I think I found one!….wait What?

I think there’s one over here!

During this time of year everyone is super busy in the show gypsy gig!With budgets being put in place by potential speakers/sponsors;  organizers are in the trenches figuring out schedules and working with hotels/convention/conference venues!

The show organizer dance of trying not to collide with other events can be a huge challenge; more large organizations are hosting their own events as well as a variety of new organizers hosting vertical events. The key is to know your market segments and figure out if there are east and west coast events in the U.S.; spring or fall show season; and if you add in International shows that throws in a whole different perspective of attendee base vs conference speakers/exhibitor resources and money available.  Organizers have to know all of this to determine if the event they want to host will be cost-effective and still meet the needs of Sponsors/Attendees.

With so many variables, securing dates early is critical to getting your event set so others are dancing around your event.  There seems to be a number of events that are going in more vertical directions to draw those sponsorship organizations that are moving business objectives into more vertical products/services.
Sponsors/exhibitors are doing less of the multi-purpose events that target entire market segments. This does allow for quite a bit of cross over with more events popping up that target a variety of verticals with small differentiators thus going after the same sponsors for more events, even though they may be smaller.

The competition is quite active and venues are struggling as well, having to manage more events instead of the week long events of days gone by that would fill hotels to the brim and allow for less bookings!  Negotiations are quite a bit of work to secure meeting the needs of everyone involved:  a venue at a price organizers can afford; hotels that need to meet a quota and still make money; conference centers/convention centers can pay for their facility maintenance and insurance costs that go up every year.  Organizers have to be extremely savvy in negotiations in order to keep costs down for the event and be able to pay for the costs associated and still keep in business. Not an easy task!

So enough gloom and doom – there are ways to succeed for the organizer dancing through the swamp lands with the various critters lurking, disguise of the quicksand, and voodoo mysteries going on in the background!  (Almost Halloween after all)!

Supplies: Shot gun (Pen), rope (Calculator), and gypsy protection dust (same)! (I’m sure there is something like that in those trade show boxes at this point) J

  1. Get schedules set early
  2. Negotiate immediately once the decision is made to host the event
  3. Find a venue that will work with you on attrition rates and book conservatively – these days much better to error on the short side than the over book/catering
  4. Team – with so many small events look for synergy between shows and team even if there is just a turn-over of the show hall for events – or if once a show finishes the other one starts in another part of the venue or close to it; and then work on co marketing efforts!
  5. Get your bid into your sponsors NOW – this is budget season and Sponsors need time to get a review of your event and determine their financials
  6. Secure support vendors/contractors as well – there are fewer and they are busier with more events as well.
  7. Find your differentiator – whether it is your Sponsors/Speakers or venue, marketing, make your event stand out and promote early

Yes, the key word through all of this is EARLY – money is tight and the lean and mean machines are out in full-force thus cutting resources to support events in all manners.

No doubt we all have hopes that the economic picture will look up and hiring will commence once again as burnout is at an all-time high for people with jobs and they really could use a few more staff to keep their sanity and their health! A show is a very good way to give staff some relief by meeting with their peers and regenerating enthusiasm to innovate. However, travel funds are being tightened also, so make sure your events have more than just the normal speakers…get some training or dynamic speakers into your events to make it worth it for attendees.

Value-add has to be justified at all levels and organizers have to work on negotiations and venue to keep audiences/sponsors/exhibitors engaged and make your event the one to support/attend.

Get that dousing stick out – we need to find a great venue, sponsor group, exhibitor, speaker, attendee, and oh yeah… MONEY!

I know you can do it – you are a trade show gypsy after all!


Making “it” Happen…wait…What?

Now where is that “It”?

High-season for gypsy managers can cause run-away mania! Yes shows can pile up so fast and come back-to-back and right on top of each other. For a gypsy show manager it is an incredible amount of work trying to juggle all the pieces that are a part of shows.

List number one for show #1 that happens the same week as show #2 that actually starts a day earlier – set-up on the weekend, VIPs attending Show #2 and in comes Show #3 that product management team golden cannot live without. Let’s see graphics that are going to Show #2 are now requested for Show#3, and the staff as well. In reality show staff #2 would do better at Show #3 but with VIPs going to Show #2 they will want to be at that show.  With this late addition where are the demos going, and are there enough literature, promo items, and booth equipment? Let’s see answer to that … make it happen!

With all of the pressures of shows in general and the unexpected addition of a new show to the schedule; show manager gypsies want to jump in the wagon and head for the nearest watering hole!

Make it happen, ok time to divvy up the resources and not give too many choices, firm-flexibility…hugh?  Lists go out the window with all the changes taking place, but rearranging is the one way to make “it” happen. Very few times can a gypsy keep things set in stone – this detail oriented position requires the creative thinking skills of a sand sculptor! Just as you place one thing in place all it takes is a little rumble to shift things around. Making decisions is a critical part of this position – sticking with them as long as they make sense; but also making sure that if the sands shift, the whole thing doesn’t fall apart. Make a plan but have options in that magic bag, you will need them!

Often there are those staff members that will have that knee-jerk reaction to anything they perceive to be a “disaster”, let them know you are managing the show and be strong enough to deal with crisis by knowing that as long as no one is bleeding or worse – crisis is all relative and can be worked through. Having the ability to have a quick solution or option readily available will squelch any panic or bad decision; that you as head gypsy show manager in charge will have to answer for later. Make sure to have asked for help on the show floor – don’t do it all alone, but give clear communication and assure your delegate knows the responsibility they are taking on, as the show report will recognize them as a contributor to the success of the event.

With companies working so lean these days show managers are often a one person staff with access to resources or external vendors.  Although in many cases external vendors are being limited or eliminated. Having general graphics that can be used at multiple shows with the addition of demo’s for specific product lines is helpful if there is an addition to the show schedule. Sharing the resources by asking staff managers to delegate gets the show manager out of the middle of the “visibility” issue when VIPs are involved. The large issue is product/marketing materials – the catch 22 of product made for the customer or for marketing use.  Many organizations follow protocol to have marketing pieces developed and delivered to marketing but sometimes there is only one piece to be shared; so making sure to work with engineering and production is important to have other options available.

So keep digging in that magic bag and there is definitely a get “it” done in there somewhere!  One more thing…never, ever, loan out that bag!



A side gig…wait…What?

Sing it Gypsies!

Conferences, trade shows, events, summits, workshops, webinars, virtual shows, etc. etc. etc!

B2B, B2C, Nonprofits, User Conferences, Internal Stakeholder Events, Suppliers Summits, and Your Wedding!

OK, gypsy? Have you had too much Pino Noir in the back of that wagon? What is the wedding doing in there?

No, I am not talking to myself, I know you are smart and can figure this one out. The common thread in this tapestry unites all gypsies; it is not a side gig .. M.a.r.k.e.t.i.n.g! Sing it loud gypsies!

Yes, beating the drum, rattling that tambourine and occasionally shaking that, errrr…giveaway jar! 🙂

You can put your soul into a new booth with fantastic graphics and bring in the latest in the whatzeehoozit product line, but if you do not market and get the word out that you will be at an event, you just spent a ton of the clan’s gold for a hit-or-miss return.

As for your Wedding, if you do not send out invitations in whatever form they are going out these days (TWEET), you and your SU (spousal unit) will enjoy a lovely evening of DJ 86 and pounds of shrimpets! Same goes for shows, send out invitations!

There is a responsibility that exhibitors/sponsors have to their respective organizations to get the word out that they will be exhibiting at an event. Add the little details of what or whom they can see when they come by your noted booth number. Get the word out to your sales teams they are on the phone, sending emails, face-to-face negotiating; give them the details so they can pass them on and have them add it to their signature line for a few weeks.

With the plethora of mediums available now, to get the word out quickly, it is best to do it “early and often” (yes, pun on Voting message by Al Capone!). Make sure you are aware of dates that would pertain to your possible invitees – expiration of FREE or Discounted registration, hotel deadlines, and should you be having a side event, the dates for that as well, especially if it is a “by invitation only” soiree.

The show organizers will work like mad to get the attendees in that you want to see, trust me I KNOW! Sending emails out to countless lists, print ads, digital banner boards to garner local attendees, teaming with a variety of organizations not to mention making calls until ear lobes are hanging to their knees. This is all fantastic and wonderful and does work, but there is nothing like sending out the message to your partners, clients, potential clients, and vendors/suppliers to really get the full benefit of an event that is tailored to your needs as an organization.

Mastering the art of marketing for events is not difficult it just takes a little “communication”. Extend that marketing reach at a show and establish your brand as an active player or leader in the industry.  Get involved with show organizers to help promote your event with Press Releases, White Papers, Success Stories, or through their Online Website (very reasonable costs generally for posting marketing materials, or for banner ads, and they usually last from 6 months to a year!)

When white papers or news sections are published on these sites, people to come to them. Whether through a web spider or through viral referral of a certain speaker, people find these sites. Ask for a banner on the news page or sponsorship page if you are sponsoring, tons of hits always, as the conversation goes like this, “did we see them at XYZ show last year? See if they are on the list, oh, look they have a banner ad, click…voila!” Long-term marketing garners an extended ROI for your show investment.

Don’t forget to add all of this up gypsies, it can come in handy during planning sessions, budgets (eeeeueww) not my favorite thing, and certainly those smart goal sessions for performance appraisals where you are trying to justify your %  of  $$ coming in to the company when your job is spending money!

YOU fantastic gypsy have saved your company $$$$$$$$$$$$$s, ok, maybe not that much, but certainly quite a few when you find ways to extend your show dollars and a much longer return on your investment with your online marketing.

An outstanding gypsy on alert (thank you Marty) sent me this great link to an interesting report on event marketing done in 2010! This definitely has inspired this tradeshowgypsy blog!

Yes Link is safe 🙂 Fascinating Event Marketing Stats from @HubSpot and
@ConstantContact. Download this awesome data for free: http://bit.ly/q90UfP

Gypsy contract or payment missing?…wait What?

Yikes…it’s HOT!

Getting to a show where no one actually signed the contract or has paid the bill feels like you have been plunged into a really hot place we have all heard of, and don’t want to go! Trying to keep it G rated here! But, you know that gut feeling like, I am going to die standing right here on a show floor or go to the hot place for murdering someone!

Either way you are not allowed on the show floor. Costly? Absolutely! A disaster? Feels like it at the time but not always! This also by the way usually happens on the weekend when you find out the situation and of course you can reach NO ONE!

Word to the wise gypsies you are; get to know your show organizers by name, know who you will be working with on the show floor. Also, get to know your sales agent for the show, they can be your best allies when something goes bad, like a non-paid booth or a non-existent contract. Try always to make sure your show-setup staff or you as the head Gypsy in charge has a copy of everything with you and that things are completed. This effort will also avoid that frantic call from sales staff doing setup or worse no call until after the show is over and your boss calls you into the office for a less than rewarding discussion.

Granted your booth placement may suffer, but at least all your shipping costs/sales staff travel, etc. etc. etc., will not be wasted. The show related individuals will be on the show floor 24/7 during a show and you can work with them to get things going.

Putting $25K or more on your corporate card may be a reason to have your head put in the pillory but, having all the costs associated with a show you are not allowed to participate in after spending a fortune in brand related marketing, travel, and shipping etc. is worse and can result in a stay in the dungeon for sure!

Trust me when some shows say they have sold out and are full, they mean it! The shows have to deal with very strict fire regulations and booth placements and if they are full and you did not reserve your space in writing with payment beforehand you have to work with the organizers to see if there is a cancellation ready list should someone not be able to make it; or a partner you can combine efforts with and solve the financial aspects later but expect to pay full price for your booth not half the organizers are doing you a favor by letting you on the floor as is your partner; that is between you and your working partner to settle up.

Gypsies, make sure you are all set early on with the financial aspects of your commitment to a show, especially if someone else is the signature authority and the financial part is handled elsewhere. Having so many hands involved can make your gypsy life a pure hell (there I said it); so make sure to follow-up so you can rest easy and deal with the other fun that is going on with your event.

Shows are costly, no argument there, but if they are done right, they can pay off 10-fold in short and long-term revenue for the company.

The magic bag…wait What?

Magic Bag...

There are certain shows that have a reputation of being “the show” to attend. Usually the entire staff finds a reason to go and the word ripples through engineering, marketing, sales, business development and even management. As a show organizer you think, WOW! I may have some extra hands at this show to help out.

Until the dreaded words come down the line, VIP…CEO…COO.. “C-me-run”!

As is the case when VIPs or C-level staff come to a show, you have their entourage who are extremely nerve-wracking with the extra requests to make themselves look good in front of the C or Client VIP! Which means, you not only do not have help, you have extra work!

As is the way of the gypsy, this scenario needs some magic; let’s see a little bit of “go away” dust; no-problem beads; vanishing powder; and point-A-to-point-B tea! Oh, and lest I forget the Crystal Ball for those dinners that someone says we have 8-10 more people who have decided to join the 6 that were scheduled at the restaurant this morning!

Having a crystal ball, you knew that was going to happen, so you have a backup table reserved until the last-minute when you make the decision to cancel or change the time. Often there are those staff members that like to wield their level and ask for a reservation at that same restaurant. Really? They pretend to “happen to run into the C-VIP”.

For a small fortune you could hook-them-up with a reservation that you would have cancelled; you know a piece of that “blissful –chocolate-cake” to-go for that next day snack; or Starbucks the next morning.

Ok, we are ready – As the booth is built, with precision and perfection you have assured everything is done and in order; with literature, swag, and wait, there seems to be something thing missing; a schedule. That little thing that lists how many of the extra staff who said they were coming, actually gave you their commitment to show-up and do their assigned booth duty.  So you have, let’s see; YOU and oh the few nervous-nellies that knew they were on the hook in the first place, and your entourage guards that couldn’t possibly do booth duty as they have to be available to the C or VIP.

So you break out your “go away” dust and get the entourage guards out of the booth, they are only making unnecessary work and  in the way. You send them out to look for the C-VIP … you heard, they were heading toward registration! (Not a fib – everyone has to go to registration…eventually)

With a whisp of your cell phone you track the booth slackers eating breakfast and say, you know that tea you’re drinking; you better get it down fast, and get from Point A to Point B! The entourage is going to be bringing the C-VIP to the booth, they are waiting at registration right NOW! Everyone that signed up is going to have to be accounted for, so make your way over. (Not a fib – they will be bringing them by…eventually).

As you hear the thunder of staff running for the booth, you get ready to line them up on the schedule. With a quick quill and parchment you now have your staff and booth duty schedule firmed up as they are now accounted for and listed in writing.  Some gypsies get organized with schedules weeks in advance – this gypsy’s clans have always been the wandering sort and so other dowsing methods have been necessary! As the staff catch on that there possibly could be a delay in arrival, they do their “walk away with the cell-phone tactic; or I’m going to walk the show floor and see if  ???? is here…but you have your ducks in a row for booth duty so all is well.  (Fibs now equal).

Next.  Entourage Member #1 aka right-hand of C-VIP, shows up to tell you they need a meeting room in ½ hour for the day! You smile, and twist the beautiful no-problem beads that you are wearing or no-problem bead in your pocket (gender neutral), and say, I will let you know where in a few minutes.

With the cost of the show at a premium and already tugging the budget; you call your hotel sales and catering manager and ask for a rate for a suite with a living space and let them know there will be catering right away.  So instead of the $Ks that you will pay on the show floor you have now rented a room for $500-$1000 w/catering. Voila meeting room is now accommodated with coffee/rolls waiting; beware lunch will be requested at odd hours as will the infamous Diet Coke that seems to be the drink of choice for executives from any country and costs approximately $3-5 per can!

Finally, the C-VIP shows up to the booth, with everyone spit and polished trying to grab someone out of the aisles to look knowledgeable and busy; it is time for pictures; yes now is the time to get that outstanding picture of the show that can be used in your show report or for a variety of other marketing uses.

With the wonderful words coming through the speakers “the show floor is now closing”, and everyone set to go to their respective dinners; you are now free to use your vanishing powder and disappear to your wagon with room service! Or maybe grab a taco and a beer on the way back to the wagon!

The most important part of the entire gypsy world is to make friends as soon as you hit the ground or even before. Get to know the restaurants in the area if possible the manager/maître d, your hotel sales/catering staff, drivers, booth labor, and show organizer liaison, everyone that you may have to make contact with for those last-minute details.

Figure out the costs and weigh them against the show rates. Having contacts ahead of time can make the difference in meeting the needs of the staff quickly, save money, and make a good impression for you as show manager.  Plus you can lower your stress level 10-Fold!

Now that the magic bag is packed, it is time to say THANK YOU with cards or letters (emails ok, snail mail better) to the person(s) that helped you and their boss, as the gypsy’s connections are extremely valuable and you should never neglect your league of helpers; as you wouldn’t want to be cursed for the next show!

Show justification….wait what?

ROI or Leads...Chicken or Egg?

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, trade shows are too expensive, we cannot justify the ROI, we won’t get any leads, etc. etc, etc.

So is it the chicken or the egg first? Are the leads and networks forming through online resources only, or is there some human interaction needed?

Shows are meant for interaction and you get what you put
into a show. If you are expecting the organizers to get customers there that you want to see, you are asking for the gypsy crystal ball method.

The organizers work with publishers sometimes or they have
their own lists, but only you know your customers or those hard to break into clients that you want to see.  Let the organizer know, send them a “SPECIAL” invitation, or let the organizers know you would like to see a speaker from that company, you would be surprised how effectively that request can be accommodated.

Now that you all are shaking your heads and saying, “oh no way, they are MY customers; I don’t want the competition to talk to them”.  Well I am here to tell you, if you are that fearful of the competition taking your customers, you need to check your product and your confidence level. Step-up to the plate and walk them around the show floor if they are your guest don’t just expect them to come in with their pass and find YOU, humm who was the guest again?

Have a meeting prior to taking them out on the show floor preparing them for what they are about to see; even if there is a new product release you were not expecting, do some due diligence when YOU get to the show. There is a high probability that the customers are already talking with your competitors.

Now for the leads,” new customers, we want new leads”!

When I have my trade show buying shoes on, I justify shows 3 ways – Lead Shows; Branding Shows; and Industry Shows.

Lead Shows – Generally the shows that are kind of
multi-industry/market segment where you have a show that has either heavy traffic and you know your organization has marketed to target companies to get them there or you are in cities that have a pretty good saturation of your customer-base.

Branding Shows – These shows are those shows that might have several of your competitors there, and market(s) you may want enter, this is an
excellent way to have a campaign or a new product release.

Industry Shows – These shows are important are often smaller
more niche shows that have a vertical audience but most importantly speakers from industry providing market intelligence to get the facts for short and long-term planning. It also does give the opportunity to discuss with peers, partners, and industry experts products/solutions.

ROI – Well you save money by having a captive audience of several elements for marketing, sales, and business development all in one

Leads are not the only way to generate ROI, networking and
branding are critical to long-term revenue.

How many times have you said, yeah I talked to this person
at such and such show, or I saw them speak at such and such conference? Even at shows where I could roll a bowling ball down the aisles often I have contacts from the other exhibitors that are new to a company or have changed companies and I have been able to reach out to them at a later date because I met them there, ROI just paid off for the future partnerships/business.

Face-to-face events put contacts in memory much stronger and
longer than a phone call or even virtual event; you know that guy with the
crazy tie and thundering voice, or that woman with all the show crates, hanging off the edge of her booth, with a hammer in her mouth…ah yet another tale of the trade show gypsy to come.


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