Shopping for a New Exhibit

  • By Peter Locascio
  • 01 Sep, 2016

So it’s been decided that your old exhibit needs to be replaced and you are now responsible, as your corporation’s trade show exhibit manager, to handle the details and get the best exhibit money can buy. Before you charge out into the wide world of exhibit designers and producers, here are a few ideas you might want to consider to stay out of trouble.

  1. Early on, get your purchasing department involved in the project to ensure that the finer aspects and details of spending your corporation’s hard earned money are handled properly. In addition, with the help of your purchasing department your exhibit provider will be more inclined to ensure that all items on the contract are properly understood and agreed upon so there should be no unforeseen additions or un-budged extra charges. The purchasing representative assigned to the trade show exhibits department can also advise you as to the best way to either purchase, lease or rent the exhibit based on various corporate tax and cash flow options that may exist at the time.

  2. Start the process formally and get top management in on the planning at the early stages of the project to ensure complete understanding and compliance of the exhibit’s goals and objectives. Anyone in management who might be able to add, change or alter the design of the new exhibit should be involved in the beginning to avoid any last minute changes which will add to the price, construction time and frustration.

  3. Document the new exhibit’s overall goals and objectives before the design phase begins. Identify the exhibit’s physical requirements like storage, customer services center, conference areas, product presentation logistics, signage limitations, electrical routing and basically anything special to your objectives that will need to be accommodated by the exhibit. Carefully research the physical limitations of the booth space you rented and make sure that there is nothing to hinder the placement or operation of your new exhibit on the show floor.
  4. Realistically and conservatively determine what the exhibit will and will not be able to accomplish within the trade show environment. Keep in mind that the exhibit can only set the stage for real people presenting real products generating real sales leads that in the final analysis will determine whether the show was a success or failure.
  5. Decide whether the new exhibit will need to be used in the same amount of booth space every time or if it will require a bit more flexibility to be used in other booth configurations. For instance, you might want a design a cubic content exhibit space that uses modular components that can then be used in a linear configuration for supporting smaller shows.
  6. The selection of exhibit vendors should include both custom exhibit houses as well as those who provide pre-manufactured, off the shelf exhibit properties. There are benefits to asking both for designs and construction bids since they are equally experienced in most all aspects of the exhibit design and building process. Remember that you usually get what you pay for and that the joy of low price is often replaced with the misery of poor quality.
  7. Inviting exhibit vendors in to provide designs and construction bids should only be conducted after goals and objectives are supported by the functional specifications of your exhibit and have been clearly documented and signed off by management. Ask each exhibit vendor for at least 5 references and contact each of them to obtain opinions of that vendor’s overall capability, attention to service, dependability, honesty and whether or not the reference would use them again.
  8. If the first show is any major distance from home, you might consider having only the exhibit design purchased and then sending it to the trade show city for local exhibit vendors there to bid on. Their bids might also include exhibit transportation to and from the convention center, installation and dismantling and storage after the show. Having the same labor set up and dismantle the exhibit as those who built it promises to save you time and money. Those savings can be added to what you’ll gain on shipping the exhibit from home to the show and should more than pay for the design.
  9. Have the bid winning exhibit provider’s management team come to your office to present you and your management with the plan and schedule for the new exhibit. In doing so establishing his/her firm as being more of an associate than a vendor to your business.
  10. Maintain close control of the exhibit production schedule provided by the winning bidder, ensuring that your copy, graphics, product photographs, etc. are all approved and provided on time. You should plan on visiting the exhibit provider at key times during production to inspect progress and to discuss what might be needed to keep the project on schedule and within the budget.

Conclusion

Acquiring a new exhibit for most corporations is a major investment that should be carefully considered, planned and managed. No matter what the price or size, if the exhibit’s goals and objectives have not been firmly established and supported by management, there is little chance that the investment will be worth the effort. On the other hand, when an exhibit is designed and constructed to meets its goals and objectives, the value of the trade show can be maximized and should more then justify every dollar and hour spent on the trade show floor.

Trade Show Consultants

By Peter Locascio 28 Aug, 2017

Effective top management evaluates various marketing and sales support functions, along with their related expenditures in time and money, by asking middle management to justify each activity based on results.

While it’s often difficult to justify some activities, exhibiting at trade shows has lately been under more serious scrutiny, and establishing return on investment has become more challenging and critical than ever before.

The standard means of justifying the time, money and effort invested in exhibiting at trade shows should be directly related to increasing sales at high enough levels to support the overall investment.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Unless a trade show exhibitor has above average competitive products, has developed an accurate exhibiting plan of attack, and has in place tried and true methods to actually attract, connect and engage trade show targeted prospects, justification could remain elusive and top management could view trade show exhibiting as a waste of time and resources.

Thinking sales and attempting to shorten a selling cycle, while taking every opportunity to engage with targeted trade show attendee prospects, is a first step in creating a foundation on which ROI can rest. But the function of creating new sales doesn’t always have to stand alone in justifying the time and money invested in trade show exhibiting.

The trade show exhibit floor is a live and highly charged personal environment. Because of its very nature in both time and influence, it is also in many ways a totally unique experience that offers many more opportunities to add value to the ROI equation.

Consider these activities in addition to presenting and selling products as a means to better justify trade show exhibiting return on investment.

1.     Prospects call on exhibitors. Live, highly identifiable targeted prospects and customers make sales calls on exhibitors seeking to learn about new products and services.

2.     Time to spend. Trade show attendees have time to spend on the trade show exhibit floor visiting exhibitors of interest.

3.     Exhibitors control the environment. The trade show exhibit can create an environment in which to effectively present and demonstrate products to well-defined, targeted prospects.

4.     Show specials. Using an effective show special promotion can increase a prospect’s purchasing interest, shorten a sales cycle and clearly identify a prospect’s elevated level of buying interest.

5.     Training. Three days of booth duty, surrounded by management, service, technical, sales, prospects and existing customers, with competition next door, provides valuable experience that can only be achieved on the trade show floor. Simply put, the experience is the ultimate in active, real-world training.

6.     Client/ customer relations . In the booth, at meals or in a hospitality suite, large numbers of VIPs spend their time and money to call on you, not the other way around. Exhibiting also allows you to meet top management and secure lasting relationships.

7.     Competitive analysis . In the booth next to you, the competition is available for research, dialog, and comparing industry notes.

8.     Research. Do you want to know what prospects and customers think? Ask them as they visit your booth. Show them new product ideas and marketing concepts. Ask for their advice and opinions on how they would want you to improve your services.

9.     Meet the press . Connecting with industry press at trade shows is a valuable way to spread the word about your company, products and services. One-on-one conversations between the media and your most senior executives, technical experts and leading research and development people can help spread your news. There are also opportunities to be a part of an editor’s show wrap-up report or become a reference for future articles.

10. Recruitment. Trade shows can be a rich resource for finding new talent. Interview that prospective special addition to your staff who may be attending the show to share his or her resume in search of new employment opportunities.

11. Presenting papers. Many trade shows have opportunities for exhibitors to present technical papers highlighting new products, systems, research, or application stories.

12. Workshop presentations. There are also trade shows that offer workshop and panel discussions for exhibitors to share stories, accomplishments or methods of performance.

13. Sponsorship opportunities. Being a name and title sponsor of a quality trade show activity can increase positive brand awareness and open doors for additional opportunities for positive exposure.

14. Firming association relationships. Exhibitors have the chance to firm up working relationships with sponsoring associations by advancing their company and people’s volunteering activities and serving on boards and selected committees.

15. Strategic alliance development. The trade show exhibit floor is a unique, prime location for like-minded entrepreneurs, associates, dealers, distributors and investors to gather while seeking new opportunities.

16. International Sales. Many domestic trade shows are attended by international representatives seeking to either add products to their offerings or provide products with possible synergism to an exhibitor’s existing product line.

17. Innovation. The trade show floor is an incubator for individual developers seeking associations with existing providers to further develop their product ideas.

18. Company involvement. What better environment than a trade show to let key employees experience firsthand how the business world works. Working a trade show booth can help many employees fully appreciate the key aspects that make a business function.

19. Getting out from behind the executive desk. A trade show is an excellent environment to share with vital top managers who need to get out of the office more and experience the many virtues of a face-to-face environment of a trade show booth.  

20. Relationship building. Prospects, clients, managers, directors, employees, investors, associates, dealers, distributors, strategic alliances, inventors, the press and potential employees all attend trade shows and are available to exhibitors who can focus on in-person opportunities.

Trade show exhibiting return on investment starts by fully appreciating the many unique opportunities the trade show environment presents to every exhibitor. To maximize the opportunity and to make sure trade show exhibiting pays big dividends, exhibitors should first identify and acknowledge what is available, as suggested above, and then plan to capitalize on the many opportunities one at a time.

Effective pre-show planning must include every opportunity the trade show exhibit floor offers. Making the most of those opportunities will begin to guarantee a return on investment far beyond just thinking about the activity as a difficult sales promotion function that is challenging to justify.

Peter LoCascio

www.tradeshowconsultants.com
By Peter Locascio 19 May, 2017
Effective trade show exhibiting management is not easy or glamorous, and while you might spend six months planning required logistics of exhibiting, once the show opens, all of your work becomes subjected to others’ opinions, suggestions and comments — and not all are always complimentary.

In a 1993 psychology paper and in his 2008 book, “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell claimed that it took roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Mr. Gladwell's message — people aren't born geniuses; they get there through effort — was seized upon by popular culture.
Gladwell contended that it's "an extraordinarily consistent answer in an incredible number of fields . . . You need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good."

His examples included:
  • Bill Gates, who was able to start coding as a teen since he attended a progressive Seattle High School.
  • The Beatles, who played eight-hour gigs in German clubs long before they invaded America.

Those opportunities to practice early and often — along with precocious talent — allowed them to respectively invent software and modern rock and roll.

Managing your corporation’s trade show exhibiting program successfully has a lot to do with how you as a manager and expert are perceived by your associates and whether or not they trust you.

Building that critical trust depends on how you approach your job as Corporate Trade Show Exhibits Manager and if you provide opportunities to either be supported or sometimes criticized by management for your efforts.

While it might not take you 10,000 hours to gain mastery, support and adulation from your peers in the field of managing trade show exhibiting; here are 10 ways to begin the process.

  1. Considering yourself an expert in the field of trade show exhibiting, wear that title proudly and commit yourself to learning as much as you can about your craft.

  2. Demonstrate your personal commitment to trade show exhibiting by pulling booth duty for the entire show and being available to answer questions, taking notes and being responsive to suggestions, comments and criticism.

  3. Produce a pre-show briefing memo outlining goals, objectives, strategies and tactics of the show. Distribute it at least four weeks before the event to allow time for response and modifications.

  4. Stage a pre-show briefing meeting the evening before the show that includes management, sales and marketing to review the exhibit presentation, product details, show goals and objectives.

  5. Organize booth duty schedules that provide your booth team members time to rest, eat and review the competition on the show floor while adhering to the rules and regulations that come with being selected to represent the corporation at this important event.

  6.  Work the booth side by side with sales, marketing and management to share experiences. Note ideas and suggestions presented to improve and defend policies and procedures already established while taking charge of the entire function.

  7. Take notes of suggestions, comments and concerns to be responded to after the show.

  8. Stage after-show daily reviews with key people to monitor how the exhibit is functioning while being flexible and ready to modify any activity the next day to improve the results.
     
  9. Walk the show yourself and perhaps with your boss to review first your competition’s presentation and then other presentations that might influence your own future exhibit presentations.

  10. Write and distribute a detailed post-show report documenting your experiences from working the booth, walking the floor, and as the total effort relates to the goals and objectives you helped establish for the show. In developing such an important document, you have opportunities to voice your own opinions on critical topics, suggest possible modifications for future improvements and, in essence, take charge of the overall management of the trade show exhibiting function. 
Being considered the expert who mastered the title, duties and responsibilities of Corporate Trade Show Exhibits Manager will go a long way in transforming the tedium of being a reactionary tactical manager to a well-established master of a serious valued profession.

Reaching the title and respect that comes with being considered one who has mastered the art and science of exhibiting at trade shows can only improve compensation, status and cooperation when management is brought along to consider the enormous amount of time and money invested in exhibiting at trade shows.

Effective trade show exhibiting is a process that evolves over many shows and demands a manager who can build on past experiences to fine tune what worked while eliminating or modifying what didn’t. That process is what leads to mastering the field and your job as Trade Show Exhibits Manager.

Peter LoCascio
Founder and President
Trade Show Consultants
www.TradeShowConsultants.com
April 2017

See companion white paper: Thinking Your Career has Stalled as the Corporate Trade Show and Exhibits Manager?
By Peter Locascio 18 May, 2017

While the Clinton campaign went about the more traditional tasks of evaluating past voter analytics, developing messaging and using research tools like focus groups and polling analysis to develop their positioning statements, Donald Trump was out in the field making human contact at hundreds of live events, learning firsthand what was on people’s minds and in their hearts.

The results of Clinton’s campaign development in the end was not really being in touch with the hearts and minds of voters, while the Trump campaign at every event gathered key research data that formed a foundation on which he built a campaign of consensus and momentum.

Like the Clinton campaign, marketers face a danger, in depending solely on focus groups and other tools when developing research, because people’s opinions often do not indicate how they actually feel about issues presented to them in such controlled theoretical environments.

Focus group research of this kind often ends up not developing many new ideas, but it is accepted in confirming most marketing concepts already established. In many cases, the data developed are flawed by pre-established concepts, and while people might share their ideas freely, they aren’t telling you the truth about how they really feel.

It reminds me of the typical responses to research among some executives. When research goes against their conventional ideas, management questions the techniques used, and when it agrees with what their conventional ideas are, management often says it is a waste of time and money.

Focus group members are often simply sharing their general opinions about something without making a commitment to their true beliefs until asked to take personal action, like purchasing something or, in this case, casting their vote.

At a focus group organized to determine the marketability of a new consumer product, it became evident that our panel was being polite but not totally truthful about how they perceived the products we were presenting. They were being paid, and most wanted to go along to get along. After one session of general acceptance, I suggested we go a step further by asking the members of the group if they would want to purchase the product at the end of the session. We then discovered an entirely new level of concern and consideration by asking them to make a personal financial commitment. Now their answers became much more valuable than the entire focus group exercise. Instead of asking for their opinions, we now asked them to make a purchase and the complexion of this research tool took on entirely new dimensions. As sales professionals well know, asking for the order opens new doors and serious dialog along the route to making a sale.

Another important factor in depending solely on focus group research is the limited number of paid people involved as compared to those found on the trade show exhibit floor. In three days at a trade show, hundreds of attendees can be questioned, polled and asked to purchase show only specially priced products to determine their honest personal product opinions. But how many exhibitors actually consider using the trade show exhibit environment to conduct such important primary research?

Exhibitors using the trade show activity as a research tool are seriously interested in hearing both positive and negative answers to show special purchasing questions. Those exchanges open discussions where objections can be stated, confirmed as accurate and be successfully addressed and overcome.

The trade show research technique transforms people’s safe opinions into serious purchasing considerations and promises to provide the exhibitor with honest answers. That, in turn, can lead to more solid marketing and sales strategies and tactics.

Donald Trump’s campaign was created and built on thousands of people’s personal feelings, while the Clinton campaign was created on a relatively small number of paid, uninvolved people’s opinions in focus groups.

Today’s marketing and sales executives cannot afford to go down the path of just listening to uninvolved people’s opinions to plan future business. As Trump’s campaign showed, it takes hundreds and thousands of people’s feelings gathered firsthand, largely at events and mass gatherings. A similar approach to trade shows and the exhibiting research that they can provide can spell the difference between success and failure.

Asking for the order will always provide challenging yet manageable information on which to build successful marketing and sales campaigns, especially when the prospect says no to your proposal. That’s the time when marketing and sales professionals earn their stripes by figuring out how to overcome those pesky objections and bring the sale to a close.

By Peter Locascio 10 May, 2017

For years, multi-city press tours have been a key component in the process of introducing new products to the trade media. The concept of delivering the news in person to editors has endured even though nearly all aspects of today’s travel logistics and expenses have continued to increase in both difficulty and complexity.

The standard practice of utilizing a traveling press tour has included scheduling meetings at an editor’s home office where a supplier’s key product development and marketing experts would conduct a formal new product pitch. The somewhat formal presentation would highlight, among other issues, a new product’s unique features, its exclusive benefits, ease of operation, competitive analysis, pricing and outstanding customer value. The goal of the effort was performed with the hope of obtaining positive editorial coverage during the critical new product introduction (NPI) phase of bringing a new product to market.

Only by carefully considering and appreciating the uniqueness of the trade show environment can one begin to realize the many fantastic opportunities the medium offers the astute, motivated and intelligent manager. Once realized, accepted and acted upon, today’s trade show exhibits manager may simply have to better promote the medium to reach his/her financial and career goals.

Other objectives of the one-on-one presentation were to hopefully acquire the editor’s favorable support and, in turn coverage, of his/her findings in a future new product article, application story, product round up or at least a favorable mention in a future issue of the selected magazine.

In addition, the product marketing and public relations teams would hope to get a sense of the editor’s opinion and disposition towards allowing them to prepare their own new product feature or customer application story for publication with minimum editing. Ideas and concepts for a magazine cover or web page featured artwork or photography might also be discussed and offered at no charge to the magazine during the press tour sessions.

Domestic multi-city press tour schedules often can be grueling, time consuming and expensive. Plus, it only takes one editor to cancel a meeting at the last moment to throw the entire effort into turmoil and possibly affect the entire effort. This is especially true in those cases where products are large, difficult to handle, especially when transportation and set-up is a major undertaking.

There is little doubt that obtaining favorable press coverage when introducing a new product can be extremely beneficial to the overall success of a new product launch in the market place. However, there might be a better way to meet the press than hitting the road putting on dog and pony shows all over the country with participants feeling like members of a wandering minstrel show.

A Trade Show Press Suite Might Solve the Problem

According to Robert Galvin, President, Galvin & Associates, Public Relations, Portland, Oregon, “We have utilized the trade show press suite for many clients over the years and have found it to be much more effective, economical and successful than doing an on-the-road press tour.” Galvin continues, “The major reasons for the success of this kind of PR function is that most editors attending major trade shows have committed their limited time for show attendance and are there specifically to learn as much as possible about new products. By having editors individually meet key product developers and top management during a new product presentation within an exhibitor’s suite assures a better understanding of the product and consequently, better press coverage compared to just picking up a press kit in the press room,” Galvin adds.

If you things decide to organize a press suite at your next most important trade show, here are a few you’ll want to check into before setting this important public relations function in motion:

  1. At least four months before your most important trade show, telephone or E-mail all those editors at various magazines that you suspect might be important to your new product introduction and inquire if they plan to attend the trade show.
  2. Reserve a suite at a hotel as close to the convention center as possible where your press room will be located and send a personal invitation to each editor planning to attend the show.
  3. Decorate and arrange your press suite to create an environment which presents your corporation, its products and people in the most professional manner possible.
  4. Set-up personal meeting times using a simple day planner so each editor knows what time his/her appointment is and also offer transportation to and from the convention hall.
  5. Arrange to have a receptionist in the suite to check meeting schedules, answer phone calls, coordinate company personnel and communicate with your transportation driver via a walkie talkie.
  6. Rent a comfortable Mini-van complete with magnetic signs showing your corporate logo on the doors and provide the driver with a walkie talkie to effectively and quickly communicate with the suite to ensure accurate transportation coordination.
  7. Have a company representative meet the visiting editors in the hotel lobby and escort him/her to the suite making the appropriate introductions.
  8. Assemble new product press kits for distribution at the suite.
  9. Prepare the new product presenter so he/she knows what to say and how positively react to an editor’s questions, comments and concerns.
  10. Be prepared to demonstrate the product and show the editor how it works, what it does and what important advantages it offers customers.
  11. Introduce the editor to key management at the suite in hopes of favorably supporting his/her desire to learn as much as possible about the company, its people, products, business and future plans.
  12. One week prior to the trade show telephone, E-mail and/or send a note to all invited editors confirming their appointment time and day and provide each with the suite name and telephone number.
  13. Offer a selection of non-alcoholic refreshments and an assortment of finger foods.
  14. Coordinate transportation for editors with appointments from your exhibit on the trade show floor with your mini-van driver and establish appropriate convenient locations for pick up and return.
  15. Have top management available and prepared in the suite to show support and open communications with editors for future contact regarding timely business and industry issues.
  16. Ensure that the product people presenting the new products are well versed, brief with their remarks and very sensitive to simply answering presented questions.
  17. Interview each editor before ending the sessions to determine if there are any additional topics needing to be discussed or information needing to be provided at a later date.
  18. After the trade show contact each editor with a thank you note for their attendance and offer any additional support that might be needed in developing their post show or future stories.
  19. Your Public Relations Manager should be your primary contact during all phases of staging a trade show press tour.
  20. It should also be the responsibility of the Public Relations Manager to maintain timely contact with all visiting editors in an effort to build strong lasting relationships.

Conclusion

Making it easy and convenient for editors and product people to meet, discuss and experience new products is the first step in obtaining good media coverage. The trade show environment over the years has proven to be an excellent venue to introduce and highlight new products.

It only stands to reason that conducting a trade show press tour in a local hotel suite at a time and place where editors plan to be anyway would greatly improve the chances of obtaining excellent new product coverage, possible feature application stories or key product articles.

The trade show is the venue and your press suite is the vehicle that can deliver in three days what a press tour can’t in three months.

By Peter Locascio 10 May, 2017

I think you’ll agree that most sales and marketing people have very different personalities and depending on corporate culture, management styles and direction, the important functions they direct and manage can either work together in harmony or be very challenging especially for successful trade show exhibit planning and participation.

In many corporations, the trade show exhibit program is considered, managed and budgeted as a marketing support function and usually reports to either a marketing, marketing communications or advertising manager. Trade show exhibiting joins the advertising, public relations, sales promotion and sales support departments as a marketing activity and there in lies the potential for friction and general disagreements with a sales team’s needs, philosophies and performance mandate.

In his book the The Gamesman H. Maccoby, developed from his extensive research and interviews with corporate America, four types of organizational personalities: the craftsperson, the organizational person, the jungle fighter and the gamesman. His focus states that no one is purely of one type, but rather a mixture depending on the circumstances and challenges confronting each during the course of daily management responsibilities and business pressures.

The same can be said for the personalities of marketing and sales people when faced with challenges and every day business situations, however, there is a difference between the two and those dynamics often show themselves when faced with the tasks of trade show planning and successfully executing exhibit functions on the show floor.

Although the personality traits of each discipline may often blend with top management’s insistence on team cooperation and focus on overall company success, in reality, each person’s daily tasks and responsibilities tend to follow along department lines and philosophies. Simply stated, the marketing people do what they are directed to do and the sales people do what they directed to do.

Much of marketing’s personality is based on strategic thinking and planning. Tasks often include market research, competitive analysis, product introduction program development and the design of selected communications and advertising campaigns. Marketing communications, web development, direct mail, print advertising and public relations activities are all a part of the marketing department’s mix of duties and responsibilities.

According to Robert A. Grayson, author of the book Introduction to Marketing, “Marketing is a commercial process which attends and facilitates the movement of goods and services through the economy to enlarge and satisfy consumer needs consistent with the corporation’s fundamental objectives.” While Grayson goes on to list most of the functions and tools of the marketing mix, he does not list the actual face to face tactical selling function which is usually confined to and the sole responsibility of the sales team.

The early development of the corporate marketing function as we know it was accomplished at Procter and Gamble when in 1879 they introduced Ivory soap to the consumer masses. It wasn’t until the late 1920s that Proctor and Gamble’s concept of a brand management system began to take shape. This innovative marketing organization was officially created in 1931 and was based on competing brands managed by dedicated groups of marketing people. The new system provided more specialized consumer marketing strategies for each brand and Procter & Gamble's famous brand or product management system was born and copied today by many successful corporations.

Since then, Proctor and Gamble has successfully introduced main stays in the consumer world including: Crest toothpaste, Crisco cooking oil, Head and Shoulders shampoo and Old Spice after shave lotion to name a few.

While working at Memorex, management decided to enter the audio tape business which was then dominated by 3M and they cleverly hired a team of Proctor and Gamble marketing executives to head up the new consumer audio tape division. It didn’t take these experts long to develop the ingenious advertising campaign, “Is it live or Memorex? Reproduction so true it can shatter glass”, at Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago and within one year commandeered almost 14 % of the world wide audio tape business away from a dazed 3M Corporation.

That innovative program was an excellent example of successful consumer marketing directed by a team of professional marketers who knew how to develop and launch a new consumer product using the science of “pull through” marketing they learned so well at Proctor and Gamble.

In contrast to the extremely successful consumer audio tape division’s accomplishments against 3M, Memorex’s business to business divisions who were pitted against IBM and other computer mainframe manufacturers were struggling to survive. This untenable situation provided a poignant appreciation of the unique differences between consumer and business to business marketing effectiveness.

Consumer product marketing teams, like those developed by Proctor and Gamble, are the foundation of many of today’s successful corporations where consumers are driven by advertising to stocking retailers to purchase featured products. The activity of selling actually takes place in the executive offices of various retailers who are pitched to assign their valuable retail shelf space to heavily media supported new products.

Business to business marketing however, is quite different in the fact that few customer individuals are able to purchase capital products without formal authorization from their purchasing people and it often requires sales people making field sales calls to present, demonstrate, negotiate and earn a purchase order for the products they represent.

The personalities of sales and marketing people with regards to tactical trade show exhibiting are very unique and today’s exhibit manager might want to better understand the differences to appreciate their individual motivations, character traits and operational styles in an effort to foster excellent working relationships between the two.

Simply stated, marketing people tend to be more strategic, conservative and long term thinkers, while sales people are often considered more tactical, short term thinkers, action oriented and impatient with concepts that don’t promise deliver immediate sales results.

The selling function in many corporations is more immediate and tactical and many salespeople’s personalities are different from those working in the more strategic marketing areas. Most sales people enjoy the challenge and freedom associated with their ability to earn what they’re worth and often excel when matched against the competition.

Sales, however, has a major disadvantage of being judged, much like looking at the score board at a sporting event, where their sales can be viewed, measured and evaluated at almost any point in time and no matter how well they’ve done, their fame and fortune often only lasts as long as their last sale. “So, what have you sold for us today?” are simple words that usually send chills down a salespersons spine.

The marketing function is usually managed by strategic people who enjoy research, planning, developing and executing programs that are deemed to be well thought out and usually unfold over time; while sales are important, there are other quantitative, qualitative results and analysis that are viewed as equally important that might add to the research, development and success of future marketing programs.

I’ve worked on both sides of the sales and marketing aisle and found both to be challenging and rewarding. As a salesman in the field, I was motivated by learning the professional approach to successfully selling, meeting or exceeding my monthly sales targets and making as much money as I could while enjoying being responsible for managing my own time and resources.

The corporate marketing side of my experience calmed me down a bit and forced me to become more systematic and strategic and less anxious to sell more products faster. The corporate environment seemed to require me to become more sophisticated, less frantic and more professional where time was measured more in business quarters instead of weeks, months or days as was the case when I was a salesman in the field.

Also, while working in marketing, I appreciated not working in the pressure packed environment of sales and being asked by almost anyone in management, how my sales to target looked. How close I thought I’d come to making my sales numbers and/or how much business I expected to close within any given period of time.

Any sales team’s performance can be judged on a daily basis, whereas marketing has more time to adjust to market trends, purchasing cycles and various product issues. This dynamic often creates an environment of discomfort among sales and marketing people and in many cases exposes the underlying tension that exists between the two just below the surface.

For me, the many lessons learned while working in the sales and marketing departments of large corporations culminated when I was asked to join OrCAD Systems Corporation, a new start up Software Company where I assumed Vice President level responsibility for both sales and marketing.  

I quickly found myself required to effectively blend the strategies of marketing with the tactics of sales and did so successfully by first attempting to sell product and then using whatever results learned to better identify and utilize various additional marketing support tools to pave the way to greater sales.

I began developing a mental outline for the “Bridging the Gap Between Trade Shows and Sales” presentation and realized that my opportunity to further study the FASEB exhibit from high above the show floor was a gift. I spent most of the rest of the show in the seats above the show floor observing, taking notes and building a comprehensive outline for my new exciting presentation.

In addition to watching our newly energized booth personnel (now personally led by our Vice President of Sales) interact with suspects, prospects and customers, I began to notice how the exhibit functioned in communicating and realized that long before the attendee entered the exhibit he/she would prefer to stand in the aisle to read our various signs.

OrCAD’s trade shows were focused on sales and generating quality sales leads. The leads were rated cold-warm-hot and were followed up on one week following the show. Each lead card distributed had hand written notes of the exchange and the rating identified by the interviewer indicated the level of buying interest. It was also known by the field sales team members that I would call leads at random soon after the show to confirm that they were contacted and satisfied with the way they were serviced.

Contrary to OrCAD’s trade show sales lead system, a client of mine first used a give-away promotion to build booth traffic and after hearing “I just wanted to win the drawing” from leads distributed after the show, the sales team didn’t waste their time following up on any of that show’s leads because the quality just wasn’t there and the promise of making a sale didn’t exist.

The trade show is a unique tactical, face to face sales event, staged for two or three days which presents an exhibitor with an entire market of suspects, prospects and customers considering the purchase of products and services. The success or failure of a company’s trade show effort is usually judged by how effectively the leads were generated, followed up on and new sales booked.

The Challenge

The challenge for many trade show managers is to create and foster a cooperative planning environment where the dynamics of tactical sales and strategic marketing personalities can work together to contribute their individual talents and perspectives in reaching for new levels of trade show sales success.

By Peter Locascio 01 Feb, 2017

While it’s quite natural to want to immediately close the book soon after a major trade show ends, it is also somewhat natural for trade show exhibit professionals to want to learn and improve things by evaluating and fixing the problems they might have experienced during the show.

Experienced exhibitors who believe in and practice the time tested, “do it, fix it, do it again until you get it right” attitude towards exhibiting will eventually iron out the various wrinkles that challenge the success of their trade show program. When accomplished, and those nagging little problems are solved for good, they can then afford themselves additional time to explore and experiment with more clever exhibit and product presentation innovations.

Before the book is closed on any given trade show exhibit presentation, it might do you and your company well to stop for a bit and evaluate how the show performed, what results were accomplished, what problems existed and what your recommendations are to improve the next show as well as the overall trade show exhibit program.

If you are your company’s exhibit manager or the person responsible for trade shows, your positive, constructive input should be more than enough to earn a leadership position for trade show exhibiting improvements for your management to acknowledge, consider and support in the future.

To make the job of producing the post show evaluation more effective than just your opinion, it is essential that a complete set of pre-show goals and objectives be established against which you can judge results. If no such goals and objectives were in place and agreed upon by management before the show, the completion of a major trade show is an excellent opportunity for you to recommend them.

Once your opinions and observations are organized, you’ll want to produce a document that states what trade show exhibit aspects worked, what didn’t work so well and what your ideas are to improve the next show’s exhibit performance. This document should be produced and distributed to all involved no more than 2 weeks after the show to refresh everyone’s memory and keep the list of action items current.

The details of the post trade show exhibit evaluation should include virtually all aspects of the trade show exhibit presentation including but not limited to: product presentation effectiveness, level of booth duty professionalism, efficient exhibit communications, level of technical and management support provided, hotel and transportation logistics, level of customer care, sales lead management and distribution, literature support operation, press relations, pre-show meeting details, and the exhibit’s overall operation from opening to closing.

One of the best ways to gather this important information is on the last day of the show to hand out a post-show evaluation form to all who worked the exhibit that asks them for their opinions, concerns and suggestions. This data should then be quickly summarized, evaluated and distributed within a week or so to management with your added recommendations to make the necessary improvements before the next show.

When you’ve compiled a complete evaluation of the show, a final evaluation should be sent, including a list of recommended changes you plan to immediately implement at the next show. It is also a good time to reconfirm your goal of making the trade show exhibit function one that is effective, efficient and accountable and you appreciate the help and support you’ve received.

By taking a leadership role and asking for honest input and reporting what facts you’ve discovered, the trade show function and your position as the trade show manager will enhance your ability to gradually improve the program and elevate your status and gain additional management support.

Because the trade show exhibit environment is so visual, highly charged and spontaneous, many people, especially top managers often voice opinions and strong feelings towards the physical aspects of the exhibit as it compares to the competition and other exhibitors on the show floor. However, it must be stressed that making band aid type changes on the trade show exhibit floor hours before the show opens or even during the show, is about 6 months too late to do anyone any good.

The reality of effective trade show exhibiting, you must politely proclaim, is that almost anything is possible and can be accomplished on the trade show exhibit floor. It just takes time, money, imagination, accurate direction and management’s dedicated support to make it happen.

The desired results of your post-trade show exhibit evaluation should be that management will better understand and appreciate the fact that early planning and accurate execution of goals and objectives will deliver the desired trade shows results. And, that you are the person capable of making it all happen with their support, cooperation, finances and adequate time.

Conclusion

The post trade show exhibit evaluation is one of the most important tools you have to make known what’s needed to improve, advance and guide the future of your trade show program’s effectiveness.

The uniqueness and beauty of today’s trade show exhibit environment is that it is a live event where modifications, improvements and innovations can evolve and be immediately appreciated.

By effectively utilizing post trade show exhibit evaluations, you’ll stimulate the process of constructing a more intelligent, well respected and supported approach to exhibiting by solving acknowledged problems one at a time while enjoying management’s support and cooperation. .

By Peter Locascio 01 Nov, 2016

1. Accurate timely planning and budgeting.

From selecting booth space, scheduling exhibit materials, developing effective product presentations, to arranging show logistics, transportation and show services, all trade show planning should be accomplished within a relaxed, well managed time frame or problems, cost over runs and frustration will take center stage and hamper the chances for a successful trade show experience.

2. Establishing clear goals and objectives.

Without a plan backed by management which includes goals, objectives, budgets and individual responsibilities, there is little chance that an exhibitor will find success on the trade show floor. Management must be provided appropriate opportunities to interact with the trade show planning function at a time when adjustments can be made without causing major budget or logistical problems. Making changes on the trade show floor is about 6 months too late to do anyone any good.

3. Utilizing appropriate exhibit space.

Too little space wastes selling opportunities. Too much space wastes money and resources. Determining the right size booth space and exhibit should be established by carefully analyzing what is needed to effectively present and demonstrate product, process sales leads, quietly confer with customers and operate the exhibit for the duration of the show. Considering each trade show contact in the context of making sales calls in the field is a good start in determining how much time, money and space is required to meet your established sales lead quantity and quality targets.

4. Effective exhibit design and production.

The exhibit should tell prospects who you are, where products are located and something about key products presented. The exhibit will not take the place of your sales, technical or management teams on booth duty, nor will it close any sales. Depending on the exhibit alone to ensure any measure of trade show success will only be disappointing. The exhibit should simply set the stage for people to do business with each other one at a time. While you want the exhibit to attract your targeted prospects to seek more detailed product information and invite them to visit with your booth personnel, it should also act as a visual communications screening tool that from the aisle permits your non-targeted prospects to walk on by.

5. Enlisting top management support before and during show.

There is no better environment for top management to demonstrate its commitment and experience to a business than on the floor of a trade show exhibit. Top management should be encouraged to lead by example and take the opportunity to work a booth side by side with the exhibit team adding credibility and substance to the overall exhibit presentation. Consider how impressed a prospect or customer would feel being introduced to the President of an exhibitor, who guarantees complete satisfaction, excellent after sale support and seals the commitment with his/her hand shake.

6. Selection, scheduling & training exhibit personnel.

Only top sales and technical people should be invited to represent the company at major trade shows. It should be viewed as a privilege and an honor to be asked to work an exhibit and have daily access to top management, important prospects and key customers. Having uninspired people work an exhibit sends the entirely wrong message to important prospects and customers. It’s far better for everyone to leave those types at home. A pre-show meeting provides marketing, sales, top management and the trade show manager an opportunity to present the exhibit team with pertinent product, corporate and strategic marketing information. Similar meetings at the end of each day will also aid in keeping the exhibit functioning properly and the shows goals and objectives on track.

7. Dynamic product presentation.

Simply placing product on the back wall or on a pedestal of your exhibit is not be enough to present its unique features and benefits in a fashion that compels a prospect to want to learn more. Whatever your imagination can develop to bring the product to life must contribute to further the selling process and deliver a prospect who is well informed and motivated to seriously consider owning your products.

8. Immediate prospect follow-up.

When a prospect commits to asking for more detailed information, the exhibitor should feel obligated to ensure that the information requested is delivered within 5 working days of the show, complete with follow-up confirming receipt and an offer for additional support. Not following up on the promise to send additional information not only demonstrates the lack of service the prospect might receive after the sale, but opens the door to your trade show competitor who did make good on the promise and will most likely stand a better chance of getting the business.

9. Lack of experienced trade show exhibit management.

The trade show environment demands exhibit managers who are dedicated, trained and well respected in the industry. The myriad of logistics, details and decisions associated with a single major trade show can only be successfully managed if the manager is supported, motivated and appreciated 365 days a year. The job is much too challenging for management to simply assign anyone the task of managing trade shows.

10. Conducting post show evaluation with recommendations.

If you failed to meet some of your goals at this years trade show, you’re doomed to fail again unless you completely evaluate what happened, why and what is needed to improve. A post show follow-up session with the same managers who attended the initial planning meeting is essential and should be staged within one week after the show. Soon after that meeting a document should be produced outlining what is needed and the process of improving the next show should begin at once.

In an effort to develop a new and improved trade show function, it’s best to first focus on the company’s most important show which usually attracts its share of management attention and then let the rest of the trade show schedule benefit from what is learned and supported.

By Peter Locascio 01 Oct, 2016

One of the first and most important tasks military and civilian administrative experts need to accomplish when facing new and unusual challenges in the field, is to quickly and efficiently create a fully functional command post from which they can effectively communicate, direct and manage their resources.

Exhibiting at a major trade show and managing equally diverse company resources in a city away from the home office can be just as challenging, especially when one considers the amount of time and money trade show exhibiting consumes. One way to successfully accomplish managing important logistical and detail coordination efforts at a trade show is to create a command post in a near by hotel suite from which management can direct the action created in and around their exhibit at the convention center.

Over the years many corporations have created so called “hospitality suites” for entertaining invited prospects and customers, however, these pricy adventures in good will often became hard to manage and usually ended up creating more problems then they were worth. One major concern was in deciding who should and should not be admitted into the room especially when the news of a free hospitality suite spread like wild fire on the trade show floor.

In addition, the unmanaged and often irresponsible consumption of alcohol sometimes led employees, prospects, customers, competitors and suite crashers to act in manners directly opposed to the goals and objectives of the good natured hospitality suite idea and over the years the hospitality suite function has all but ceased to exist for many trade show exhibitors.

Corporate Headquarters Command Post

However, the unfavorable hospitality situation mentioned above can change dramatically when the suite is instead designed and managed to function solely as a private headquarters corporate command post. This modest innovation promises to deliver greater human resource utilization, expanded communications capabilities and increased overall value to the exhibitor. Here management can more effectively utilize the suite facility and various hotel provided services to direct and accomplish many more important trade show support functions such as:

  1. Pre-Show Briefing Meeting Room

    The night before the opening of the trade show, the headquarters suite would be the site of the pre-show briefing and motivational sales meeting where the entire team meets to review activities scheduled for the show and where various assignments to the staff are assigned. In addition to top management’s presentation and goal setting statements, marketing and product support would make formal presentations outlining the products on display and key presentation points the sales team will want to focus on. The Trade Show Exhibits Manager would outline various exhibit details logistics, boothmanship strategies and generally discuss how the booth will function during the entire show.
  2. Public Relations Center

    In addition to the trade show’s own public relations center where company press kits are provided for the press, the headquarters suite can also be utilized to stage pre-scheduled, one on one business sessions with selected media editors to meet with key corporate managers to review relevant corporate business issues. Individual media technical editors can also be scheduled to meet with selected product experts for one on one product presentations in hopes of gaining favorable mentions in post trade show round up articles or discuss opportunities to contract articles in future publication issues. In many cases, the relationship formed between technical editors and product development experts often develop into one in which both can communicate to assess industry trends for upcoming articles or magazine features.

    The entire PR function should be coordinated, scheduled and managed by the corporate public relations manager and in some cases transportation might need to be arranged to comfortably and efficiently transport selected editors to and from the suite and convention center. There should be a selection of non-alcoholic liquid refreshments and perhaps a spread of sandwich meats and some fruit in the suite during the press meetings for the editors to enjoy while they meet with key people.
  3. Rest and Relaxation Suite

    At the end of each booth team’s scheduled time on booth duty, the headquarters suite would also function as a corporate gathering place to rest and relax and compare notes of the day’s activities on the show floor. Competitive analysis assignments can be reviewed while individual sales and marketing managers might make suggestions to either improve or supplement the booth function for maximum results. At the end of the day, the entire booth team should retire to the headquarters suite for a complete debriefing of the day’s booth activities, review key sales leads and discuss any issues that developed during the day that might require additional attention. The booth team would then be divided up with selected managers as hosts for dinner and preparation for the next day’s opportunities on the show floor. The Trade Show Exhibits manager can report on the general operation of the booth for that day and share any additional information regarding sales leads generated and the overall performance of the exhibit.
  4. Horsepower to Spare Station

    While in the booth, sales, marketing and/or management individuals should have the option of inviting selected VIP prospects and customers to meet in the headquarter suite at designated times to further advance business. The opportunity for top management to support the active selling function by being available to meet in the headquarters suite is an important advantage that can be central to the success in exhibiting at a trade show. It is often impossible for top management to meet individual key prospects and customers in the field; however, the trade show presents many opportunities to do so and should be actively acted upon.
  5. Getting the Business Closing Room

    The headquarters suite can also be used to conduct and close business within a professional and private corporate setting along with all the resources needed to make customers feel safe, secure and confident away from the cacophony of the trade show floor. The suite should be staffed full time by someone who would function as a scheduler/receptionist and ensure that it was adequately stocked with a complete assortment of contracts, pre-printed quote forms, legal support documents and whatever materials that might be deemed needed to close a deal and send the customer happily on his/her way. The headquarters suite could also be available to VIPs such as out of town dealers, international distributors and representatives needing a place to quietly conduct business, impress their prospects and customers, and enjoy a positive environment conducive to where they can rest and perhaps catch up on their jet lag or home office communication
  6. Quality Customer Care Center

    When a somewhat agitated customer shows up at your booth with a legitimate complaint and there is no way his/her issue can be successfully dealt with on the show floor without causing a negative situation, the headquarters command suite should be called into action. Transportation might need to be made available and the customer should be able to meet management in the suite who can solve his/her problem. Trying to deal with a negative situation like this in any other environment other than the headquarters command suite will only lead to additional problems especially in the exhibit and on the positively charged trade show floor.
  7. Connecting the Dots Forum

    With sales and product marketing people in physical and mental concert because of the focus a trade show demands, it would be difficult to find a better place then the headquarters suite for product marketing managers to conduct new and old product training reviews before everyone hits the exhibit floor. Within hours of the training sessions, the sales and product marketing concepts, ideas, strategies and tactics can be tested and evaluated in real time on the exhibit floor by simply sharing the information with prospects and customers. Each evening in the suite, findings can be presented, discussed, evaluated and modified and fine tuned until the information makes better sense and delivers the desired results.
  8. Conclusion

    The idea of creating a corporate headquarters command suite along with its many business functions as outlined above is yet another valuable creative tool to consider when taking the initiative to maximize your trade show exhibit effectiveness. There are 24 hours in each day to consider productive during a trade show and establishing a corporate headquarters command post is yet another way to maximize the time, money and personnel capital invested to make every hour count towards a successful trade show business venture.

Domestic multi-city press tour schedules often can be grueling, time consuming and expensive. Plus, it only takes one editor to cancel a meeting at the last moment to throw the entire effort into turmoil and possibly affect the entire effort. This is especially true in those cases where products are large, difficult to handle, especially when transportation and set-up is a major undertaking.

There is little doubt that obtaining favorable press coverage when introducing a new product can be extremely beneficial to the overall success of a new product launch in the market place. However, there might be a better way to meet the press than hitting the road putting on dog and pony shows all over the country with participants feeling like members of a wandering minstrel show.

A Trade Show Press Suite Might Solve the Problem

According to Robert Galvin, President, Galvin & Associates, Public Relations, Portland, Oregon, “We have utilized the trade show press suite for many clients over the years and have found it to be much more effective, economical and successful than doing an on-the-road press tour.” Galvin continues, “The major reasons for the success of this kind of PR function is that most editors attending major trade shows have committed their limited time for show attendance and are there specifically to learn as much as possible about new products. By having editors individually meet key product developers and top management during a new product presentation within an exhibitor’s suite assures a better understanding of the product and consequently, better press coverage compared to just picking up a press kit in the press room,” Galvin adds.

If you things decide to organize a press suite at your next most important trade show, here are a few you’ll want to check into before setting this important public relations function in motion:

  1. At least four months before your most important trade show, telephone or E-mail all those editors at various magazines that you suspect might be important to your new product introduction and inquire if they plan to attend the trade show.
  2. Reserve a suite at a hotel as close to the convention center as possible where your press room will be located and send a personal invitation to each editor planning to attend the show.
  3. Decorate and arrange your press suite to create an environment which presents your corporation, its products and people in the most professional manner possible.
  4. Set-up personal meeting times using a simple day planner so each editor knows what time his/her appointment is and also offer transportation to and from the convention hall.
  5. Arrange to have a receptionist in the suite to check meeting schedules, answer phone calls, coordinate company personnel and communicate with your transportation driver via a walkie talkie.
  6. Rent a comfortable Mini-van complete with magnetic signs showing your corporate logo on the doors and provide the driver with a walkie talkie to effectively and quickly communicate with the suite to ensure accurate transportation coordination.
  7. Have a company representative meet the visiting editors in the hotel lobby and escort him/her to the suite making the appropriate introductions.
  8. Assemble new product press kits for distribution at the suite.
  9. Prepare the new product presenter so he/she knows what to say and how positively react to an editor’s questions, comments and concerns.
  10. Be prepared to demonstrate the product and show the editor how it works, what it does and what important advantages it offers customers.
  11. Introduce the editor to key management at the suite in hopes of favorably supporting his/her desire to learn as much as possible about the company, its people, products, business and future plans.
  12. One week prior to the trade show telephone, E-mail and/or send a note to all invited editors confirming their appointment time and day and provide each with the suite name and telephone number.
  13. Offer a selection of non-alcoholic refreshments and an assortment of finger foods.
  14. Coordinate transportation for editors with appointments from your exhibit on the trade show floor with your mini-van driver and establish appropriate convenient locations for pick up and return.
  15. Have top management available and prepared in the suite to show support and open communications with editors for future contact regarding timely business and industry issues.
  16. Ensure that the product people presenting the new products are well versed, brief with their remarks and very sensitive to simply answering presented questions.
  17. Interview each editor before ending the sessions to determine if there are any additional topics needing to be discussed or information needing to be provided at a later date.
  18. After the trade show contact each editor with a thank you note for their attendance and offer any additional support that might be needed in developing their post show or future stories.
  19. Your Public Relations Manager should be your primary contact during all phases of staging a trade show press tour.
  20. It should also be the responsibility of the Public Relations Manager to maintain timely contact with all visiting editors in an effort to build strong lasting relationships.

Conclusion

Making it easy and convenient for editors and product people to meet, discuss and experience new products is the first step in obtaining good media coverage. The trade show environment over the years has proven to be an excellent venue to introduce and highlight new products.

It only stands to reason that conducting a trade show press tour in a local hotel suite at a time and place where editors plan to be anyway would greatly improve the chances of obtaining excellent new product coverage, possible feature application stories or key product articles.

The trade show is the venue and your press suite is the vehicle that can deliver in three days what a press tour can’t in three months.

By Peter Locascio 01 Sep, 2016

So it’s been decided that your old exhibit needs to be replaced and you are now responsible, as your corporation’s trade show exhibit manager, to handle the details and get the best exhibit money can buy. Before you charge out into the wide world of exhibit designers and producers, here are a few ideas you might want to consider to stay out of trouble.

  1. Early on, get your purchasing department involved in the project to ensure that the finer aspects and details of spending your corporation’s hard earned money are handled properly. In addition, with the help of your purchasing department your exhibit provider will be more inclined to ensure that all items on the contract are properly understood and agreed upon so there should be no unforeseen additions or un-budged extra charges. The purchasing representative assigned to the trade show exhibits department can also advise you as to the best way to either purchase, lease or rent the exhibit based on various corporate tax and cash flow options that may exist at the time.

  2. Start the process formally and get top management in on the planning at the early stages of the project to ensure complete understanding and compliance of the exhibit’s goals and objectives. Anyone in management who might be able to add, change or alter the design of the new exhibit should be involved in the beginning to avoid any last minute changes which will add to the price, construction time and frustration.

  3. Document the new exhibit’s overall goals and objectives before the design phase begins. Identify the exhibit’s physical requirements like storage, customer services center, conference areas, product presentation logistics, signage limitations, electrical routing and basically anything special to your objectives that will need to be accommodated by the exhibit. Carefully research the physical limitations of the booth space you rented and make sure that there is nothing to hinder the placement or operation of your new exhibit on the show floor.
  4. Realistically and conservatively determine what the exhibit will and will not be able to accomplish within the trade show environment. Keep in mind that the exhibit can only set the stage for real people presenting real products generating real sales leads that in the final analysis will determine whether the show was a success or failure.
  5. Decide whether the new exhibit will need to be used in the same amount of booth space every time or if it will require a bit more flexibility to be used in other booth configurations. For instance, you might want a design a cubic content exhibit space that uses modular components that can then be used in a linear configuration for supporting smaller shows.
  6. The selection of exhibit vendors should include both custom exhibit houses as well as those who provide pre-manufactured, off the shelf exhibit properties. There are benefits to asking both for designs and construction bids since they are equally experienced in most all aspects of the exhibit design and building process. Remember that you usually get what you pay for and that the joy of low price is often replaced with the misery of poor quality.
  7. Inviting exhibit vendors in to provide designs and construction bids should only be conducted after goals and objectives are supported by the functional specifications of your exhibit and have been clearly documented and signed off by management. Ask each exhibit vendor for at least 5 references and contact each of them to obtain opinions of that vendor’s overall capability, attention to service, dependability, honesty and whether or not the reference would use them again.
  8. If the first show is any major distance from home, you might consider having only the exhibit design purchased and then sending it to the trade show city for local exhibit vendors there to bid on. Their bids might also include exhibit transportation to and from the convention center, installation and dismantling and storage after the show. Having the same labor set up and dismantle the exhibit as those who built it promises to save you time and money. Those savings can be added to what you’ll gain on shipping the exhibit from home to the show and should more than pay for the design.
  9. Have the bid winning exhibit provider’s management team come to your office to present you and your management with the plan and schedule for the new exhibit. In doing so establishing his/her firm as being more of an associate than a vendor to your business.
  10. Maintain close control of the exhibit production schedule provided by the winning bidder, ensuring that your copy, graphics, product photographs, etc. are all approved and provided on time. You should plan on visiting the exhibit provider at key times during production to inspect progress and to discuss what might be needed to keep the project on schedule and within the budget.

Conclusion

Acquiring a new exhibit for most corporations is a major investment that should be carefully considered, planned and managed. No matter what the price or size, if the exhibit’s goals and objectives have not been firmly established and supported by management, there is little chance that the investment will be worth the effort. On the other hand, when an exhibit is designed and constructed to meets its goals and objectives, the value of the trade show can be maximized and should more then justify every dollar and hour spent on the trade show floor.
By Peter Locascio 01 Aug, 2016

Years ago, when I was Beckman Instrument’s Corporate Manager of Trade Shows and Exhibits, one of the first critical challenges to my career arrived while we were exhibiting at Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It was our most important show of the year, then staged at the Auditorium in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Our exhibit presentation was carefully created within two 20’x 40’ island exhibit booths complete with a full line of very sophisticated Bio-medical research instruments that were supported by a large competent staff of highly trained sales, marketing and technical support experts.

The price tag for this event alone was in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars -- it was viewed by our top corporate and divisional managers as one of year’s most important sales and marketing functions in this somewhat esoteric market.

It was also acknowledged that only through staging a successful FASEB exhibit effort would Beckman’s Bio-Medical Research business be able to increase its bottom line by generating enough quality sales leads resulting in increased sales and profits during the year that followed. It was estimated that about 10% of the total attending audience were key targeted prospects.

What made the FASEB trade show so valuable to Beckman Instruments and other suppliers to the Bio-medical research industry was the fact that their customers came to them: most sales teams found it almost impossible to actually get in and visit individual Bio-medical researchers in their laboratories where the scientists spend most of their time. Yet the typically private scientists would, however, attend the FASEB annual convention to share ideas, attend papers, workshops and technical seminars and then browse the exhibit hall to learn what was new in the way of promising products and services offered.

Only on the FASEB trade show exhibit floor was it possible for exhibitors to meet key research prospects and formally demonstrate their product’s features and capabilities. The positive environment was also conducive to sharing often complex product application knowledge with a receptive attendee who had time to spend and was motivated by his/her quest for new product knowledge to solve their pressing research challenges.

In the field, there were many problems associated with efforts to ship, setup and effectively demonstrate sensitive scientific instruments in the researcher’s laboratory. Many instruments were too large and difficult to accurately calibrate for them to perform with any guarantee of success. The FASEB show turned out to be the best way to effectively present and demonstrate the most sophisticated instruments to this highly select audience.

At 9:00 AM on Tuesday morning, after three solid days of set-up, the auditorium doors opened and the show was officially underway. After an hour or so when the booth was running smoothly, I went up into the seats that surrounded the exhibit floor to observe how our trade show exhibit presentation was functioning as viewed from this unique vantage point.

Of all the trade shows I’ve attended over the years, few had offered an opportunity for me to observe the entire exhibit function from such an opportunistic vantage point. It was an eye- opening experience and one I found necessary to share with the Vice President of Sales later in the day when I invited him to join me to also experience how his Beckman exhibit was functioning.

While sitting in the seats overlooking the Beckman exhibit below, we traced the steps and habits of various prospects as they walked the aisles, read the signs, entered our booth, and explored some of the instruments on display. We were shocked as we watched many visitors proceed to walk out of the booth without as much as a welcome or greeting from any of our booth personnel on duty.

After an hour of watching this situation unfold, the Vice President of Sales finally couldn’t take it any longer and all but ran down the stairs and into the exhibit to see what he could do to remedy what to us was a totally unacceptable situation.

The VP’s emotionally upsetting experience of observing our exhibit and realizing that we were virtually ignoring and turning away important prospects resulted in a mandatory emergency meeting that night, where he voiced his displeasure with the booth function and solicited input to quickly solve the problem.

The results of that dynamically charged session included immediate changes in the way the booth personnel functioned with regards to identifying, meeting, greeting and helping suspects, prospects and customers who entered the booth. In addition, the Vice President of Sales directed me to begin developing a comprehensive pre-show presentation that would prepare trade show booth personnel to better perform at all future Beckman trade shows.

The concept of “Bridging the Gap Between Trade Show and Sales” was born.

Being directed by and having the direct support of the Corporate Vice President of Sales and imagining that I could be a key part of initiating such dynamic changes in the way the corporation viewed and participated at trade shows was all inspiring and challenging for me.

I began developing a mental outline for the “Bridging the Gap Between Trade Shows and Sales” presentation and realized that my opportunity to further study the FASEB exhibit from high above the show floor was a gift. I spent most of the rest of the show in the seats above the show floor observing, taking notes and building a comprehensive outline for my new exciting presentation.

In addition to watching our newly energized booth personnel (now personally led by our Vice President of Sales) interact with suspects, prospects and customers, I began to notice how the exhibit functioned in communicating and realized that long before the attendee entered the exhibit he/she would prefer to stand in the aisle to read our various signs.

I deduced that this was done in an attempt to avoid being approached by usually aggressive booth sales personnel before he/she was ready to initiate contact. However, the prospect would welcome contact and information after a particular product of interest was identified.

It seemed reasonable for me to think that if the exhibit’s signage could be modified to improve communications, it might do a much better job at helping screen attendees from the aisle and deliver more confident prospects seeking additional product specific information from our booth staff.

It was also a startling revelation for me to consider that while the exhibit had to communicate to our targeted prospects (which we often estimated at about 10% of the total attendance) so they could decide to enter the booth, it also had to effectively communicate to keep about 90% of our non-targeted attendees away from entering the booth and taking up the booth team’s limited valuable time.

One of the key elements in creating “Bridging the Gap Between Trade Show and Sales” was to offer a common sense approach to exhibiting and providing booth personnel with simple concepts for them to embrace.

Improving exhibit signage to function better in screening attendees and delivering key prospects from the aisles to the exhibit and waiting sales team hit the mark. The results of this simple concept was integrated into the presentation suggesting that our booth personnel can now relax and allow the exhibit to do the initial screening of attendees while delivering a prospect who knew which exhibit, product category and exact product he/she was most interested in learning more about.

The exhibit’s new graphic presentation, as seen from the aisle, successfully communicated who we were, which product category was under a color coded sub-heading, the product’s name, its features and benefits, the actual product on display and finally who the prospect could talk to for more information.

This innovation alone helped future Beckman trade show booth duty personnel feel more in control, confident and useful because they were now in a position to help screened prospects obtain the important information they needed to make important buying decisions.

Another segment of the “Bridging the Gap Between Trade Show and Sales” presentation focused on the verbal portion of the exhibit presentation and included how the booth personnel should meet, greet and present products of interest while taking care to acquire as much information as possible for effective and timely post show follow-up.

“Bridging the Gap Between Trade Shows and Sales” has continued to evolve over the years and is now in a flexible PowerPoint format, which lends itself to individual customization for any exhibitor who finds the need to further advance the trade show function as it relates to sales.

According to Therese Solimeno, Smart Dame Event Marketing, San Luis Obispo, CA, “I witnessed first-hand how the “Bridging the Gap Between Trade Shows and Sales” presentation advanced Beckman’s trade show program and have since employed those techniques with clients like Microsoft. Now that the presentation is available for individual exhibitor customization, I recommend it to all of my clients to use as a tool to improve their trade show results.”

While the experience at Beckman Instruments advanced my career in ways I could not have imagined, much of my success would not have been possible without the fiery commitment of the Corporate Vice President of Sales and the inspiration we gained high above the Atlantic City Auditorium exhibit floor at FASEB those many years ago.

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