Anders Boulanger is a professional presenter that works the tradeshow circuit with his company The Infotainers. I’ve know Anders for years – long distance – and finally got a chance to meet in person several months ago when our paths crossed in Las Vegas. As a guest on the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, Anders talks about his business, who he works with, how he does it from Winnipeg, Canada, and much more:
You can benefit from tradeshows without exhibiting – it just takes a little planning.
For example, the simple fact of tradeshows means that there is an assemblage of buyers, managers, clients and prospects all at the same time. Consider scheduling an informal meeting with several of them. Perhaps it can be a dinner or an after-hours party or gathering. One show I attend regularly throws a party for all regional folks to see the best of the region. Several exhibitors are organized to gather their products for a state-specific gathering to show off the best-in-state (make sure that your activities are approved and sanctioned by the show and don’t break show rules).
Work with another company. Is there a larger exhibitor that you have worked with in the past? Perhaps it’s a good fit to co-exhibit with them and show off your goods at their booth. It might be marketing partners, customers, vendors or others that are complementary. For instance, if your co-exhibitor makes bread, that might be a good opportunity to show off your toast toppings.
Speak at a show. Larger shows in particular have ongoing training and seminar programs. Show off your expertise by offering to give a presentation or join a panel. It’s not really an opportunity to promote products (it’s frowned on, obviously), but if you can show your expertise and knowledge it’ll improve your standing in the industry, which can attract prospects. Work with noncompeting speakers: meet and greet and see how you might assist them in future projects.
Research products and competitors. Some shows are worth attending just to see if it’s a good fit for you in the future. While there, you can find what companies have the biggest footprint, find out what your competitors are up to (and maybe uncover some new ones), and get up close and personal with new products and services that will either compete with your offerings or complement them.
Other ideas that might let you benefit from tradeshows without exhibiting include purchasing a mailing list of exhibitors and/or attendees from show organizers. Consider purchasing ad space in the event newsletter, website or app.
Last fall I put out the book “Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level.” I’ve done several promotions around it, given away a bunch of copies, and use it as my main calling card.
But I’ve never done a webinar on the book. Until now. Check it out:
Tradeshows cost time and money. A lot. So how do you differentiate from the thousand other exhibitors all vying for attention?
One way is to become a person of interest at the tradeshow. Here are a few ways to stand out from the crowd.
Be a speaker, or participate in a panel presentation. Typically these slots are open to company management, so if one of your management team is good at delivering a presentation or speaking extemporaneously in a panel situation, work to get them involved. Depending on the show, this kind of exposure can do wonders for word of mouth, especially if the presentation is top-notch. When I’ve given presentations at tradeshows, no matter how many people were in the audience, there were always a handful that wanted to pigeonhole me right afterwards and talk shop. Some have become clients.
You want more ways to become a person of interest? If you’re good, give demonstrations in the booth.
What about one-on-one interactions with booth visitors? You can be interesting by being energetic, outgoing, and asking a lot of questions. And if you have good stories, tell them. Everyone should have at least three good stories. At a party, they could be about things you’ve done or how you’ve lived. But at a tradeshow, if you have three good stories about the business, your products and how they impacted customers, share them.
Above all, if you want to be a person of interest at a tradeshow, just be an interesting person.
Got a chance to hangout on Google with Ken Newman of Magnet Productions and Andy Saks of Spark Presentation and discuss what it means to be a professional tradeshow presenter. Lots of fun, and yes – I did learn a bunch!
Are you going to a tradeshow simply to sell products?
Right! Of course you are!
But seriously, there’s more to a tradeshow than just selling. Among other things, there’s no doubt that you’re there to build brand equity and credibility.
From a practical standpoint, your tradeshow booth not only has to function to meet your exhibiting goals, but the booth itself should shout “THIS IS US!” without anyone saying a word.
From the look and feel of your booth to the style of interaction with your visitors, anyone who drops by should go away with a distinct feeling of what your brand is all about.
Having seen the design process from initial discussion to final fabrication and set-up, I can say that creating a booth that helps build brand equity is not an easy thing. It’s also not that hard. Anyone who’s been with the company for a few years knows the brand inside and out. They know who their customers are, they can describe the brand in a sentence or two and they know how their products are perceived in the marketplace. They also know how they separate their brand from their competition.
All early discussions in a booth-building process should focus on the brand: who you are, what you do, how does the marketplace perceive you, etc. You have collateral on hand that aptly demonstrates the brand. All of this will be communicated to the designer, who – if she’s competent – can craft a design that does indeed should “THIS IS US!” to any tradeshow visitor.
Beyond the look and feel and function of the booth, though, when you exhibit at a tradeshow, you are giving visitors the most important aspect of your brand: your representatives. These are usually employees, although some reps may be hired professionals, which should know your business and product line inside and out. They should be 100% aware of the company’s goals at the show – and how those show goals may differ from other shows – so that if any visitors pops an unusual question, they can address it confidently, whether it means finding someone who knows the right answer, or if it’s even a question that should not be answered at all.
A visitor will not stop at every booth at a tradeshow. That’s impossible – there’s not enough time! A visitor will leave the booths they visit with a strong impression of the company. That impression will be gathered from the few moments they stop at a booth: the look and feel of the booth and the interaction of the staff, and the product offerings. Miss one of the links in the chain, and the impression may be easily outweighed by one or more of your competitors.
The way you draw your visitor to your booth also plays into their perception of your brand. Did they receive an email invitation? A direct mail piece? Did they see a tweet or read about your appearance on Facebook or Google+?
Every bit of the pre-show invitations and post-show follow-up should adhere to the line of building brand equity.
The sum of all of these efforts is the final impression that your visitor receives from your show appearance. How many pieces are you missing? How many are complete?
After walking the floor of many a chaotic tradeshow, I’m always interested (and somewhat amused) by what catches my eye. And what doesn’t.
So what works to bring ’em in? What is like honey to the fly?
Here, in no particular order, are several things that made me stop and take a look at a product or service:
demonstrations: a professionalpresenter with a 5-7 minute presentation can do wonders for a tradeshow exhibit
eye candy: this can be large colorful graphics, something moving (rotating or spinning graphics/wheels/etc), booth babes, anything that says “STOP! LOOK! NOW!” Admittedly, the booth babes drew my eyes but rarely connect me to an actual product!
whether it’s Muriel Hemingway or Dr. Andrew Weil or anyone else that catches an eye, a celebrity gives your booth credibility and power – at least to a certain amount of the audience.
unusual product: a new or unusual product, even in a lousy-looking booth, can be enough to draw me in.
unusual booth design: a stellar, spare, unusual booth design is a very attractive piece. If it’s unusual enough it’ll have people stopping regardless of the product. Again, the product has to be worth the attention or the booth design fails. But with the right combination, POW!
giveaways or free samples: a typical giveaway gets me to stop for a heartbeat. A cool/unusual/clever giveaway that ties in with the product gets me thinking. If it’s damn yummy I will come back for more and figure out where to buy the product when I get home.
smile: a pleasant smile and non-threatening greeting from a booth staffer does wonders in getting people to stop and examine your offerings.
action in the booth: video or audio interviews draw a crowd. A simple camera/microphone set-up makes people curious. Curiosity helps draw a crowd.
The initial goal of your booth is to get a visitor to stop. Once they’ve stopped, they’ve mentally committed at least a smidgen of time to your offerings. From that moment, it’s up to your (highly trained) booth staff to positively engage them, qualify or disqualify them, grab contact info if interested and move them into the sales funnel.
Due to popular demand (okay, I had a couple of people ask if these items would be available and for some unknown reason I’m able to accommodate them), here are the slides and the slightly edited live audio recording of the recent presentation I made on social media at the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association annual conference. This was in early December in Jacksonville, Florida. I had a damn good time. I hope you enjoy this.
Note: you should be able to listen to this in ‘real-time’ and follow along with the slides. The presentation is about 45 minutes (with Q&A) and there are 90 slides so you’ll be clicking through, on average, about two slides per minute.