While many of us are working from home, trying to juggle work schedules with kid demands and more, we are looking forward to a time when things return to at least semi-normal. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I chatted with Heather Haigler of Switch Four about their new tradeshow management software, WorkTrip – for the remainder of 2020 they are offering free access. Here’s the conversation we had about that and other things that were on our minds:
I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home for almost nine
years. It’s not always easy. Retaining focus and momentum through the day is
one of the hardest things. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.
You can’t do it all on your own. Even though you work
from home, presumably alone (although you may have family and kids and dogs and
cats with you for the time being), there are still workers and colleagues you
need. Not only to stay connected, but to communicate with regularly so you know
what everyone is doing.
Having a schedule is critical. I block out various times of the day to get things done. Or make sure that on certain days, certain things get done. For instance, in normal times, I block out an hour of prospecting calls four times a week. Client calls are usually around the same time, although knowing that clients might not be as flexible, I often schedule calls early or later in the day. I write, record and produce a podcast late in the week, usually Friday although sometimes it happens on Saturday, and post it first thing on Monday. I try (and usually succeed) to write and post a new blog article on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Take a break. Snack, water, quick walk, get outside.
Hey, you’re at home! You can take a few moments.
Have a start and stop time and do your best to stick to
it. I realize that work-at-home schedules are fraught with influences that
mean you have to be flexible. But if you have guidelines on when to start and
stop, you’ll have a better time keeping on track.
Focus is also critical. If you can’t focus and find
yourself getting on Twitter or Facebook, spend a moment there, then get up and
leave the room. Get away from the computer. Talk with your spouse if they’re
there, or a kid, or just take a break. Think about the most important thing you
should do when you get back in front of the computer. Maybe even the most important
two or three things, write them down, and when you sit down to work after a few
moments, do those things. Put the blinders on, for at least a few moments. Some
people work well with timers, shutting everything out for 20 or 30 minutes.
Others don’t. Find what works best for you to keep focus, which is when you’ll
likely do your best work.
Work when you’re most effective. I tend to like
working best in the morning. After one or two in the afternoon, focus wanes and
effectiveness drops significantly. With my wife not working now because her employer
is closed due to the Coronavirus, I’m getting up a six, doing my morning Yoga routine
while the coffee brews, and then work on my novel for an hour. Then I crank
through the email and any immediate business items. Then it’s a shower and we
walk the dog. Lately the walks have been an hour or more, getting in three or
four miles. Finally, it’s back in the office for more business-related work for
a couple of hours. Some people are not morning people and work better at night.
Whatever works best for you is what you should try to make happen.
With the family home, communication is important. Your spouse may need to work as well, you may have kids that need hands-on attention. Or not. No matter your situation, make sure all parties are clear on your needs, and make sure you’re clear on their needs. It’s not fun to keep butting heads on schedules when a simple discussion and prioritizing of each person’s needs and desires can usually straighten things out.
With the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic, you may be working from home. But it won’t last forever. You’ll get back to the office at some point. Hopefully sooner than later. But in the meantime, get some work done. And have a little fun at the same time.
Natural Products Expo West was postponed and/or cancelled a couple of days before floor doors were to open. I happened to be sitting on the airplane headed to LA for the show when I got the news.
This week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee podcast/vlog is more or less a travelogue of the 6 days I spent in LA and surrounding area, along with a few comments about Natural Products Expo West. I worked with clients to make sure they had return shipping handled and connected with several old friends and relatives.
Take a look/listen:
Show Notes: I mentioned a handful of folks that I encountered during the week.
A week before Natural Products Expo West 2020 was set to open, I got an email from one of the tradeshow exhibit houses handling brands for Unilever, which had several brands at Natural Products Expo West and had acquired one of our clients, Schmidt’s Naturals, a couple of years ago. They had made the decision to pull out of the show due to concerns over the spreading Coronavirus COVID-19.
A day later, another client pulled out. Then another. Then another. By Monday the 2nd, when I was set to fly out to the show from Portland, I had one client out of nine that was still planning on being there. My plane was scheduled to fly out at 5:30. As I sat on the tarmac after boarding, I got an email from the last client that they had decided to pull out. By now, I was seeing on Twitter that as many as 40 – 60% of exhibitors and attendees would probably not show up, making the show a shell of its former self.
Finally, a few moments before wheels lifted, New Hope, the show organizers, sent out an email saying that they had decided to “postpone” the show.
And away we flew.
The next morning, I went to the Anaheim Convention Center with hundreds of other exhibitors and logistics managers to work through the logistics of getting crates shipped back to where they came from. Some crates had made it to the show floor. Some exhibits were already mostly set up.
It took most of the day to track down all the pieces of the clients that had items that needed to be shipped back.
A shoutout to the crew at the GES Service Desk at the Anaheim Convention Center. To a person, they were all cordial, pleasant and extraordinarily helpful.
We all wondered when the event would actually take place. Maybe not until next year?
A Few Thoughts and Questions
I’ve had the chance to speak to several people at the show, along with clients who had to bail or were forced to retrieve crates and packages, clients that had invested in the show with updated exhibits or in some cases, new properties.
No one knows what comes next. Not the exhibitors, not New Hope, which put a positive spin on it, saying “It is our intention to deliver a Natural Products Expo West event before the summer to serve the community, either in Anaheim or a suitable alternative location.”
I don’t see that happening, and neither do most of the exhibitors I spoke with. New Hope is obviously the professional experienced entity that has put on shows for decades. But exhibitors and others are asking where and when such a re-scheduled Expo West 2020 might take place? And if they can find a place that would accommodate the event, how many exhibitors would actually be able to show up, given that companies spend months putting things together to schedule an appearance at a large international show like Natural Products Expo West?
So yes, lots of questions.
But the big one for me is: if they manage to find a location and date that fits, what would change in the situation that would allow the show to go on?
And by situation, I mean the spreading Coronovirus. According to Worldmeter, the virus continues to spread unabated. Experts say we’re a year to a year and a half from having an effective vaccine. Many people seem to still be in fear mode over the spread.
But not everybody. I do believe that the essence of Natural Products Expo West is that, being a food sampling platform, it’s much different from say, a technology tradeshow. Many, if not most, non-food tradeshows are going forward. People still gather by the tens of thousands at events. People still board flights, go to grocery stores.
And the number of those infected keeps increasing, and will likely continue to increase.
Back to the original statement: the underlying situation has not changed, and doesn’t look like it will change in the near future which would allow a rescheduled Expo West to take place “before summer” as New Hope states. Given that, if nothing changes, I don’t see a rescheduled event taking place before mid-June.
In fact, if nothing changes, it’s quite possible the same issues may lead to a postponement or cancellation of Expo East in September in Philadelphia. Yet to be seen, obviously.
If the underlying Coronavirus situation doesn’t change, the only other thing that might change is the attitude and knowledge. We might learn more in the ensuing weeks and months that the virus isn’t as dangerous as the ongoing fear promulgated in lots of big media outlets would have us believe. Company leaders might come to realize that the risk of having their people at a show as either exhibitors or attendees is so low that a prudent decision would have them participating.
Other shows go on with no problem. Will Natural Products Expo West or Expo East continue this year?
Share Experience is a new company formed late last year by Marcus Vahle and John Pugh, both with long experience in the event and tradeshow world. Given what looks to be a unique approach to carving out their niche in the event world, I thought it might be fun to catch up with them for a conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:
The first time I walked “backstage” at a tradeshow, I realized how nuts it really was. A thousand different things going ten thousand different ways. Thousand of exhibitors, laborers, electricians, forklift operators, scissor lift operators, and so much more are all involved in an elaborate dance that takes place over a few days until opening day when everything looks perfect. Then once the show is over the same crazy dance happens in reverse.
Most people don’t think about what goes on behind the scenes, as long as it happens and their exhibit looks great for the show. But, oh, the things that have to happen for the show to take place.
For this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I sat down with Jim Wurm, Executive Director of the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association. The EACA is the main organization that advocates for all of those behind-the-scenes companies and employers. And there are a lot of different ones. Really good conversation and yes, I learned quite a bit:
One of the newsletters I read regularly is Electric Impulse, a monthly newsletter from Electric Impulse Communications. I interviewed Leslie Unger, President of Electric Impulse Communications, in March of 2018. In this week’s newsletter, a comment of hers jumped out at me that made me immediately think of the tradeshow world:
The art is in hiding the art and you as the audience don’t see the work behind the curtain.
Leslie Ungar, Electric Impulse Communications
Tradeshows are about presenting your company’s BEST. You
leave almost nothing to chance. An exhibit is carefully planned down to the
last detail. The newest and best products are launched at tradeshows. Booth
staff are either put through formal training or are at least given guidelines
on how to interact with visitors and gather contact information for follow up.
Multiple meetings are held, phone conference calls are scheduled, all to make
sure that the graphics have the right messaging, the right images; to make sure
that the exhibit colors and materials are right for the brand; to ensure that
flooring or hanging signs fit the overall branding scheme.
A lot of damn work goes on behind the curtains.
But visitors don’t see behind the curtains. They don’t see
the months of work that went into the exhibit design and fabrication. They
don’t see the planning that went into handling logistics such as shipping and
installation/dismantle of the exhibit. They don’t see the chaos of the tradeshow
floor during setup and dismantle. They don’t see the challenges that a company
went through to put on their best face, to put their best foot forward at each
and every tradeshow.
Think of it. Each and every tradeshow is like the Land of
Oz. Behind the curtain is the Wizard (or group of Wizards), pulling the levers,
manipulating information and ideas, maneuvering pieces from one place to
another. All done to give each and every visitor an experience or impression
that leaves them with a positive feeling about the company. The best exhibitors
are those that go beyond that, though, and leave their visitors feeling more
than positive. They leave them with a memorable experience that relates
directly to their product. For example, a software demonstration that gives
visitors the empowerment and possibilities that they just didn’t see before,
and now they are leaving feeling creative and inspired. Or a product that they
know they can put to immediate use that will save money and time, freeing up
both resources for other important tasks.
Storytelling in a tradeshow exhibit is an art, a highly developed one. The challenge for each tradeshow exhibitor is to tell their best story with the people and skills on hand. And then to improve on it the next time around.
One of the big challenges for exhibitors is keeping track of everything: records, travel, budgets, exhibit pieces and more. Now there’s a new tool that looks to address many if not all of those issues.
ExhibitDay launches this week with three models: lite, professional and premium. Lite is free; the others are available on a monthly fee basis depending on the optimum number of users you would want to have access to the tool.
According to the press release, “ExhibitDay has been in Beta since January, 2019. During the Beta period, ExhibitDay worked closely with nearly 1,000 Beta testers across a diverse group of event teams consisting of Trade Show Coordinators, Event Managers, and Exhibitors in order to develop and test its service.”
The release details the various tools:
Tracking and management of information about trade shows and exhibits.
Tracking event attendees and their travel reservations.
Management of booth reservations, booth services, and shipments.
Tracking of event sponsorships, costs, and expenses.
Event team collaboration via tasks and to-do lists.
Coordination of event team schedules before, during, and after each trade show.
Synchronization of events, tasks, and schedules with third-party calendaring apps such as Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, and Outlook.
Event-specific and annual budgeting, fund allocation, ROI measurement, and engagement analytics.
Customizations to the fields and data points tracked for each event.
Granular access-control and robust user management tools.
Take a look at ExhibitDay here. And if you choose to use it, use the discount code TRADESHOWGUY and save a few bucks!
I’ve been chatting and emailing with clients and shipping
companies this week to schedule pickups and deliveries of crates for tradeshows.
Perhaps it’s time to share some notes and thoughts that have come up in those conversations.
Some of our newer clients have previously worked with shipping cases with wheels that are much smaller and can be maneuvered by a single individual, and shipped via UPS or FedEx, and can often be checked on an airplane. Moving to large, forklift-required crates is a step out of their comfort zone and working with a good shipping company or an experienced tradeshow exhibit house is a must to get questions answered and reduce mystification about the whole process.
One critical piece of information that shipping companies
want to know to provide an accurate estimate is the weight and size of the shipping
crates. While shipping crates vary in weight and size, most of the crates we
work with are approximately 8’ H x 4’ D x 4’ W and weigh between 800 and 1200
pounds. Which means they are expensive to ship and need a forklift to move them
around. But if your crate is similar and you don’t know the exact size and
weight, if you give them that information you can at least get an estimate that
will be in the ballpark.
When delivering to the advance warehouse, the advantage is
that you know your crates have arrived safe and sound and in plenty of time. If
you’re shipping direct to show site, many shows have targeted freight move-in
which means that the truck must arrive on the right day at the right time to
make the delivery. Bigger shows often have a separate marshalling yard where
the trucks must first check-in prior to making the delivery to the show site.
And when shipping to a show site, your driver may have to sit and wait for
several hours while on the clock prior to delivering. Typically that doesn’t
happen when shipping to the advance warehouse as they are receiving freight
spread out over several weeks.
When delivering to the advance warehouse, you’ll incur
material handling (drayage) charges based on the actual weight of the shipment.
For example, in Anaheim at the Natural Products Expo West, material handling for
booth materials runs to $112.50 per CWT (per hundred pounds) (carpeting is
charged at $180 CWT), and if the crates arrive after the deadline, a surcharge
of 30% is levied when all is said and done.
Some shipments may incur special handling charges, which
include ground loading, side door loading, constricted space loading,
designated piece loading, stacked, cubed-out or loose shipments, multiple
shipments, mixed shipments, improper delivery receipts, and uncrated shipments.
Having a shipper walk you how to prepare
your shipment properly can help avoid additional costs.
Over the last few years I’ve had numerous shipping companies reach out to me to pitch their services. Yes, there are a lot of shippers, and they’re all looking for more business! I’ve gotten quotes at times, and rates vary but not a lot. Some companies ship tradeshow-only goods and tout their higher levels of service. Shipping your tradeshow exhibit crates can run up the bill, but combine materials (send products in a crate with your booth instead of sending a separate crate, for example), make sure it’s all clearly marked, and work with an exhibit house or shipping company that can assist you if need be.
NAB Show Cares is seen in the tradeshow industry as a groundbreaking program designed to assist exhibitors to have a better sense of exhibiting costs, and to keep those costs down. BJ Enright of Tradeshow Logic discusses the program, how it came about, its current status and what the future might hold.