I spent a couple of hours this week at the Bravo! Live Tradeshow in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center yesterday, produced by BravoEvent.com.
The event features businesses that focus on event production, including caterers, event design and production, entertainment, event planning, transportation and tours and venues. Bravo! founder Mary Lou Burton conceived the idea for the show after her wedding in which she couldn’t find a central source for planning such an event. The tradeshow itself is about fifteen years old, held every October in Portland.
I’ve been to the show perhaps half a dozen times and always find it a friendly, moderately-sized regional show that has a lot to offer. This year I connected with a lot of exhibitors from my old hometowns of Sisters and Bend in Central Oregon. Always great to chat with people who are living where I grew up – especially the folks at The Lodge at Suttle Lake, just a short jaunt from the small Scout Lake where I learned to swim as a kid, in the upper Cascades.
Some 150 exhibitors showed their stuff. Of course the most popular are the caterers and brewpubs who sampled crab-cakes, ales, sweets, and yummy snacks.
The most interesting booths to me included the Portland Photo Booth, The Lodge at Suttle Lake (probably because I grew up near there and was interested to see how they were progressing), Wanderlust Tours, DWA Trade Show and Exposition, Astoria/Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, A Majestic Mountain Retreat, and Tickets Oregon.
My attraction to the booths, interestingly enough, were not because of how the booth looked, but with what they had to offer and how the folks staffing the booth interacted.
For example, the photo booth at Portland Photo Booth is a big attractor: you’re invited to sit in the booth and take a series of photos – just like you used to as a kid! The booth is available for rent for parties, corporate events, shows, etc. at a flat fee for unlimited usage during the rental time. Great way to get your guests involved.
The Lodge at Suttle Lake is a magnificent resort on the east end of Suttle Lake on the Santiam Pass in the Central Oregon Cascades. I told Becca at the booth that I grew up learning to swim at Scout Lake, just a mile or so up and over the hill from Suttle Lake, and that I had camped with my family several times at Suttle Lake. So we hit it off great. Always nice to connect with someone from your home town!
Pat Conlon at Wanderlust Tours went into a passionate description of what his company offered and I kept thinking “I need a job like that!” Patrick and the company spend their time taking folks on canoe, kayak, cave, volcano and GPS Eco-Challenge tours among other things. Neat.
But I think I was most impressed by Patrick Lamb’s Tickets Oregon, a new company that handles online ticket sales for Oregon events. Patrick is a Grammy-nominated musician who has toured the world and played with such folks as Lionel Hampton, Diane Schuur, Bobby Caldwell, Gino Vannelli, Jeff Lorber, ‘Little John’ Roberts, Curt Bisquera, Herman Jackson, Mel Brown, Marlon McClain, Nate Philips, The Crazy 8s, Dan Balmer, Paul Delay, Norman Sylvester….(okay, it’s an impressive list). In person Patrick is gregarious, passionate and knowledgeable. He’s the owner/founder of Tickets Oregon and as he told the story of why he started the company I couldn’t help get caught up in his tale. It also occurred to me that this is the way to get people involved in your endeavors: tell them a story about why you are involved. If it resonates, they’ll want to get involved.
In public speaking I always teach that personal stories are powerful. They hook people and draw them in. It’s the same in tradeshow marketing. Tell a powerful tale and you’ll hook your visitors.
As tradeshows go, Bravo! is a small regional show – and the organizers pulled it off very nicely. The exhibitors are extremely high quality, the registration process is nearly seamless (okay, a slight bump in getting a badge but they had a ready-made Plan B), and best of all the show was free to industry types.
And the crab-cakes were outasite!