Yeah, everyone is tweeting or posting social media from tradeshows. But is there any plan behind those posts? Here are 7 great ways to make sure you’ve got cohesiveness to your social media outreach at shows.
It was March 2, 2020, when things began to fall apart. When things really started to hit home.
I was getting ready to head out to Portland to catch a flight to Southern California to assist a number of exhibiting clients at Natural Products Expo West. It was a Monday, and I’d already heard from a few clients the previous week who’d decided to pull out. By the time Monday morning rolled around there were still some clients hanging on, but as the morning progressed as I alternated between packing and checking email and refilling my coffee, another couple of clients had cancelled.
In the midst of all of that, I managed to set my Hydroflask coffee cup in the microwave to heat another cup. You’re not supposed to microwave it. As I stood in the kitchen with a hundred things bouncing around my head, I didn’t realize what I’d done until it was too late. Oops! Hydroflask coffee cup meltdown!
The AirBnb was already booked, as was the flight and the rental car. I had reached out to a couple of friends that I was planning to drop by to see. I spoke with my wife and we came to the conclusion that since it was all paid for, even though there were only a client or two left on the list who still intended to be there, I might as well head out. What’s the worst that could happen, right?
As I sat on the plane in Portland awaiting takeoff, I got an email from the only client who had so far not cancelled. Now they were withdrawing. No clients left. A moment later, the official email came from New Hope: Expo West was cancelled. Nothing to do now but ride it out.
The next day, I went to the Anaheim Convention Center and found that about half of our clients had exhibit crates sitting in their booth space, but no one from the company had come to the show. So of course, I offered to assist. I spent the day coordinating return shipments, making sure that clients were taken care of.
The next few days were mostly a nice little vacation. I visited a handful of friends in the area, visited both the Nixon and Reagan Presidential libraries, which were fascinating, then spent a day at Joshua Tree National Park. Got a tour of the Entercom radio building on Wilshire, thanks to my cousin who worked there. Good memories. Hard to believe it’s been a year.
Since then, Expo West was initially postponed for a couple of months. Then cancelled. Then Expo East was cancelled. Then Expo West for 2021 was pushed back to the end of May. Then it was turned into a virtual event.
Shows keep getting pushed back, postponed and cancelled. Yes, a few are going on here and there, but industry vets seem to agree that tradeshows and conferences won’t return in full until early 2022. Sure, there might be an uptick in shows in Q3 and Q4, but not like it used to be. In fact, 2022 is still kind of up in the air.
Closer to home, TradeshowGuy Exhibits is still operational. We’re not going anywhere, and are looking to when clients are ready to upgrade exhibits for shows in 2022 and beyond. In the meantime, we’ve found a way to keep moving ahead – like most everyone we know – and keep after it day by day.
I had heard of the group Women in Exhibition, bur frankly admit that that’s about all I knew: that it existed. So I caught up with Katina Rigall Zipay, Creative Director at Classic Exhibits, and someone’s who’s been intimately involved in Women in Exhibition for years. We had a fun conversation and I learned a lot. No doubt you will, too:
Women in Exhibition has a LinkedIn group you can find here.
And check out the Women in Exhibition Virtual Experience here.
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Carl Hiaasen’s “Squeeze Me.”
When putting a budget together for a new tradeshow exhibit, there are more things to consider than just the cost of the exhibit itself. Here are a handful of things that will likely come into the mix:
With the pandemic slowly winding down (fingers crossed), what does the future hold? I’m no prognosticator and I’m definitely not an economist, although I pay attention to a lot of what’s going on in the economy. Last summer, in a conversation with a colleague, we wondered aloud what it would mean for the tradeshow and exhibit industry when “normal” returned. At that time, we were only looking ahead a few months, but here it is at least two seasons later, and we’re still waiting for the new normal to return.
The country and much of the world are still slogging through high unemployment, many stores closing, restaurants on life support and little to no job growth. In monthly calls with tradeshow exhibit producers, sellers, and project managers, it’s clear that most vendors in the tradeshow world are still operating at a fraction of their full capabilities. And most still think that they won’t reach their full capabilities until sometime in 2022. Yes, Q3 and Q4 in 2021 should show some improvement, but it’ll be a slow go for months to come.
But, once things return, people are comfortable traveling and setting up exhibits and attending shows, what does that mean?
A recent article in the New York Times tagged a few economic markers they’re following, including a prediction by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia that US output will increase 4.5% this year, which if it happened, would be the best since 1999.
Optimism is growing because of a number of things: coronavirus cases are dropping, vaccine rates are increasing, and oh, yeah, there are a few trillion dollars sloshing around in the economy and if the current administration wrangles their bill through Congress, another couple of trillion dollars will follow. Consumers are also sitting on trillions of dollars thanks to lockdown spending dips and more stimulus payments.
But what does that mean for the business world or, more specifically, the tradeshow world? It’s hard to get a handle on exact outcomes, no surprise, but experts point to the fact that in many industries – tradeshow world likely included – a number of companies simply haven’t survived, or they’ve been gobbled up by stronger competitors. Which means that there may not be as much competition.
The world of shows, events and conferences is also changing. Floor plans may change, especially if social distancing remains in effect in at least parts of the country, meaning different shapes and size availabilities for booth placement. Does that mean revised exhibits? New exhibits? Downsizing or upsizing? Who can say? Any change will likely mean exhibitors be willing to spend money for either revisions or brand-new properties. Fingers crossed for all of us in the supply side of the industry.
One final note: Marly Arnold of Image Specialist does a biweekly live 30-minute show that appears on her YouTube channel, and a recent conversation with Jim Wurm of Exhibit Designers and Producers Association talked about this very topic. On the YouTube page here, she lists a number of links that are worth looking at. Let me share just a couple:
From TSNN, ten predictions for meetings and events in 2021. Some of the predictions include: virtual isn’t going away once shows return to live venues; Las Vegas is coming back strong (no surprise); it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Northstar Meetings Group looks at which convention centers are open.
TSNN with another look at how bad the US hospitality and travel industries were pummeled since COVID-19 took hold.
Beyond the links from Marlys’ YouTube page, TSNN also posted this piece on how momentum is building in the tradeshow world.
From this vantage point, it seems like a boom is coming. The question is how big, how long and how much of it will reach us here in the tradeshow, event, and conference world.
Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Classic Exhibits, one of the top handful of exhibit manufacturers in the country, for over a decade. When the pandemic set it, it didn’t take long for them to do their best to adjust to the new reality. One of the things that Classic Exhibits implemented last year was a monthly conversation with distributors. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I sat down with two of the moderators of the Classic Conversations, Tom Beard and Harold Mintz, to learn more about how those came about:
Can’t go forward. Don’t want to go backwards (heaven forbid!). Stuck in the in-between state. The pandemic is doing so much to the tradeshow industry that most of us in the world feel stuck in the in-between state. The space where we’re just waiting.
The hardest thing I’ve found about being in the in-between state is the lack of control. You can’t control when shows will return (or when they will get cancelled, or postponed, or go virtual), can’t control what clients will do (never could, I guess), and a certain apathy comes to many people because of the lack of control, and the lack of forward progress.
What to do?
Embrace the space. Embrace the in-between space. The space where you might have more time available to do things that you never found time to do before.
A tradeshow colleague recently mentioned that while things are dark, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t know how far away that light is, or how bright it will be once we arrive at the end of the tunnel, but things are slowly progressing. Covid-19 cased are slowly dropping, deaths from the virus are decreasing, vaccinations are increasing.
One day, perhaps not too far into the future, exhibitors will be ready to return to the show floor. Attendees will be booking flights and hotel rooms. Buyers will be awaiting the opening bell of the tradeshow floor.
In the meantime, take some time for yourself or your company. Do the things that you have been putting off. Solidify connections with more Zoom calls (not another!), phone calls, or emails that you just didn’t have time to do a year ago. Put together a new marketing campaign and run it by colleagues for feedback. Check-in on people, both in business and out.
Walk the dog. Ride your bike. Have a longer chat with your spouse or significant other. Head to the ski resort. Write a letter. Send a postcard to a cousin you haven’t spoken to in years.
Whatever. Doesn’t matter. If the pandemic and the lack of tradeshows has given you more time, or even furloughed you (hopefully not, but I know it has happened to a lot of people), use some of that time to do the things that you didn’t have time before when work and family were a 24/7 job just to keep up.
I realize not everybody has space or time that I do. But if you do have extra time on your hands, embrace the space.
You can still benefit from tradeshows without having to invest in a big booth and booth space. Let’s take a look at a handful of ways you might do this:
Advice. We all get it, and we all receive it. Sometimes it’s unsolicited, sometimes it’s valuable. It’s just a part of life. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee I share a little of the advice I’ve received over the years:
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Daniel Pyne’s “Water Memory,” a thriller novel I just completed this week.
What is “head trash?”
I’ve heard the term off and on for years, and it came up a lot in a sales class I spent a year in a few years back. The teacher, Brad Kleiner, often referred to the mental blocks we put in front of ourselves as “head trash.”
I think it’s a good term, as good as any to describe the ways we keep ourselves from doing what we know we should do.
If you’re a booth staffer that knows you should put yourself out on the edge of the booth with a foot in the aisle to greet passersby, but you’re too shy to do that, that’s head trash. If you’re creating a plan to double your lead generation but think that doubling leads from last year is just way too much to plan for and you scale back your expectations, that’s head trash.
In essence, head trash is the conglomeration of thought patterns and emotions rattling around in your head that keep you from doing your business (or personal life) in a professional way.
It happens to all of us. Lack of control. Insecurity. Shyness. Paranoia. It mostly comes down to avoidance of the thing that you know deep down you really should do.
In my early life, especially my teens and twenties, I found myself stressing about something coming up on the calendar, something I really didn’t want to face. One instance stands out. I was a DJ at a local station and was tasked with emceeing a Halloween costume party promotion at a local mall.
I freaked out. I liked being on the radio. Being behind the microphone was fun. It was home. It was a gas. But getting out in front of a large crowd and trying to emcee an event was about the worst thing I could possibly imagine. As the day drew closer and closer, I become more stressed out and no matter how much I tried to not think about it, it weighed heavily on my mind.
Somehow, I made it through. And forgot about it as quickly as I could. And moved on.
But over the years I had more opportunities to get in front of people. And was never comfortable. Finally, nearing 40, I joined a Toastmasters group and slowly over the next few years learned public speaking. I got over the head trash I had around getting up to speak in public.
I realize that public speaking is a hard thing for lots of people. But anyone can learn it. And while we may have head trash around a lot of smaller things, like hating to make cold calls, or thinking that some person has it in for you when in fact that’s not the case at all.
Head trash is a bevy of self-defeating emotions and stumbling blocks that keep you from moving forward. Self-awareness will help in identifying them and admitting that they’re holding you back is the first step.
It’s easy to make up negative stories about ourselves. The challenge is to work to change those negative stories and get more objectivity about who we really are. Sometimes it takes another person’s perspective.
As I was putting this article together, I check the email and found Andrew Bennett’s latest newsletter, which had a link to a video, which – surprise! – was about the very thing I was writing about.
Check out Stop Telling Yourself Negative Stories:
Andrew was a guest on TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee a couple of years ago. Worth a look!