Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

May 2010

McCormick Place to Benefit From New Legislation

It’s a done deal. The law that was expected to be passed is now, in fact, reality:

Officials of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) and the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB) today applauded the passage of a new law meant to reform labor rules, establish exhibitor rights and realign McCormick Place operations with its major competitors in the convention and trade show industry.

Downtown Chicago

The new law calls for (according to today’s press release):

• New labor work rules that reduce crew sizes, require less overtime pay and eliminate hassles for customers.
• Expanding exhibitor rights, allowing customers to do their own work, regardless of booth size.
• The appointment of a Trustee, former MPEA CEO Jim Reilly, to oversee operations during an 18 month transition period and select a private manager for McCormick Place.
• Restructuring capital debt to allow the MPEA to further lower costs to customers and put the MPEA on sound financial footing.
• Allowing shows to select outside electrical and food service contractors.
• Auditing contracts to ensure savings are passed on to customers.
• Make recommendations to whether Navy Pier should remain in control by the Authority or become an independent entity.

I’ve only been to McCormick Place once and was pretty impressed – a very nice hall for all the big shows that come through. Let’s hope this law does what its intended to do.

For more information, click here…

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Focus Group at a Tradeshow?

coloring

I spent a couple of hours this week as part of a focus group for Portland adult alternative radio station KINK.FM. There were about 18 of us, and I found it to be a very interesting experience. Having worked in radio for more than 25 years (I left the industry in 2002), it was interesting to experience being on the ‘other side’ for once.

I’ve seen focus groups, read about them, helped form them…but never been on the other side of the coin.

We were asked a lot of questions about our favorite stations, fave music, likes and dislikes about the station. All the stuff you might expect. For 90 minutes the facilitator guided us through a number of topics, while KINK’s Program Director scribbled notes quietly.

To the radio station, each of us represented thousands of their listeners or potential listeners, so they listened closely to what we had to say.

Do you do any market research in your industry? If you’re a professional speaker, do you take time to find out what your audience wants? Do you ask them what they DON’T like? Do you ask them what’s missing?

KINK.FM did all that and more. They fed us and gave us free CD’s and bumper stickers, too!

Now…here’s your task: can you use a tradeshow as a focus group of sorts? If so, how?

Would you have a short questionnaire that you can use to engage booth visitors? Can you set up a short demo of a new product and get their reaction? Can you show them mockups of a half-dozen proposed ads that your ad agency has conjured up? Should you bother to waste their time with annoying questions like ‘what do you think of this…?’?

Of course you can. You’re paying good money for your booth space. You have an audience of people that are interested in your industry – and probably your products – or they wouldn’t have paid to attend the show.

So take advantage of the situation. Set up your own series of mini focus groups during the show, and mine them for useful information.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll unearth a gem!

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photo credit: crazyoctopus

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The Cold Call I Got Today

I so have to Call round

Cold calling isn’t rocket science. If you’re in sales, you gotta do them at some point in your career. Heck, I do cold calling on occasion. You never know what you’re going to get. But before I pick up the phone, I want to make sure I have a good prospect. So I ask questions of myself:

Do I know if this company exhibits at shows? If so, what shows? Who’s the person that directs that effort? Is he/she the decision maker? What have they done in the past? How many shows a year do they currently attend?

Y’know, that kind of thing. A little ‘market research’ so you might have a clue as to where a conversation might go, or to perhaps keep up if it takes a swift turn.

This morning I received a cold call from a sales woman who hadn’t done much of anything before dialing my number:

She: Hi, I’m with (insert company name). Do you do any business with the federal government?
Me: Yes…But I’m not sure exactly what it is you want from me. We already do a fair amount of business with the federal government.
She: You do? I’m not sure exactly what it is you do.
Me: Well, I suppose if you’d bothered to check out our website or do a little research on our company so you’d know what you’re talking about when you tried to sell something it would help. Which is what I do before I cold call someone.
She: So you’re not interested?
Me: It doesn’t sound like you know what we do. Did you even try and find out what it is we do before you called us?
She: (giving up waaaay too easily): Well, I hope you have a nice day. Thank you for your t— (hangs up)

Hey, don’t give up so quickly! I might be interested in at least hearing your pitch – but by not getting a specific answer, and abandoning the effort, it was a wasted call all around.

At a tradeshow it’s a different beast altogether. It’s almost as if you’re allowed to ‘cold call’ without doing an research. People walk up to your booth, you start zinging them some pre-planned questions. Based on their answers, you quickly determine if they’re a prospect or not. But you still will be in a better position if your questions are well-thought-out to elicit responses that pertain directly to your product or service.

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photo credit: 1Happysnapper (photography)

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Get Some Publicity at Your Next Tradeshow!

day 280: usa today

Once you get beyond sales and generating sales leads at tradeshows, the next biggest benefit of tradeshows is the opportunity for press: Newspapers, Websites, Magazines, Radio. TV. Podcasts. Blogs. Social Media.

Naturally there are going to be reporters covering the show. They’ve got to write about something and it might as well be your company. Ask yourself what you can bring to the table: a unique product? A new product? A major personnel switch in your corporate headquarters? Do you have a new partnership you want to publicize? Or do you have a celebrity endorser that is going to attract attention?

A little organization and legwork can yield excellent benefits. You may hit the jackpot and become a featured story in a magazine or newspaper, or even a cable TV show featurette. This could give you press coverage that – had you paid for the time and space – could be worth thousands, even millions of dollars.

Unfortunately many companies let this opportunity pass them by. If you don’t have a strategic plan in place, what are you waiting for?

Do some research and find out what media outlets typically cover the show. Are they local? Regional? Trade magazines or blogs?

Who are the main contact people? Do you work with an ad agency that has contacts at the outlets?

Next you’ll need to refine your message: what products or services do you want to highlight? Put together short but complete documents on the products.

Then you schedule appointments with your management, marketing departments, CEO – whoever is most appropriate for the news or online outlet – and book as many apointments during the show as possible.

And whenever you get a media hit, capture it: copies of newspaper or magazine articles, print-outs of blog posts; copies of videos, podcasts, etc. Use those as part of your growing media coverage kit. Play it up on YOUR company website and blog.

And keep in mind, the more you play the media game, the better you’ll get out of it. Take notes, determine what worked and what didn’t, and make adjustments next time.

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photo credit: cuttlefish

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Changes at Chicago’s McCormick Place

I don’t usually do hard news on this blog, but I was contacted this week by The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB), who asked if I might be interested in taking a look at the following story. Having been to Chicago a couple of times for events at McCormick it’s good to see this consumer-focused legislation moving into place.

(Dateline: Chicago)

Downtown Chicago

Changes were announced this week that “truly changes the landscape here in Chicago,” according to David Causton, McCormick Place General Manager.

What are the changes?

New legislation that wound its way through the Illinois General Assembly that basically gives the customer (the exhibitors) a new bill of rights.

For instance, “The legislation grants exhibitors the ability to do their own electrical work or contract it out, and bring in their own food for personal consumption.” That from the press release issued last Friday, May 7th by the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB).

According to the e-mail I received this week from Maura Cheeks on behalf of the CCTB, the legislation is waiting for Governer Quinn’s signature to become law. He’s expected to do that soon.

As Maura put it: “The new legislation will create a new business model for McCormick Place. This important first step was the collaborative outcome of state, city, business and industry leaders to bring a host of positive changes for our meeting and convention customers, exhibitors and attendees.”

Check out links here for more on the story:

The CCTB’s official statement in support of the bill.

The CCTB’s President, Tim Roby, has presented a webcast with Dave Causton, General Manager of McCormick Place, to discuss how these proposed changes will benefit Chicago’s convention customers and exhibitors. View the webcast and video comments here – or click to view now:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R9IAkOCxHY&feature=player_embedded

Along with the CCTB website, check Chicago Meeting Matters for background, fact sheets, videos and other information.

Wow. Hard news from Tradeshowguy Blog. Whodathunkit?

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Misssspellings, Grammmmattical Errorrrs and other Miss Takes

In the past year or two I’ve had a handful of clients that had to either re-do tradeshow graphics or send in umpteen versions of the files because people kept finding things they wanted to change.

One company even had to re-do graphics two days before the show because the company’s name was misspelled. Uh-huh.

It happens all the time, of course. We send out proposals for projects and later find a few errors that we should have corrected. No one is immune from the grammatical and punctuation error disease.

So when I came across this in my in-box this morning from Todd Hunt, I thought I’d share it:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, former star of “Seinfeld,”
received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last week.

Too bad they misspelled her name Luis Dreyfus (without the “o” and without the hyphen).

Hollywood honchos reportedly learned about the error only after a passer-by (no, not me — I wish) spotted it as workers were installing the star.

So they scrambled to create a temporary replacement in time for the ceremony, and promised to fix it permanently.

Reminded me of other stars whose names are often misspelled.

Ann-Margret (not Margaret — Swedish you know), and the hyphen is part of her name.

Ginger Rogers (not Rodgers).

And Katharine Hepburn
(not Katherine, Catherine or Catharine).

Todd is good at watching out for those types of things. His “Hunt’s Headlines” newsletter is always short, useful and entertaining (subscription information below).

No matter how often you look at a tradeshow graphic or brochure that’s going out for printing, getting one more set of eyes on it can’t hurt. Proofing by a couple of people is good, normal and usually adequate. But double-checking your double-checking is also good.

After all, when you miss something and the boo-boo goes out for public consumption, people WILL notice – at least some. And they’ll remember that mistake – and your company – and think “Why didn’t they proof that any better?”

HUNT’S HEADLINES is a free e-Letter from Todd Hunt, business humorist, speaker and author. Book him now to add fun to your next meeting and send members back to work smiling, with tips to improve communication and success. For information, http://www.toddhuntspeaker.com

photo copyright via Creative Commons by Yarl

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How Bob Marley Can Inspire Your Tradeshow Marketing

Bob Marley, 1979- photo by Roger Steffens

It was 29 years ago today when I was a young DJ in Salem, Oregon. One of my jobs was to ‘rip-n-read’ the news, so I was regularly heading to the news room to see the latest, and include the pertinent stories on the air.

On that day, May 11, 1981, the news came over that Bob Marley had died of cancer. He was in Miami, on his way home from alternative treatment in Europe. He didn’t make it alive.

As Music Director, my main job was to handle the music playlist for the Top 4o AM station. I was a big Bob Marley fan, but it was hard at that time to justify playing any of his music on the air. No one in the world of TOP 4o knew who he was. Yes, some folks knew he wrote “I Shot the Sheriff” which had been a Number One Hit for Eric Clapton in ’74. And he had written “Stir It Up,” which Johnny Nash tossed up the charts in the mid 70s.

But his recordings had a hard time getting a toehold on ‘traditional’ music radio. The one minor exception was “Roots, Rock, Reggae” which made it up to #51 on Billboard’s Top 100 in 1976. And yes, as a Music Director I played it. Mixed it right in with Wings’ ‘Silly Love Songs,’ Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music’ and Dorothy Moore’s ‘Misty Blue’ among others. Hell, I thought it fit just fine. But when it faded a few short weeks after debuting, I couldn’t justify keeping it around so I dropped it out of rotation. Except in my living room of course.

So how could Bob Marley make an impact on your life? On your tradeshow marketing? Think it’s a stretch? It depends on how you apply it.

In reading about Bob’s life, one thing sticks out: his unceasing devotion to his path. He knew from the age of seven that he would be a singer. He never let anything derail him. No doubt there were many chances to choose to do something else, but he never wavered.

So that’s one thing: figure out your tradeshow marketing goal – and stick to it. Don’t let anything keep you from your objective.

Another piece of Bob’s life I truly appreciated was his dedication to his craft. He gave his audience his best. Always. There are stories of when he was in the recording studio, he’d stay late nights for hours and do take after take on a vocal track to get the right one.

When Bob Marley and the Wailers toured, he was always the first off the bus to rehearsal, and the first back on the bus after the show.

So: devotion, dedication and takin’ care of business. Good things to keep in mind for any endeavor.

When you get to his music, you run across lyrics and songs that lift and inspire:

“Could You Be Loved” – are your visitors looking for a little love from your business? Treat ’em nice!

“Get Up, Stand Up” – stand up for your visitors’ rights! Again, treat ’em nice.

“Positive Vibration” – one of Bob’s best known uplifting songs:

If you get down and quarrel everyday
You’re saying prayers to the devil, I say
Why not help one another on the way
Make it much easier

And of course you could tie in many other song titles to tradeshow situations (make up your own situation for the following…)

“Work”
“Judge Not”
“Keep on Moving”
“Rat Race”
“Night Shift”
“Jammin'”

and my fave:

“Slave Driver”…ever had one of those bosses?

Okay, all in fun…but definitely some inspiration here. Put on some Bob Marley next time you’re doing prep for your upcoming tradeshow – and see if you can get a little inspiration, Jamaica-style.

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Green Tradeshow Booth Materials

So you’re ready to move into getting a new custom-built booth. But one of your main concerns is the type of material that will be used to fabricate the booth.

Of course, your exhibit company should be up-to-date on all of the latest materials available. So be sure to raise the question of sustainable materials with your booth fabricator. Some of the materials that might be considered include bamboo, FSC certified wood, recycled metal, low VOC, organic or recycled latex paint, or tension fabric (low weight which cuts down on shipping costs and the carbon footprint of the shipping).

Many booths may be made with re-claimed materials, which can often be sourced locally. If those materials can be sourced locally, they need less transit time and cost. Plus for each dollar spent locally, three dollars stay in the community so spending locally reduces carbon usage and helps sustain the local economy.

It’s true that many sustainable choices are not cost-neutral, and in fact may bust your budget. When one client of ours constructed a new booth a few years back they explored a variety of materials options,. Even though they wanted to use those sustainable materials, it turned out to have enough impact on their budget that the decision was made to use more typical materials for fabrication. Beyond that it didn’t give them a look they were comfortable with. The financial and aesthetic considerations outweighed the desire to use sustainable materials.

There’s no wrong answer and each project requires its own examination – but one worth pursuing, as there are new material choices coming to market all the time.

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A Classic: The Curved Back Wall Pop-Up Display

You’ve seen them for decades. Probably set them up at tradeshows. Maybe loved them, or cursed them.

It’s…The Curved Back Wall Pop-up Display!

They’ve been around so long it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where and when they started. I’ve tried to no avail. I’m sure some archaeologist will someday find the first curved back wall display with a caveman skeleton embedded in the rock next to it. Maybe the display will be advertising Saber-toothed tiger hunting tools, mmm?

Let’s face it – this display is an easy solution to the challenge of creating a low-budget, easily-transportable and easily set-up tradeshow booth.

Some view it as a cheap alternative to a more custom look. And it’s true, a custom booth often stands out more than the curved back wall pop-up display.

But in a sense the curved back wall pop-up display is an elegant solution with quite a bit of flexibility.

First, of course, is that you have the choice of using either fabric panels or graphic panels.

Fabric panels in a multitude of color options give you the ability to attach any graphics or photos or messaging you want with Velcro.

Graphic panels that go from floor to the top of the exhibit can create a stunning look. I’ve seen some curved back wall pop-up displays adorned with such powerful photographs that I’ve stopped in my tracks.

Many of the newer curved back wall pop-ups have the ability to install shelves for monitors or to display other items. When a visitor sees a shelf it’s a little unusual so that can also be a good attractor.

And with the curved back wall you have the ability to shift the display around a bit for greater effect. Let’s say your booth is open on two sides. By shifting the booth a couple of feet in a semi-circle towards your neighboring booth (without going so far as to violate height restrictions), you open up both open sides of your booth to visitors, which makes your entire 100 square foot space more inviting and accessible.

With the evolving fabrication techniques, a curved back wall pop-up should last a damn long time, too. A reputable manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty on parts and labor, so your investment is minimal – and a good one.

Finally, the ability to set up the booth in short order – even by someone who’s never done it before but can read and follow directions – makes a pop-up the Swiss Army knife of exhibiting. Add in the ability to convert your carrying case to a counter-slash-storage unit gives you even more bang for your buck.

So that’s the Curved Back Wall Pop-up Display. Pricing ranges from about $1,000 up to $3,000 or so depending on size, style and manufacturer. If you price-shop online to get the lowest price possible you can probably beat that.

But if all you’re looking for is the lowest price, a word of advice: yes, you may get the lowest price – but are you getting a product that will still be giving you service in ten years? Sometimes investing a little more time in checking out the actual product (how it’s made, what the warranty is, who is making it, etc.), and investing a bit more $$ means you won’t be kicking yourself in a couple of years because the cheap version broke after being set up just a few times.

I’m just sayin’…

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Avoid Trade Show Heartburn Webinar

Every once in awhile a blog post becomes a blatant pitch. And often you just want to click away because – HEY Why would anyone want to sell you something while you’re reading a blog, anyway??

Well, you might be interested. You never know!

And now and then an event comes along that is custom-fit for the readership and the goals of this blog.

Such an event is Joyce McKee’s “Avoid Trade Show Heartburn Webinar” coming up later this month.

I’ve known Joyce for 6 or 8 years and have watched her do good things, spread great information and offer help and assistance joyfully.

So I feel great about giving her a hand by helping to promote her upcoming webinar on May 18th at 1 pm central.

Watch the video and if you feel like it might be a useful webinar for you to attend, head on over to Joyce’s site where you can register for the webinar:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExepJa8X9oI&feature=player_embedded

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