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:
I suppose having your tradeshow booth overwhelmed with visitors is a good problem to have, but if you have a small booth staff that can’t handle the number of visitors, it can be frustrating.
If you get lucky enough to face this problem, what should you do? Certainly, you want to capture contact info from as many people as you can.
Depending on the circumstances, you can approach it in a few ways. A little preparation for this will go a long way. For instance, have a couple of clipboards handy with pre-printed forms asking for just a few pertinent pieces of information such as name, phone, email and company. And if room, what do they want to talk with you about. If you’re overwhelmed with visitors, your staff can quickly hand out the clipboards and ask those that can’t stick around to leave their information behind – and be sure to ask for a business card as well. In fact, you can even say to those that hand you a business card to give a shortened version of their info on the form and make a note that they left a card. This gives you name, contact info, company and phone number without them having to write it down.
Don’t have clipboard with forms or even blank paper? You might think ahead and toss a small notebook in to the booth crate. You can at least ask the questions and write that info down.
No notebook? Ask for a card, tell the guest that you’re sorry that you’re swamped right now but that you want to get back to them soon: “Can we schedule a meeting later today or tomorrow? Or would it work better to call you when you get back to your office?”
The goal with this situation is to get contact info for as many people as possible – if they leave without you doing that, they’re likely gone for good. Grabbing a card and making a note on the card is sufficient. Even if you don’t get a chance to jot a brief note on the back, you can make a return call a few days later.
At busy shows, it’s kind of rare to have a few moments when you’re simply overwhelmed, where you just don’t have the booth staff to handle the influx of visitors. But if you can do your best to capture contact information before they leave, you have made a connection, even if it’s tentative. But it’s better than not capturing anything from them!
Earlier this week we got a chance to hear directly from magician and professional tradeshow presenter Robert Strong. One of the items that caught my attention and led to the podcast/vlog interview with Robert was his report from the tradeshow floor asking people what their opening lines were:
As you’ll see, there are a lot of ways people try to break the ice with tradeshow visitors. Not all of them work. Not all of them are effective.
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.
I spent a lot of time as a youth on the baseball diamond and the basketball court. One coach always stressed the importance of GAME DAY. Put on your game face! Be ready for the big game! In other words, bring even more focus and attitude to the game. When you are done practicing, and you’re facing an opponent, it counts. It’s Game Day.
You could say the same thing about just about anything. But when it comes to tradeshows, bringing your Game Face and knowing that you’re competing with some very challenging companies means it’s you vs. the rest of the hall. Your competitors are (assumedly) going to bring their game faces. Simple: they want to talk to all the people they can. They want to talk to all the people you want to talk to.
So even though it’s a friendly event, the competition is toe-to-toe, and if you want to come out on top, that means bring your game face as soon as the clock starts.
Booth staffers should know their products and services. They should know how to engage an attendee in a meaningful fashion. If a visitor turns out to be a genuine lead, they should know how to capture all of the pertinent information that is required at that step, and how that information will be sent back to the sales team.
Your exhibit should be clean. Even if it means hiring the show services cleaners to vacuum the booth space every morning and take the trash away. Personal items should be out of site. If at all possible, don’t store things behind your exhibit. Some people will see the clutter and even though they understand the reason for it, it does reflect on their overall impression.
The first thing a visitor sees is your exhibit. The second thing they see is a person standing in the booth space. What they see from that person is critical to how they will respond. If the person is ready and wearing their tradeshow game face, the visitor will engage at a higher rate and be more responsive to the staffer. If the staffer is standing there looking bored, or staring at his phone, or worst of all, eating, the visitor will likely keep on moving. And there goes your lead. Simply because someone in your booth was not ready to be in the game. In a sports situation, if the coach puts someone into the game and they’re not ready, points will be scored against them. Or they’ll fail to respond when they should. It’s an easy way to let your competition beat you.
You don’t want to let the competition beat you because you’re not wearing your game face, do you? If they beat you, it should be fair and square: because they had a product or service that better suited the visitor. But if they beat you because you’re not mentally in the game, that’s an easy way to give up points. And the game.
So yeah, put on your game face at all times in the booth!
What do ya mean, reverse engineering tradeshow success? If you ask Wikipedia, you get this: “Reverse engineering, also called back engineering, is the processes of extracting knowledge or design information from a product and reproducing it or reproducing anything based on the extracted information.”
Or: disassemble something and analyze the components to see how it works.
Or make it simpler yet: start with the end in mind. Know what you want when all is said and done and then figure out what steps are required to get there.
Let’s take a look at one of the main purposes of tradeshow marketing: generating leads. Want 300 leads at the end of three days? You’ll need on average, 100 a day. If it’s a 7 hour-a-day show, you’ll want to generate just over 14 leads per hour, or about one ever four minutes. Give or take.
If, in your experience based on tracking numbers at a particular show, you know that about 1 in 5 booth visitors is a good candidate for your product of service. And out of those 20% of visitors, one-third are judged to be strong or “A” leads, worthy of following up on in the first few days after the show.
Given that, about 1 in 15 booth visitors is an “A” lead. Do the math, and you see you need 4,500 booth visitors, or 1,500 per day.
When you examine that number, do you think it’s realistic that you’ll see enough people at your booth to get a true, qualified lead ever four or five minutes? Is that assumption based on past experience, or is it just a wild guess?
Let’s take another perspective. If you know that there are going to be about 70,000 visitors to the show (it’s a pretty big show!), and you want just 300 leads in three days, you need about one out of every 233 visitors to stop by and do your thing to qualify them.
That’s one way to reverse engineer the math.
Now it gets a little more difficult. How do you reverse engineer tradeshow success on other things, such as your exhibit, your people, your giveaways?
As far as your exhibit, if you need to accommodate 1500 visitors a day, that’s about 200 an hour. If you need about 5 minutes with each visitor to determine if they’re a qualified lead, that’s 1000 minutes. That means a total of 16 2/3 hours of actual time during each hour of the show. Rough math means you need about 20 people in your booth to be there for each hour. Which (doing the math again), you’ll need a sizeable booth space to accommodate 40 people at any given time.
If that’s not reasonable given your budget and space, you’ll want to spend time examining your overall realistic expectations for how many leads you’ll generate during the show.
Of course, real life doesn’t work just like the math we just walked through. Some visitors are disqualified instantly. Some people will take longer to qualify, especially when it comes to your follow up.
My advice? If you haven’t done so, set a baseline at your next show. Do your best to count booth visitors, track leads daily if not hourly, and add everything up once the show is over. Do it for each different show to see how they compare. Then when the same shows roll around next year, you have a starting point. Put practices into place that allow you to better engage visitors, create pre-show marketing strategies that bring more targeted folks to your booth, and make sure that your post-show follow-up system is solid.
Reverse engineering tradeshow success may be an odd way to look at how you get from Point A to Point B, but it’s as good as any, and better than many.
As a tradeshow manager, your job is never done. Is that a bit daunting? Not every tradeshow manager job is the same, but I would hazard a guess that many of the duties are similar from person to person.
You count the number of shows your company will exhibit at during a year. Some shows require that you ship the large island booth, some require the uber-cool inline booth and lots of products. Others require just a table top exhibit with a good backdrop. Some may need a professional presenter. Each show has its own guidelines, shipping and logistic requirements, not to mention your internal goals: different product launches or promotions, different personnel needs, different graphics for different audiences and more.
Then there’s the travel: scheduling and booking flights, hotels, rental cars, meetings and more. Packing, schlepping to the airport, to the hotel. Bring a good book to read, or get some work done on the plane.
Then its show time! Meet and greet, pitch products, answer questions, gather lead information, answer more questions, meet after hours with clients or friends. Sleep? Maybe a little! Feel sore from all the walking? Yes.
Once the show is over, it’s time to pack it up, ship it back, make sure the leads are categorized and sent to the sales team for follow up. Maybe check the exhibit when it gets back to the warehouse to make sure it’s ready to go for the next show.
Back in the office, it’s time to reconcile payments made with receipts, track costs, fill in spreadsheets to calculate ROI and more. File papers, submit reports, share photos, solicit feedback on what worked and what could be improved.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tradeshow manager and your job never ends. None of our jobs end until we decide. We learn to take breaks, get a breather, grab a coffee, go skiing, take a bike ride when we can.
Then we get back on the saddle and fully engage again. Because it’s a great job, isn’t it, and you wouldn’t stick with it if you didn’t love it, right?