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.
You’ve probably run into a tradeshow super connector and didn’t even realize it at the time. Not until later, when you got to thinking about that person you talked to. The one that knows everyone, and everyone knows him or her.
Billionaire Mark Cuban is known as a super connector. Peter Shankman is often thought of as a super connector. In his first book, Can We Do That, he describes how people would call him to recommend or connect them to someone specific. Peter knew everybody. It’s how he ended up starting HARO, Help A Reporter Out, and eventually sold the company.
What would make a tradeshow super connector? I think I have met a few along the way, although – not being one – I’m not sure I can easily spot them.
Here are what I see as seven traits of a super connector:
Outgoing; willing to talk to anyone, willing to introduce people.
They see connections where us normal humans don’t: Jill, meet Sam. He’s a money management book editor. She’s an author working on a new money management book. You can make some money and change people’s lives together. No need to cc me – just check each other out.
They’re willing to create gatherings at events that bring even more people together.
They follow up. Following up is quick and easy; even if they think someone is trying to sell them something. I can tell you from experience, lots of people never bother to follow up with something they aren’t personally familiar with. But a super connector doesn’t mind. She sees connections everywhere and is willing to connect.
They reach back to people they’ve become disconnected from in their past.
Super connectors are giving. They give their time, they give value, they create content that other people find useful.
Super connectors are helpful. Often, even during a first meeting where they have little to gain from knowing you, they’ll say “How can I help?”
And finally, in my view, super connectors usually don’t have a big ego. Sure, they’re confident in themselves, but there is a bit of humbleness – they’re always willing to learn something and don’t have the arrogance to think they know everything.
Keep a look out for the super connectors at your next tradeshow.
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!
It’s a good question: what does a tradeshow manager do? And frankly, you can come at this question from a few angles.
For instance, is the tradeshow manager (or coordinator, or project manager) employed by the company internally, to make sure the tradeshow appearance is as flawless and successful as possible? Does the tradeshow coordinator work for an exhibit house, tasked with making sure the new (or stored) exhibit is shipped to arrive on time, and get set up, dismantled and shipped back? Or does the company find a third party to coordinate the logistics from show to show on an as-needed basis?
There are several things to determine, such as: what is the scope of work? What tasks are expected of the tradeshow coordinator? Is there a marketing department that makes decisions on which shows to attend? Who determines the budget and where does that money come from? And so on.
Wearing several hats is not uncommon for someone with the larger and somewhat vague title of tradeshow coordinator. Mainly, she is responsible for:
Determining what shows to go to (usually in coordination with a larger team that vets the various options)
Scheduling or securing the booth space and coordinating logistics such as electricity, internet, cleaning, badge scanner and more
Work with vendors such as exhibit houses or printers for any updates to the exhibit
Scheduling exhibit shipping, I&D (installation and dismantle), return shipping, storage
Booth staffer hiring, training, scheduling and coordination of any special clothing such as branded t-shirts; develop and/or coordinate any pre-conference training for staffers
Coordinate with sales and marketing for any special product demos, etc.
Hire in-booth presenters if needed
Track expenses as required
Coordinate lead generation activities, system and delivery of leads to sales post-show
Pre-show marketing: mailers, emails, any specific phone invitations
Post-show follow-up communication
Record keeping: maintain show schedules, project checklists, exhibit management, photos from each show, logistic and travel expenses show to show and year over year
Each individual position may include more or less from this list, but these are the main tasks on a tradeshow manager’s job description list.
And, just for fun, I looked at tradeshow manager job listings across the USA recently. There are a ton of openings. Just sayin.’
Secrets to tradeshow success? There’s no secret! It’s all out in the open. Actually, it’s all lurking online somewhere. Just for fun, I plugged the search term “tradeshow success secrets” into the Google to see what I came up with.
Success is measured by how much effort you want to put into it. I suppose that’s true of pretty much anything you do. But good effort is important.
Trade leads and information with other exhibitors (that aren’t your competitors). I admit, I’ve only heard this one a time or two, and I suspect it’s rarely done. I wonder if you could actually get anyone to do that with you.
Let people play with things. Yes, adults like to get hands-on experience as much as kids do. Create an experience where visitors can interact with something and they’ll stick to your booth longer than others.
Have a booth host that knows what’s up. A trained staffer is worth their weight in gold. The really connections are person-to-person.
Speak at a show. If you can’t speak at a show, sit on a panel. It’s better than nothing. If you can’t do either of those, create your own event that you speak at and invite everyone in your database.
Steam live video from your booth. With the advent of Facebook Live, it’s easy to pull out your phone and go LIVE! Interview guests, do product demos and more.
Stop people in their steps with creative flooring. Put your logo or some other attractive graphic at foot level. It’s still enough of a new thing that it’ll stand out and get people to stop.
Know what to say to people. It’s great to have a trained staff member, or to have booth staffers who are knowledgeable on the products you offer. But spend time honing a brief 30 second pitch that focuses on the pain people have around things that your products can solve. For instance, if you sell roofing with a lifetime guarantee, ask visitors if they experience leaks, or if they are due for a new roof but are afraid of hiring some fly-by-night firm that won’t back up the roof installation. Let them identify their pain, then tell them that your product can resolve that pain.
Follow up. When you do get leads, don’t sit on them. Pick up the phone and get back to them. Nuff said.
Want some great tradeshow lead generation ideas? Well, sure, don’t we all? A quick online search found quite a few ways to skin the cat, as it were.
First, let’s start with Skyline’s Mike Thimmesch, who posted an article called 100 Tradeshow Lead Generation Ideas. It’s a great post, one where he splits the batch of ideas into several sections, including the shows you go to, the type of booth you have, pre-show promotions, at-show giveaways and activities, and better booth staffing. Great list, Mike! (BTW, if you Google the title of the article, you’ll see that a lot of folks have referenced his article over the years since it was published!)
Our old pals over at Handshake have a post called 22 Guerrilla Marketing Ideas for Trade Shows. In it, Mandy Movahhed breaks it down into sections, including pre-show, at the show, outside conference / onsite promo. Lots of fun ones here, including having a street musician at the show singing your praises as attendees enter the show each day.
Julius Solaris is the editor at the Event Manager Blog, and he put together an article with a lot of great ideas on how to drive traffic to your booth using (mostly) social media. Some good do’s and don’t’s here, along with terrific in-booth ideas such as mini-live streaming, charity giving, and engaging attendees with offline tweets. Check out 20 Tactics to Drive More Attendees to Exhibition Booths.
Finally, I want to share an e-book/slide deck from Bartizan called “The Ultimate Guide to Tradeshow Lead Generation.” In 30+ pages, Bartizan paints a full picture of how you can position your tradeshow booth, staff and products or services to most effectively compete for leads at your next tradeshow.
As tradeshow veterans, you probably have your go-to list of ‘don’t forget’ items. So I thought it would be fun to check around and compile a thorough list of things you might at least consider taking in your kit. Whether they are in a travel bag, or (in some cases) in the exhibit crates, the list can get long. The key is to have an item when you need it. And being on the tradeshow floor trying to get a light to hang, or unscrew a tight screw or fix a banner stand, each situation requires a different fix.
So let’s jump in and see what people would put on their list.