Year ago, I wrote a brief article on doing a tradeshow marketing SWOT Analysis, which would be a bit different from a more general SWOT Analysis.
But now that we’re in a pandemic created by the COVID-19, how would you approach doing a SWOT Analysis and is it worth doing?
I would argue that while a formal SWOT is probably unnecessary, it’s not a bad idea to at least examine some of the changes the pandemic has wrought, to see what obvious and perhaps significant changes your company is facing.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
How are you positioned in the marketplace? Do you have new products about to launch? How are you perceived by your customers and clientele? Are you doing things to keep relationships going? Are sales strong or flat? Just knowing these and other related things will help you understand your position in the marketplace compared to your competition and compared to how you might have been with no pandemic.
With no tradeshow marketing coming for at least another quarter or two, can you put the budget towards something else? Is a virtual event worth the investment? Can you do another kind of outreach for a fraction of the cost of exhibiting at a big tradeshow? Take a look at your options and see if there are missed opportunities that you may have overlooked.
Are there marketplace threats you sense but perhaps haven’t put your finger on? Are your supplier lines still open and working well, or are there kinks that may signal something worse down the line? Do you have any competitors that are taking this time to move aggressively into an area that you thought you dominated? Threats are often overlooked because, unless you actively think about them and look for them, they can sneak up on you without you knowing until it’s too late.
All in all, doing a brief SWOT check-in may help you understand how the company is doing and give you insight and context in how you’ll handle the rest of the year and move into 2021.
Zoom is ubiquitous. So much so that I’ve even been reading lately about “Zoom fatigue.” So many Zoom meetings!
But what’s a person to do? Many offices are closed. Millions are working from home, navigating the line between getting work done, keeping kids occupied, quieting pets and so much more. Zoom is a lifeline as well as a way of life for many people. Meeting with business colleagues and clients, and family gatherings.
I recently chatted with Ken Newman of Magnet Productions, a long-time tradeshow friend and colleague, about ways to step up your game when a Zoom call. He works with a number of clients to do the same, and we chatted about the various ways of improving the quality of your Zoom interactions.
What are your goals?
Let’s start with your situation. Are you planning to make changes to get you through another couple of months (or however long it takes to return to “normal”), or are you looking to make permanent changes to your home studio? Even when tradeshows come back, many things will be normal, but there will also be a more robust virtual element of tradeshows.
How are you using Zoom?
Zoom was built to handle speech, not music. When Zoom hears a loud sound, like a siren or car horn, it will immediately clamp down the sound to prevent it from going through at such a high level. Which means, if you happen to want to play music or some other type of sound on your Zoom calls (such as a larger meeting where several people might be in a single room, or where one person is playing music through an amplifier, for example), you’re going to have a big challenge in front of you to keep the sound at an even level. To get around that, you can go into settings and “enable original sound.”
One of the first lessons I learned in my early radio days was to know what you really sounded like, not what you think you sounded like. It’s the same concept with a video call or presentation. Simply start a meeting with nobody else there. Record it and play it back. You can check how you look, how the lighting looks, how you sound. And when you do rehearsals, you’ll catch those little crutches that you usually don’t know about, like saying “like” all the time or “y’know.”
Check the background of your image
Don’t have an open window behind you, because your guests on the call will see a poorly lit image of you, mainly a silhouette. Use lighting at about three-quarters.
Green screen: a gimmick, but more as a fun thing, but after the initial view of Fiji, it gets boring and distracting.
Limit background noise
Close the door. Try to schedule meetings when people are doing other things (yes, that may be impossible!). Tell the others in your house that you’re going to have the call and to please assist with keeping kids and dogs quiet. Yes, I know that if you live near a train track that sometimes things just happen. If background noise is a continual problem, you might check out Krisp: recommended recently by Seth Godin, who says it is good a dampening background noise when you’re on a Zoom call.
Equipment to Consider
Ken and I discussed a number of pieces of gear, both hardware and software. These range in cost from small or modest to more expensive and are worth taking a look at depending on your level of use of video and how much your budget can handle.
LED ring lights are mostly low-cost and add a lot of control of your image. Set them off to the side so they’re aiming at your face at about 45 degree angle. Package them with a tripod that can also hold your camera and you’ll only need the one, if that’s what you’re using for Zoom or other video. Otherwise, consider getting two of them and put one on each side of your face at a 45 degree angle.
With a laptop or desktop, having a USB microphone will immediately take you above the sound you get from typical AirPods or earbuds with a microphone in the cord. AirPods have a decent sound, and in many case the smaller microphones on your earbuds will be okay. The microphone on your laptop or desktop computer is probably the lowest sound quality and the most problematic when it comes to background noise.
I use the Audio Technica AT2020USB+. Good sound, has a mini-headphone jack for plugging headphones in and mixing sound. It’s not a high-end microphone, but the sound is solid and it’s been a good workhorse for me.
Ken often uses a Shure MV-51, which is a higher-end USB mic with more bells and whistles.
We’ve both had the Yeti Blue mic, which is good but nor great. It’s lower cost means a lot of people have tried it. I stopped using mine a year ago when it simply stopped working. But frankly, if you can find a low-cost USB microphone it’ll be a good upgrade from your laptop or AirPods in terms of sound. Not only that, but it’ll show that you’re serious about your audio sound.
On location, and in any situation where you want freedom to roam but still get good sound, use something like a Kimafun 2.4G wireless lavalier microphone with built-in audio interface. Short-range dedicated wireless connection (not Bluetooth). It comes in a compact case that is smaller than a typical shaving kit.
Chances are you have a phone with a built-in camera or a laptop with a good built-in camera. If you want or need something a little better, consider these:
OBS – Open Broadcaster Software. More for the serious webcaster who wants a full package to be able to broadcast high performance realtime video and audio capture and editing. Audio mixing, adding in recorded video scenes to your broadcast. Like having a small TV station control panel in your computer. Learning curve is steep, but if that’s what you want, this is a good piece to explore. And since it’s open source, it’s free to use.
The world was moving to much more online video even before the pandemic forced a lot of us out of the office and in front of a webcam and microphone. Since the chances are you’ll be doing more video, you might as well look and sound as good as you can!
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).
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:
Let’s assume that your company does a fair amount of
tradeshow marketing. Maybe a dozen shows, including two or three large national
shows and smaller, regional or more-focused shows where your product fits in.
Your first show of the new year is still a couple of months
away, so you’re probably thinking you have time to make sure all is right.
And you’re probably on the right track.
But it might be worthwhile to go over your checklist for the
new year one last time.
Let’s assume that you had decent results last year but would
like to improve on those results in 2020.
Here are a number of areas to look at and things to consider
as you plan your show schedule.
Know Your ROI
Return on Investment is critical for tradeshow success. Just
because you’re getting sales doesn’t mean you’re making money. Calculating your
ROI is, in theory, straightforward enough. You’ll need to know a few things,
such as how much it cost you to exhibit at a specific show. Add those numbers
up, including travel, booth space, any capital investments such as a new
exhibit, any samples you handed out, drayage, shipping – all of it – until you
get a final number.
Now, gather all the leads from that show, check with sales
to learn how much profit the company actually netted from those leads. Then do
Beyond your goals of making money, see what else you can do
to make your tradeshow investment worthwhile. Drive traffic to your website or
social media platforms, track the number of booth visitors, networking with industry
colleagues, launching new products and more – these are all valid and valuable
things to track.
Plan Some Surveys
A tradeshow is a great place to do a little casual market research.
Set up a survey on a tablet, offer a prize to people that answer questions, and
see what useful information you get.
Train Your Staff
Really, when was the last time you paid a professional to
come in and train your booth staff? The proof is in the pudding. A well-trained
booth staff is one of the most important things you can do to increase your
level of success.
Hire a Professional Presenter
Perhaps not every tradeshow booth needs a presenter, but if
you’re going to get serious about showing off a complicated product, having a
professional presenter that knows how to draw a crowd and distill the critical
bits and pieces of your product or service in invaluable. And worth every
Beyond these ideas, it always helps to keep your staff
informed on plans as appropriate. If your staff knows what you’re planning and
what the company’s goals are, and why, they will be much more likely to have
buy-in to the company’s success.
Yes, we know that your tradeshow exhibit tells a story.
Often, a great exhibit design will capture the brand so accurately that the
design is often all that is needed. But frankly, that’s the exception more than
the rule. But even without an iconic design that broadcasts what your company
is about, your tradeshow exhibit tells a story anyway.
Design: even an average design can be executed well
and tell a big part of your story. But a compelling story can come to life.
Tell the story of how you created the soft drink because your Grandma used to
make something similar when you were a kid. Or how you invented something to
help a friend. Doesn’t really matter, your product or service likely came from
some inspiration. Can you tell the story of that inspiration in a concise way
using graphics and 3D elements?
Graphics: here’s where most of the story is told, and
the weight of this rests on your graphic designer and marketing team that is
communicating the correct message to the designer. Get it right and you’ve done
better than most of your competitors. Get it wrong…?
Craftsmanship: not all exhibits are built from
scratch. Depending on where you purchase your exhibit, it may be something
that’s designed and built from scratch in the USA. Or it may be from an
overseas manufacturer and it came direct from a catalog showing thousands of
similar designs. With an overseas manufacturer involved, you will be
hard-pressed to know the quality of the materials used for the exhibit.
Cleanliness: at least this is something you have
quite a bit of control over during the show. But a clean booth tells a story.
So does a dirty booth.
People: the booth staffers are your front line. Are they
well-trained in how to engage with visitors? How to ask the right questions?
How to politely disengage? How to act in a booth (stay off their phone, don’t
eat, etc.)? Whether you like it or not, visitors will forget a lot of things.
But they’re very likely to remember an unpleasant or below-average encounter
with a booth staffer. Just like they’d probably remember an encounter that
Stories are told with every piece of your marketing and your
prospect’s interaction with your company. What story are your prospects being
told, and what are they remembering? And is that story in line with your goals?
Publicity Expert Joan Stewart – known as the Publicity Hound – joins TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson to talk about how to get publicity at a tradeshow: before, during and after. Keep a notepad handy – there are a lot of great ideas that you can put to use!
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.
Why should you read this before you attend a tradeshow?
First, let’s assume you’ve never been to a quality industry show that’s packed full of exhibitors and attendees. Oh, sure, you’ve been to a few regional home shows at the fairgrounds, or attended a chamber of commerce show with fifty or so small exhibitors. But that big show in Las Vegas, NYC, Anaheim or Chicago?
If that’s new to you as an attendee – there’s a first time for everything – let’s go over a handful of things to help prepare you.
Get your travel plans in order. Flight, hotel, ground transportation. Know the location of your hotel or Airbnb in relation to the show site and the airport. In some cities, renting a car makes sense (Anaheim, maybe Vegas), in others you’re betting off taking ground transportation (SF, Chicago, Boston). If you’re planning to take mass transit, know where to get on and how to get to where you’re going. Mapping tools on smartphones are very good at giving these directions – so make sure your phone is charged, and even bring a small charger with you in case you can’t find an outlet on the fly. Travel as light as possible, but take all you need to function on the road – which is of course different (to a degree) than at home!
Double-check all show documents. Make sure you have the various bits of paper, emails, or whatever to get into the show. Bring contact numbers, not only of your home office (duh), but include a handful of contact numbers of show organizers.
Assemble a show plan. Most big shows have apps or online tools to allow you to create a plan. This allows you to add exhibitors and booth numbers to put together a list which makes it easier to find them all. Do this a week or so before the show. If there are educational sessions, create a plan for those you’ll be attending. When at these events, you’ll often have time to meet other attendees and do a little networking.
Depending on your show goals, make sure you have prepped your interaction with the various exhibitors. As an attendee, you’re likely going to be looking for products that you’re either going to sell or use, and perhaps recommend. Know what questions you’re going to ask, and be prepared to absorb information in whatever form is offered. Chances are exhibitors will have both electronic and paper sell sheets, for example, so you should be prepared to know how you’ll compile them. If an exhibitor wants to give you a paper sell sheet and you prefer digital, use an app such as Scanner Pro or Microsoft’s One Drive, which allows you to create PDFs of the sheets in an instant and upload them to your cloud account. Beyond that, as your company representative, you should be prepared to have the kinds of appropriate conversations to advance your agenda.
Plan some networking meetings, but be open to opportunities that will undoubtedly arise. Which means, don’t under-schedule but don’t over-schedule yourself!
Pace yourself. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, find a few moments if you can to look around. Try not to stay up too late to party with show-goers. Keep to familiar exercise routines as best you can. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
Finally, if it really is your first time to attend a large show in a far-away city as a company representative, follow the lead of your fellow employees who have been to the show before, and learn what you can.
And dammit, have some fun along the way! Not everybody is able to attend big shows on their company’s behalf, so consider yourself lucky!