As an exhibitor, or someone who manages an exhibit program for a company, you have oodles of details to keep track of each and every show. This often means you don’t have time to stop and ponder the very act of exhibiting at a tradeshow. But sometimes taking time to do just such a thing is a good thing. These questions are not aimed at the logistics of your exhibit, but are pointer more towards the internal conversation you may have with yourself and how you and your staff approach the act of marketing while standing in a tradeshow booth with the intent of finding potential clients or customers.
Do you have any blind spots?
What are your hidden strengths?
Are you really focused on the things that are important?
When it comes to networking, do you push your comfort zone or do you play it safe?
How well do you take care of yourself during the few days of the show?
Does everybody on your booth staff know all of your products or services well enough to talk about them fluently?
Do you sometimes talk too much to visitors just to fill time instead of letting them talk?
Do you have three good questions to start a conversation centered on the needs your product or service fulfills?
What information do you need to determine if a visitor is a prospect or not?
Once you qualify a visitor, what precise information do you need from them to move forward?
Are you comfortable you’re doing all you can to maximize the company’s time on the tradeshow floor without doing too much and getting burned out?
Do you have a tested plan to gather all leads and get them back to the sales team in a timely manner?
I could go on and on, but the point is to have you examine your involvement in tradeshow marketing from a different perspective and see if you could find some areas to improve. What questions should you be asking yourself or your team?
Every now and then it’s good to take a look at the tools we use every day in our work – hence a list of my favorite useful tools. Whether it’s a piece of software, an app, a physical tool of some sort or just a mental approach. Here’s what I find most useful these days – the things I use the most:
Microsoft Office 365 for Mac. This has everything, and at a modest price. I use MS Word for writing, Outlook for email, Excel for spreadsheets. PowerPoint is a part of the package, but I prefer Mac’s Keynote, which I find more elegant. There’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint, and at times I’ve had to export Keynote presentations to PowerPoint to play them on PCs. I was never fond of the Mac native Mail program, and was glad to see the recent upgrades to Outlook, which used to be Entourage. I’ve managed to carry my email database through several computers from PC to Macbook over the years, and the current version of Outlook for Mac is nearly flawless.
Keynote. It’s a Mac-only program and is useful for presentations of all kinds, whether for a recorded video or a live presentation.
Screenflow. My go-to for video has screen recording, video camera recording and the ability to choose a specific microphone. You can also record screens from your plugged-in device such as an iPhone or iPad, although I’ve never found an occasion where that was necessary or even useful. But hey, maybe someday! Along with Giphy, Screenflow can create easy gifs as well!
Hootsuite. An online multi-use tool for send out social media items. Send things to more than one platform, upload multiple posts for timed release.
Photoshop. Still the standby for creating quick graphics and photo editing with text overlays. I’m no graphic expert, but I know this program well enough after using it for a couple of decades to get done what I need to quickly. My old CS4 version hasn’t been updated for years, and it works well.
UltraEdit. Billed as the world’s best text editor. Developers and programmers use it for writing code. But I’m no coder and still use it all the time. For when you want text files with no formatting whatsoever. It also works when you have some heavily formatted text from a website that you want to keep without the formatting. Just copy from the website and paste into UltraEdit and all the formatting is gone.
Scrivener. The best book-writing software I’ve experienced. Great at organizing notes, drafts, thoughts and more.
Dropbox. Lots of alternatives, but this has been my go-to for archiving client files, sharing files with and from clients and archiving personal photos.
Filezilla. FTP software that works really well. Free is a very good price, too.
Microsoft OneNote. Part of Microsoft Office 365, available as a standalone download. With the MS Office 365, you get a terrabyte of storage which is very useful for storing notes and files. Very useful in some instances, but I come and go from this one. Lots of interesting things in this tool. You can take a photo of a whiteboard for instance, and the app will convert the writing to text. Put it on an iPhone or iPad and you can write notes. I don’t use this as much as I probably should!
CleanMyMac. Between this and MacKeeper, my laptop stays humming pretty well. After all, it’s almost seven years old. I’ve upgraded it with a 1TB solid state drive and maxed out the RAM to 16 gig, but it still needs software to keep it clean.
Google Calendar. I’d be lost without reminders and notifications from Google Calendar. Syncs with the app on my phone.
Adobe Audition. Ever since my professional radio days ended, I still record and edit audio frequently. Part of it is due to my continued volunteering with my weekly reggae show (Monday nights at 6 pm Pacific – stream it live!) on the local community radio station, KMUZ, and part of that is my weekly vlog/podcast, the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee.
Zoom. I use this for video meetings, mainly to record the conversations for my vlog/podcast. Easy to use and will record the meeting with the click of a button.
Aweber. I’ve used AWeber for all of my newsletters, autoresponders, etc. for years. The program is easy to use and it keeps getting better. Lots of alternatives, but I’ve seen no real valid reason for switching.
LeadPages. Lead capture software. You know the ones – the annoying popups that ask you to opt in to a newsletter in exchange for some sort of goodie. Yes, popups can be annoying, but they work and people have gotten used to them. Integrates seamlessly with AWeber and other email programs. Highly recommended for its creativity and flexibility.
Carbonite. One of at least two backups I have. Carbonite works in the background to archive the essential files (not all kinds of files, though – it doesn’t typically back up video or audio files unless you ask it to). There is also a Carbonite app, but I’ve had issues with it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Although there have been times with Carbonite has save my ass on the floor of a tradeshow when I needed to pull up a critical file. More than once.
Time Machine. The other Mac back up. I used it once a week to manually backup all of my latest files.
Soundcloud. This is the host of the audiofiles for the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee podcast. Easy to use, easy to grab the code to embed the file into a blog post, and useful listening stats as well.
Quickbooks. Money tracking, check-writing, invoicing, etc., at its best.
Beyond the usual text, email, messaging, maps and such, I find the following apps very useful (links are to the iTunes store):
Ski Tracks. Tracks my routes and distance on the slope.
Apple Macbook Pro. 13” early 2011. Upgraded to 16 GB RAM and a 1 TB SSD hard drive. Rarely have I had a glitch with this.
Blue Yeti USB Microphone. I switched to a USB microphone a couple of years ago when I couldn’t chase down an annoying hum in my analog board. Works great and is very reasonably priced. You see it in all of my podcast videos.
Sony MDR-V6 dynamic stereo headphones. I’ve used these headphones for more than twenty years, since my radio days. Still use them when recording and volunteering at the local community radio station. It’s my second pair.
SkullCandy ear buds. While I tend to go through a pair of these about every year, they deliver much better sound and comfort than the earphones that come with the iPhone.
Keen messenger bag. The model shown in the link isn’t the one I have, but very similar. Great for carrying laptop, books, lunch, whatever.
Am I missing anything? What are you using? Leave a comment!
Let’s have a little fun, and rock out a little at the same time. Let’s find inspiration from some of the old classics and see how they play into your tradeshow marketing plan.
The Who: Who Are You: Yes, you need to know who you are as a company and an entity so that you can clearly communicate that information to your visitors using the elements of your exhibit, how you interact with visitors and help them solve problems.
Beatles: Can’t Buy Me Love. You might be able to spend your way to increased market share or a bigger booth space, but if you want your customers or clients to really love you, it takes more than money. It takes passion, belief, engagement, and follow-through.
Rolling Stones: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. As a marketer, it’s a great feeling to come off the floor after a successful tradeshow. It means you’ve done a lot RIGHT. But don’t get too satisfied. You can do better next time – and your competition still is trying to take clients and customer and make them theirs.
Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced? Experience counts for a lot in the tradeshow world. The more experienced booth staffers, for instance, the better they’re able to engage with attendees. The more experienced your exhibit designers and fabricators, the better the exhibit. And so on. Experience counts for a lot. And don’t forget that many of your visitors have decades of experience behind them as well.
Dire Straits: Love Over Gold: Yes, we do it for the money. But when I see people that do it for love – and are really loving what they’re doing – that is something that’s hard to compete with. If your competition is LOVING what they’re doing and you’re not, and all other things are equal – who’s going to come out on top?
T. Rex: Bang a Gong (Get it On): one of the most important pieces of exhibiting at a tradeshow is to tell people that you’re there. Let that information ring out everywhere: press releases, local TV/Radio if appropriate, social media, email blasts, phone calls, direct mail and more.
it’s not a tradeshow, but it’s an event of tremendous proportions. It’s historic week on the Monterey Peninsula, and I’ve been attending for over a quarter of a century. Since I first attended in 1989, it has grown to include multiple related events, including historic car auctions, vintage auto tours/rallies, historic auto races and more. It’s frankly hard to keep track of it all! It’s pulled off mostly by volunteers, and has so far managed to remain a mix of the one-percenters (who probably show most of the cars at Pebble) to the average historic/vintage auto buff. And very few celebrities – except for Jay Leno, who MC’s the raffles and a few other things to wrap up the Sunday show (get some new jokes, Jay!).
As I mentioned, I’ve had the good fortune to attend the show over 25 times, and get in a few golf swings at Pacific Grove Golf Course along the way. I thought it might be fun to share a few photos of the event. Check ’em out:
While it’s great to know all of the things you should do at a tradeshow, it’s also enlightening to flip the coin and figure out ways to sabotage your tradeshow appearance. Y’know, to hopefully avoid doing so.
Take any person from the office who’s willing to come. So what if they are new, or don’t know the products well, and are young and well-known partiers? You only need them to show up at the booth during show hours, no doubt.
Don’t tell anyone, such as potential or current clients that you’re going to the show. They’ll find you there anyway.
Bring a notebook to write down the name of anyone that might be interested in your products or services. Low tech is best.
Grab a handful of old product sell sheets. If there are any changes, you can jot them in the margins. Don’t want to let them go to waste.
Plan on setting up the booth yourself. Even though you’ve never done that. After all, you’re an Ikea pro.
Don’t bother to check out last year’s (or the year before’s) graphics. A picture is a picture.
Wait until the last minute. Hey, the show’s only next month, right?
Do the same thing next year as you did this year.
Put your effort into doing at least half of the preceding tips, and no doubt you’ll sabotage your tradeshow marketing efforts. And plan on updating your resume soon!
Hey, doesn’t everybody use Twitter? Okay, not everybody, but certainly a lot of folks do. It’s the go-to immediate social media platform to post quick-hitting comments, links and videos. You can track chatter about topics galore, and if you’re trying to keep up with social media interaction relating to a specific tradeshow, just plug in the show hashtag and you’re seeing dozens and dozens of tweets, photos and videos.
Frankly, it’s tough to find a tradeshow-related Twitter account that doesn’t commit one of the sins of tweeting: too much self-promotion, nothing but retweeting, or just ignoring the ability to personally relate by tweeting our photos or individual comments.
Let’s get highly subjective and track down a baker’s dozen of tradeshow and event-related Twitter accounts that you might take a look at:
Infographics do a great job of quickly communicating information in a fun and effective way, especially if you’re like me (and 65% of the rest of the population) and are a visual learner. So let’s sift through some of the great tradeshow infographics floating around on Pinterest these days.Click through to the Pinterest posts, or browse the infographics below.
No doubt there are over a million tradeshow blogs dedicated to just the single topic of tradeshow marketing, wouldn’t you say? More? Less? No matter how you add them up, it seems like a lot. And now and then I peruse the Google machine to see what new listings show up. Not to brag, but what’s interesting to me is that this blog – the TradeshowGuyBlog – shows up on a few of these lists. Nice! Let’s review:
10 Tradeshow Blogs You Need to Read is from Exponet, and for some reason I made the top listing. Hey, the guy even acts as if he knows me. Published last month, he even mentions the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee podcast/vlog, so you know he’s on top of it! TSNN and Exhibitor also made the cut on this list.
Here on the USA’s Fourth of July Independence Day, let’s let freedom ring and celebrate in the tradeshow world.
No matter your political, economic or social stripes, I have no doubt you could make the case that our freedoms are under fire from many directions. But in the USA we still have the freedom to make the best case we can for our products and services: things we have put our careers on the line for and our talents to the test.
So let’s celebrate.
Celebrate your ability to go anywhere for any reason in this country to promote your business, products and services.
Let freedom ring and celebrate the willingness of buyers to show up at your tradeshow booth and palaver about your products, perhaps placing an order or making arrangements for a future discussion.
Celebrate the freedom to pitch your products in retail stores, online and through industry-focused tradeshows.
Celebrate your ability to hire the best people you can find to create those products and help market them at the tradeshow of your choice.
With freedom comes responsibility: you have the freedom to exhibit as modestly or extravagantly as you can. You also have the responsibility to present the best image that you and your team can assemble based on your ability and resources. You have the responsibility to squeeze the most out of those talents and resources as you can muster.
As an American, I have the freedom (and responsibility) to quibble about the way our country is run, and no doubt if you and got together over a beer we’d find we disagreed on a lot. But I would be that we’d probably agree on more than we disagree on.
So let’s let freedom ring and celebrate our diversity – and what we have in common – today.