Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

November 2010

IMTS Dives into Social Media

The International Manufacturing and Technology Show is a bi-yearly affair that attracts 80,000+ attendees and thousands of exhibitors to Chicago’s McCormick Place every other September. This year saw an explosion in the use of social media to enhance the experience for attendees and for those folks who would like to have attended but were unable to.

Monica Haley is the Marketing Communications Manager for AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology – and was part of a small team that coordinated the social media marketing effort at this year’s expo.

Social media proved to be an extremely useful catalyst to drive engagement at the show. The numbers of people posting content from the last show in 2008 jumped significantly, according to Haley. In ’08 there were only 50 people at the show who joined in posting content on Facebook or Twitter and other networks; this year the confirmed number was over 350.

The social media effort started with a strategy planning session. Out of that session grew a plan for using social media on many platforms throughout the show, including scheduled blog posts, many of which were solicited from speakers and other industry voices. The intent with the pre-show blogging was to offer unique content with a thread back to the show.

They also scheduled Facebook posts and Twitter tweets before hand using Hootsuite with a plan to offer ‘live’ ongoing posts off-the-cuff as they happened during the show.

They set up a separate social media/blogging areas where attendees could watch the Twitter Roll with the hashtag #IMTS on a large flatscreen TV, as well as plug in and log-on with laptops to engage (if they weren’t already doing that with a smartphone).

As an additional tool, Haley and her crew used SCVNGR for booth check-in (a location-based service somewhat similar to Foursquare and Gowalla), a mechanism to push people around the show who were willing to participate; it got people to the corners of the show and provided another aspect of experience to the show. She says it helped people that couldn’t come to the show feel a part. Haley says they first looked at using Foursquare but it proved to be unwieldy for the task.

SCVNGR is a location-based service game played on smartphones, which was utilized to bring people to various booths looking for specific items.

Having the social media in places helps facilitate movement of the people at the show, and helps engage people who aren’t able to attend.  “One of the biggest benefits of social media is humanizing the people behind the scenes,” said Haley.

Looking ahead, Haley says in 2012 (and likely for the European version next year) they’ll be looking to engage online attendees in many ways. If successful, she feels the show could draw another 20,000 virtual attendees.

Tradeshows: The Perfect Place to Showcase Your Brand

I’m halfway through a little book called ‘Branding Basics for Small Businesses’ by Maria Ross, which is full of helpful information, and while reading the book, it occurred to me that there is no better place to showcase your brand than at a tradeshow.


Virtually everything about your company comes into play: image, interaction with the public, products, sales team…it’s all there.

And when you think about branding, don’t mistakenly believe that your brand is just your products and services and your logo. Or your advertising.

Everything about your company transmits and broadcasts your brand.

In the book, Maria gave a great example of how a brand is shouted out by the small interactions.

“My husband and I want to love and support a local bookstore in our neighborhood. Based on location, name and visual identity, the store offers a warm, personal book-buying experience unlike the big box bookstores. Unfortunately, my husband was turned off by an incident that didn’t seem important at the time. One day when we entered the store, someone behind us left the door open as we walked in and they walked out. The clerk glanced up, saw the open door, and headed over in a huff to close it. Her body language told us she was miffed and assumed we left the door open. She nearly pushed us out of the way in her haste to make a point and shut the door.”

As she continues, because one clerk didn’t live up to the promise of the store’s brand, her husband is left with a negative impression of the business – and doesn’t feel like going back.

This little eye-opener should help you focus on the little things: is your staff always smiling and helpful? Do you have enough free samples if you’re offering them? Is the floor of your booth as clean as possible? Do you have staff purses, coats and other personal items stacked haphazardly in plain view of visitors?

Any little thing that’s ‘off’ can create a negative impression. And that negativity echoes through a visitor’s mind long after the show is over.

It’s your company. It’s your brand. Everything from your logo to how you answer the phone to how you interact with people at a tradeshow must be derived from how you would like people to perceive your brand.

At your next tradeshow, pay careful attention and see if all that a visitor sees is a positive representation of your brand. If not, find out how to fix it.

Creative Commons License

photo credit: DaveBleasdale

(the above link is an affiliate link; I purchased the book and recommend it based on the quality of the content)

Recapping the last Quarter on Tradeshowguy Blog

If you have a blog, do you look at your visitor stats to see what’s popular and what’s not?

While I don’t obsess with stats, I’m curious enough to take a look every few weeks. I’m interested most in what types of posts and content draw the most views, which (theoretically) helps guide me to create more posts on those topics.

So, the top five most viewed separate posts of the past quarter:

1. Is Foursquare the Next Killer App for Tradeshow Marketing?

2. Why the Beatles Were the Greatest Marketing Models of Their Time (and what you can learn from them)

3. Social Media at Tradeshows: 10 Keys to Engagement

4. Developing Your Social Media Tradeshow Strategy for 2010

5. A Keen Tale of Customer Service

It doesn’t surprise me that social media and tradeshow marketing are the three of the top four posts. Social media is exploding; many folks are still trying to get a handle on it, and the interest is extremely high. Expect to see more. Not only does it make sense for me to provide more of social media-related posts for you, dear reader, but I have a damn high interest in the subject.

As for the ‘Beatles as Marketing Models’ post, I think I can attribute much of that traffic to the heavy influx of organic traffic that came through search engine referrals with people searching for ‘beatles marketing,’ ‘beatles boots,’ ‘marketing the beatles’ and similar terms. Another lesson: if you want some good organic traffic it doesn’t hurt to invoke the name of a very popular rock band!

The top five ranking of the ‘Keen Tale’ post sort of surprised me, given that the article was posted on March 4th, over 8 months ago. Again, much of that traffic came as a result of good keyword SEO: ‘Keen warranty’ received more traffic in the past quarter than any other search term (with the exceptions of the Beatles combinations). If you recall the post, it had to do with my experience interacting with Keen shoes in Portland when I had an issue with one of their shoes (which was satisfactorily concluded). If you’re blogging (and you should be!), this is a good demonstration that even older posts can get a lot of views and bring people to your blog.

Beyond those top five posts, the single page promoting the Blogging 101 webinar from August garnered the most views – three times more views, in fact, than the top individual post. Of course, it was being promoted that in conjunction with Classic Exhibits, who sent a handful of e-mail blasts to their contact list. It also was promoted heavily throughout our social media world, so again it’s no surprise that there were that many views. The Blogging 101 webinar was a success; I may look to do more similar webinars in 2011 as I plan out what I’d like to do over the next year.

Another high-traffic page is the Tradeshow Marketing Newsletter. Definitely feel-good for me, since I love to see more and more people grabbing the newsletter. While the 2-page PDF edition is available for download, I also send out a monthly e-mail with links back to other posts, along with comments and other goodies.

If readership over the last few months is any indication of what you’ll find the next few months, expect more of the same: social media/tradeshow/event marketing, posts at least 2 – 3 times a week if not more…and who knows…the occasional Beatle reference!

(photo by Mike Licht)

Speaking on Social Media and Event Marketing – Preparing for EDPA

In my preparation for speaking at the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association annual conference in Jacksonville, Florida in a few weeks, I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into social media and how it can be used in coordination with event marketing.

First I put out a request to HARO, which resulted in a number of stories including Barking Up a Tree with Social Media, Social Media Rescues a Social Media Seminar, Social Media Marketing Tips from AntiSocialGuy, Twisplays Brings Twitter Streams to Your Tradeshow Booth, Taking Your Event to a Virtual World with Social27, and an update on Schmoozapalooza, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce’s semi-annual business gathering that’s been doorbusters since incorporating social media.

Not that all of those stories will make it to the final presentation. It’s hard to cut good stories out – but there are time constraints and a goal of covering the actual topics of the presentation as advertised:

Everybody’s talking about social media. And you just nod and smile–but have no idea what they’re talking about. Get a detailed breakdown of the ‘four’ main social media platforms and how to best use them–as well as how to get started if you’re still on the sidelines. Learn how to leverage social media for your own marketing, but more importantly how to talk social media with clients who want it baked into their exhibit programs.

Given that I’ve spoken in public numerous times over the last several years, many times about social media and tradeshow marketing, the challenge isn’t so much putting the presentation together. It’s making sure the information is relevant and important to the audience.

Speaking about social media brings up a lot of challenges. As Steve Farnsworth (@steveology on Twitter) told me earlier this year, ‘social media is still the wild west’ in a lot of ways. Some companies really get it and are neck-deep in their social media engagement. Other companies have a lot of political resistance to even the thought of getting involved, viewing social media as ‘kid stuff’ or toys of some sort that an honest-to-god serious marketer shouldn’t even consider.

Crafting the content then becomes a balancing act between getting the neophytes interested enough to seeing the possibilities and helping the folks already engaged with tools, techniques and examples of how to engage.

Along the way I’ve had the good fortune to stumble onto three books which have been invaluable to crafting the presentation.

Nancy Duarte’s two books on presentations, “Slide:ology” and “resonate” have offered an enormous amount of guidance and I cannot recommend them enough (yes those are affiliate links; one book – ‘resonate’ – was given to me by Nancy and I purchased “Slide:ology” but I would recommend them anyway because they’re both excellent).

John C. Maxwell’s “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” has also proved to be extraordinarily helpful in the preparation of the final presentation. I can quibble with a few of his cut’n’paste examples of communication, but his message and a majority of examples ring true.

If you’re working on a presentation, or ever have the opportunity to put one together, you would do yourself well by grabbing any or all of those books.

As for Jacksonville on December 2nd, well…we’ll see if they helped me as much as I hope they will!

Tradeshow Pre-Show Publicity Guide

BarCamp AMS 2005 Opening - 35

If you want to get the most out of your tradeshow exhibit, you should do your utmost to let people know before the show that you’ll be there by using a tradeshow pre-show publicity guide. Not only will it give those folks who can’t attend the show a chance to learn about your new offerings and the fact that you’re going to exhibit – it also gives attendees something to look forward to.

Key goals include:

  • letting people know about new products
  • cluing the media in on your new products and your upcoming appearance
  • alert people to access to your key people: CEO, designers, managers, etc.
  • schedule interview with media and bloggers onsite during the show
  • generate buzz
  • generate new sales leads
  • get your CEO or other lead person on the speaking schedule at the show

Are there any press-only pre-show functions that you, as an exhibitor, can attend? Are there awards programs that you can participate in? Should you hold a press conference at the show? All of these are good questions who’s answers may lead you to new opportunities for exposure. And if there’s anything you want MORE of at a tradeshow, it’s EXPOSURE.

How’s your online press area? Your press kit should have information on the latest products that you want to push, and should be available in many formats: text, audio interviews, video demonstrations if appropriate and photos. The more ways you offer the information, the easier it becomes for the press to use your information.

If you choose to issue a press release, keep in mind that you’re competing with dozens or hundreds of other press releases. To create a compelling press release, the most important thing is to create a compelling headline. Without a ‘hooky’ headline, you’re sunk because no one will read past a boring headline. Your press release – if related specifically to something going on at the tradeshow – should have the various points of contact for people in your booth.

Engage social media. Find out what bloggers might be covering the event. Ask colleagues (or even competitors) who they have seen covering the event in the past. Include links to your Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn outlets if available. Create event listings on LinkedIn and Facebook and spread the word through your contacts.

photo credit: roland

Grab our free report: 7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

Social Media Rescues a Social Media Seminar

When Knoxville, Tennessee’s In10City Interactive planned a B2B one-hour seminar on event marketing with social media, they first reached out to their clients, colleagues and partners with a typical direct-mail piece. They sent out 1500 postcards a few weeks before the September 9th event earlier this year. Scott Spaid, the VP of Marketing for In10City Interactive, said that they had just a handful of RSVP’s less than a week prior to the event.

In other words, the postcard direct marketing piece was a bust.

So they jumped headfirst into social media to reach their audience. They started with an e-mail invitation blast to the same 1500 folks, and then posted frequently on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

By show time a few days later they had received over 70 RSVPs and some 50 attended the event, which included a free lunch (hint: offer free food if you can!). Twenty of the RSVP’s came directly through Facebook, said Spaid, which they deemed a win.

According to Spaid, the event “was not a ‘101’ event; we assumed that they knew what we were talking about.” Instead they discussed social media marketing, shared anecdotes and networked. They discuss ‘Why should someone be friends with your brand? What is the value you add?’

In10City Interactive’s goal was to move more folks into their sales pipeline with the outreach event. From that aspect, Spaid called it a success: “We have four appointments on the calendar that came out of the show.” He says their typical sales cycle is 3 – 6 months.

In10City Interactive focuses on building websites, refining SEO and CRM for clients. They have some 55 employees in 5 locations in the eastern and southern US.

Check them out here:

Barking Up a Tree With Social Media

Denise Quashie shared so many ideas on how she’s utilized social media in conjunction with events that it’s not surprising to discover that her pet dog on Twitter led to the launching of a successful conference.

In my recent call for social media tradeshow success stories through HARO, Denise contacted me saying she used Twitter, Facebook and more to market shows, sell sponsorships, promote exhibitors and drive onsite traffic. And more.

Her company, Events by Canvas, is an event consultancy focusing on social media events, social media ghosting, and event consulting and training. They also produce several social media driven start-up events. Denise is always looking at ways to offer additional value to her clients with social media: sponsored Tweet-ups, platforms for press releases, Twitter mention packages, offering education benefits to attendees at her events and more.

But one of the more intriguing stories came about when she told me that when she put her dog on Twitter, which prompted hundreds of pet-lovers to start networking and helping each other. That then inspired BarkWorldExpo, a social media expo in Atlanta for pet lovers and the pet industry.

The first BarkWorldExpo, held in August of this year, drew 250 attendees and 30 exhibitors. Tickets were $129 for the event, held at Atlanta’s Atlantic Station. BarkWorldExpo featured several speakers who talked about aspects of social media; there were sponsored Tweet-ups and other gatherings, and plans are underway for a follow-up event in 2011.

Some of the successful ideas for promoting events via social media that Denise and Events by Canvas have used in the past for other shows and clients include:

  • Sending out tweets for scavenger hunts down empty aisles (first person to spot the green back pack on aisle 7 gets $100 on the spot!), which caused a stampede
  • Speakers incorporating a live Twitter wall during the speech
  • Sponsored Tweets during the event
  • Tweet lounges where several screens showed running tweets from the show
  • A Big (Twitter) bird to draw traffic to a specific area

Just chatting with Denise – and furiously jotting down ideas – inspired me to believe there is really no limit to what you can do with social media. The only limit is lack of imagination.

Besides…if a dog on Twitter can inspire a successful conference…?

Links to Denise and BarkWorldExpo…

Schmoozapalooza Update: Using Social Media to Invigorate an Event

In January of this year we took a look at an event in Oklahoma City called Schmoozapalooza.

According to Jill Harrison, the previous incarnation of their twice-yearly business networking event was slowly dying.

“This was a free tradeshow with no music and no games. There was some food and a cash bar. It was a much more professional event. We had no problem attracting exhibitors, but attendance was declining year after year,” said Harrison.

The event was rebranded as ‘Schmoozapalooza’ with more of a party atmosphere, a live band, games, food and more – and instead of making it a free show they charged $10 admission. It was still a tradeshow with dozens of exhibits (109 this year), and the event was promoted heavily through social media.

The Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce used LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook to build buzz before the event. They promoted a contest leading up to the event, asking people to send out a tweet with the event hashtag and one good reason why you should be at the event. Random winnder were picked out from the tweets with the hashtag.

During Schmoozapalooza, more contests were held:

  1. First person to tweet about a new friend
  2. Post a pic of something at the show
  3. First to tweet about a new product or service you found

During the event, Twitter screens were up that pulled all tweets with the #Schmoozapalooza hashtag, which further engaged attendees.

Jill says the recent event, just before Halloween, had lots of folks in costume and proved to be a great event with more exhibitors and attendees than the previous one. With two such events each, they’ve had a number of events to track over the past two years.

This year’s numbers:

  • 109 exhibitors
  • 700-800 attendees
  • 5000 FB friends (limit)
  • Twitter 3467 followers @okcchamber
  • MySpace 286 followers
  • LinkedIn 384 Chamber page followers
  • Plaxo 427 connections

Harrison says there is now quite a buzz around the event, much of it due to social media, as well as the re-casting of the shape of the event. “Guests get one drink ticket with admission and can purchase additional drinks. We really encourage our exhibitors to be creative and think outside the box. The change in atmosphere and reaching out to our audience through social media made all the difference.”

Taking Your Event to a Virtual World with Social27

I’ve seen virtual tradeshow platforms before and have been mildly impressed. But after spending twenty minutes getting a tour of Social27’s new virtual tradeshow / event platform, it appears to be a substantial entry in to the virtual tradeshow world.

Want to bring your LinkedIn profile in so that you don’t have to re-create a new profile? Done.

Want to send a quick tweet out or post to Facebook while attending the virtual event? Easy to do.

Want to watch a keynote speech on video? Check the theatre, sit back and watch.

Want to connect instantly with other attendees via instant chat, or send a quick email to a speaker or event exhibitor? Not a problem.

While attending virtual events rarely comes up on my calendar, it’s not an uncommon thing to hear about in today’s economically-challenged event world. With companies looking for ways to cuts costs – and event organizers looking for a way to engage people that may choose not to attend, a platform such as the one offered by Social27 deserves a close look.

The company was formed in 2007 by two former Microsoft employees, Ike & Bally Singh Kehal, so it only seems natural that Microsoft would be among the first clients for Social27. Along with the Redmond software giant, Social27 has also worked with the University of Washington. The virtual tradeshow event product is a mere six months old as of this writing, so it’s to be expected that the company may want to iron out a few bugs before a major launch.

Still, they’re making a splash: recently Social27 was winner of the Northwest MIT Enterprise Forum’s Start-up Demo in Spring of this year. The gathering is sponsored by six regional angel investment organizations, looking to highlight entrepreneurs and the next big ideas.

Social27’s event platform is aimed at a variety of virtual events, including tradeshows, conferences, training seminars and the like.

A user, once logged in, is treated with an array of tools including message walls, links to Twitter or Facebook posting areas, conversations, videos and more.

Each individual tradeshow booth is skinned with logos and links to content such as PDFs or videos, which can be from YouTube or hosted privately if needed.

Theatre offerings include the opportunity to ask questions of the presenter, post comments to a forum and meet up in a lounge to discuss the presentation.

Other items include the ability to offer incentives to greater participation by offering an ongoing point tally for various activities in the show; an event organizer has the ability to offer prizes or rewards for the highest point tallies. The system is also API-enable, giving organizers the ability to include outside applications such as wikis or blogs.

To contact Social27 for a demo, check out their website here or contact Pryscilla here.

Social Media Marketing Tips from AntiSocialGuy

When a request is posted on HARO* you never know exactly who’s going to chime in.

So my interest was a piqued when I got a nice list of tips from a guy who bills himself as AntiSocialGuy. Hmmm…TradeshowGuy and AntiSocialGuy. Wonder if we could do a two-man stand-up act?


A sit-down act?

Here are AntiSocialGuy’s collection of tips on using social media at your tradeshow.

  • Create a page on your site that is dedicated to your show. Start to build up hype before the show even begins. Promote your giveaways, contests etc…
  • Do the same thing on all your social pages. If you want to track the effectiveness of each social site, make sure you have different offers or giveaways on each site.
  • Offer a live stream from your booth for those who couldn’t make the actual event.
  • Create a contest that will give people a reason to come to your booth. I seen a great example of this at a recent tradeshow that I attended. Kodak offered up their new waterproof camera at various times throughout the day on twitter. There booth was constantly packed and the retweets of people letting their friends know about the free camera’s was through the roof.
  • Offer your product to any media or bloggers that are covering the event. It’s a great way to get write-ups on their blogs and other social properties.
  • If you’re speaking at the show, have a custom #hashtag during your talk. Allow the people in the audience to ask question during the presentation via Twitter.

All of those are great ideas. My fave is to offer bloggers and writers a free product/sample to get them to write about it. Unless you’re selling an expensive item such as a car, plane, tank or expensive piece of technical gear it makes sense to get your product into the hands of someone who is able to write about it.

Check the ‘about’ page and you’ll see that is Robert Richardson.

HARO, by the way, is a terrific source for anyone who’s interested in connecting with reporters or sources (if you’re a blogger or reporter, for example). I’ve used HARO a few times in the past and have always been amazed and pleased at the great responses I get.

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