When it comes to standing out in a crowd, don’t look up, look at the flooring under your feet. Look down. Have you ever walked a tradeshow floor and did nothing for fifteen minutes but look at the flooring an exhibitor is using in their booth? In many cases, you can’t ignore the floor. It’s quite an education on the use of a variety of flooring options for today’s exhibitors. If you’re not taking advantage of any of them, it’s a sure bet that many of your competitors are.
One example of a client we work with, Schmidt’s Naturals, has used custom printed flooring in both of their recent Expo West presentations, and to say it helped their exhibit stand out is an understatement. With the ability to print custom graphics and messaging on the floor gives you a (no pun intended) leg up on the competition.
Another client, Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley, didn’t use custom printed flooring, but instead chose to separate the two brands in a 10×30 space by using one type of flooring (printed vinyl) for one brand and another type (black carpet) for the other brand. Great way to distinguish the two brands in a single space.
Printed carpet is also available, using the dye-sub technology to add branding to the soft carpet below your feet.
Another approach that draws attention to your booth space is to raise the floor by two or three inches. I hear this is very common in Europe. The edges in this case will often have a slanted walkway or entry to help visitors avoid tripping hazards. Raised flooring also lets you take care of all wire management underneath the flooring, and it’s easy to change out the surface from show to show.
Whatever you decide on flooring, there are multiple opportunities that should be considered to give yourself a visual edge in drawing attention of attendees.
A ‘road-tripping’ version of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, where I gather at the campground with old friends, hoist a few, pick some tunes, stare at the night stars, and smell the juniper and sage of the Oregon high desert. Totally off the grid for almost 72 hours with absolutely “NO SERVICE!” Good stuff.
As for the ONE GOOD THING? Hitting the road, doing a little camping – it’s a VACATION, no matter how long.
Given that we know how many different balls you have to keep in the air, is it even possible to stop feeling overwhelmed when it comes to managing your tradeshow program?
That depends on how you personally deal with things that can come at you like a full-on firehose – we all deal with things a little differently – but let’s explore a few ways that might assist with your state of feeling overwhelmed.
Plan your day. I don’t do that as often as I should, but when I create a list of todos prior to the start of the day – even the night before – I move through that list with ease and confidence. By taking some quiet time before the day really kicks into high crazy gear, you’ll have a much better handle on the tasks at hand.
Prioritize. Yes, we get pulled every which way by calls, emails, bosses, meetings, customers and clients and more. This can definitely add stress to your day. Priorities should be made weeks or months ahead of time so that you know your overall, important goals, and use them as a template to figure out your daily priorities.
Use technology to your advantage. Today’s technology gives us more flexibility than any of our forebears, but only if you use it correctly. Embrace the use of technology and use it where it makes sense (working from home or remotely, anyone?), and avoid getting sucked into another 30 minutes of social media bait-and-response.
Work it out in chunks.
Often tradeshow projects come at us in big chunks. Lots of shows, little time between some of them, major and minor changes that need to be addressed. And so on. Carve out the easiest chunk, do that, carve out another chunk, tackle that, and keep going with that idea of parceling out the various bits and pieces instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture and looming deadlines.
Know the real deadlines. Tradeshows are closer than they appear in the calendar. The best way to not get overwhelmed by approaching deadlines is to complete a lot of tasks before you ever really need to. For example, one client I work with wants to upgrade their booth in a pretty major way for next year’s show. We could wait another six months to get started, and still have plenty of time. But we ended up scheduling the first planning meeting a mere two months after the show – ten months ahead of the upgrade’s debut – and will likely have it done months ahead of time. No sweat and everyone’s happy.
Delegate. How much do you really need to do yourself vs. how much to you pass on to someone else? Certain tasks can easily be passed on to someone else. Just make sure you’re not adding to their state of being overwhelmed!
Write it down. Some people work better with to-do lists in front of them. If that means you, writing things down will give you a visual reminder of what you’ve accomplished and what you have left to do today.
Clear and concise communication. Whether you’re meeting in person, speaking on the phone, or communicating via email, be as clear and concise as you’re able. Before clicking “send,” read and re-read the email. Take out unnecessary words, edit like a high school English teacher, and then click. Before speaking, know what you’re going to say. Most of us spend time NOT listening but preparing to respond. If you paid more attention to what someone is really saying – and what they really mean – your response will be more thoughtful. And probably less knee-jerk.
What can you do to keep from being overwhelmed in your day to day tradeshow adventures?
I think we all approach time management skills a little differently. For instance, I don’t think much about it beyond blocking time out for prospecting calls on a near-daily basis. I set goals on a weekly basis, and have deadlines for those goals, such as at least two blog posts per week, and getting the weekly podcast/vlog produced in a timely manner.
Mixed into that are tasks that come and go depending on current projects. If I have a handful of clients all preparing for the same show, I have a tracking sheet showing the status of each project and remaining tasks, and a timeline for those tasks.
There are a number of things I’ve learned over the years that seem to work for me. What works for you? There are hundreds of thousands of pages online that can show you various approaches to time management, but for me it boils down to the following items.
Goal setting: what do you want to accomplish and when do you want to get it done?
Prioritizing: get the top two or three most important things done early in the day and the rest of the day opens up to a lot more. Prioritizing also means removing things from your task list that shouldn’t be there; things that can either be left undone or delegated.
Self-motivation: this gets to the heart of why you’re doing anything. Why do you work? Why do you exercise? Why do you eat what you eat? What motivates you? We all have different reasons for getting out of bed, for working, for taking time off. If you happen to be self-employed, your motivation is going to be different than that of the person going to work who may depend on a different kind of motivation to keep on task.
Focus: Twitter? Facebook? Chatting with a friend online? Making a phone call in the middle of trying to write an article? Responding immediately to an email that pops up? All of these and more can distract you from the focus you have on any given task. I’ve read that if you have a couple of hours of work that needs to be done with great focus, plan on working through it in chunks of time. Set a timer for twenty minutes. When it dings, take a short break to stretch, go outside, grab some water – whatever works best for you – and then get back at the task. And keep that up until that specific piece of work is done.
Decision-making: in a busy work environment, we are all often pulled in several directions. Should you help someone else? What meetings should you attend? Which task is first today? Decision making is part of prioritizing, but it can quickly move into an area of having to decide what fires to put out.
Planning: plainly put, planning is the ability to see all that needs to be done during the foreseeable future and creating a plan that fits. The foreseeable future can mean looking five or ten years ahead, or it can mean looking a few days ahead.
Delegating: I mentioned this a little earlier, but if you have the ability to delegate or outsource some tasks that you really don’t need to do, this can free up your time.
Keeping good records: sounds simple, and it is. If you know how to find things quickly, you waste little time looking around. They say a cluttered desk is the sign of a genius. If everything is within arm’s reach, that might work best for you. But others find that keeping an uncluttered desk or workspace works best. What works best for you?
Patience. Or maybe the ability to see the bigger picture. Yes, I’ve certainly been caught up in trying to get a large amount of work done under deadline (don’t we all at times?), but if you have patience enough to see how that piece of crazy work fits into the overall picture – the 30,000 foot view, as it were – you will realize that not only is the craziness temporary, but next time something similar arrives, you’ll have the perspective and the patience to get through it with a lower amount of stress.
If you’re new to the world of tradeshow marketing, one of the most difficult challenges is this: how do you find a tradeshow that is a good fit? And by a good fit, does it have your target market, does it have buyers and decision makers, and will there be a lot of traffic there, even as a new exhibitor that is relegated to a lower-traffic area of the show floor?
The first thing to do is find out if your competitors are there. If your direct competitors have been going to a show for years, they must have a reason. It doesn’t hurt to call them up and pick their brains. Even competitors will tell you pros and cons of the shows they exhibit at. And if you’re a new company, they probably won’t think of you as a threatening competitor. Yet.
Ask partners, vendors and other industry-related companies about what shows they are aware of and how those shows are perceived in the industry.
Once you narrow down a few shows that have a lot of competitors, it’s always good advice to attend and walk the floor prior to committing as an exhibitor. Yes, most shows are annual, which means you’re putting off the decision for several more months, but by walking the floor, you can speak to exhibitors, chat with show organizers, pick the brains of attendees and get an overall feel for the veracity of the show. Once you decide to go, you have several months to determine how the next steps will unfold.
If you’re still trying to learn about all of the potential shows, take your mouse for a spin. There are many tradeshow databases online – just search for the term tradeshow database.
I’ve been doing tradeshow follow up on a couple of shows (three, actually, when I think about it) for the past several weeks. One of the questions I ask of the people I’m following up with is, “How is your follow up going?”
“Oh boy, I have a lot more to do. It seems to be never-ending,” said one person, who said he was about a third of the way through his list a month after the show.
Frankly, tradeshow follow up can be a bit of a slog. A grind. A long haul. But it’s got to be done!
But you’ll never know the full results of your tradeshow appearance or attendance until you complete the follow up. “Complete” follow up may be a misnomer; I suspect that most people never get through the complete list of people they are intending to follow up with.
But like a good Harry Bosch novel, it ain’t over until the last page, your follow up ain’t over until you’ve talked to the last person.
Given the difficulty of making all of those calls, and connecting with all of those people, here are (x) tips to help you get to the last page of the novel, er, uh, the end of your call list.
8 Tradeshow Follow Up Tips
Set aside a time to call. Most of us wear a lot of hats, and finding time to make those calls is hard, unless you plan for it. Budgeting for the time, blocking it out and committing to it, are the basic elements of making sure you at least get the first step done. Put it on your calendar, put in a reminder notification, and make it happen.
Block out everything else during this time. I find it works best to turn off the email program, and perhaps even shut the door to your office if you have one. If you’re in a more open office environment, make it clear to colleagues that you’re carving out this time and would like to have that time as uninterrupted as possible.
Know what you’re going to say. Having gone through a couple of sales seminars, and a year of sales training with Sandler Sales, I’ve come up with a script, or at least an opening line that easily and unthreateningly opens the door to a conversation. “Did I catch you at a bad time?” give the person on the other end a chance to say, “Yes. I’m just going into a meeting (or whatever),” and if that’s the case, you ask when a better time might be to catch them. If they say “No, this is a good time,” they’ve just give you permission to forge ahead. Once in the conversation…
Know your goal of the call. Are you trying to sell something that can be sold in one call? Are you looking to have a brief call and if there’s interest to move forward, schedule a second, more in-depth call later? Whatever your goal, don’t hang up until you’ve either determined there is no “there” there (no chance of a sale), or that you both agree on what the next step is and when.
Be consistent. Hell, be a pest. I am. I even tell people that I’m a pest, but a nice pest. The response I get when I say that is something like a laugh and then, “No, that’s okay – I really do need to talk to you – please keep trying to get me.” They admit that they’re hard to reach and they don’t always return calls. Understand that virtually everybody you talk to is probably overworked and they have a to-do list that’s longer than they’ll get to in the foreseeable future. But if they really are interested in what you are pitching, be consistent. Stay in their radar. Send an email if they can’t be reached via phone.
Be available at unusual times if you are really having a hard time connecting and have expressed a genuine interest in your product or service. Offer to take a call after hours, or before the office opens.
It’s not about you. Don’t take it personally. If you get rejected, it’s not because of you. A hundred different reasons may be affecting the prospect’s ability or interest to engage with you. Those reasons could be financial, personal, business. You really don’t know what they’re going through, so just move on. Sales follow up can be a bummer if you take it personally. But if you make a lot of calls and develop the prospects you have into genuine leads, you’ll have plenty to do.
Never give up. I’ve put certain prospects and even former clients on the back burner for years but have never completely given up on the idea of getting them as a client, or back as a client again. Things change. They always do. People move within a company; they move to other companies, a company’s goals and budget will change. Just because they said no once or twice doesn’t mean they’ll say it forever.
There are many reasons to explore bare-bones or low budget tradeshow design. Budget is probably a big motivator to many exhibitors to have a simple design, but it’s not the only reason. Having an extremely simplified exhibit can attract attention you might not otherwise get.
One recent example comes to mind: Kashi, at the Natural Products Expo West. For the past couple of years, Kashi has made a statement with a very simply exhibit. The large island exhibit consisted of a tall “1%” icon that engaged visitors, driving them to curiosity to stop and see what it meant. The explanation was shown on a small posted sign and was reinforced by a few staffers. The exhibit captured people by its very simplicity.
Of course, there are numerous ways to save bucks when exhibiting: instead of printing brochures, make them available only via PDF downloads. Rent an exhibit instead of owning. Promote through social media. Avoid promotional giveaways unless it really nails your brand. And so on.
But with a simple design, you can catch eyeballs and turn heads and keep to low budget tradeshow design. Large simple graphics with very little text can often to the trick. Using a pop-up internally lit graphic in a smaller booth is one good way to stand out. Having a creative design brief that directs your exhibit house to think in terms of stark simplicity. If your brand lends itself to simplicity, all the better. If not, a creative 3D exhibit designer and a creative graphic designer can work to simplify.
Another reason to simplify: if you have a simpler booth, you have fewer pieces to ship, which reduces shipping and drayage costs, and presumably, I&D costs. It also gives you more space to welcome visitors. A more open space is often more inviting.
What can you do with the design of your booth to simplify and reduce costs?
With so many places to order branded merchandise, how do you know what you’re really getting? Sometimes it takes an expert to help you figure it out. This episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee feature Mike Stanton of Agitprop Productions discussing the ins and outs of tracking down quality promotional branded items.