10 Signs It’s ‘Amateur Night’ at Your Trade Show

Tony Compton, Managing Director

25 years ago I tried to persuade a friend to compete on Amateur Night on Showtime at the Apollo. With no luck. He was a very talented rap artist. But he knew (and anybody who watched the show knew) that rappers stood little chance of winning that competition. He thought I just wanted to see him get booed off the stage. (That was a comical part of the show.) I knew where he was coming from, but… nothing ventured nothing gained.

Regretfully, today’s trade shows and industry events bring a new the meaning to Amateur Night. Or Day. Or whatever you want to call it. And it’s so damn easy to see…

Though I vividly recall watching Showtime at the Apollo over two decades ago, a tour of current trade shows would have you wondering if anything has been learned in the last five decades. If there’s ever an industry — an area of marketing performance, corporate communication, sales enablement, lead and demand generation, and revenue-generation —  ripe for innovation and disruption, it’s the trade show and event industry.

Turn on your computer, wake up your mobile device, wander around some convention halls, view the Tweet streams, and within minutes (maybe seconds) you may see what I’ve seen:

1. Two Bags of Junk and a $5000 Expense

Somebody proudly tweeting a picture of two suitcases full of swag (junk) that was (allegedly) to be brought home from a trade show. I started to do the math. One conference registration, plus one flight, plus ground transportation, plus meals, plus hotel, plus incidentals, plus time OOO, plus time wasted on-site gathering this stuff, plus time packing, plus (God forbid) luggage fees = $5000. Maybe more. Probably not much less than that. Gathering stuff is not why one attends a show. More, who is paying those business expenses?

2. Signage, Ineffective

Will somebody please take exhibitors to a baseball game? Or for a long drive on the highway? Look at an outdoor sign, or at a billboard. The companies with bold, simple messaging stand out. You remember those Coca-Cola signs with the logo – and nothing else? Good. So why do a majority feel the need to cram messages and shoehorn every product and company feature onto their 10’ backdrop?

3. Exhibit Space Rich, Booth Poor

So you splurged on a 20’ x 20’ booth. Congrats! But then you populated it with four posts with four monitors, one reception counter and some chairs. Oh, and you placed your logo here and there. Way to break the mold on the creative marketing effort.

4. The Exhibit Hall Copy Machine

When that long row of 10’ x 10’ booths resembles Cellblock D at a Federal Prison, it’s Amateur Hour. It’s tough to ‘break out’ of prison, and it may be even tougher to ‘break out’ in the crowd of endless booths that look the same. No amount of crammed messages on your signage will help. No rotating PowerPoints on a 27” monitor will change anything. And no literature racks with collateral from 2014 will separate you from your confinement.

5. Streaming Amateur Video

Doing Periscope, Facebook, and YouTube videos from trade show booths and convention halls is all the corporate marketing rage. Yet I’ve seen better, more engaging, more original, and more entertaining content on cable TV programs that feature homemade video submissions versus some of the so-called ‘professional’ stuff generated from industry events. I used to wonder if those in charge at some of these companies knew that these types of videos were being produced to represent their company – but then I see some CEOs who have taken part in such productions.

Oh well…just another competitive marketing and trade show advantage given away.

6. Nonsensical Event Imaging

Here’s what I’ve seen: pictures of event speakers next to their eye chart PowerPoint slides while the audience plays on mobile devises. That’s usually accompanied with a caption that reads “Joe really knocked that software demo out of the park!” Anybody notice that the audience isn’t paying attention? Or that the slides are illegible?

I’ve also seen those ‘just behind the scenes’ pictures of a TV interview being conducted for yet another trade show interview. Problem is that angle has become common and faded years ago. It all looks the same and had grown long-in-the-tooth. Plus, it used to be compelling to see the larger cameras, and detailed staging behind some of the bigger, on-scene video setups. Now, a picture behind one person holding a single light next to a small mobile camera on a tripod watching XYZ executive be interviewed just isn’t cool. Or compelling. It’s simple. Mediocre. Average. Played out. Every single interview, from every single trade show, of every single show attendee or industry executive, looks and sounds the same.

7. Public Speaking & Presentation Arrogance

Did you practice giving your presentation before going on-stage? Probably not. Not sufficiently, anyway. Did your colleagues? Doubtful. Did you care more about how you look and sound while giving your speech versus the overly detailed content of your color and logo-correct slides? Maybe you looked at yourself on video to practice before going on-camera from your event?

My apologies, I forgot. What you, your colleagues, and your company do is good enough.

8. The Panel Discussion Recipe for Disaster

Take six high-chairs, six microphones, six ‘just stopping by’ panelists, one moderator, and a handful of pre-planned, softball questions and try to engage an audience for 60 minutes. Or substitute four cozy, comfy living room chairs on-stage. Then take pictures, circulate, and try to sell everybody on the notion that this panel discussion was earth-shattering and ground breaking. One look at the body language of the panelists is all anybody needs to know that it wasn’t.

9. The Self-Proclaimed Self-Important Event Producer

I once had the pleasure of supporting an exhibit for a midsize tech company, at a midsize trade show, in a midsize convention hall. Nothing remarkable about the event itself. 100 exhibitors, maybe. What I do recall is that we needed something from the show producers. Couldn’t tell you what it was or why we needed it. What I do recall is finding the guy who was our contact and point person for the show. He was riding around the hall on one those indoor golf-cart-looking vehicles. He was very busy, and very important. He was friendly-ish. But just couldn’t help at that moment in time. Not right away. You see, this was during booth and exhibit hall construction, and he said (they) were “building a city.”

Relax, pal. It’s a midsize trade show. Not the first human colony on Mars.

10. The Rookies

Yes, I know there’s a first time for everything. That includes attending a trade show and corporate events. But there are those rookies who swoop into town and proudly proclaim that “The Networking Breakfast starts at 7:30 in the morning and I have to be on time!”

Enjoy your breakfast. You, the hotel catering staff, and two others just in from Europe fighting jet lag will have the place all to yourselves for the first 30 minutes.

Trade shows are business investments. Sales and marketing expenditures. Attendees are there to learn, not collect junk from other vendors. Speakers are there to engage, influence, and motivate audiences. Marketers are to help uncover opportunity. All are there as an investment to grow the business. You won’t get there by applying Amateur Night behaviors.

Stand out in the crowd. Dominate the event. Do something that’ll capture the imagination and attention of your competitors, and your target audience.

Have the industry crowd take your picture.

Do that, instead of taking and circulating yet another generic event selfie.


Follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, GettingPresence

For more, immediate tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

The Trade Show Picture Worth 1,000 Words – of Waste

Tony Compton, Managing Director

I’m not crazy about the new LinkedIn. The new User Interface is S-L-O-W. Some of the publishing and networking stats that I valued in the past have completely disappeared. And the mobile experience of trying to access LinkedIn’s website leaves a lot to be desired. I admit I had higher expectations from LinkedIn after it was acquired by Microsoft last year for $26 billion (USD). I also know that I’m not alone in expressing my displeasure with the new LinkedIn.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the endless stream of trade show pictures that clog my LinkedIn feed. Pictures of smiling staff, proudly standing shoulder-to-shoulder inside their company’s respective trade show booths. Across industries, from shows spanning the globe, these pictures look the same. Can’t say that I necessarily blame anybody in these photos. Heck, I’ve even been some of them. But one recent “smiling staff in a booth” trade show picture got me to look at it – and all the rest of these event photographs – in a fiscally responsible way.

Instead of wearing my marketing/creative/event/happy to be at the show of the year hat, I put on my CEO/VC/Investor/Owner hat. It made all the difference in the world.

The trade show picture that made me stop was simple enough: six people smiling for the camera in a nearly completed 10’ x 10’ trade show booth situated somewhere deep inside a cavernous convention hall. Proud employees eagerly awaiting the start of a convention. All happy to be there. And judging from the size of the convention hall, I got the feeling it was one of those multi-day events where the exhibit hall is open from 10:00 – 5:00pm everyday for three, maybe four days.

But it’s what I also saw in the picture that made me stop, stare, do the math, and hope that the company’s CEO didn’t see this picture. Or their investors. Or competitors. It was evidence that could be used against the person who made the decision to exhibit at the event, and spend the money and resources the way they were spent. Yes, when a person has been around the trade show and marketing block a few times, this type of information can be gathered just from looking at one photograph.

In addition to the pleasantries above, here’s what I also saw in the picture:

1. Stacks of paper brochures in neat piles on the booth table. 

Survey says that over 80% of this paper collateral junk at trade shows is bound for garbage cans and area landfills. Yet there they still are in this day and age. In booth after trade show booth. Literature rack after lit rack. Two, four, and eight page four color brochures that cost money to write, produce, layout, edit, revise, print, store, ship, distribute, and return to storage after the show. More and more printed collateral that goes from company, to staff, to show floor attendees, to hotel room waste baskets as travelers lighten the load for the trip home. Printed material is largely useless, costs thousands to have on hand, and expires quickly. Too many marketers, salespeople, and executives love the tangibility of printed material at trade shows because you have to have something… The reality is that there are better ways to move your target audience to electronic forms of communication and save the money on stuff that’ll never get read in the first place.

2. The terrible booth location.

I mentioned that cavernous convention hall, and it’ll have been a miracle if anybody found the postage stamp-size booth. They were lost in the wilderness. I’m sure some knew where they were, but most attendees probably found their way to their location by accident wandering the exhibit hall on Day Two or Day Three of the event. After they’ve seen the big players, and those with far more advantageous positions on the show floor. Helpful tip: if you can’t get a good location on the exhibit hall floor, don’t exhibit. You can still attend the show, and your money will be better spent on other marketing activities which don’t place you in the back of the room for a week. (And no, just because you don’t exhibit, the market won’t think you’re out of business.)

3. I couldn’t tell you the exhibiting company name – even if I wanted to.

That’s because the exhibitor’s name was invisible in the picture, even in a nearly completed booth. It’s possible that a magical sign or expertly branded backdrop had yet to be erected – but I doubt it. Consider, do you notice the backdrops now employed at almost every press conference you see? Notice the way the branding is done on those backdrops? Simple, bold, clear, not crowded with illegible text? Yet trade show attendees are treated to signage which says nothing, or far too much. Get your signage act together, and remember that all attendees carry cameras and the ability to live stream from your location, ready or not.

4. The Expense: Personnel and Budget.

The picture I’m thinking about for this post had six people in it. Some booth pictures have 10, 20, or more people standing around posing for the camera. Then I start doing the math any CEO, owner, or investor would do in their heads. Time for each out of the office. Time spent in a booth. Time away from customers. Travel and entertainment. Booth space rental. The cost to put something in the booth space – whether it’s in the back of the hall or not. The cost of paper, pens, giveaways, shirts, etc. The list goes on and on.

You may say that’s the cost of doing business at a trade show. I would say nope – not anymore. I’d have a small, elite, multi-functional group of employees on hand. Only a small, very select handful of company employees would be at any given trade show and that’s it. Event costs have been ballooning out of control for years, and somebody has to answer for it in the weeks after an event. Especially if there’s no return on investment.

5. What I thought about.

Who constructed the booth? Who will tear it down and ship it back? I would never want employees crawling around on the floor and chasing boxes. They have better things to do with their time.

How many more employees were in town for this event? Were there more than six people attending, what were their business reasons for being in the booth, and how much did they expense as part of this endeavor? Was the booth used as luggage storage – yet again?

…and who took the picture?

From the minimum buy-in of $5,000, $10,000 and up for booth space rental at industry shows and conventions, to the five, six-, and seven-figure costs of putting something in the booth space – the trade show math has been adding up for years for CEOs, owners, and investors. They’re catching on. The trade show industry has quickly gained a reputation for growing long in the tooth and is in desperate need of innovation, if not reinvention.

It may be perfectly acceptable for some to treat a wasted outing at a trade show as an annual standard operating procedure, but those days are quickly coming to end. It’s evidenced by the steady stream of pictures of smiling people at trade show booths spending a company’s money and not thinking twice of the business benefits.

And if I’m thinking about what I see and don’t see in your exhibit hall photos, you’d better believe your boss is also thinking about it. Don’t be surprised if somebody, somewhere, in one of your executive conference rooms asks: “How much did that show cost?” “And what did we get out of it?”

And don’t assume you’ll be there to answer, or defend yourself.

Now smile, and say cheese!

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

An #OpenLetter to TradeShow Sponsors and Attendees: Demand Excellence

Tony Compton, Managing Director

The calendar reads October 1, 2016, and the #sales and #marketing dash to make Q4 a success is already underway. But you don’t exactly have 90 days to flood Q4 with newly discovered leads, qualified opportunities, and net-new customers, do you? With the Thanksgiving holiday next month in the USA, and the end of the year holiday season quickly approaching, you have seven good business weeks this month and next. That’s it. And though you may pick up some loose change in December, you know that those OOO emails which read “Thanks for your message, I’ll review all emails when I return to the office on Tuesday, January 3, 2017” will start to appear somewhere around December 15.

Happy New Year, indeed.

Not only is Q4 already underway, but the first quarter of 2017 is already at risk. And for those with offset fiscal calendars, the same applies. No matter how you slice it, the next six weeks are critical to the success of the next four months of the sales and marketing calendar. And it all starts with demanding excellence from all those around you at the major industry events you’re about to attend.

With time being a factor, here’s what I advise in this #openletter for your next industry #event, and to hit the ground running in Q4:

1. Demand Excellence from Event Producers

For those senior-level business leaders who chose to cut the five, six, and seven-figure checks to invest in your Q4 events, demand excellence from event organizers. Are you getting full value for your investment, or are you simply spending money because you feel you need to “be there” because you think everybody else is attending? Is your event experience enjoyable? Have the logistics of getting in and out of the event been carefully coordinated? Are the event attendees ones with whom you can do business? Is the educational platform up to your expectations? Are the sessions and the presenters good at delivering lessons learned and actionable information? Or are the event producers only concerned with getting you to resign for next year, without any evaluation of the results of this year’s show? Demand more from those cashing your sponsorship checks, and demand excellent returns from your show investment.

2. Demand Excellence from Sponsors and Exhibitors

Event attendees should hold exhibitors and sponsors to high expectations. When an attendee approaches a booth, no matter how large or small, that attendee should be treated to the best experience an #exhibitor can provide. Is the booth welcoming? Is the staff welcoming, or are they having lunch, working on their laptops, and chatting on their phones? Is somebody staffing the booth, or are you being treated to scattered brochures on a coffee-stained tabletop drape? Some exhibits are painful to see, staffed by congregating employees, who have been handed demos and slide decks that they struggle to deliver. Attendees are investing time by participating in an event, and in return deserve the best from all exhibitors.

3. Demand Excellence from Presenters

The educational platform of any event is critical to delivering value to the attendees. After all, those sitting in #conference sessions and demo rooms are there to learn something. It’s one of the main reasons for attending a show. But while an event’s sessions look good on paper, reality can be quite different. Within minutes of any presentation, you’ll be able to tell if the speaker has prepared for their session. Is it yet another hour with incomprehensible slides? With presenters who are afraid of speaking in public? Who are more concerned with their product, services, and content, versus their ability to interact with an audience? If your next session is yet another data dump with captured screen shots on eye-chart slides delivered by somebody who couldn’t care less about their personal communication skills, find and fill out the session evaluation form and make your voice heard to the show producers. Next time vote with your feet and your wallet. Attendees have been treated to bad presentations for far too long. I’ve sat through poor performances only to see an audience politely and half-heartedly clap at the end. Bad presenters count on business to go on as-is, and repeat itself, at the next conference. You should demand excellence, from all presenters. Attendees deserve it.

4. Demand Excellence from Show Services

When tackling a major industry event, you’re likely to engage third-party providers to help you with everything from designing and providing your physical exhibit, to supplying audio visual equipment, to renting ancillary tech services, to shipping and receiving of materials, etc. The list of show services can be endless. Sometimes an external show services provider will handle most of your exhibitor needs in a one-stop shopping arrangement. No matter how you approach your next event, be certain that those with whom you contract for show services are meeting your needs – well in advance of the show. If you procrastinate or leave exhibit hall problems for when you arrive on-site, it’s too late. I’ve found that there is tremendous value to partnering with a exhibit services company that can handle booth design and show logistics. There are also some things you can do yourself to save thousands. In any case, demand excellence from your show service providers, and always, in every circumstance, respect the established union labor rules in place at your next convention hall!

5. Demand Excellence from Yourself, Your Colleagues, and Your Partners

If you’re sponsoring or exhibiting at a show, or if you’re just attending, your company is spending money on that activity for a reason: to realize economic return from those expenditures. When you get back to the office, somebody will want to know what was accomplished at an event. While outstanding show invoices are being paid, and expense reports are processed, somebody, somewhere, within the four walls of your company will start to ask questions. What were the business benefits of attending? Not anecdotal feel good relationship-building stories, the tangible and measurable business benefits? You won’t get those business benefits by simply just showing up at your next event. In order to stand out in a crowd of tens of thousands, you, your team, and your alliance partners will have to be at peak performance before, during, and after each event to produce favorable results.

The Fall event season is upon us, and your company has a lot riding on event expenditures. Demand excellence from yourself, those working on your events, and those attending and sponsoring your events. Give your events – and their major expenses – the attention, service and support needed to be successful. You have no time to waste in Q4, and January 1, 2017 isn’t far behind.

Demand excellence now, and you’ll be able to stand tall and demonstrate results from all sales and marketing investments you made in every industry event when you report your results to your senior leadership team.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

You’re Not Too Special to Work Your Own Booth

Tony Compton, Managing Director

It’s the afternoon before the exhibit hall opens at your next industry event, and your company has a big booth on the trade show floor. Let’s make it a very big booth. 50’ x 50’. I’m certain there’s an exhibit manager who’s been working for months prepping show logistics, and that person has battled an obstacle course over the last few weeks filled with long days, late nights, and energy-sapping business travel. Today, with rolled-up sleeves and dirty hands, the exhibit manager oversees union labor crews across numerous trades, stands in long exhibitor service lines, works side-by-side with a rep from an event services provider, and pays little attention to the 18-hour day that’s barely half over.

Then, the inevitable.

Either one-by-one, two at a time, or in small groups, company staff arrive at the under-construction booth site. It’s routine, almost habitual. The process is this: coworkers with zero booth responsibility before the show land at the local airport, check-in at the hotel, make their way to the convention center, pick up their badges, saunter onto the trade show floor, and locate the company exhibit. This scene repeats itself over and over, show after show, convention after convention, exhibit hall after exhibit hall.
(And yes, you may count me among those who have done just that. Guilty as charged.)
But while company convention-goers swell with pride seeing their logo on the side of scattered booth crates, a pet-peeve of the exhibit manager begins to resurface.

It’s Great to See You, But Not Now

The booth isn’t a hangout. Not before, during or after an event. Nor is it a place to drop-off luggage, store laptops, or lend an unsolicited opinion or suggestion about how the’s booth layout or appearance can be improved right before the start of an event. Positive support is always appreciated, but playing greeter to a steady stream of just-arrived coworkers complicates an exhibit manager’s afternoon and takes up valuable time on a day when time is in short supply. Even the most good-natured exhibit managers don’t want to play the part of a repetitive booth welcomer; if they could, they would issue a standing order to all to stay away from the booth until the exhibit hall opens and they’re invited or scheduled to be there.

The Kicker

Part of that steady stream of newly-arriving coworkers usually involves those in the executive ranks who are not in the exhibit hall to work, but to simply announce their presence. Once in the area of the booth, these senior-level colleagues will ask a few mundane questions as they survey the landscape. They’re not there to put in any work, mind you, but for some unknown reason they’re compelled to make the trip to the booth and verbally check-in. Oh, the CMO may give a somewhat credible reason for hanging around and the CEO/Founder/Owner will always have a good excuse, but the rest are just wasting the time of event personnel hustling to complete booth preparations. While it’s understood that hearts are in the right place, that place shouldn’t be the booth the day before an exhibit hall opens.

The Opening Day Search Party

Having a trade show booth staffing schedule is a given, but it may or may not include scheduled time for executives to participate on the exhibit’s front-lines. And for as much as these executives love to show up the day before the exhibit hall opens, many are hard to find during most of the open and busy exhibit hall hours.

As inquires are made into the reasons why “non-scheduled” higher-ups are hard to find, the list of potential excuses may include:

  • They’re busy because they have on-site meetings, then giving a presentation…
  • Just like superheros, they flew in, having just arrived on the scene, but now have to leave…
  • Somebody will try to sell them something…
  • Somebody will try to partner…
  • It’s a security risk…
  • They want to see the sessions on the latest technologies…
  • They don’t want to talk to anybody on the show floor…
  • There are others who staff the booth…

While a few of those reasons may be true, not one is a blanket excuse. And certainly not across multiple events. I’ve done plenty of events to know the difference between booth avoidance and true participation.

How Nice of You to Stop By

Wait, wait, wait… Call off the search party, because elusive senior leaders usually turn up:

  • During the evening cocktail reception on the show floor
  • During the company’s sponsored event party
  • In the hospitality suite
  • For a brief moment before or after an exhibit hall lunch
  • When a piece of luggage, a briefcase, or a laptop needs to be stored
  • Immediately before leaving for the airport

Again, while a few of those event activities count toward on-site work, differences remain between those who interact throughout the course of a convention vs. those who drop in and out of a booth whenever they please.

It’s Your Company’s Booth. Set an Example and Work It.

It’s not only your booth, but event attendees are your employees, customers, and prospects. Attendees are also your partners, competitors, analysts, investors, and academics. While some executives would like everybody to know how busy they are taking care of big business, others do spend time engaging show audiences. All corporate staff – including executives – should roll up the sleeves and pick up a shift or two in the booth. And not just during happy hour.

I’ve worked with many executives who have put in the time at the company’s exhibit, and you see it all the time from executives at start-ups and smaller companies. That same passion, energy, and performance should be on display, even from big shots from global enterprises who feel as if they’re too special to work their company booth.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

Don’t Let These 15 Trade Show and Exhibit Hall Killers Ruin Your Next Event

Tony Compton, Managing Partner

For those of you leading your company’s trade show and exhibit hall efforts, you can count on me for experienced event perspectives and an understanding ear. I’ve been involved in shows both big and small, from every angle, and I know the challenges you’re facing as you gear up for your next event. Every event, conference, and trade show requires significant planning, execution, and measurement. Here’s a short list of front-line, personal lessons learned from my industry experience. For seasoned pros, I’m sure you’ll smile at some of the items on the list. Please share this list with others. For event rookies, watch out, and don’t step into any of these situations!

1. Procrastinating

You know it’s coming. That must-do industry event is on the horizon, but you’re waiting to decide to exhibit or sponsor. And even though you expect to get the green light go-ahead soon, it may already be too late. That’s because when you’re ready to sign-up, the exhibit hall and event sponsorships may be sold out. Even if there’s room, you may get stuck with a bad booth location and lackluster sponsorship opportunities. It’s understandable that an occasional last-minute decision has to be made, but chronic decision delays are costly. The longer you wait, the more you’ll pay for everything from expedited show services, equipment rentals, and staff travel. Procrastination is a budget-buster, and results in a fire-drill scramble before an event.

2. Believing You Automatically Must Sponsor or Exhibit at a Particular Show

You may recall overhearing: “We have to do this show. Everybody will be there!”
I understand the argument, and the emotion behind it, but it’s not the way to make a sales and marketing business decision to participate in an event. Once you decide to exhibit or sponsor, you’re on the hook for a substantial investment. If you can’t show positive returns from a show, that’s tough to explain back in the office. Consider sending a rep to scout a new event, asking a partner company for its perspective, and scrutinizing the results from similar or prior events. Don’t worry, just because you choose not to exhibit at a particular show, your customers won’t automatically think you’ve gone out of business. And you may get the same results (or better) if you simply send people to attend or visit the event city and schedule meetings with your customers and prospects while they’re in town.

3. Expecting Miracles

You’ve made the decision to exhibit at your industry’s next event. Great! Now what? Just because you have a kiosk, tabletop, stand, or booth doesn’t mean attendees are going to come running to your door. Many won’t. You could just show up and take your chances, or you can take an active role in the event by sizing up available speaking spots, sponsorships, on-site meetings, and guerrilla marketing opportunities. When investment in an event stalls with just filling rented booth space, the likely result will be slow foot traffic, wasted resources, meager returns, finger-pointing, and disappointment. Don’t just exhibit, get involved with your event.

4. Forgetting Your Primary Show Audience

In the rush of getting through the routine process of a show, it’s easy to overlook those who can play a vital part in your event success. Ask event producers for a show’s pre-registration list, and be sure that you’re talking with your partners, customers, prospects, the media, and analysts ahead of time. Extend registration discounts and free passes when available, especially to those local to a show. Get your social media game plan together. Many don’t understand the power and full potential of real-time, on-site engagements with core audiences across social channels. Tweet continual updates from an event, and always include your primary show audience. Others will pick up on your activity, and messages will replicate. Knowing who will be attending a show, and working with them in advance and on-site is very cost-effective and will yield superior results.

5. No Logistics, No Communication

Whether you have two or 20 staff members attending your next trade show, it’s a grown-up version of a class field trip. Your colleagues require registrations, directions, timetables, air travel, ground transportation, hotel accommodations, company attire, booth assignments, instructions, schedules, and a to-do list before, during, and after an event. They may also need a supervisor’s permission to attend. Without all of the above, your staff will be lost. Lay out a plan well ahead of the event, and coordinate activities and schedules. Update the relevant sections of your website, and continuously interact with your team leading up to an event. Enforce all of the plans you put in place.

6. (Too Much) DIY

With a tabletop exhibit or a 10 x 10 booth, many enjoy the benefits of a Do-it-Yourself approach to a display. Flight cases double as checked luggage, supporting materials can be packed and shipped from the office, and exhibit set up can be easy. At least that’s the idea. But it’s a general misconception that exhibiting is truly that easy, and that show activities will always go according to plan. The DIY approach can work for smaller exhibits, but the event to-do list is still extensive: on-site booth set-up, round-trip shipping of components, rental, install and dismantling of components such as technical hardware, monitors, and furniture, and renting and returning lead retrieval devices are just some of the items on the checklist. Lots of room for error in that list.

The DIY approach can also have unintended consequences. For example, sales people, consultants, and executives are terrific when they help event staff with show logistics. Some even help with booth set-up and take down. But while hearts are in the right place, the material which travels from show to show frequently suffers. In a rush to catch the last flight after a show ends, booth materials and equipment can get left behind, lost, thrown together, improperly packed, and sustain damage in transit. Missing return shipments may also have to be hunted down. Any extra time spent on problems stemming from a DIY approach is consuming and very costly. Consider how internal staff should really be spending their time, and consult an event services provider to handle your booth design, creation, construction, transportation and logistics. It’ll free up staff to concentrate on core competencies.

7. Crowding Booth Space

Somewhere hidden in your booth is a magnet. It invisibly draws your coworkers and their belongings at inopportune times. During booth construction, staff feel compelled to drop by, say hello, and see the under-construction booth. On getaway day, your booth doubles as luggage storage and a hangout before the airport run. Ask any booth manager about their pet peeves, and these two issues will likely enter the conversation.

Manage your exhibit space. 100 square feet is tight. 2500 square feet may be roomier than some big city apartments, but you still have to design a functional, working environment for your booth. On paper, even 200 square feet may look big, but every inch of space is at a premium. Don’t clutter space with unnecessary signage, oversized furniture, empty boxes, and disproportionately large monitors. Don’t allow staff to loiter. Unless they’re working on setup or dismantling the booth, the rule is simple.
If you’re not scheduled to be in the booth, don’t be in the booth. And don’t leave your stuff behind for somebody else to watch it.

8. Overstaffing

The list of employees attending an event is becoming a mile long. You’re told that everybody has a solid business reason to attend, and the more from the company, the merrier. Be skeptical. The registrations, paperwork, housekeeping, travel, and logistics behind overstaffing can quickly become a headache, and the overblown expenses will likely be tagged against the event budget. Reread Number 7. Send only those who are truly needed to an event, and don’t be shy in asking colleagues to roll up their sleeves and go to work while on-site.

9. Understaffing

Anybody who has performed extended solo booth duty will tell you that’s it no way to go. Sure, somebody may go it alone to wrap up an exhibit at the tail end of a show, but even a small display reasonably needs at least two people at all times. Of course having adequate staff to interact with attendees matters, but my greater concern is security. Think about what you may have in your exhibit: monitors, laptops, briefcases, purses, collateral, giveaways, and a gift card to two. You should also have captured audience data, business cards, leads, and follow-up notations. A lone booth staffer will inevitably need a bathroom break, get something to eat, or jump on a call. Distractions will occur. Business cards can get stolen, and leaving a purse under a draped table is a terrible idea. Hotel and convention entrances are hardly secure, thieves lurk, and once something goes missing, it’s too late. Trust me on this one.

10. Passive and Poor Communicators

A company exhibits and sends personnel to a show to engage the audience, not to sit on conference calls in the booth, play on iPhones, people watch or get caught up in drawn-out  conversations with unqualified attendees. Coach booth staffers in techniques to initiate and guide meaningful business conversations. Be sure everybody stays on message, and uses appropriate body language skills to create a comfortable and welcoming environment.

11. Mirroring

I mainly think about tabletop exhibits and 10 x 10s when this topic comes to mind. When you have a tabletop or a 100 square foot booth, so will many of your show neighbors. Why look like everybody else? Your checklist undoubtedly is similar: a table or counter, possibly draped, backdrop, monitor, a pop-up banner or two… but there are numerous ways to be creative in order to stand out, even if you’re fourth in a cell block row of 20 booths. Examine your messaging and graphics to start, but review your lighting, booth fabrics, material design, and display architecture. There’s no rule stating that you have to display a boxy counter and an unlit square backdrop. So don’t.

12. Overprinting and Dumping Collateral

There’s a security blanket in having an abundance of collateral in a booth. It looks good to have a literature rack brimming with content, and it feels even better to hand over a four-pager when asked “Do you have a brochure…?” Problem is that most of that collateral ends up in the garbage can. Think about it. When you’re packing for the airport and have a stuffed suitcase and a jammed briefcase, what’s the first thing to end up in the trash? My recommendation is to only have a small amount of printed material on hand. The shelf-life expires quickly on that stuff. Make it part of your post-show follow-up plan to email attendees, and link back to downloadable content. You’ll save on printing, and can add customized messaging to your post-show follow-up.

13. Catering to Exhibit Hall Scavengers

This is a nod to all those free exhibit hall pass/trade show goers who comb through booths looking for anything and everything free. Their big plastic bags are wide open, and it seems as if those bags never close. Not only do these event wanderers want whatever exhibitors have to giveaway, but they’re not shy about asking for more than one. If you’re not watching, you may see one hand holding open a bag while another sweeps across your counter, dumping displayed freebies into a to-go sack. Treat all guests with respect, but keep in mind giveaways cost money. I’ve yet to see an exhibit hall scavenger turn into a lead or business opportunity.

14. Forgetting Competitive Intelligence and Reconnaissance

There’s a wealth of information to be gathered at all industry events, and you and your team won’t get it by hanging out in your booth. Attend sessions, visit partner exhibits, sit in on demos, introduce yourself to attendees at a lunch table, and pick up on themes, problems, and actionable intelligence. Note who is attending certain sessions, their companies, job titles, and any questions asked during sessions and workshops.
If your colleague or partner is giving a talk, sending support staff to that session is mandatory. Gather intel, and be prepared to report back during the event debrief. Surveying booth visitors is also another excellent way of gathering information. (Remember, you’re competitors are also spying on you at events!)

15. Measuring Nothing

The marketing team is seated around the conference table. The conference room door closes. An executive asks: “What did we get for the six figures we spent on last month’s trade show?”

You better have an answer. Measuring raw event contacts, qualified and accepted leads, the size and number of revenue opportunities, and protected and net-new customer counts is a great place to start. Have your spend, pipeline analysis, and your quantitative and qualitative reports ready. It’s a five minute answer, not an hour-long response. But it’s a full five minutes.

Bonus Lesson Learned: Breathing Easy

The event is over. Boxes and crates are labeled, ready to be shipped, your bags are packed, and you’re headed home. As you watch another Broadway promo on the monitor in the back of a NYC taxi, you take a deep breath, relax, and think about getting to the airport and flying home. The weekend may be approaching, the next event is looming and your mental notes from the last three days start to fade.

Forget about how nice it would be to see The Lion King and remember that you have to properly follow-up and close out the event. Now is not the time to relax. The real sales and marketing work of making an event pay off is now only just beginning.

Visit: www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com