Andy Saks is the ‘Chief Sparkler’ of Spark Presentations in the Boston area – and a big proponent of using Bubble Tweets to draw attention to his online antics. Andy’s also a great presenter and trainer, and spends a fair amount of his time working for clients at tradeshows. Andy sat down for an interview recently to discuss all of that, and more.
In October Jay Tokosch appeared on our podcast to discuss “Follow Me,” an iPhone app that is customizable for tradeshows to help direct you to various booths, locate yourself, and generally help your whole tradeshow experience.
Jay just sent me a note with a link to a YouTube video that Core-Apps just tossed up that demos the app. This quick video definitely shows how cool the app is.
Tradeshows are a busy and distracting environment in which you’re trying to make sales and generate leads. By asking qualifying questions you can cut to the chase quickly.
Tradeshow consultant and author Mitch Tarr says it takes practice. For instance, you should come up with a pertinent question, such as “Do you own a small business nearby?” or “Do you have kids in elementary school?” Rehearse the question with your colleagues and ask for input. Find two or three opening questions that feel natural, that easily roll off the tongue.
By spending a moment to engage each booth visitor, you’ll quickly determine if they’re qualified prospects. Each show might require a different qualifying question. A regional home show would have different requirements than a national tradeshow.
Ensure that everyone on your staff is well-rehearsed and able to ask the question to qualify visitors. While this may seem simple, in practice it often is not. In the heat and bustle of a tradeshow, it’s easy for someone to forget what the question is – or forget to ask it consistently of the booth visitors.
Once that person is disqualified, you can politely disengage and they’ll be on their way. If you qualify them, ‘peel the onion’ and ask a few more questions to narrow down their interest. By focusing on what they are looking for, you help steer them to the right product or service or even to the right person in your booth to discuss their issue.
It’s all in the questions you ask. So test the questions and keep working and refining them until they are getting the results you want.
I was in Salt Lake City last Monday the 20th through Friday the 24th attending the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009 show, thanks to Dean and the great guys at Lifelines. Now if I can only convince the powers that be that I need to be there in January to review the same show. Just because I’d…uh…like to see the area with snow on the mountains. That’s it! Got nothing to do with the fact I’ve been a skier since the age of seven…nope.
Unfortunately I was unable to blog during the show, so I made notes to gather my thoughts for a post-show post. Did manage a few tweets from the show from the busy bank of PCs at @tradeshowguy.
First thing at the show was to respond to several of the tweeters that were doing things to draw people to their booths, like Sole Shoes, who were offering a pair of ‘platinum sandals’ to the first dozen people to come to the booth to say ‘It’s Your Sole!’ Which I did, and they did. Also chatted with some great folks at @ENDFootwear from Portland…not sure who is the Tweeter there, though.
Impossible to keep up with all the promotions; you can’t be everywhere at all times. But there were some standout in-booth events/promotions that caught my eye (as well as many of the attendees):
Keen Shoes of Portland: taking photos of people and pinning them to a large bulletin board where they answered the question: where would you like to travel in your Hybrid Life (promoting their hybrid life shoes)? My answer? Jamaica. After collecting names and handing out buttons for three days, Keen gave away $1500 to someone to help them make that trip. No, I didn’t win! During the same time period they gave away the grand prize, Keen also sold a couple of styles of their sandals for $35 (about half price) with all proceeds going to a fund-raiser.
GoPro sport camera did a rather loud promotion several times throughout the show, which I stumbled across twice. The founder of the company (don’t think he mentioned his name!) is a natural promoter, getting his crowds to shout out the product name several times. Of course, handing out a couple of dozen GoPro cameras over the course of a few days doesn’t hurt, either!
Aquapac had several great nature photos on display and ended up giving a handful away on Thursday afternoon before the big run-up to the grand prize of a Baja Mexico whale-watching trip.
Booth size and layout
Not having been to Outdoor Retail before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But after walking the floor for an hour, the most obvious thing is that large companies here like LARGE booths, enclosed walls on 3 or 4 sides, second stories and lots of display space. A 100′ x 60′ was not uncommon.
Green exhibit construction was also at the forefront, with graphics printed or mounted on cardboard; recovered wood used as booth walls (from barns or old houses); cardboard tubes, and even booths cobbled together from wire fencing, bike frames, small trees – you name it, this show has it. I came away with a strong impression that most of the companies involved are very aware of the impact on the environment of their booth-building choices.
Dogs and Kids
Yes, ORSM09 is a dog and kid-friendly show. Lots of dogs and lots of friends. Even ran across a post from @theclimbergirl as she highlighted the ‘Dog of the Day.’
A tradeshow is a unique selling environment. One where you can talk with literally hundreds of prospects over a few days – all one-to-one.
So what does it take to get the most out your personal interaction with booth visitors?
Keep these few tips in mind:
The visitor may or may not be ready to buy. Treat them as if they are on the verge of getting out their checkbook. Be personable and engaging and make sure you’ve answered all of their questions. They may not buy for a month or a year or more, but if they leave your booth feeling good about you chances are good they’ll be more willing to write a check in the future.
A visitor will probably only stop at your booth once during the show. Unless you have something they REALLY want, one stop is plenty for them. Don’t assume they’ll come back. So when they do stop, fully engage for the time they’re granting you.
If you’re tired, try not to show it. Yeah, we know you’ve been on your feet all day. But if you act bored and tired, your visitor will probably just keep going. Make a sincere effort to find out what’s important to your visitor. It may mean having a little fun at your own expense (making a joke about that yawn you just let out) so they see that while you’re tired, they really are important to you!
So you have purchased your booth space, had your exhibit house design and build your exhibit, contracted all of your services, booked your airline flights and hotel rooms, hired your Professional Trade Show Presenter and other trade show talent, and chosen which of your employees are going to staff your booth. So now all you have to do is show up at the convention center…right? WRONG!!
The biggest reason that exhibitors have an unsuccessful show is because they just stand around and expect attendees to come to them. Trade shows have a lot going on in a condensed space, and you need to attract attendees to your booth. Here are some simple tips for a successful show:
A SMILE and a POSITIVE ATTITUDE are the best accessories you can put on in the morning!
Make sure to do PRE-SHOW MARKETING to drive attendees to your booth. The walk-bys are the icing on the cake.
You must give attendees a REASON to walk into your booth, otherwise they will just walk on by.
Make sure your PURPOSE for being at the trade show is crystal clear so that no attendee gets confused by your message.
You must WELCOME attendees into your booth and be a perfect “party host” once they are inside. It is all about the first impression!
Maintain your ENERGY LEVEL throughout the day, no matter how tired or hungry you are.
STAFF YOUR BOOTH with the employees who recognize the value of trade shows, shows up on time, will not wander away from the booth, knows the answers to the questions the attendees will ask, maintains a put-together appearance, and are not prone to losing business cards or information that will be needed back at the office.
Make sure that the staff of your booth has a UNIFORM APPEARANCE so that it is obvious to the attendees who works for your company and can answer their questions.
Don’t think that you can do it all, because you can’t. Make sure to OUTSOURCE functions to companies who represent your company image.
LISTEN to the attendees and give them exactly what they are looking for in the moment. Upselling can happen once the show is over and a relationship has been established.
Have a designated method for getting HOT LEADS to the appropriate sales person both on the show floor at back at the office. Never let an opportunity slip away due to disorganization.
Remember that you are REPRESENTING YOUR COMPANY from the minute you get to the airport in your home city to the minute you are in your car driving home. Many relationships have been started on airplanes or shuttles, in the cafeteria, or at dinner. And many more relationships have been destroyed during these same times.
And most importantly, HAVE FUN!!
Some of these tips may sound obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I approach a booth only to find one employee present, sitting with his/her back to the aisle, with a scowl on their face, hunched over their computer. These are the exhibitors that complain that they had an unsuccessful show and give trade shows a bad name.
Have a successful show!!
Presenter, Program Host, Narrator, Actress, Voiceover Artist