity alone makes you stand there and watch, which greatly increases the chances you’ll buy something.

So how does all of this relate to trade shows?

Even though the situations are completely different, there is one common factor. The buyers in each case are human beings. Most human beings respond to similar stimulus. Get the people that work your exhibit to approach prospects with as much energy as the people selling jewelry cleaner. Have some activity in your booth like the people throwing foam airplanes. I’ll bet you’ll see a big improvement in your trade show ROI.

Scheduling Tradeshow Staff

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 guest 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.

Trade Show Success: Integrate Live Online Video

Trade shows have always been great PR opportunities because they get press coverage. For decades, companies have used trade shows to make major announcements or introduce new products. Usually, these announcements get more press coverage than they would ordinarily get because reporters covering the shows are looking for news.

For the past few years, companies have been extending their news reach by using social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram to provide live online video of company announcements, news conferences, trade show product demonstrations and other events directly from the trade show floor. All of these platforms incorporate live chat that can be used for “Q and A” sessions between company representatives and reporters, bloggers or the general public.

Now, some companies are cleverly reversing their trade show live streams to bring their entire company to the trade show. Some connect trade show attendees to company executives or technical representatives for live chat events. Other exhibitors are incorporating live feeds of their manufacturing facilities or service centers into their exhibits. The variety is almost endless.

Be Creative

Don’t limit your imagination about how to use live online video. Live video streams can be a great way to promote your exhibit before the show. It can be a great way to present highlights of a show when it is all wrapped up. Live video of product demonstrations and testimonials from the trade show floor can be powerful at generating online sales while the show is going on. If a company representative is making an important presentation at a show, consider how you can use online video of this presentation to promote your company and products.

Consider providing a show cam to your entire team “back at the office” or in the field

Live video can keep your entire company involved with the show. Think about running a daily live stream program from the show just for your company’s staff. It can be as simple as a daily wrap up of the big events from the show and observations of what the competition is up to.

Don’t push the boundaries of the technology too far

Technology can be great but it is no substitute for the live one-to-one contact that trade shows make possible. Make sure that your company is well represented by the people staffing your exhibit.

Plan for everything to go wrong

Live online video can be great but it is not always reliable. Make sure that you coordinate any live stream plan with the show staff and your tech support team. Test everything in advance, and then test it again. Make sure you have a contingency plan and that the live video broadcast is just a plus to your overall promotion and PR plan. The best way to have things go smoothly is to plan for problems.

Have you ever incorporated a live streaming video into your trade show sales effort?

Trade Show, Show Business: Put the “Show” Into Your Exhibit

When you are putting together a tradeshow exhibit, think about it as theater. You need to attract an audience, capture their imagination, and leave a memorable impression. To do that you need to set the stage and build an atmosphere that will draw people into your booth – bring them into your show.

You need a great script and the best actors you can find

If you want great reviews, then you need to start with a great script. Then you need “actors” who can bring that script to life and who can improvise. Give them the perfect costumes and a stage setting that builds on your brand story, and your exhibit will draw prospects right into your show.

Don’t be afraid to be dramatic!

Some of the most imaginative, most successful trade show exhibits are done by companies who offer intrinsically boring products and services. They do not have the luxury of relying on people being interested in what they are selling, so they often work much harder to add entertainment value to their exhibit. These are some of the booths with the most creative themes and visual drama.

Go a bit outside the box, push the boundaries. Trade show attendees want to see something new and exciting. Just remember to stay consistent with your brand position and brand values.

Lights, camera, action

Well, OK – lights and action! One way to create visual interest is with your lighting design. Work with your designer to build a lighting concept that presents your ideas in a clear way to focus on your company’s competitive advantages. Take it to the next level by using lighting to do more than spotlight your product, use it to create a spotlighted stage for your booth team.

Make your show a tough act to follow

If you create a real show, your exhibit will be the one that people remember when they walk into your competitors’ booth and when they return to their day-to-day business after the show. It will be the one that they talk to their co-workers and associates about. And, perhaps best of all, it will be one of the exhibits that gets press extending your trade show marketing reach.

Staff Your Trade Show Exhibit to Make the Sale!

You’ve done everything brilliantly. Your new trade show exhibit has arrived and is set up. Your product displays are stunning. Your agency put together collateral that will impress your prospects. Everything is set for the show opening — or is it?

The majority of buyers only attend one or two trade shows a year, and they come to the show planning to make buying decisions. Plan ahead so you have the right team to close the sale.

Are you properly staffed?

Most people are aware that having a well-trained trade show exhibit staff is one of the keys to trade show success. But it is just as important to be properly staffed.

Make sure you have the right staffing mix at the show. What functions need to be represented? Do you need technical staff or product specialists to support your sales team? Augment your trade show exhibit team with home office staff who are on call and available to answer questions and provide information to key prospects.

Do you have enough staff to cover the booth?

Even in a small trade show exhibit, it is ideal to have at least two people at your booth all the times so that one person is free to leave the booth and interact with attendees as they are walking by. If you are trapped in your booth waiting for them to come to your trade show exhibit, you will miss key prospects.

Make sure your team maximizes downtime

There is a lot of downtime at a trade show. Some experts estimate that as much as 90% of the time exhibitors spend at a trade show is wasted. Organize lead follow-up activities so that they can be done from the exhibit floor during these idle periods. Send out follow-up emails to prospects. Gather information to answer questions from prospects and get these answers to prospects before the show ends. Meet with the press to generate some proactive PR for your company. Have your team communicate trade show news to key prospects who could not attend the show from the trade show floor.

The right team is the essential element

Put the right team in a great trade show exhibit. Give them the training and tools they need to succeed and you will increase your trade show sales.

Know your Trade Show Terms

It’s hard to walk the walk, when you can’t talk the “talk” of the trade show world. We’re making it easier on you by creating a free downloadable glossary of terms, containing all the terms you need to know to look like a pro at your next trade show.

Here are just a few of trade show terms you’ll need to know to feel and sound like a real trade show insider:

Advanced Order- An order for show services sent to the contractor before actual move in.

Baffle- The partition to control light, air, sound or traffic flow.

Bill of Lading- Document or form listing goods to be shipped.

Blanket Wrap- Non-crated freight shipped via van line covered in protective blankets or padding.

Bone Yard- Equipment storage area at an exhibition hall.

Chevron- Type of cloth used for backdrops.

Consignee- The person to whom goods are shipped.

Corkage- The charge placed on beer, liquor, and win brought into the facility but purchased elsewhere. The charge sometimes includes glassware, ice, and mixers.

C.W.T.- Hundredweight- A measurement of the weight of exhibit freight. Usually 100 lbs.

Drayage- The unloading of your shipment at an exhibit hall, transporting it to your booth, storing and returning your empty crates and cartons, and reloading your shipment at the close of the show.

Duplex Outlet- Double electrical outlet.

Floater- Worker(s) used by a foreman to help assigned labor for short periods of time.

Foam Core- Lightweight material with a Styrofoam center used for signs, decorating, and exhibit construction.

Four-Hour Call- Minimum work period for which union labor must be paid.

I & D- Install and dismantle.

Infringement- Use of floor space outside exclusive booth area.

Marshalling Yard- Check-in area for trucks delivering exhibit material.

Pegboard panel- Framed panel of perforated hardboard. Pipe and

Drape- Tubing with drapes that separate exhibit booths.

Pro-Number- Number assigned by the freight forwarders to a single shipment; used in all cases where reference is made to the shipment.

Staging Area- Area adjacent to main event area for setup, dismantling, and temporary storage.

Stanchions- Decorative posts that hold markers or flags to define traffic areas. Ropes or chains may be attached.

Union Steward- On-site union official.

WARP, WEFT, & BIAS- The three ways fabric stretches, length, width and diagonal.

Yaw- Key stoning effect on a projection.

But wait, there’s more. For a complete list of terms to know, download the FREE Glossary of Trade Show Exhibit Terms!

Shine Like a Star at Your Trade Show by Scheduling a Book Signing

Schedule a book signing at your next trade show

Our clients are constantly looking for new ways to drive more traffic to their trade show exhibit. One very effective method to accomplish this is to schedule a book signing.

Most industries have some well-recognized experts who have written books or white papers on subjects directly related to the show and to exhibitors’ products or services. The opportunity to meet and talk to one of these experts as well as walk away with an autographed copy of a book can be a very compelling attraction.

This type of promotion works particularly well in medical, scientific and technical shows. The authors are very often participating in the show as speakers or presenters so the cost of having them in a booth can be quite reasonable. They are often willing to work the booth for just the cost of the books.

Be sure to hype the book signing with preshow emails to attendees. Develop a lead card that gathers all of the information necessary to turn the lead into a sale. The attendees should be required to complete the lead card in order to receive the book.

Consider controlling traffic by making it a “by invitation only” event in your pre-show promotions.

Trade Show Secrets to Success

For small businesses, trade shows can be a great opportunity to reach out to a targeted audience and deliver your marketing message. The goal, of course, is to ultimately convert potential sales leads into satisfied, happy customers.

Despite brutal economic conditions, trade shows still offer a significant payoff for small businesses. Even in today’s business world of websites, social media, emails and voicemails, trade shows still offer one of the best opportunities for companies to build relationships with face-to-face contact.

Let’s take a look at some trade show secrets (shhh, don’t tell anyone) that could help your company succeed in the trade show world, regardless of your budget.

Pick a show in a vertical, niche market. Instead of exhibiting at a trade show at which all your competitors will be, fighting to gain the attention of the same audience, pick an offbeat, smaller show. Every business has smaller, vertical markets in which they would like to gain a foothold. The advantage is these shows typically will cost less, and you can focus on delivering your message to a new audience, not on besting your competitors’ efforts.

Don’t listen to the hype. Instead of relying on the word of salespeople desperate to sell you a booth, talk to other exhibitors to find out what type of experience they’ve had not only working with the exhibit management but also the results they have experienced from exhibiting.

Attend the event first. If you’re considering exhibiting at a really large (read: expensive) trade show, attend it first. Walk the floor and ask both the attendees and the exhibitors about their experience at the show. Find out whether they felt attending or exhibiting was worth their time and money.

Skip new trade shows. Don’t invest in unproven commodities, especially in these tough economic times when even the larger shows can struggled for survival. Save your trade show budget for shows with a proven track record of success that you know can deliver the ROI you need to justify the expense.

Speak up. If you’re a small business with limited resources, exhibiting at trade shows might be beyond your economic means. That doesn’t mean you can’t add trade shows to your marketing mix. Contact the show management and inquire as to any possible opportunities to be a speaker or panel expert.

Get them while they’re hot. After the show is over, don’t let months go by before contacting sales prospects. Follow up with those attendees who took the time to stop by and hear your company’s pitch within two weeks of the show.

The Key to Tradeshow Exhibit Success: Location, Location, Location

When you’re planning for the upcoming year of trade shows, it’s important to remember that the location of your booth at trade shows can be key to getting the maximum amount of traffic. Lots of traffic can equate to a higher number of qualified sales leads, which you need to justify the expense of attending these shows.

The first step is to plan for the trade show early. When you book early, you’ll have more options to choose from for your booth location. If you wait until the last minute, you’ll be limited to choosing from whatever booth spots are not sold. The only plus of waiting: you might be able to find out in advance who your neighboring exhibitors will be. If a show doesn’t sell out, by booking later, the show organizers might offer that accompanying booth—if vacant—for free or for a greatly reduced price just to fill it.

If a particular show is a success for you, sign up and reserve your spot for the following year’s event while at the event or shortly thereafter, which might get you a better location and better deal too. Keep in mind that if you are a returning exhibitor, the event management’s sales folks want you back. Use this as a bargaining chip in your negotiations for next year’s booth rate and location.

So what are the prime locations when choosing your booth location? Let’s take a look at a few of the primo spots that exhibitors crave.

Close to the exit from the restrooms. You might balk at getting seated near the restroom at a restaurant, but tradeshows are an exception. Everyone eventually has to go to the bathroom and as they leave, they are often in strolling mode and more likely to stop.

Adjacent to food kiosks and/or Internet cafes. Be the first booth they see after they grab that cup of coffee, eat that bagel or check their email. Once their hunger is sated or their caffeine withdrawal has ebbed, they will be ready to give you their full, undivided attention.

Close to the entrance/exit of the exhibit hall. It’s guaranteed that everyone will have to walk by your booth multiple times a day. Be the first booth they see when they enter the hall, before they are worn out from hours of schlepping up and down the aisles.

End of aisles or on back walls. People often look to see how long aisles are and stop to get their bearings before they embark down an aisle. Seize this opportunity to grab their attention.

Which Trade Show is Right for you?

It is an age old question – should we exhibit? This question surfaces on a regular basis in all marketing departments. There are certain shows, based on their great performance in the past, that are no-brainers. But there can be others which you may not know much about.

Ask Customers and Prospects about the Trade Shows They Attend

The first point is to simply ask others about the trade shows that they like and attend. Make it a habit to ask customers and prospects alike “which trade shows do you attend?”

  • Which is the “best” one for finding new products?
  • How are the shows different and what makes them different?
  • If they often attend more than one – which one is most important?
  • Which one would they skip if they had to choose?
  • Which show(s) have caught their attention, but haven’t yet made a priority?

You might consider conducting a short survey that can be sent out to your prospects and customers to solicit their responses. There are many free survey tools available to use, like Survey MonkeyZoomerang, and others.

Talk with the Trade Show Organizer

The show organizer’s job is to be an expert on who attends their events. Typically they have concrete, measurable registration surveys and audits for you to view. Initially, you can review their prospectus; then, if it looks like a fit for you, call them directly. They know that a successful show is predicated on the right buyers finding the right vendors.  Consequently, they make a science out of profiling their customers, and you should too.

To begin profiling your customer, start with these questions: Who do you want to attract to your exhibit booth? Who are the ideal customers for your product and/or service and what is important to them? Depending on whether your market is, business to consumer, or business to business, the criteria will be different. Regardless of the specific terms, you will need to define your customer. The broad range of data categories are: demographics (who is my customer), psychographics (what do they do), behavioral (how do they do it) and causation (why they do what they do). According to Barry Siskind in an article called The Right Place to Exhibit – A Strategic Approach, “causation is the sum total of all the demographic, psychographic and behavioral data you have accumulated. It matches up your features and benefits with your customers’ perception of their importance.”

As you profile your target audience, you can ask questions to find out where they are and the best way to reach them. Given that shows have various geographic focuses (regional, national or international), you will want to choose those ideally suited to both you and the audience you serve. Ultimately, you have plenty of choices, though finding the right trade show can be challenging. “The right show is a blend of audience, cost and logistics. Good event selection is a solid base upon which the rest of your exhibit program is built,” Siskind reminds us.

Resources for Locating Trade Shows

If you need to look up a show, here are several online resources for you.

Events in America: www.eventsinamerica.com

Trade Show News Network: www.tsnn.com

The Trade Show Calendar: www.thetradeshowcalendar.com

Selecting the right trade show is just the beginning of the process.