I thought it might be fun to see what people have gravitated to on this blog when it comes to the weekly vlog/podcast I do under the title TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. The podcast is more or less a diary of my business and more broadly, the event and tradeshow industry, and beyond that, the business world. Or at least what interests me on any given day.
I don’t always have interviews on the show, but they’re always fun. I love speaking with industry colleagues and getting to know them, even though most of them are only “Zoom” friends, and we aren’t sitting down across a table for coffee!
Still, they’re enlightening and fun. Here are the top five most-viewed based on analytics looking back twelve months.
Number Five (we’re counting down to Number One!): Dominic Rubino of BizStratPlan.com talked about an easy formula for difficult business conversations.
Number Four: Phil Gorski of Ava-Nee Productions and his company’s VR approach to tradeshow exhibits (and other fun things).
What day is it? Are you counting how many days since you’ve been on shelter-at-home protocols? Or are you in a state that has abandoned all attempts to limit the spread of COVID-19 and things are getting back to normal? Which begs the question: what is normal?
This week on TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I caught up with Dale Obrochta of PutATwistOnIt.com, who’s been a previous guest on this show. We talked about the challenges his profession is facing in the new normal.
Now, we can certainly agree that a lot of activities can pump up your lead generation numbers. But when it comes to things that are (almost) foolproof, here are the top five that come to mind for me.
Interactivity + follow up
Pre-show marketing / appointments
Trained booth staff
Let’s agree that on the tradeshow floor, you don’t have total control. You can’t control how many people find your booth, you can’t control the organization that’s promoting the show, you can’t control your attendees and so on. Which means that no matter what you do, you may still fall short.
Having a professional presenter, one that really knows their stuff and how to present your company to your attendees, over and over, several times a day throughout the show, is often seen as one of the surefire solid ways to get more leads. Just make sure your booth staff is ready for the influx of people and know how to handle them before they get away when the presenter is done.
Interactivity + follow up. Interactivity can mean a lot of things, but for the sake of argument, let’s narrow it down to something that relates specifically to your product or service.
Hands-on Demo. Perhaps slightly different than interactivity, this is an actual demonstration where your booth visitor actually, physically, learns a little more about your product. Say, a software demonstration, or a class in the booth space that teaches while they have their hands on the product.
Pre-show marketing / appointments. Setting appointments prior to the show, getting the one-on-one meetings on to a prospect’s calendar, is often the best way to ensure you have an audience of one that is focused on your message.
Trained booth staff. How important is a trained booth staffer? Probably the most important thing you have going for you other than your actual products and services. Worth their weight in gold. Make sure your staffers know how to answer questions, capture contact info, do a demo, put on a smile, and act appropriately in the booth (no phone in their hands, no eating, and so on).
There are dozens of other things you can do, but these are the top five in my book.
The social distancing guidelines put forth due to the COVID-19 pandemic has effectively shut off a majority of the economy, like turning off a spigot. It would be easier to line-item the businesses that are open than those that are closed: grocery stores, drive-through coffee shops and some business offices. Ten million in the US have filed for unemployment in the past two weeks.
The impact of this on the nation, on the world, is unfathomable.
I know many people who are sitting at home most of the day, binging TV shows or reading books or even playing board games or sharing music online. Others are making use of the time to learn a new skill, to tackle that novel, to write music, to create.
Others don’t know what to do.
If you’re still working, whether from home or in the office, and you have to sell to keep things going in the company, what do you do? What approach do you take?
I subscribe to several sales newsletters and thought I’d share a few thoughts. Some came from the newsletters, others from just my own experience. But here we are in a time where it’s difficult to even find someone to talk to.
First, when you call, it makes sense to ask your contact what approach their company is making. Are they putting everything on hold for the time being, awaiting the end of the social distancing and figuring they’ll kick back into action when the pandemic is over? Or are they moving forward with business as usual, as much as they can?
If it’s the former, tell them, that, ‘yeah, it’s a crazy time, I get it,’ and ask if you can send a quick email with your contact information so that when we do get back to normal they can reach back out to you. If it’s the latter, move into your typical sales questions to uncover any needs they may currently have for what you’re offering.
Another part of the equation is what you’re selling. If you’re in the restaurant supply business, chances are that your potential buyers are not even open, unless they’re doing take-out or drive-thru only. If you’re selling Personal Protective Equipment for health workers, you probably can’t keep up with the demand. It all depends on the specific products or services you’re selling.
Most people probably fall somewhere in between those two extremes. Which means you’re going to have to find a strategy that keeps at least some business coming in.
With millions stuck at home, that means people are going online to shop, they’re connecting via video meetings (Zoom is being mentioned dozens of times a day in the mainstream press!), telephone and email.
Questions to ask yourself:
What shape is the company website it? Does it need upgrading? Can you add new products, new services and new ways for people to connect?
Are your social media platforms being updated frequently? With so much time on their hands, everybody is on social media.
Can you offer a digital version of your services? Lots of people are taking this time to create online learning classes or other ways of sharing their information.
Can you connect with others regularly? Sure! Some people are starting up regular Zoom meetings just to have a face-to-face connection with others outside of their home.
Bottom line: be there for clients and prospects. Don’t stop doing outreach, however that looks for you. Don’t be pushy but if you continue to think you can offer something of value, something that your clients and prospects can really use, keep doing it.
Cruising Twitter is always an entertaining proposition. Sometimes
because you find some really interesting stuff. Other times because you end up
wanting to pull your hair out. But it’s never boring!
In search of some #tradeshow ideas, I entered that search term in the box on Twitter. Lots of companies use Twitter to push out advertisements and come-ons, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you mix it up with good useful information. But I looked and came up with a handful of good articles. Let’s take a look.
Fortunate PR guy (his words) Jim Bianchi tweeted out a link to a post called “Top Lessons Learned for Automotive and Mobility Suppliers from CES2020.” Much of the lessons had to do with how beneficial CES is to exhibitors (which it certainly should be), but it illustrates how many traditional auto suppliers are finding their way into one of the world’s biggest shows. Another tip had to do with navigating around Las Vegas during show time, given that the public transit systems can be overwhelmed by an additional 175,000 people. Yeah, no kidding!
And finally, a list from Architectural Digest on Tradeshows You Should Consider Attending in 2020, assuming you’re in the architectural world. Most of the shows are stateside, but there are mentions of the London Design Festival, Heimtextil in Frankfurt and others. Lots of details on each show for the serious planner. This was shared by Skyline out of South Carolina.
Yes, Twitter has its detractors and it can be a little overwhelming if crazy politics are going on at that moment (okay, that’s always going on), but it’s also a good source for good information if you just know where to look.
Face it, we’re all swimming in data. Every time we walk out the door, drive to the store, buy a cup of coffee, order something online or even just sit at home watching TV, that information is getting logged. If you have a doorbell camera, there’s a good chance that you also chose to connect with local law enforcement agencies, who now can use the images to theoretically catch the bad guys. Stories abound, good and bad, about how all of that data can be used.
So yes, the data at times can be overwhelming. But what
about your tradeshow booth? Are there any ways to track data during a show that
can be helpful?
Let’s say you set up a time lapse camera in your booth. Put it somewhere that allows you to track the number of visitors, that can show you how long people stayed, or what they interacted with in the booth. That would be one way. Certainly, it would take some time to go through the video after the show, but my guess is that you would get some good intel as a result.
Other data you could consider tracking isn’t so high tech:
leads generated, sales made (and dollars brought in as a result of those
sales), new customers. You might also look at web traffic you got during or
right after the show. And be sure to look at social media impact: number of likes,
retweets, engagements and so forth.
Back to tech, here’s a great article from the Event Manager Blog on ways to track visitors using smart mats, wi-fi monitors and heat maps, badge scanners, wearables, beacons and more. Loads of stuff to digest, and some of it may actually be useful in certain situations.
Gathering data to examine from a single show is certainly
valuable. But it’s just one piece of the data-gathering path. When you gather the
same type of data at show after show, year after year, you can see trends
All of this information can help you make more informed decisions on how to approach and shape your marketing messaging by uncovering what makes things tick.
Hiett Ives is a four-decade veteran of the tradeshow industry. He publishes a weekly newsletter on language that is short and fun to read. Hiett also helps companies gather more leads at tradeshows with his company Show Dynamics.
Check out our conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:
If you’re sitting on an airplane, there are certain rules
that need to be followed. First and foremost, the attendants and the captain
are in charge. In fact, on each and every flight I’ve been on, they remind you
that federal law dictates that you must obey any instructions from flight
If you’re playing golf, there are rules upon rules about addressing the ball, putting, where you can take a drop and so on. Same with basketball, climbing a mountain, lifting weights. Some of the rules are well-thought out and dictated by organizations that manage the sport. The NBA, for example, can have different basketball rules than the NCAA. Or different football rules. Some rules are just plain common sense but aren’t written down.
When it comes to tradeshows, as an exhibitor or an attendee,
as part of the agreement that allows you access to the hall, you agree to
certain rules. If you’re an exhibitor, there are dozens and dozens of rules
about the exhibit you are allowed to set up, heights, fees, and so on and so
What about rules that may not be written down, but are just
common sense? No doubt most of these are just rules of polite society: don’t be
a jerk, treat people as you would like to be treated, and so on.
There also several unwritten rules of etiquette that you should adhere to. No eating in the booth, no sitting in the booth, greet visitors with a smile and a great engaging question, being on time when you’re scheduled to work.
But about the tradeshow floor itself, rules are again often
unspoken. Let’s check in on a few.
Suitcasing is a term for someone who is walking from exhibit
to exhibit and trying to pitch their product or services. Or they occupy space
where people are coming in and out and hand out flyers or brochures. It’s considered
unethical because the visitor didn’t pay for being there. They have no money
Outboarding is when a company doesn’t exhibit, but they’re
willing to rent a suite at a nearby hotel and invite attendees to see their
wares. I’ve read that it’s less common than it used to be simply because show
managers now often reserve blocks of rooms for exhibitors and if someone that
is not exhibiting tries to reserve a room or a suite the hotel just refuses.
Extending beyond the booth confines is not something I see a
lot, but I do see. This is when exhibitors will push things like banner stands
or literature stands outside of their booth dimensions.
Using music in your booth. Unless you hire the musician, and
the musician is playing his own unpublished music (rare, but it could happen),
you’ll be liable for paying licensing fees. And they ain’t cheap.
After hours a good rule to follow is limit your alcohol
intake, don’t stay up late, make sure you’re well-fed and hydrated. If you’re
hosting a client dinner or event, let the visitors eat or drink first. Be a
There are literally hundreds of other rules we could get
into, and no doubt you could come up with your own. Rules about marketing
strategy, collecting and following up on leads, attracting key prospects, graphic
design and so on.
The final rule I’ll offer, though, is this:
You’re going to be on your feet for hours at a time. Wear
One of the most valuable aspects of tradeshow marketing is
the ability to reach markets you would not normally be able to reach. In fact,
it’s what has helped Bob’s Red Mill grow through the years. Bob Moore, the
iconic Bob of the company, recognized early that by exhibiting at regional and
national tradeshows, they could get their products into markets that would
otherwise be extremely difficult to crack.
It means going to the right shows where attendees are from
companies that can ramp up distribution, that can become good partners. It
means making those connections and deepening them over the years so that your
products are valuable to them, and their ability to distribute into outlets
that you would have a difficult time doing on an individual basis is valuable
to both parties.
Yes, selling and making connections at tradeshows is
important. But one of the most important things to recognize is that once you meet
and acquire a partner there, part of the purpose of the show is to use it as a
platform to introduce new products. Not only that, but when you’re in those longer
conversations with partners, you can dig deeper into what’s important to them
and their end users, the consumers. Feedback is critical not only to making
sure the right products are being created and manufactured, but for keeping the
lines of communication open and honest. When problems come up, if you have a
good partner, the communication can be candid, and problems can be addressed.
Often a tradeshow is the only face-to-face meeting that partners have each
year, and the value of meeting and shaking hands and seeing people in person
cannot be overstated.
Use the tradeshow as a way to find and open new markets. Keep in mind that relationships will solidify as time goes by and the face-to-face communication is an important part of those relationships. Which you get when you sit down across the table at a tradeshow.
When it comes to tradeshow marketing, anything goes. Right?
Well, maybe not everything, but certainly it’s a time to try things. Do things
Or. Maybe not. Tradeshows are fraught with risk. You’re
putting a lot of money on the line. Generally speaking, the cost of tradeshow marketing
is about a third of a company’s overall marketing budget. Which means that it’s
a lot of money in play, making it hard for a company to risk much.
In a sense, tradeshows can be an interesting mix of the
precise and the experimental.
The precision is important, to be sure. Your tradeshow staff
is your front line. The most important piece of the puzzle. They need to know
what they’re doing and why. If mistakes are made, or if your staff isn’t as
well-trained as they could be, your company might miss out on a good amount of
Your exhibit is important. It’s the 3D representation of
your brand, and if it’s not spot-on, it’ll send mixed messages to your audience.
Your products, demos and sampling have to be well-thought
out and well-executed. Make some mistakes in these areas, and again, you’re
leaving potential money on the table.
Precision is important in these areas.
But tradeshows are also ripe for experimentation. You have opportunities to do surveys, market research, unusual activities, oddball booth items and much more that will grab eyeballs and attention without impacting the precision needed in other areas. VR, smoothie bikes, live music, projection mapping, unusual use of video….the list is endless as to how creative you can get at tradeshows and still do all of the precise things that you need to do to engage with attendees, capture leads, have an exhibit that captures your brand precisely.
Tradeshows are a balancing act no matter what you’re trying to balance. Adding some experimentation along with the precision gives you flexibility, a little tension (which makes people stop and look), and keeps you, your visitors and your competitors on your toes.