Share Experience is a new company formed late last year by Marcus Vahle and John Pugh, both with long experience in the event and tradeshow world. Given what looks to be a unique approach to carving out their niche in the event world, I thought it might be fun to catch up with them for a conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:
Cruising Twitter is always an entertaining proposition. Sometimes
because you find some really interesting stuff. Other times because you end up
wanting to pull your hair out. But it’s never boring!
In search of some #tradeshow ideas, I entered that search term in the box on Twitter. Lots of companies use Twitter to push out advertisements and come-ons, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you mix it up with good useful information. But I looked and came up with a handful of good articles. Let’s take a look.
Fortunate PR guy (his words) Jim Bianchi tweeted out a link to a post called “Top Lessons Learned for Automotive and Mobility Suppliers from CES2020.” Much of the lessons had to do with how beneficial CES is to exhibitors (which it certainly should be), but it illustrates how many traditional auto suppliers are finding their way into one of the world’s biggest shows. Another tip had to do with navigating around Las Vegas during show time, given that the public transit systems can be overwhelmed by an additional 175,000 people. Yeah, no kidding!
And finally, a list from Architectural Digest on Tradeshows You Should Consider Attending in 2020, assuming you’re in the architectural world. Most of the shows are stateside, but there are mentions of the London Design Festival, Heimtextil in Frankfurt and others. Lots of details on each show for the serious planner. This was shared by Skyline out of South Carolina.
Yes, Twitter has its detractors and it can be a little overwhelming if crazy politics are going on at that moment (okay, that’s always going on), but it’s also a good source for good information if you just know where to look.
Face it, we’re all swimming in data. Every time we walk out the door, drive to the store, buy a cup of coffee, order something online or even just sit at home watching TV, that information is getting logged. If you have a doorbell camera, there’s a good chance that you also chose to connect with local law enforcement agencies, who now can use the images to theoretically catch the bad guys. Stories abound, good and bad, about how all of that data can be used.
So yes, the data at times can be overwhelming. But what
about your tradeshow booth? Are there any ways to track data during a show that
can be helpful?
Let’s say you set up a time lapse camera in your booth. Put it somewhere that allows you to track the number of visitors, that can show you how long people stayed, or what they interacted with in the booth. That would be one way. Certainly, it would take some time to go through the video after the show, but my guess is that you would get some good intel as a result.
Other data you could consider tracking isn’t so high tech:
leads generated, sales made (and dollars brought in as a result of those
sales), new customers. You might also look at web traffic you got during or
right after the show. And be sure to look at social media impact: number of likes,
retweets, engagements and so forth.
Back to tech, here’s a great article from the Event Manager Blog on ways to track visitors using smart mats, wi-fi monitors and heat maps, badge scanners, wearables, beacons and more. Loads of stuff to digest, and some of it may actually be useful in certain situations.
Gathering data to examine from a single show is certainly
valuable. But it’s just one piece of the data-gathering path. When you gather the
same type of data at show after show, year after year, you can see trends
All of this information can help you make more informed decisions on how to approach and shape your marketing messaging by uncovering what makes things tick.
Hiett Ives is a four-decade veteran of the tradeshow industry. He publishes a weekly newsletter on language that is short and fun to read. Hiett also helps companies gather more leads at tradeshows with his company Show Dynamics.
Check out our conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:
Everyone is different, yet everyone is the same. We all
attend or exhibit at tradeshows with things we need, and if we end up there
without those things, we feel like part of us is missing. Here’s a short list of
things that I always take on the road to tradeshows. I mean, beyond the
clothing and other stuff that ends up in a suitcase. Here are a few things I’ll
have with me when I head to the show floor at Natural Products Expo West in
Charging cord and plug-in adapter for my phone
iPhone 6S: holds thousands of photos and songs, not so mention show apps and a million other things.
Boosa charger: this is the best I’ve had. It holds enough juice to re-charge my iPhone 6S at least four times before it needs to be plugged in again. Great to have on the show floor.
Laptop: while I suppose I don’t really need this I’d feel lost without it. It’s a 2011 MacBook Pro that’s been upgraded a couple of times and runs like a clock. Great to offload photos, do some writing and blogging, surf the web in the Airbnb. More comfortable with this than an iPhone for handling email or writing or sharing social media.
Spare key locks for client counters: most of these counters use the same lock, and it seems that the keys can easily go missing, so I keep a few in my backpack.
Backpack: where would you be without it, right? Like a purse, only bigger and it fits easily on the back.
Reading material: often it’s a piece of fiction, but sometimes something else.
iPad Mini 2: It doesn’t get a lot of use, but on the plane I find that it’s great to pull up something from my Kindle app and read.
Allen wrench set: always handy on the show floor.
Fitbit: belt version, not a wrist wearable. Plus extra battery because of course when you’re on the road, that’s when the battery dies, right?
Business cards: more than I think I could possibly need.
Rubber bands: always need a few of these to keep the business cards from spewing all over my backpack pockets.
Cash and a couple of credit cards. I don’t carry much cash, but a little comes in handy. Most everywhere takes cards, credit or debit.
Eyeglass cleaner spray with a mini-cleaning rag
Mini-flashlight: you never know when this will come in handy.
If you’re sitting on an airplane, there are certain rules
that need to be followed. First and foremost, the attendants and the captain
are in charge. In fact, on each and every flight I’ve been on, they remind you
that federal law dictates that you must obey any instructions from flight
If you’re playing golf, there are rules upon rules about addressing the ball, putting, where you can take a drop and so on. Same with basketball, climbing a mountain, lifting weights. Some of the rules are well-thought out and dictated by organizations that manage the sport. The NBA, for example, can have different basketball rules than the NCAA. Or different football rules. Some rules are just plain common sense but aren’t written down.
When it comes to tradeshows, as an exhibitor or an attendee,
as part of the agreement that allows you access to the hall, you agree to
certain rules. If you’re an exhibitor, there are dozens and dozens of rules
about the exhibit you are allowed to set up, heights, fees, and so on and so
What about rules that may not be written down, but are just
common sense? No doubt most of these are just rules of polite society: don’t be
a jerk, treat people as you would like to be treated, and so on.
There also several unwritten rules of etiquette that you should adhere to. No eating in the booth, no sitting in the booth, greet visitors with a smile and a great engaging question, being on time when you’re scheduled to work.
But about the tradeshow floor itself, rules are again often
unspoken. Let’s check in on a few.
Suitcasing is a term for someone who is walking from exhibit
to exhibit and trying to pitch their product or services. Or they occupy space
where people are coming in and out and hand out flyers or brochures. It’s considered
unethical because the visitor didn’t pay for being there. They have no money
Outboarding is when a company doesn’t exhibit, but they’re
willing to rent a suite at a nearby hotel and invite attendees to see their
wares. I’ve read that it’s less common than it used to be simply because show
managers now often reserve blocks of rooms for exhibitors and if someone that
is not exhibiting tries to reserve a room or a suite the hotel just refuses.
Extending beyond the booth confines is not something I see a
lot, but I do see. This is when exhibitors will push things like banner stands
or literature stands outside of their booth dimensions.
Using music in your booth. Unless you hire the musician, and
the musician is playing his own unpublished music (rare, but it could happen),
you’ll be liable for paying licensing fees. And they ain’t cheap.
After hours a good rule to follow is limit your alcohol
intake, don’t stay up late, make sure you’re well-fed and hydrated. If you’re
hosting a client dinner or event, let the visitors eat or drink first. Be a
There are literally hundreds of other rules we could get
into, and no doubt you could come up with your own. Rules about marketing
strategy, collecting and following up on leads, attracting key prospects, graphic
design and so on.
The final rule I’ll offer, though, is this:
You’re going to be on your feet for hours at a time. Wear
I’ve been a reader of Bob Beverly’sThe Dig weekly newsletter for years, and finally reached out to him to see if he would join me on the podcast. He warmly agreed, so here we have a fun conversation (sans video) about how to deal with “overwhelm” when planning to exhibit at or attend a tradeshow. Or frankly, whenever you are facing a lot of things that could just overwhelm you!
One of the most valuable aspects of tradeshow marketing is
the ability to reach markets you would not normally be able to reach. In fact,
it’s what has helped Bob’s Red Mill grow through the years. Bob Moore, the
iconic Bob of the company, recognized early that by exhibiting at regional and
national tradeshows, they could get their products into markets that would
otherwise be extremely difficult to crack.
It means going to the right shows where attendees are from
companies that can ramp up distribution, that can become good partners. It
means making those connections and deepening them over the years so that your
products are valuable to them, and their ability to distribute into outlets
that you would have a difficult time doing on an individual basis is valuable
to both parties.
Yes, selling and making connections at tradeshows is
important. But one of the most important things to recognize is that once you meet
and acquire a partner there, part of the purpose of the show is to use it as a
platform to introduce new products. Not only that, but when you’re in those longer
conversations with partners, you can dig deeper into what’s important to them
and their end users, the consumers. Feedback is critical not only to making
sure the right products are being created and manufactured, but for keeping the
lines of communication open and honest. When problems come up, if you have a
good partner, the communication can be candid, and problems can be addressed.
Often a tradeshow is the only face-to-face meeting that partners have each
year, and the value of meeting and shaking hands and seeing people in person
cannot be overstated.
Use the tradeshow as a way to find and open new markets. Keep in mind that relationships will solidify as time goes by and the face-to-face communication is an important part of those relationships. Which you get when you sit down across the table at a tradeshow.
In three weeks, Natural Products Expo West will be launching
in Anaheim California. It’s a show that TradeshowGuy Exhibits is most involved
with of all the shows our clients go to each year. For the past couple of
months, we’ve been working with new and current clients to finalize artwork,
shipping and logistic schedules and more. It’s a crazy wonderful show. I’ve met
hundreds of people there over the years and gained clients with almost every
appearance. And of course, I’ve met people from companies that seemed to think
they’d become clients, but it never happened. Maybe next year!
The preparation for a big show for many clients goes well
beyond making sure the tradeshow exhibit is up to snuff and sporting new
graphics or furniture or counters or new AV elements or lights. It’s about making
sure they’re positioned right with new products and services. It’s about making
connections with old colleagues and meeting new ones. It’s about seeing what
your competitors are launching.
It’s also about all of the details and all the moving parts:
scheduling labor, electrical, shipping, flooring, furniture, you name it. There
are endless details when it comes to tradeshow marketing. Handling it each year
and making adjustments at the next show to improve is not uncommon.
We’ll report more from the show during and after, but if you want to see how last year went for us, well, it went pretty well. I don’t think we’ll be quite as busy this year as a few of those clients are not making changes to last year’s presentations. But yeah, we’ll be busy.
I look forward to walking the floor for a few days, seeing
what people are doing, talking with exhibitors, learning their challenges. I
look forward to being in warmer climes than Oregon during early March! I look
forward to connecting with an old friend in LA and catching up on a spare night
(there aren’t many).
But most of all, I look forward to seeing the clients we’ve
worked with, whether for decades, years, or even a few months. I look forward
to seeing how all of the hard work is received. It’s great to make clients look
good, not only to their immediate supervisors who may not have been intimately
involved in the new exhibit or upgrades, but also the clients who come away
impressed with the exhibit.
Why rent furniture for your tradeshow booth? There are many reasons on both sides of the question. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I sat down with John Peck of Cort Events to talk about furniture rental – and more:
Check out the selection of rental furniture at Cort Events – and yes, if you find something you’d like, contact us. We’ve worked with Cort for years.