I think most, if not all, of us are excited at the prospect of real, in-person tradeshows and conferences.
But, it's still early.
Attendance was down significantly at CES in Las Vegas last month.. Others have gone 100% virtual. Others are compromising with a hybrid model.
As the old Southern expression goes "God willing and the crick (creek) don't rise, conferences and trade shows will be back on agendas in the near future.
That being said, after two years of Zooms, we may be feeling a little rusty in our trade show expertise. So, when Jim Cermak (LinkedIn) invited me to join him on his great podcast, Trade Show U to talk about what it takes to have a successful trade show experience, it was a great opportunity to go down memory lane and revisit all the different shows, conferences, and exhibitions I've attended, both as a team member and exhibitor and as a visitor. Did you know the Cannes Film Festival has its own tradeshow?
There are so many details! And, so many ideas, both old (dinner reservations) and new (QR codes) to make the most of this sizable marketing investment your company will make.
We had a great time and I think we delivered a lot of value! Visit Jim's website to access the podcast here - https://tradeshowu.biz/ep-136-how-to-guarantee-success-for-your-show-experience-lydia-sugarman
When it comes to IRL trade shows, expositions, and conferences, it’s been a looong two years! But, we see the slow rebirth of these events in 2022 and people are really, really ready to engage in person! But, that two year gap can mean we may have gotten a little rusty when it comes to being an exhibitor.
This may be the best time to invest in exhibiting and the best investment of your marketing dollars ever. We are so hungry to have face-to-face conversations.
No matter how much time in advance you make the decision to exhibit at a trade show, It’s never too early to start planning.
Maybe it goes without saying, but have a clearly defined reason for attending a trade show or conference, whether you’re a sponsor, exhibitor, or attendee.
There are real costs, no matter your level of participation. As much as possible, you want to ensure that the money, and time, are well-spent.
That reason becomes your north star that guides your marketing strategy. What’s your WHY for attending?
- 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority
. Which means more than 4 out of 5 people walking the aisles are potential customers for exhibitors.
- 67% of all attendees represent a new prospect and potential customer for exhibiting companies.
- 46% of trade show attendees are in Executive or Upper Management
- 92% of trade show attendees say they are looking for new products.
- And yet, it has been said that 79% of all trade show leads don’t get followed up.
We’re going to assume you’re planning to exhibit, but most of these tips can certainly be adapted if you’re an attendee walking the aisles and taking advantage of the breakout sessions. Just because you’re an attendee doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the opportunity to prospect, right?
Who will take the lead on this project?
There are a lot of moving parts that all have to be coordinated to ensure success. They will want to use some kind of project management system to track all details, timelines, milestones, and who’s responsible for what.
What’s your budget?
It’s a long list but fortunately, the tradeshow/conference industry service providers are rich resources for advice and guidance.
- Exhibit space
- Booth design
- Extras you’ll have to rent to furnish your booth
- Monitors and other electronics
- Loading in/out
- Marketing materials
- Giveaways - unless it’s something unique, useful, appreciated, stick to good chocolate
- Travel and accommodations for company team
- Promotional models.
If you’re watching your budget, don’t hesitate to ask what you can supply yourself. Even if you take a half day to shop after arrival, it can represent a few hundred dollars (a nice client dinner) in savings.
In addition to furnishing the booth, there are essential items that you’ll want to include for a happier experience for your team that’ll be working.
- Business cards…for everyone.
- Power strips w/ surge protection and ideally, USB ports as well as electrical outlets.
- Phone chargers.
- Comfortable shoes.
- Lip balm. Hand sanitizer. Hand lotion.
- First aid kit. Or, at least, band-aids.
- OTC pain medication.
- Show schedules, both for the show and for your team.
- Marketing collateral.
If print, consider how they will be stored and accessed
As part of your advance planning for promoting your presence at the upcoming event, devise a compelling reason for people to come to your booth. Who wouldn’t want to register to win a MacBook Air, or a 3-day getaway, or…?
Make it easy for people to find your exhibit space. Publish a map with directions to a special event landing page. Include it in all your promo materials, emails, LinkedIn business page.
Even if you started planning well in advance, your budget may mean you’ve got a 10X10 booth in the midst of aisle after aisle of other 10x10’s.
Have your sales team talk about the upcoming show. Find out who’s going and schedule meetings in advance. There’s nothing worse than being told they’re already booked up when you see them on the floor!
And, make dinner reservations! Invite your highest priority clients and prospects to dinners and breakfasts and a farewell party at your booth to close out the show.
On The Floor
Be ready with tablets they can use to fill and submit a simple entry form to capture Name, Company Email, and Mobile. At the end of each day, you can import the list into your CRM to trigger a workflow that includes an email sequence. The first one, of course, thanks them for coming by the booth, registering, and reminding them exactly when and how the winner/s will be announced.
About those printed marketing materials and business cards. Isn’t it time to stop stacking them on a table placed across the entrance to your exhibit space? If you must, try placing them in vertical racks or on a table at the back or on the side of the space so people have to come into your space to get them. Or, how about displaying QR codes to enter an email to download materials and be entered into a post-event giveaway? The money you’ll save on printing and shipping materials will more than pay for the prize/s.
We’ve all walked into those big shows with the gigantic exhibit spaces at the front of the major players. They’re awe-inspiring. All the people manning the space are super-professional, organized, everyone has their responsibilities. Greeters, demo expediters, presenters, etc.
Even if you’re a small team, everyone should be thoroughly prepped and understand their responsibilities during the entire event.
There should always be someone scanning attendees' badges. It may be team members on a schedule or a temp you’ve engaged.
But, you might not get that data from the event producer until a week later. And, a week in tradeshow time can be measured like Internet years. Having incentives for people to give you their contact info alternatively means you
Consider using high-tops for gathering spots for greeting, demos, appointment setting, etc. and skipping chairs. Then, you can *share* marketing materials with people who have a genuine interest and have given you their card, been scanned, or registered for your giveaway. It’s like sharing a download IRL.
People sitting behind one of those cafeteria tables at the front of a booth is just stupid and so wrong on so many levels. Don’t do it!
Team members sitting in chairs meant for prospects is also a big no-no. Instead, be standing, facing out, showing you’re ready, willing, and able to answer attendees’ questions. Pay attention to the body language of attendees and don’t be afraid to make the first overture. Consider this cold calling IRL but with positive body language!
- Make eye contact with visitors, not your phones, not your team members.
- Smile and be enthusiastic (even though you got to bed at 4am after the show party)
- Have open body language – No crossed arms or crossed legs, no resting b*tch face, a pleasant look that shows you are ready and happy to talk to people.
- Don’t give any reason for visitors not to make contact with you. (See the first point.)
- Ask discovery questions. Listen to visitors' responses and ask follow-up questions.
Have a schedule for breaks and lunches so your team can recharge away from the exhibit booth.
That being said, consider positioning your SDRs at the front of the booth who can begin qualifying people and make a smart introduction to a BDR or AE. Have Marketing circulate and engage in conversations. This is a good opportunity to have short surveys on tablets to gather your own market research while giving marketers exposure to the reality of sales!
The tradeshow selling process is carried out in a maximum of six minutes.
The key stages are:
1. Engage & Greet – (30 seconds)
- Take Control by asking open ended questions
2. Qualify – (90 Seconds)
- Ask Questions specific to the visitors situation
- Ask questions specific to your products/services
- Ask qualifying questions
Qualified or Timewaster
3. If Timewaster – Dismiss (15 seconds)
- Shake hands and thank them for coming by the booth
4. If Qualified – Demonstrate the product (2-4 minutes)
- Demonstrate the key aspects of your product/service based on their requirements and interests – not just tell how great the product is
5. After Demonstrating – Close (90 seconds)
- Fill out a lead form; make appointment to follow-up; take their business card or connect via LinkedIn
Who are those Unqualified Visitors?
Unqualified Visitors who are wasting your time with idle chit chat
Unqualified Visitors who will not help you meet your objectives
Qualified visitors; and now it’s time to move on.
People from surrounding booths who want to chit chat
Don’t be afraid to end a conversation. You’re at work!
You can dismiss visitors in a friendly and professional manner.
Make eye contact. Shake hands. Thank them for stopping by.
It isn’t over until it’s over! Don’t discount those last few hours. It might be the last day, but you’re still making first impressions. Don’t pack up early. Actually, you could even be fined for doing that! Maintain a professional demeanor. Be attentive and available to delve deeper into your product’s benefits and features.
People who have chosen to take advantage of the last day are more relaxed and open to having conversations. Try scheduling follow-up appointments with prospects who were rushed the first two days. Take time to talk to new booth visitors. This may be the only time they’ve had to visit you and you’re on their short list to buy or recommend to their clients.
You never know what opportunities can come your way with new contacts. You might even want to think about scheduling a special can’t miss end-of-show event to bring people to your booth and have them talking about your company the following weeks and months.
This is a time to schedule meetings with people who were unable to meet with you the first two days. Be sure you have created a calendar entry with scheduled email and text reminders to go out. If they no-show, you have their contact information already to follow up next week.
One more, well, ten more things - what NOT to do in the booth.
Do NOT -
- Eat in the booth
- Drink in the booth
- Talk too much amongst yourselves whilst visitors pass by
- Read in the booth
- Use your phone in the booth
- Work on your laptop uninterested in passers by
- Leave the booth unattended at anytime during the show hours
- Use metaphors; sports analogies, slang language and regional expressions. (Tradeshows attract a lot of international visitors so be clear; use plain English and be respectful)
- Wear uncomfortable shoes!
- Stand there and wait for people to come to you!
That’s a lot of words, a lot of ideas and suggestions up there, right? I’ve attended a ton of trade shows, conferences, and exhibitions across a diverse cross-section of industries. I’ve also attended a ton as an exhibitor, from NATPE where we had a half-pipe in our exhibit space to two high-tops at a show for startups.
These events can be a ton of fun along with all the hard work, as long as you thoroughly prepare. Understand, there will surely be at least one thing that will go sideways, but if you’re prepared you’ll be able to address it with a minimum of aggravation.
Venntive is a complete RevOps/CRM solution to manage the customer lifecycle from first touch.
It enables a seamless engagement across marketing, sales, support, success, and operations.
Manage every aspect of your trade show with Projects, Collaboration, Email, SMS, Events, Calendar, Appointment Setting, Workflows, Drip Campaigns, Journeys, Landing Pages, Signup Forms, Surveys, and more.
As you have probably already learned, I have lots of opinions, ideas, suggestions, and love sharing them and brainstorming new ones with you!