If you do a Google search for “showing up,” you get all sorts of links and suggestions as to what it means. Showing up for a performance, showing up for important events in your life for your friends and family, showing up at work by giving it your attention and energy.
Showing up is important. As Seth Godin put it, though, we’ve moved way beyond simply showing up, sitting in your seat and taking notes. Your job is to surprise and delight and change the agenda. Escalate, reset expectations and make your teammates delighted.
Sure, showing up is important. On a personal and business level to me, showing up means controlling my behaviors and emotions. Knowing that when I set out to do a day’s work, I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do (calls, projects, communications with clients, writing, etc.), and doing my best to do it, every day. For example, I made a commitment in January of 2017 that I would show up every Monday to do a video blog/podcast for at least a year. Once the year was up, I would assess it from a number of angles. Was is working? Was it fun? Was it good? Did it get any attention? Did my guests get anything worthwhile out of it? Did the listeners give good feedback, even if there were very few? Based on my assessment of those questions (not all were completely positive, but enough were) I committed to another year. Then another.
So here we are.
Showing up at a tradeshow is more than just being there. If
you are to take Seth Godin’s perspective, you want to have more than just a
nice exhibit. You want to show up with more than just average enthusiasm and
average pitches to your visitors. You should set high expectations for your
company and your team.
How can you do that? By starting months before the show and
having ongoing conversations about how to get visitors to interact. How to get
them to respond. How to tell your company or product’s story. How to make it
exciting to just visit your booth, exciting enough so that your visitors feel
compelled to tell others to come.
There are no wrong answers, and plenty of right answers.
Last time when you set up your tradeshow exhibit and lived
in it for a few days, did it feel cramped? Were you wishing you had another table
to sit down at with potential clients? Trying to cram too many products on too
Maybe it’s time for a new exhibit. So what’s holding you back?
It might be finances. Certainly that’s one of the biggest things that holds any company back. But beyond money, are you moving out of your comfort zone? It happens frequently. Many clients we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits have been using banner stands and pop-ups, which transport easily and take just a few moments to set up. Nothing wrong with that, but these companies have grown enough that they can afford a larger exhibit, one that not only looks good to give their brand a brand new look, but because it’s more complicated it needs to ship in a wooden crate using semi-trucks, it will likely need to be set up by an I&D (installation/dismantle) management crew.
And yes, that moves many companies beyond their comfort zone.
Having been down that road with a lot of companies, we often help navigate that
But if it’s money, there are ways to convince the purse
holders that it’s time to invest in a new booth.
First, consider what would happen if you did nothing for the
next 2-3 years. Your exhibit would be a few years older. Many of your
competitors might already have upgraded to a new exhibit which will look a lot
sharper than yours. How will your visitors then perceive your company compared
to those competitors? Remember that perception counts a lot, and almost nowhere
does it count as much as it does at tradeshows. Visitors there see you at your
finest. And if your finest comes up short from what you want and what your
visitors think you should be, that could be a problem.
Then again, maybe a new exhibit isn’t the answer. You might
be better off investing in booth staff training. Or pre-show marketing. By doing
this, you can still crank up the ROI on your tradeshow marketing investment and
put off the exhibit investment for a couple more years.
But if you are seriously considering a new exhibit, think
about who it will impact and how. Where will you store it? How much will it cost
to ship or setup and dismantle?
Understand how much time you’ll need to design and fabricate
the exhibit by talking to experience exhibit builders. Your new exhibit will
last you several years, maybe 5 to 7 or more depending on the type of exhibit
and how you use it.
Once you’ve decided that it’s a good move to pitch the
powers-that-be, be prepared. Contact a few exhibit houses to understand their
processes and timelines required, along with budget ranges for the size and
type of exhibit you’re considering.
Make a written description of the exhibit requirements. When
pitching the boss, offer a reasonable price range for the project, how long it’ll
take to amortize the cost (3, 5, 7+ years), do your best to explain how the
next exhibit will increase your lead generation (three clients in the past
three years have told us that the increased size of the exhibit and the newness
of it tripled their leads at the first show!).
Show the “soft” return on the exhibit, such as the impact
the new look will have on your current customers who see the positive direction
your company is taking. Or on the employees, who see the same thing.
There are a lot of things that might be holding
you back from investing in a new exhibit. But with careful planning and working
with the right partners, you can create an environment and a situation where
the new exhibit can become a reality.
You’re there to sell a product or service, or to connect with distributors who will sell your products or services. Which means you want to know if the visitor even uses the product. Thanks to an interview we did with Richard Erschik, we know that the first question is often:
Do you currently use our product or a similar product?
After that, you’re trying to determine if the visitor is
interested in purchasing that product in the near future:
Are you considering making a purchase soon? When?
Next, you’d like to know if the person you’re speaking to
has decision-making power:
Who makes the decision? You? Or is there someone else that is involved?
And of course, you want to know if they have the capability
to spend the money you charge for your service:
Do you have the money you’d need to invest in this product or service?
Many shows really aren’t trying to make sales on the spot.
For example, the bigger expos are more about branding, launching new products
and making connections with current clients, partners or distributors. In this
case, what’s important is to get visitors to either sample your products (such
as food), know about the new products, or in the case of other products such as
electronic gear, cameras, software and more like we saw at NAB Show, to make
sure that visitors were able to learn as much as they needed.
The company is paying good money – usually a lot of money –
to exhibit at the show, which means that every visitor is critical. Ask good
questions. Stay off the phone. Don’t eat in the booth. And don’t ask about the weather!
Naturally, your eyes will be on several different things when you are walking the tradeshow floor. And your agenda will be different as an attendee vs. an exhibitor. But if you keep your eyes open, you can spot a lot of cool and interesting things on the tradeshow floor.
The first day of a tradeshow, when the doors open for the first time, the first things you’ll see as you walk through the floors is how bright and clean everything is. Hundreds of people, maybe thousands, have been working for days to put on their best for you and all of the other attendees.
When you walk by a booth, look for the brand and image. Is it
well-represented? Are people smiling and greeting you, but not pushing themselves
on you? Are they asking good, engaging questions that make you stop and
respond? Are they trying to catch your eye?
Is their booth made from sustainable materials? Can you
tell? Is that part of their message – that they are a company dedicated to
being as ecofriendly as possible?
Also look to see if they have new products. If they have
samples, are they easy to reach? If they have demos, do they look easy to engage
with? If they have a professional presenter, is it obvious that’s the case and
is there a schedule for the day’s presentations easily available?
Is the booth crisp and clean and sharp? Or do you see ragged
edges? Is the carpet spotless and brand-new looking? All of these things
suggest something to you and help determine what your impressions of the
company will be.
If the company is giving away promotional items, is it
obvious? If they have some sample-like things on display but are not for giveaway,
is that spelled out? Are they looking to collect business cards in a fishbowl?
What is their lead capture strategy? Are they talking with
people, or just engaging enough to scan a badge, thinking that is going to be
Later in the day, or on the second or third day, look for
places where the booth might be fraying, where garbage might be piling up,
where personal belongings are spilling out of a storage area.
Look for stories. People engage with stories and the companies
that best tell their stories will be the most memorable. What stories are the
exhibits and their products and people telling?
Look for teamwork. Is the booth staff operating as a team,
or do they just seem to be….there? Are they dressed in identifiable same-color
tees, for example, or are they just in typical work clothes? Can you tell who’s
a staffer and who’s not?
If you can walk the floor and make mental notes on day one,
digest what you see, try again on the last day of the show when people are
almost in their “bug-out” mode. Things will be mighty different!
When it comes to tradeshow exhibiting, is it wrong thing to think, “Well, there’s always next time!”?
Maybe your most recent tradeshow didn’t go as well as it could have. You didn’t meet all the people you had hoped to and didn’t bring home as many leads as you were thinking you should have. Your staff’s interactions with visitors weren’t as good as they could have been.
In other words, you’re thinking that it may have been a waste of time.
If you think that, spend some time to identify WHY it might have been a waste of time.
Was it the wrong show? Maybe your expectations of the show itself were unrealistic. The show organizers might not have been as clear as you’d have liked on the state of the show. They could have assumed more people would show up, but the audience just wasn’t there.
Was it the wrong audience? Each show has a specific audience. If the audience isn’t a good fit for your products or services, it could be that you didn’t assess the show well enough.
Was your booth staff lacking in training? A well-trained booth staff can lift you above mediocre or average expectations. After all, they’re the front line in your interactions with the attendees. If the staff hasn’t been properly trained on that interaction, your results will reflect that.
Were your products or services either “blah” or not properly represented in your market? Your competition may have similar products and services, but if you staff was not fully engaged and the presentation of your products was indistinct, or fuzzy, or unclear, you won’t catch attendees’ eyes. Was your exhibit not up to the task? An old or poorly designed exhibit might save you money to ship and set up, and put off another capital investment, but if it doesn’t look good, or have the functional elements that you need to properly execute your tradeshow, it’ll cost you money in the long run, not save you money.
On the other hand, if you’re saying “Well, there’s always
another tradeshow” and you’re at least modestly pleased with the results, take
a hard look at what worked and what didn’t. Maybe your booth staff was good but
could be better. That’s a pretty easy fix.
Or maybe your exhibit is decent, and only needs a few minor
upgrades to make it really good. Another easy fix.
Other things to look at: pre-show marketing, post-show follow-up, cutting costs for shipping or logistics, and so on. Individually, they may not have a big impact, but executing each element better than last time can have a cumulative impact that’s hard to ignore.
At the end of the show, when everybody has had a chance to
review from their perspective what worked and what didn’t, and why, do a debrief.
But don’t wait too long – do it the first or second day you’re back in the
office. That will give a little time for reflection from all participants, but
not so much time that they’ll forget important feedback.
Based on what comes out of that debrief, make decisions that will better prepare you for the next show. Because there’s always another tradeshow.
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.
To most people I work with in the tradeshow industry, teamwork is the key to success. But many tradeshow marketing managers are saddled with the idea that if it’s going to get done, there’s only one person that can do it. The tradeshow manager.
Therefore, it becomes hard to delegate. Hard to give up control. They may not be a control freak, but they’re close enough to where it prevents the work of a good team from being as good as it could be.
You see this on sports teams. My sport, from when I was a kid, was basketball. When you are in control of the ball, a tendency for young players is to hold on to it until they good a good shot. Not all people, of course. There are always members on the team who don’t want the responsibility, so they pass the ball at the first opportunity. Often, the pass is the wrong move. It’s to the wrong person. It’s for the wrong reason. They might have even had an open shot but didn’t take it because they didn’t have confidence that they’d make it.
Great teamwork doesn’t happen overnight. But the longer you work with a team, the more you understand each team member’s strengths and weaknesses.
One person may be great at record-keeping. Another may be great at outreach to clients and customers. Another may have an easy time reaching members of the media to persuade them to feature the company in their publication. Yet another may have an intuitive sense of how to design graphics so that they attract the right people.
Every team is different. And teams are fluid. Even a team that’s been together for years can find things changing over time. And when new members arrive or when members leave, things get even more fluid.
But a good manager of the team recognizes how to best delegate tasks to different people for maximum results. A good manager of a team knows their own limitations and realizes that, no, they can’t really do it all.
They need a good team to do it all. And teams can always improve.
You might think that when I mention “tradeshow awareness” that I’m thinking of how you make visitors aware of your tradeshow booth, so you can draw people in. Sure, that’s important, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.
Let’s look at the other side: the awareness you as a tradeshow exhibitor has. What do I mean?
There are a number of things that, if you’re aware of, can help increase your success.
Let’s give an example that’s not related to tradeshows. For example, let’s say you want to lose 10 or 15 pounds. Not an unreasonable goal, right? But how does awareness come into play and how does it affect your efforts to lose that weight?
The most obvious way is to be aware of how much we’re eating and how much we’re exercising. And thankfully in today’s digital world, there are a lot of apps that can help you be more aware. One app I’ve used, Lose It!, lets you track calorie consumption, water consumption, and your daily exercise habits. After using it for over a year, not only did I lose the 15-20 pounds I was aiming for, but I realized that the very fact of being aware of my calorie intake and my exercise habits was a big contributor to the success of reaching my goal.
When you eat a cookie, let’s say, if you want to track the calories, you have to know how many calories it contains. Which means you have to look it up. If it’s a package of store-bought cookies, as opposed to home-cooked, the calories per cookie are listed on the package. If a cookie is 150 calories, log it when you eat it.
Same with breakfast, lunch, dinner and any other snacks you have. Once you’ve inputted your data (age, weight, sex, goals, etc.) the app calculates a daily calorie regimen. Stay under the daily allowance, and you’re likely to see your weight slowly drop. Go over the allowance consistently, and you won’t! Easy enough, right?
Then when you exercise, such as take a bike ride or go for a walk, enter that data, and the app calculates the amount of calories you’ve burned. Which means you can either increase your calorie intake or not. You get a visual reminder of everything. It works great.
But the key is awareness. If you weren’t aware of how many calories that cookie contains, you might not care. But now that you’re aware, you realize that each and every bite you take adds to your calorie count. Given that an adult needs approximately 2000 calories a day to maintain an even weight, it’s easy to go over that amount if you don’t count calories. If you’re not AWARE.
How does awareness play into your tradeshow success? Same principle. If you’re not aware of certain things, you won’t be impacted. If you are aware, the simple fact of being aware can likely make a positive impact.
What to Be Aware Of
What things are important to be aware of on the tradeshow floor?
Traffic: I would wager that most people don’t count the number of visitors in the booth at any given tradeshow. They may have a sense that the visitor count in their booth goes up or down year over year, but without an actual count, it’s just a feeling, and not actual data. Imagine if you could know exactly, or within a reasonable number, how many people visit your booth per day, or per hour, or per show.
Engagement: this might be a metric that is a little harder to measure, but if you are aware of what a good engagement with a visitor is, and you work to create better engagement through staff training, demonstrations or sampling, you’ll have a good idea of what outcomes those engagements lead to. Remember, you can’t control the outcomes, but you can control the behaviors that lead to outcomes. If your lack of engagement with visitors keeps your lead generation and engagement low, figure out what it takes to increase visitor engagement.
Leads: lead count is important. But so is the quality of leads. If you collect 300 leads at a show, but haven’t graded them as to hot, warm or cool, your follow-up will not be as good. But if out of those 300 leads, you know that 75 are HOT and need to be called within two days of returning from the show, and that 155 are warm and should be followed up within three weeks, and that the final 70 are COOL and need only be put on a tickler file or an email-later list, then the follow-up is going to be more consistent and likely more fruitful.
Booth staff: if you have a booth staff that is trained on how to interact with visitors, and how to be more aware of who’s in the booth, your results can only improve. Booth staff training is one of the key factors to success. Do you have a booth staff that is aware of what they need to do, how they need to do it and, how to engage with visitors?
Competition: awareness of competition may seem secondary to your company’s immediate success at any given tradeshow. But look at it this way: you have a lot of competitors at a show. The more aware of who they are, how they present themselves, what products they have (what’s new and what’s not) and the way those products are branded, the more well-informed you’ll be about the state of your competition. In a sense it can be a bit of a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) from the floor of a tradeshow. If you’re good at gabbing, you can pick up all sorts of insights about competitors: personnel changes, strength of company, management moves, new products and so on. After all, every exhibitor is showing off their best and latest, and if you’re not aware of your competition, don’t you think its time you paid more attention?
Finally, awareness of how your actual exhibit looks compared to your competition. Gotta say it: everyone compares their exhibits to their neighbors and competitors. How does yours stack up? Is it normal, staid, complacent, expected? Or is it sparkling, engaging, new and different than others?
Awareness is critical to success in so many areas of our lives. Being aware of how things are working on a tradeshow floor is one of those things. Awareness will naturally help you make better decisions and as a result, show more success for your efforts.
When people walk by your booth, they make a subconscious (or unconscious) choice on whether or not to stop and visit. In an instant, that choice is made. Much of what they base that choice in never really registers as a solid thought, but the choice is made regardless. They stop to visit and check out your booth. Or they keep on going.
What makes them stop? What makes them keep walking? Let’s take a look.
Brand: if they know the brand, they already have an impression. They have an emotion tied to the brand. It may be positive or negative. Or it may be neutral. In any case, the brand itself is part of that judgment.
Size of booth/how many people are already there: if a couple of dozen people are crowded into an island booth and they are all engaged in comes activity, or they are all paying attention to a single activity such as a professional presenter, they may decide to join. Nothing draws a larger crowd like a small crowd.
Newness or uniqueness of exhibit: if they come around a corner and see something they’re not used to seeing, that may impact their decision on whether to stop. The exhibit itself can be a big part of that subconscious process. Newness counts to a degree. New graphics, clean look, something different than they’ve seen before.
What’s happening in the booth: something interactive, something hands-on can spur people to impulsively stop to find out more. VR headsets. Spinning wheel. Quiz. Anything that lets people get involved, even if only briefly.
Familiarity: of course, familiarity can count, too, especially if that familiarity is of a positive nature. If they’re familiar and fond of a brand, that can draw them in.
Cleanliness (or lack): clean floors, fresh and wrinkle-free graphics, garbage cans that aren’t overflowing all create a positive impression. Clutter, grimy, broken, old or frayed exhibit pieces can put people in the mind of being repelled. They may not even know why, but they’ll subconsciously steer clear of something that their mind recognizes as distasteful. Something that’s not clean can repel.
People: your booth staff is critical in getting tradeshow floorwalkers to stop or not. A well-trained staff knows how to ask a good opening question, and how to engage. A great staffer will override other flaws in your booth, such as an older exhibit, minor lack of cleanliness, unfamiliarity with your brand and so on.
With thousands of people walking the floor at a tradeshow, everything you do and everything that they can see in your booth space can influence their decision on whether or not they will stop. A small change can add up to a significant difference in your response rate. If you could increase your visitor rate by 20% just by having a clean booth, would that make a difference? If you could triple your leads by doubling the size of your booth space and installing a new exhibit, would that be worth it? I’ve seen it happen. Every little thing counts. So does every big thing. What is drawing visitors to your booth? And what is repelling them without you knowing? Take a closer look next time.
This blog post came thanks to an idea from Mel White at Classic Exhibits. Thanks!
There are a lot of people in the tradeshow industry who are well-travelled and highly experienced, and I love chatting with them about tradeshow marketing. In this episode I sat with Michael Thimmesch, long time Skyline marketer, now a consultant with his own company. We covered a lot of bases of tradeshow marketing, including his approach of the FIVE LEVELS of tradeshow marketing. Where are you? Take a look: