On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, a lively interview with Ken Newman of Magnet Productions, a professional tradeshow presentation company based in San Francisco. I’ve had Ken on the show before, although it’s been awhile, and I wanted to catch up and talk about three things: what’s up with Magnet Productions; his involvement in music and how that music involvement led to his involvement with Blanket the Homeless, a SF non-profit.
From celebrity promoters to next-level artificial reality adventures, trade shows are becoming less about selling and more about experiencing. And that’s by design, as trade show trends shift with culture at large. Today, there are two big trends influencing the marketplace: 1. Consumers, especially millennials, are becoming more minimalist. 2. Simultaneously, consumers are shifting their spending away from goods and more towards experience-related services, says management consulting firm McKinsey.
Because trade show trends mirror what’s going on in the rest of the marketplace, the best event marketers are those who are totally tuned in to the buyer’s needs right now. To create effective trade show displays in 2019, you have to very closely understand what buyers want, what they expect and what will entice them to stop and take notice of your booth in a sea of competitors. Here are some of the ones we’ll be able to bank on this year.
It’s All About Immersion: Trade Show Experiences
The basic booth and table will no longer do. In today’s sales landscape, marketers need to stand out by creating displays that quite literally draw visitors in. The goal is to achieve effective narrative marketing by removing the consumer (not literally, of course) from the convention center and taking him or her on an exciting journey that elicits emotion. This can be done in many distinct ways, but some of the best are the ones listed below.
Artificial Reality—Companies in the tech space have been incorporating augmented and virtual reality components into their event displays for a couple of years now, but things are starting to really ramp up in this space. Experts are already predicting that AR will overtake booths at the world’s biggest tech trade show, CES 2019, with displays highlighting new AR products (especially non-wearable AR, like smart mirrors) and also helping to sell non-AR products using interactive, immersive demos and presentations. Experiential Design—Experiential design, though broad, vaguely refers to the art of creating spaces that provide some sort of experience. Often, this means taking a small corner of a convention center and transforming it into a totally different place entirely, like a store, a playground, an art gallery or a hotel room. For example, logistics giant FedEx recently showed up at the China International Import Expo with a giant airplane mock-up at the center of their display, while other big-name brands have developed full-blown store experiences at this year’s retail conventions. Multi-Sensory Experiences—In addition to the brightly colored backgrounds and banners that please the eyes, the coolest new displays have begun to incorporate elements that appeal to all other senses as well. Visitors will be able to jump into full-blown tactile, auditory and gastronomic experiences at this year’s trade shows, with big sounds, sights, smells and flavors to experience. Designers are also beginning to invite show-goers into exhibitor’s spaces to play and explore, with instruments, toys, seating areas and gadgets to try. Everything Brand-New—The 2019 Global Consumer Trends report published by the market research company Mintel gives us some fascinating new info on the latest consumer behaviors. The report showed that consumers are more adventurous than ever—they love to travel alone, experience new places and order foods they haven’t tried before. At trade shows and in other marketing sectors, we can expect to see an uptick in the new, fascinating, unusual and intriguing.
Appealing to the Consumer: Getting Crafty
To understand trade show trends, you have to understand what your audience wants. Most buyers at industry events are professionals with purchasing power (in fact, 81 percent of those who attend have some kind of buying authority), but they are also consumers who get giddy at the thought of fun, new experiences. You can bet that you’ll forge a positive brand image when you go for some of the ideas below. Shareable Elements—It doesn’t matter where they go, consumers look for “shareable” spaces and experiences that would contribute to nicely encapsulated social media posts. In 2019, we can expect to see many more booths creating special “photo ops” for show-goers to share to social media. This is great news for the marketer, as it offers more opportunity for building brand recognition and creating a positive presence across social. Special Guests and Performances—Take a look at some of the biggest conventions and trade shows for 2019 and you’ll see a lineup peppered with celebs. Last year, we saw big-name celebs like Tina Fey, Jamie Foxx and Spike Lee gracing the stages of big industry events, and this year’s no different. Look out for actors, musicians, change-makers and entrepreneurs beefing up the speaking agendas of the biggest conferences in tech, music and marketing. Everything Ethical—Again, trade show trends tend to mirror what’s going on in the greater consumer economy. Now more than ever, buyers care about patronizing eco-friendly, responsible and ethical businesses and will quickly alienate the ones who are less focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). We’ll certainly see more brands in 2019 highlighting their CSR efforts in the trade show market, including through more eco-friendly displays and demos. All Things Personal—The personalization train hasn’t slowed yet. In fact, it’s primed to pick up some speed this year. As you probably know, buyers are gravitating to more personalized products and experiences across all industries, and this should be applied to trade show marketing, too. We can expect to see the most success coming from booths that create a personal experience by offering one-on-one staffing and personal engagements.
Paying Attention to the Consumer Market
As you can see, the most important thing about trend-spotting in the trade show world is trend-spotting in the world. If you can identify some of the key drivers of the greater market, and you can implement them into your trade show display strategy, you’ll be well on your way to a hefty return on investment from your event marketing efforts.
Magician and professional tradeshow presenter Robert Strong discusses how to draw a crowd, how he works with clients, and what makes a good opening line – and a lot more – in this enlightening interview.
Robert also shared a list of Best Booth Behaviors:
1. Remove bad behaviors: No eating, drinking, cell phones, sitting, booth huddles, etc.
2. Add good behaviors: Stand, face the aisles, smile, make eye contact, initiate conversation, etc.
3. If you are not getting rejected a hundred times an hour, you are not initiating enough conversations.
4. Have a strong opener: What do you do at your company? What is the most interesting thing you have seen at this show? What is your (companies) biggest pain point?
5. Make the current attendee you are talking with the most popular person at the show.
6. Be able to do the overview (elevator pitch) in 10 seconds, 30 seconds, and 90 seconds.
7. Understand and communicate concisely the giveaways and raffles.
8. Be able to scan badges and do it quickly.
9. Qualify leads quickly, make introductions, and end conversations quickly.
10.Have three case studies (success stories) rehearsed and ready to go.
11.When doing a demo, scale. When you see someone else starting a demo, help them scale.
12.You are on stage. High five each other, fist bump each other, enthusiastically cheer for your fellow booth staff, and let the attendees see that you really like each other and are having fun.
13.Treat the attendees exactly how you would want to be treated if you were in someone else’s booth.
14.Make a follow-up plan and take notes.
And finally, this week’s ONE GOOD THING: the Bag Man Podcast about Vice President Spiro Agnew.
How do you find great information – tradeshow tips – from people that go to a lot of shows and see a lot of exhibits? The first ting most of us do is fire up your favorite search engine and just plug in “tradeshow tip” or “tradeshow marketing tips” or something similar and see what comes up. If you’re lucky, you might find a link to an article on this blog (it happens a lot!).
Which beings me to this: you may not know about the great batch of tradeshow tips on our Exhibit Design Search. Seriously. You can find any exhibit or accessory that you’re looking for – and a bunch that you may not have thought about – but you can also find
The tips are grouped together for easy browsing in the following subheadings:
USA Tradeshow Regulations and Photos
Humor (always important when exhibiting at tradeshows!)
Becoming an Exhibit Marketing Expert
Displays and Exhibits
Design, Lighting and Graphic Tips
Fine-Tune Your Tradeshow Knowledge
General (But Important) Stuff
Something for Everyone
Easy to browse, easy to find something useful for your next show or exhibit. For example, under the heading Getting Started, you’ll find Ten Common Tradeshow Myths, which knocks down some rather daunting ideas that many people think about tradeshows. Like tradeshows are just a big party. Or tradeshows are a waste of time. Or tradeshows are just flat-out expensive.
One more thing before you head on over to check out the selection of Tradeshow and Event Tips. On each article, on the upper-left black bar above the article, you’ll see “+ My Gallery.” If you click on this link, you’ll add that article to your gallery, which you can access at the upper left navigation bar at the top of every page. Not only can you add articles, but you’ll find that +My Gallery button an each and every exhibit in the entire Exhibit Design Search site. After you’ve added articles, exhibit, accessories or whatever, you can share them with colleagues by clicking on the My Gallery link, find the Send My Selections tab and follow the instructions to share that collection you’ve created.
Seriously, you could compile a list of 50 tradeshow best practices and still add to the list. For the sake of brevity, let’s whittle it down to a reasonable number and see what we get.
Create your marketing plan based on the specific event where you’re going to set up your exhibit. Different audiences, different competitors, different goals will all help steer you to a marketing plan that fits the situation. One size does not fit all.
Your promotion item should be a natural fit with your product or service. Give away an embossed flash drive if you’re in the tech industry and want people to remember what you do. Give away a letter opener if you pitch direct marketing via mail. Things like that.
Try to have some activity in your booth space. People are drawn to movement, or things they can get personally involved with. And when you have lots of people playing with something in your booth that relates to your product, that crowd draws a crowd.
Prior to show floors opening, have a brief meeting with your staff. Remind them of the show goals, hand out kudos for work well done, and gently remind those who are perhaps coming up a bit short what they should work on.
Graphic messaging on your exhibit should be clear as a bell. The fewer the words, the more distinct your message. The message should be enhanced with an appropriate image that supports the message.
Follow up on leads in a timely manner. Your lead generation and follow up system should be something that you continually work to improve. Warm leads that are followed up on right after the show will produce more results than those that are weeks old.
Qualify and disqualify your visitors quickly. Unqualified visitors should be invited to refer a colleague and be politely disengaged. Qualified visitors earn more time to dig deeper into their needs, including the time frame they need the solution your product can solve, their contact information and an agreed-upon follow up schedule.
The power of a professional presenter cannot be understated. Some products and shows lend themselves more to presenters than others, but a good presenter will make it work in any situation and will bring in more leads than not using them. Caveat: if you hire a presenter, you must have a staff that understands and is prepared to deal with the additional leads generated. If not, most of the leads the presenter generates will slip away.
Tradeshows are a marathon. Be alert, but pace yourself so you can make it to the end of the last day still upright and able to fully engage with visitors.
Spring for carpet padding / wear comfortable shoes. You can never say this enough!
And a bonus number 11:
Spend more time on pre-show marketing than you think you should, or more than you’ve done in the past. It costs less and is easier to sell to current customers than it is to sell to new customers. Create a list of current customers, or those who have raised a hand by downloading a white paper, subscribing to a newsletter, or inquired about your services or products over the past year or so. Finally, check with show organizers to see if they can rent the attendee list to you prior to the show.
Let’s have a little fun, and rock out a little at the same time. Let’s find inspiration from some of the old classics and see how they play into your tradeshow marketing plan.
The Who: Who Are You: Yes, you need to know who you are as a company and an entity so that you can clearly communicate that information to your visitors using the elements of your exhibit, how you interact with visitors and help them solve problems.
Beatles: Can’t Buy Me Love. You might be able to spend your way to increased market share or a bigger booth space, but if you want your customers or clients to really love you, it takes more than money. It takes passion, belief, engagement, and follow-through.
Rolling Stones: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. As a marketer, it’s a great feeling to come off the floor after a successful tradeshow. It means you’ve done a lot RIGHT. But don’t get too satisfied. You can do better next time – and your competition still is trying to take clients and customer and make them theirs.
Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced? Experience counts for a lot in the tradeshow world. The more experienced booth staffers, for instance, the better they’re able to engage with attendees. The more experienced your exhibit designers and fabricators, the better the exhibit. And so on. Experience counts for a lot. And don’t forget that many of your visitors have decades of experience behind them as well.
Dire Straits: Love Over Gold: Yes, we do it for the money. But when I see people that do it for love – and are really loving what they’re doing – that is something that’s hard to compete with. If your competition is LOVING what they’re doing and you’re not, and all other things are equal – who’s going to come out on top?
T. Rex: Bang a Gong (Get it On): one of the most important pieces of exhibiting at a tradeshow is to tell people that you’re there. Let that information ring out everywhere: press releases, local TV/Radio if appropriate, social media, email blasts, phone calls, direct mail and more.
Have you checked out Quora? I think I heard about it a couple of years ago and may have even answered a question or two along the way. If you’re not sure what Quora , check out the Wikipedia description:
“Quora is a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. Its publisher, Quora, Inc., is based in Mountain View, California. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users’ answers.”
And yes, there are questions and answers about almost anything. Including tradeshows. Let’s have a little fun and share some of the best Q’s and A’s about tradeshows and tradeshow marketing:
What should I know before attending my first tradeshow? An author in the industry, David Spark, jumps in with one of the deepest answers I’ve seen on Quora. It includes videos and deep explanations. Yeah, it’s kind of a self-serving pitch for his services and his book, but it hits the mark in all ways.
Yes, I have a Pinterest account. No, I don’t spend a lot of time there. Something about not having enough bandwidth and so on. However, when I do get over there, I find a lot of things to like. Such as these boards on tradeshow marketing which are standouts!
Kimb T. Williams‘ board on Tradeshow Marketing Items features a variety of eye-catching items which make it a worthwhile stop.
Infographics do a great job of quickly communicating information in a fun and effective way, especially if you’re like me (and 65% of the rest of the population) and are a visual learner. So let’s sift through some of the great tradeshow infographics floating around on Pinterest these days.Click through to the Pinterest posts, or browse the infographics below.
Dale Obrochta joins me today for a wide-ranging discussion of tradeshow marketing, focusing on how to draw a crowd at a tradeshow booth, and once you do that, what you do with it! Dale and I had a great time on this interview – which didn’t make it live to Facebook because I’m still wrestling with the software that interacts with Facebook live. AAAND, when I checked the video screen recording, his video was gone, but the audio remained. Must be a Ghost in the Machine, makes me #wannacry. Yikes. But we punted: Dale sent along a handful of photos which almost makes it look like he’s live with me if you squint or forget to put your readers on. Take a look – or listen to or download the audio podcast below: