After the tradeshow, you get back home, unpack the bags, get a good night’s sleep (hopefully), show up at the office and are faced with the next step: the follow up.
For some, it’s drudgery. For others, it’s bittersweet: the show was fun, now the work begins.
Depending on how well you executed at the tradeshow, the follow up will either be fairly simple and straightforward, or a hot mess.
Let’s try to avoid the hot mess, okay?
During the tradeshow, when you’re talking to visitors, identifying them as prospects or not, and collecting vital information, you’re really preparing for the follow up. Whether it’s something you’re doing yourself or handing off to a sales team, that information should be clean and precise. Which means that you’ve created a unique set of data for each prospect: name, company and contact info, and any particulars about the follow up. It might mean that all you’ve got is a date of a phone call, an in-person meeting or sending them an email with additional information. It might mean that they’ve committed to a purchase and you’re following up to seal the deal and deliver the goods.
Whatever your methods at the tradeshow, the follow up will be much easier, no matter who is doing it, as long as all the pertinent information is there. If it’s a potential customer, grade the lead: cool, warm, hot, so the sales team will know who to follow up with first.
It’s not rocket science, but so many companies fail on this step. Deals are left unsigned. Phone calls are not returned. Emails end up in the dormant file.
Figure out how to execute on the tradeshow follow up and you’ll be banking more business.
This guest article on tradeshow marketing trends is courtesy of Sam Holzman of ZoomInfo.
Despite our increasingly digital world, in-person events such as tradeshows and professional events continue to rise in popularity. And, for good reason: 31% of marketers believe that events are the single most effective marketing channel, over digital advertising, content marketing and email marketing (source).
Tradeshows provide the unique opportunity for face-to-face interaction and can help marketers forge long-lasting relationships with customers and prospects. But, like any marketing tactic, tradeshow marketing is constantly evolving. And, event marketers continue to find new ways to deliver fresh and unique tradeshow experiences.
To maximize your tradeshow potential, it’s important to keep up with modern event marketing trends. For this reason, today’s blog post looks at some of the top tradeshow marketing trends in 2018. Let’s get into it!
1. Artificial intelligence.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence have become more prevalent throughout all marketing tactic– including tradeshows. AI refers to technology that can rapidly process large amounts of data and subsequently “learn” and make adjustments based on this data. AI can aid your tradeshow efforts in more ways than one. Here are a few examples:
Lead collection: AI can capture important information from attendees as they arrive at your tradeshow booth. AI fueled technology can help you organize and score tradeshow leads instantly so you don’t have to play catch-up after the event.
Personalized interaction: AI can rapidly process and analyze information so you can tailor your conversations with attendees to fit their needs. With instant insights about an attendee’s industry, company size, and more, you’ll be able to have more personalized, targeted interactions.
Generate buzz: AI won’t just help increase your efficiency at tradeshow – it will also gain the attention of attendees. When attendees see new and exciting technology, they are more likely to stop by and check out what you have to offer.
2. Creative booth designs.
More and more marketers have grown tired of traditional booth designs, and for good reason. In a crowded event hall filled with competing companies, it’s difficult to stand out with your tradeshow display– especially if your booth is indistinguishable from those on either side of it.
Fortunately, plenty of businesses have begun to think outside the box and build unique tradeshow booths. “Un-booths” is a term that’s gaining steam in 2018, as it refers to tradeshow booths that feature unconventional and interesting designs. For example, some marketers craft their booth as more of a “hangout”, complete with comfortable seating for attendees.
Remember, your booth doesn’t have to be over the top or expensive to stand out. It just needs to be creative and different.
3. Mobile event apps.
In recent years, event-specific mobile apps have become commonplace at most tradeshows and conferences. In fact, last year 86% of event planners said they would create a mobile app for their event (source)– and we only expect that number to rise.
A mobile app can dramatically improve attendee experience by providing an event guide, allowing them to schedule meetings, and offering polls and surveys to get their feedback in real-time.
If you’re still relying on business card collection and physical handouts to connect with potential buyers—you’re living in the past. Research the different mobile applications that can help you be more efficient and organized at each of your tradeshows.
4. Virtual reality.
It’s no secret that virtual reality is one of the fastest-growing trends in marketing. Virtual reality provides an immersive, multi-sensory experience through which attendees can observe your products or presentations. VR can combine visuals, sound and other elements to captivate your booth visitors and take them out of the event and into the world of your products and services.
While VR may seem like a complex technology, it has become more accessible over recent years and will continue to be a staple at tradeshows in 2018 and beyond.
5. Social media engagement.
In the past, marketers used social media to post updates about their booths for their followers who aren’t in attendance. Now, there are a ton of creative ways you can leverage social media engagement to improve the experience for both attendees and your audience at home.
One example is branded Snapchat filters, which attendees can use to take fun photographs and share them on their own accounts. And, live video streaming on Facebook and Instagram can bring followers to your event even if they are unable to attend in person.
6. Cohesive campaign themes.
Your tradeshow booth is an extension of your brand – so it’s important to tie the theme of your booth to your overall marketing strategy. More companies are creating unique themes that align with their other marketing campaigns. When you offer one cohesive message to your attendees across all channels – including tradeshows – you will strengthen your brand and offer a more cohesive experience both at the event and in your other marketing initiatives.
And there you have it, six of the biggest tradeshow marketing trends in 2018. If you have already implemented some of these strategies, you’ve likely seen firsthand how effective they can be at improving your tradeshow performance. If not, we hope this list has provided you with some ideas to take your next tradeshow to the next level!
About the Author: Sam Holzman is the Content Marketing Specialist at ZoomInfo where he writes for their B2B blog. ZoomInfo is a leading business information database that helps organizations accelerate growth and profitability. Sam regularly covers topics related to sales, marketing, and recruiting, and likes to write about sports and travel in his free time.
As an exhibitor, we’re all looking for great results. But what if you get back to the office a few days after the show, and frankly don’t have a lot to show for it? The lead collection came up short, there weren’t that many “warm” or “hot” leads, and the boss is wondering why all of that money was committed to the show.
First, recognize that you can’t control results. The only things you control are your activities, your behavior, and your technique.
Let’s start with attitude. Books have been written about attitude. Suffice it to say that if you go into a complex tradeshow marketing program, a good attitude will help immensely.
Activities are all-important. From pre-show marketing, to having a good interaction with your visitors, to lead generation and post-show follow up, knowing what to do and when to do it is critical to your success.
Finally, what technique do you apply to your behaviors? Does your booth staff know how to properly interact with visitors? Do they know how to as
k questions, when to shut up and when to disengage?
All of your behaviors are subject to being done properly or not. And there is no end to determining what is proper and what works and discarding what does not work. Books have been written about techniques, attitude and behavior, so there’s much more to discover than what you’ll see in this brief post.
But back to results: if you are not getting the tradeshow results that you are hoping for, the three areas to examine are those that are most important to your success: attitude, behavior and technique.
Thanks to Sandler Sales for the tip. Full disclosure: I spent a year in a Sandler Sales Training Program, and this is just a tip of the iceberg.
Even though many clients want custom design and fabrication for a unique look, often having simple exhibits is what you really need.
In fact, many clients that I work with go to several shows. They don’t take their big, deluxe, state-of-the art exhibit to all of the shows. Instead, they’ll take something that can ship via UPS or FedEx, or can even be loaded into a van or SUV if it’s a closer show and you have only one or two people setting up the exhibit.
In this type of situation, it often comes down to convenience in setting up, convenience in shipping, and a starkly simple look. It’s all doable, and it’s usually a step above what many competitors as similar shows are doing. I mean, have you seen those wrinkly vinyl banners that hang lopsided across the back of the booth, and a cheesy table cloth (or none at all) over the organizer-provided 8′ folding table? Of course you have. And you are thinking the same thing: “What can I do that’s a step or two up from that, but won’t break my budget?”
I get asked this question on a regular basis. And there’s no one answer, but there are a lot of options, depending on budget. And depending on how many people might be setting up the exhibit with you.
For starters, you could start with an 8′ or 10′ graphic back wall. There are a number of options, but we like the HopUp and the VBurst and have sold many of them. The HopUp comes at a lower price point, but still provides good quality. It also comes in different sizes, up to 20′, and is available in straight or curved. The VBurst is a higher priced, but also comes with options that the HopUp doesn’t deliver, such as back lit graphics. And with either, if you want to cover a 20′ (or more) back wall space, you can always set up more than one side by side. Another option is something a little different – the X-1, which comes in a variety of configurations.
Exhibitors often want a little more than convenience and practicality and start adding things like tables and chairs. We particularly like the OTM-100 set of two chairs and a table that breaks down and packs flat.
Simple exhibit do win. They win with convenience, ease of shipping and set-up and in pricing that doesn’t break your budget. Don’t let the big guys have all the fun with their fancy schmancy custom exhibits. Get some attention with simple exhibits. Hey, your boss will love it.
As a wanna-be 70s hippie I follow the evolution of the legal cannabis industry with great interest. Not because I don’t use it so much anymore, but I’ve always felt that the use of marijuana – or as its getting to be known – cannabis – should be a personal choice, and government shouldn’t be locking people up for simply using it. I figure if the state allows alcohol as a social drug, it has no valid argument to disallow cannabis. But politics aside, it’s a fascinating industry.
Now that cannabis is legal across much of the country, with more states (and countries – Hello, Canada!) to follow, the first thing you’ll be seeing is much more data coming out. For instance, I ran across an article which shows that the method of cannabis consumption is changing. In the old days, you’d roll a joint. Maybe you’d bake some bud into a batch of brownies, and hope you ate the right amount. But now there is data showing that people are smoking it less and eating it more or finding other ways to consume cannabis without smoking.
So why is this topic showing up on a blog dedicated to tradeshows and the event industry? Because there happen to be a BUNCH of tradeshows dedicated solely to cannabis. For instance, there’s a big show in San Jose this summer, the Cannabis Business Summit, put on by the National Cannabis Industry Association, that will attract hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees. And a listing at the Cannabis Business Times shows quite a few cannabis related events.
I’ve attended at least a half-dozen cannabis events in Oregon over the past few years and chatted with dozens of exhibitors about the industry and how they’re finding their way through an industry that, until just a few years ago, didn’t legally exist. Now that it’s out in the open, it wants to shine. Hence, the explosion of tradeshows and conferences dedicated to the industry.
Another twist: in the old days, it was never called cannabis. It was called marijuana, and the scourge of the devil weed, or reefer, spawned panicky movies (Reefer Madness), conspiracy theories and so on. Here’s a quick take on the reason it’s called cannabis these days and is rarely referred to as marijuana.
And what about the exhibitors? How are they faring in a new legal industry? I’ve spoken to many of them over the past couple of years, and as you might imagine, it’s a mixed bag. Some exhibitors are well-prepared with sharp-looking, functional exhibits. Others have barely managed to put up a cheesy vinyl banner hanging from the back of the drape behind an organizer-supplied table. In other words, it’s like a lot of industries.
I heard talk from some exhibitors that when legal cannabis happened here in Oregon, a lot of money rushed into the industry. Businesses were snapping up storefronts, staking out their ground and doing what they could to promote their new businesses. But since that beginning rush (no pun intended), reality is a bit of a come down. Some businesses have closed, others are trying to sell. It’s a marketplace where a glut of product is keeping prices down. And this comes all with an industry that is heavily taxed by the state so that it can be regulated properly. I recently saw that Oregon suspended applications for new cannabis outlets due to the backlog. For a deeper dive into the Oregon Economic Forecast that looks closer at recreational and medical marijuana, check this out (direct PDF link).
All of which brings me back to the statewide event industry and how its working with cannabis producers, retailers and supporting businesses. Coming in January, TradeshowGuy Exhibits will take part in its first cannabis-related event as an exhibitor. We’ll be at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland on January 23-24, 2019.
Most of my blog posts are about the industry: how to do things, what works and what doesn’t, what’s new in the tradeshow world and so on.
But I rarely get personal on this blog. It’s not necessary, but on occasion it is kind of fun for readers to see who’s behind it all. Given that, I thought it would be worth it to explain exactly how I got here, and how I run my business.
I spent 26+ years in the radio industry as a DJ, Music Director, News Director/Anchor, Program Director (and more), but as the industry changed (technology, mainly), I found that positions in the industry were getting squeezed, and a lot of talented people were having a hard time finding a spot. I loved radio – still do, in fact, as a volunteer doing a weekly two-hour reggae show on KMUZ in Salem – but to make a living in radio just wasn’t feasible anymore unless I wanted to be a gypsy and take my small family with me to where the jobs were at any given time. No thanks, I like Oregon and want to stay.
The Exhibit World is a Thing?
As to how I got to the tradeshow world, I literally stumbled into it. With two young sons, I was working as an assistant manager trainee for Hollywood Video, when a family friend’s wife saw me at the checkout counter.
“What are you doing here?”
“Training to be an assistant manager!” I said proudly (biting my tongue and crossing my fingers behind my back).
The next day her husband called me.
“I have an opening for a sales position at my exhibit company. How would you like to talk about it?”
Exhibit company? What’s that?
“Sure,” I said. Couldn’t hurt. Might even be interesting.
We sat down a couple of days later and chatted for an hour. Ed Austin, the owner of Interpretive Exhibits, talked about the exhibit industry – both interpretive and tradeshow – and how their small company fit. As the hour drew to a close, Ed Austin, the owner of the company, offered me the job.
“I didn’t really plan on offering you a job at this point, but you have good people skills, a lot of other good skills, and we can teach you about the industry.” His offer doubled the money I was making at Hollywood Video, so it was a no-brainer. Exhibit industry, here I come! Hollywood Video, by the way, was a victim, like Blockbuster Video, of the revolution in streaming video.
Learning the Exhibit World and Changing Careers
For the next several years, I slowly learned the exhibit industry. The biggest cultural shift and change to my daily work was the fact that in the exhibit industry, compared to the radio world, things moved slowly. Glacially. In the radio world, I’d get an order to write and produce a handful of commercials, due in a day or two. Three or more days if I was lucky. Once you got the order submitted, you had to jump on it. Or in the case of news reporting, it was non-stop. You were always hopping to find the next story, or to get the latest on a story that was active.
I found that in the exhibit industry, though, especially when it came to interpretive exhibits, there were usually a lot of parties that needed to chime in on something. Once a discussion or meeting was complete on a topic, the next step was usually weeks away before anything was due.
Weeks! Sometimes a month or two, before the next step was due, and the various parties had to chime in. I couldn’t believe it. I was so used having to jump, it took a long time to adjust to the glacial speed at which interpretive projects unfolded. In a sense, I found it boring, because I was always looking for something for my ADD brain to do (more on that later).
We did projects for the Army Corps of Engineers, National Forest Service, Oregon State Parks and many other government and non-profit agencies. An earlier salesperson had ended up selling a large exhibit to a large corporation, and the company knew there was business to be had there, but frankly, corporate work was foreign to the management. They were used to going onsite to a muddy natural area and chatting with like-minded people. They were not used to putting on a nice sport coat and meeting potential tradeshow clients.
Which became my task: find some tradeshow clients. Sell some tradeshow exhibits. Get on it.
What’s VP of Sales and Marketing Do?
After a few weeks at the company, it came to my attention that the company website sucked. Given my need to have something useful to do (I knew almost nothing about sales at that point), and since I had put up a handful websites, I offered to at least oversee a makeover of the website. Which I did, which they loved. And with the title of VP of Sales and Marketing, I was given free time to do things other than just sell exhibits. I also knew that I needed more information on the industry, so using my radio skills, I set up interviews with industry consultants, writers and experts. The interviews were recorded and posted on the website (this was before podcasting was invented – I just found a way to embed the audio). I also wrote articles based on things I had learned and posted them on the website (again, this was before blogging software found its way into the world).
I eventually compiled about an hour worth of recordings and created an audio CD which I gave away, calling it something like Inside Secrets of Tradeshow Marketing. I put it on the company site for something like $79, but where it was really useful was giving it away to potential clients (complete with a $79 price tag).
The First Exhibit Sale
As for tradeshow exhibits, I had a friend at Kettle Foods in Salem (employee number 8, I think), and asked if they did any tradeshow marketing. Turns out they did. Turns out they were shopping for a new one. We made a pitch, and they spent $25,000 on a 20×20 custom exhibit that made its debut at Natural Products Expo West in 2003. Ed told me years later that the $25,000 job cost the company about $40,000, so it was a money loser. But we kept showing it off and it kept leading to new clients, so I figure it paid for itself many times over.
In any event, we were off and running.
The Kettle Foods exhibit led to a connection with Nancy’s Yogurt (10×20 custom), Hyland’s Homeopathic (10×20 custom, which was designed, fabricated and shipped in 35 days flat, I kid you not!), and Bob’s Red Mill (custom 20×20). We did a custom 30×70 for local spa manufacturer Marquis Spas. We did exhibits for Mountain Rose Herbs of Eugene (still one of my favorites), BioKleen of Vancouver. The most interesting sale I made, though, was on a flight back from DC to Portland. I was catching a connection in Denver, and the woman next to me ended up sleeping most of the way back from DC to Denver. As we were coming in to Denver, she woke up and we chatted a bit. I asked what she was doing in DC and she said she had been at Expo East. I had too! I told her what I did, she took my card, I got hers, and a short time later we did a new custom booth for Natracare, from England, but with American HQ in Denver. It proved to me that there are opportunities everywhere if you keep your eyes and ears open and aren’t afraid of piping up.
Somewhere along the way, an old radio friend has asked me what I was doing now. “I’m in the tradeshow world!” I told him. He said, “Oh, you’re a Tradeshow Guy, eh?” Somehow that name stuck. In late 2008, I was curious about the new whiz-bang online publishing platform of blogging, and started TradeshowGuy Blog, just wanting something to play around with and as a creative outlet. It’s been going ever since.
The Coming End of Interpretive Exhibits
The recession in 2008/2009 did a number on the tradeshow exhibit building world. Many companies that we knew of in Portland closed. Others consolidated or downsized. Interpretive Exhibits’ secret weapon, I thought, was that we were small. We managed to keep a handful of people on salary and bring in the fabricators when projects warranted.
But Ed was nearing retirement, and in 2010 told us that he would close the company down in 2011. Which he did on July 15, 2011. My last day at Interpretive Exhibits.
What next? Another Career?
Not really knowing which way to turn, I thought I’d keep in touch with some old clients while I collected some unemployment, took some time off, and looked for another job. Which I figured I would get at some point.
But it never happened. Being in your mid-50s and looking for a new job is not a fun exercise to say the least. And along the way, I did have some previous clients order some new things. Not a lot, but enough to make me think that I should stick with this entrepreneurial thing.
In the meantime, prior to Interpretive Exhibits closing down, I had teamed up with Roger Pike, an old radio friend in town. We had shopped ourselves around as public speaker trainers and social media consultants. We got a couple of clients, the biggest of which was a local employers association that hired us to do a twelve-week training for their presenters. This was in Roger’s wheelhouse (not mine), as Roger was (and is) a great public speaker and former college public speaking champion. Lots of fun, but as time went on I kept putting more of my energy into selling exhibits (which was about to turn more profitable), and eventually left the consultancy with Roger behind.
That’s because in 2012, Bob’s Red Mill decided that their current 20×20 was going to be phased out and would I be interested in helping them do a new 30×30?
Of course. I contracted designer Greg Garrett, whom I had known while working at Interpretive Exhibits, and had him create a design. Once the design was approved, I shopped it around to three fabricators, and Classic Exhibits in Portland ended up getting the job. Even though they were known as more of a modular ‘kit’ builder, they were stretching their wings and were hoping to become more known as a custom builder. This project suited that desire perfectly and they did a fantastic job on the booth if I may say so.
That job convinced me that I could make a go at owning my own company. Roger Pike and I had called our company Communication Steroids, figuring that it was clever enough and descriptive of what we were doing. I named my exhibit company Communication One Exhibits, not that clever or descriptive, but what the hell, I thought.
Over the next few years, 2011 – 2014, I did a couple of larger projects, many small ones and kept the mortgage paid and the mouths fed. And I found I was having fun working for myself. In fact, I really liked it.
By late 2015, I had mentioned to Mel White, VP of Business Development at Classic Exhibits, that I didn’t like the name Communication One Exhibits, and he suggested I use TradeshowGuy Exhibits, since I was the TradeshowGuy online anyway! After a little thought and discussion, I did away with the old name and brought in the new one.
I kept looking for ways to generate more leads, make connections with prospects, and show off my growing expertise in the industry. I had done a handful of speaking gigs, both while with IE, and with my own company, and while I liked it, none of it lead to any significant new clients. I finally put my head down and finished a book that I’d started on at least three times. The book, Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level, came out in late 2015, and I immediately used it as a ‘business card’ with potential prospects. It didn’t automatically get people to buy, but it was certainly something that almost no other exhibit house or exhibit salesperson could offer.
In 2015, I went back to doing webinars on a regular basis, even securing the URL TradeshowGuyWebinars.com. I did them monthly, but after a year decided that I wanted to do a more regular podcast, which led to the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee which launched in January 2017. My goal was to just BE THERE on a weekly basis, to talk about things that interested me in and out of business. I’d have guests, but the guts of the show didn’t ride on having a guest. I’ve had a lot of guests (you really should browse this blog to find them!), they were all terrific and had fun stuff to share. But I have as much fun putting short podcasts or mini-films together, too, when it seems right.
In 2016, I felt my sales skills – which had grown a lot since my entrée into the industry in 2002 – needed some help. I had joined Tip Club in Portland, a networking group run out of Brad Kleiner’s office in Wilsonville. Brad was a Sandler Sales trainer, and after learning more about what and how he taught, I joined his President’s Club weekly 2-hour sales training group for a year. Best sales training I’ve ever run across, and it gave me a great set of tools on how to prospect, uncover pain, close and service the deal. Rejuvenating!
Another item had come up a few times – the use of the name TradeshowGuy. Once someone asked me if I had trademarked it. Uh, no. I looked into, and found it surprisingly easy. And pretty reasonably priced, too. It took several months, but in late 2017 I got confirmation that the trademark went through. So yes, it’s registered now. I’m officially TradeshowGuy and the company is known far and wide as TradeshowGuy Exhibits.
As we reach the middle of 2018, I look back and see that I’ve been running my own business for seven years now, and it’s doing better than ever. It’s not easy, it’s not predictable, but it’s been rewarding and fun. And I really do work at it. I like working with clients – that’s probably the most rewarding thing, seeing their reaction to a brand-new exhibit that will go out into the public and represent their company, products and brand. Great feeling.
Who knows how far this thing goes? I figure if I can get another seven years out of the business, I’ll consider closing it down. After all, I’ll be 70, and may want to do other things. But hey, I still jam on my guitar, still bash my drums regularly, do a fair amount of hiking, bicycle riding and walking. I’m planning to live to be 120, so I have a way to go, amiright?
Yes, these are actual conversations with clients. No, they are not from surreptitious recordings, but rather, from memory, which is probably not as accurate as I’d like. But nonetheless, these are the types of things our exhibiting clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits are asking about.
“We need a 10×10 pop-up. Do you have a few options that you can show us with pricing?”
This is an easy one. I popped over to our Exhibit Design Search and assembled a gallery of about 15 10×20 exhibits, with a price range of about $1,500 to about $6,000.
A week goes by.
“Here’s one we want. We need it in three weeks. Can you send art specs?”
Can do in both cases. Let her know. She placed the order and it was delivered a week ahead of schedule.
“We’re going to expand our exhibit for the upcoming Natural Products Expo. Where do we start?”
“Best thing is to schedule a conference call with our designer, so we can get your input and ask questions.” We did. The call was fruitful and resulted in a handful of revised renderings of their booth, which was being expanded from a 10×20 to a 10×30.
“One more thing. We don’t want to have to set up the booth this time, since we’re expanding. We’re kind of at our limit for doing that with the 10×20. Can you help?”
“Of course, let me get you some options and pricing for review.”
They settled on the redesign and makeover of the exhibit, signed on board to have an I&D company take care of the setup and dismantle, which we coordinated. The show went off without a hitch, the owners and investors were pleased; they came home with more leads than they had expected.
“Our carpet didn’t show up,” I was told by the I&D leader from the show floor. Exactly. Why not. I was in another hall on the show floor, so I hustled over to see first hand what was happening. This started a long and twisting tale of a missing carpet that had actually been delivered to the advance warehouse but failed to make it to the booth space.
“I’ll speak with show services,” I said.
I let the client know. “We have an issue. The carpet didn’t show up and we’re working to find a solution.”
“Well, crap.” It was probably not the exact word. “What now?”
“We’re working on it. We’ll figure something out!”
With a little help from our I&D rep, we were able to make the show come off with very little problem, although the carpet in question still has not turned up months later, and a claim is pending. Things do go wrong sometimes, and it’s really nobody’s fault. Stuff happens. What’s important is how you deal with it. In my experience it is always a team effort to track down replacement items, make do with what you have or any number of other things to pull off a good experience at the show. You gotta have a good team, and you gotta work with pros.
One more. Client D.
“We would like pricing on changing out graphics for our booth for an upcoming show,” said the client. “I’ll send the specs,” he said, which arrived shortly in an email. The show was less than two months away, so while there was indeed time to make the changes, but with that timeline it meant that no time could be wasted.
Got the pricing, sent it over. “Looks good! I’ll get artwork soon!” Knowing that I’m working with a good client that has consistently worked to upgrade their exhibit, I start the process to create a new job number and add in the potential project to the job tally. A few days go by.
“Looks like this project is on hold for the time being,” he writes. “We’ll get to it for another show soon. Keep you posted.”
Ooops! Make the changes, remove the new job number, took a breath. Don’t count your chickens, etc. Hate to get ahead of yourself. Just want to make sure the client is happy.
This is all very typical, I’m sure, to anyone who works in the industry. Upgrades, expansions, challenges, decisions made and then changed. Part of the great game we call tradeshows.
What conversations have you had with your exhibit house lately?
A ‘road-tripping’ version of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, where I gather at the campground with old friends, hoist a few, pick some tunes, stare at the night stars, and smell the juniper and sage of the Oregon high desert. Totally off the grid for almost 72 hours with absolutely “NO SERVICE!” Good stuff.
As for the ONE GOOD THING? Hitting the road, doing a little camping – it’s a VACATION, no matter how long.
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?