Three flavors of shows…Wait…Why?

What Ice Cream? This is errr...fat free yogurt with fruit, no there wouldn't be 3 scoops in here!

What Ice Cream? This is errr…fat free yogurt with fruit! No there wouldn’t be 3 flavors – scoops in here!

Oh my goodness gypsies it has been a whirlwind trade show and customer event year. The trending element this year seems to be, “we are having our own event” and we are making it as big a deal as possible.

Flavor #1. Trust me, from a business standpoint I completely understand wanting to have targeted audiences and bring in high-level partners and customers. It makes all the sense in the world to drive the right decision-makers into your “encampment”.  This can get extremely costly and bust the budget in one day! Planning as early as you can, doing the odds and ends with your internal teams, and having a great rapport with your venue can help with costs.

Flavor #2 -The industry vertical shows and events, which may be mid-range in numbers; will attract the worker-bees, design teams,  and those planning teams who will develop products over the coming years.  Here is where you can find out how the current industry/markets  are moving and help shape the industry as a whole.  A critical part to the marketing plan and an industry centric venue to garner the right people who are in the development and deployment roles. It is a fight to that leadership role, and everyone can add LEADER to their signage, but the proof is in the pudding. Who wants to see you, and are they willing to come to a show to see your products/services or your CEO? Costs are generally mid-range and keep in mind leads can be varied from C-level executives all the way through to the engineering implementation staff.  This in no way means from high-to-low; but it gives a large range of levels who participates, so you may be engaging with a wide variety of cross-functional teams who can be the ultimate influencers if they are the ones who will be working with your product/service.

Flavor #3 -The elaborate “we are the world” shows, are those that are inclusive of a full-industry, have great visibility, and are the glitz and bling of your show year. Those feather-in-our cap, type of events that prove to the world, my booth is bigger than yours; my speakers are more fun and louder than yours; and yes, our promo item, well what can I say … (car vs tee shirt)! These events accomplish different things for different groups that memorable interaction with a big player who really did give you their real business card. Mid-level companies can shine too by having that key product launch or partnership announcement.  Start-ups in a small booth under the stairs in the dark,  it is all about networking and meeting the mid-level groups and the big guys too. Getting the picture of where you can go as a new company by gathering industry knowledge (the scoop) PUN!. You can always reference, “ we were by ….mongo humongous booth with King Kong! Yes, I am so glad we had a place to get away from that crazy display and chat.” 😉 Wink! Get them out of there they won’t remember you!

So with all of these versions of tradeshows and events, what is a gypsy to do with a less than full coffer! Those gold coins are not worth what they used to be; and the trading is not as fruitful, as costs have gone up for organizers in significant amounts and they are also in the rungs of cost overwhelm. There are still some things to be had with the barter, but I am afraid it is up to cost-cutting and assuring you send the right people at the right level to each event and invite the customers/press/partners you want to see.

For those individual company events, make sure your attendees are the high-level staff plus-one. The plus-one talks tech at a high-level and can determine if the department can buy or sell with this company. Your high-level staff can play in the sand box and talk corporate initiatives that will establish hierarchy and leadership in the industry through visionary discussions and strategic positioning. Sometimes, you are lucky enough to have one individual who can cover both roles, but if possible send both to cover as much of the targeted network at the event as possible. Save money managing travel costs, if they can fly in and fly out with a minimal stay; or for over night stays incorporate customer visits to extend ROI of the trip. Also, take note if your individual company is planning an event to get feedback on how the attended event was; and include what they liked/didn’t like about the venue. Call ahead and ask for a package noting you will have attendees at …..event, and you are going to get feedback from them for a possible hosted event you may be having.  This might even garner your C-Level staff a little VIP treatment or a discount if there is an overnight stay (A+ for tradeshowgypsy!).

The middle-ground tradeshow or event is the kind of work-horse event; in that your field engineers, sales, marketing, and business development teams should be prepared to participate at every level they can get into if they are in attendance. Speaking (keynote if you can), panelist, sales pitch promotions, show floor demos, time with any press/analysts for product marketing. Get them engaged as much as possible and try to watch the dollars in how many people go. Cut costs on any of the services and shipping with early-bird submissions or ask for multi-show discounts where applicable.  Put your best technical foot forward and make your statements clear enough for a 5th grader to know what you do, so people walking the aisles STOP; and do not bypass because your messaging is unclear or there is too much to read in a quick glance.  Make sure your team is not waiting for people to come into the booth to get them; or they portray that demeanor of importance by standing with their cell phone behind the main counter, and are perceived as unapproachable.

Get the team the materials and information they need to support the show and make sure they are out in the aisles and the corners of the booth to bring people in, “Hello” and a welcoming presence gets them into your booth. Help promote your presence at the show through as many mediums as you generally use for a product launch. You are pitching your external presence in a venue that can accommodate many customers/partners/press and analysts. Get people you want to see there with a special invitation from your company, get as many as you can to RSVP (Bribe with gift)…wait…did I type that? I mean offer them a nice promotional item or a conference pass for coming to see your presentation.

Show organizers have many ways to target attendees, but often they are not as fulfilling as companies would like just because organizers are not out in the trenches selling and in the daily interaction with industry and market directions. They have an industry broad knowledge and interest, not a Tradeshowgypsy specific customer network. Keep your eyes open for ways you can use other department money, such as training or certifications and ask for a multi-attendee discount.

Flavor #3 – The FLASHY show! Now these are a blast generally, and I mean that from the sense that everything is going off at once and they are a lot of work! They can be fun too, but generally as a tradeshowgypsy you are more concerned with that hanging sign, the new and improved lighting system that is flashing in all the wrong places, and carpet padding that will hold-up the staff during the entire show. Your VIPs are running amuck as keynoters and high-level press are there and your immediate bosses are on edge and expecting you to provide them with all the comforts of the office in this little fake city that was set up in 3 days! I am here to tell you, BREATH!  No matter you have what it takes, you are a tradeshowgypsy with magic on your side. You have done all the work to get the people you want to see into your booth because you have sent secret by invitation only cards to those key purchasers prior to the show for their (Pitch and Promo) – and everyone else gets the tee-shirt (cool design of course)! Plus your execs are happy because you secured them a private meeting space that allows them to relax in conversation and have catering that is not show floor pizza and internet access (which in a comparative in cost for the entire show, paid for the external meeting room plus individual meal room service catering or restaurant meal!) How much did you spend on that?

These events generally  have some great workshops or certifications; allowing you to take advantage of the HR training budgets and have extra staff on hand covered under a different coin coffer!

Now that we are ¾ of the way through the show season, just know there are more popping up in December than ever before, don’t be surprised with new invitations as they will go to your C-Level staff who will want to attend! We tradeshowgypsies are a creative, tough, and a tenacious lot; and we will not give up or go over budget! We have our ways!

If you are lost in the quagmire of costs or overtaken with managing the sheer numbers of events/shows – there are a number of resources to help.  Check out social media sights, LinkedIn has some good ones, Exhibit – Display companies, groups in various networks. Talk to your fellow gypsies, and of course ask me. If I don’t know, I will ask my network and find an answer! Where there is a will gypsies, there is certainly a way!

Safe travels and remember to pack for variable weather and set your clocks as some are getting ready to Fall Back!

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The Best-of-the-Best! Wait…Who?

Best-of-the-Best on the Show Circuit!

Best-of-the-Best on the Show Circuit!

Kind of a long post but filled with my Tradeshowgypsy pearls of wisdom!

Well gypsies we are in full-swing Spring show season! Shows have been phenomenal this year thus far. Industries are buzzing with new innovative technologies and products; and have a moving target market segment thing going on. Organizations from the Enterprise groups to Start-ups are engaging with everyone they can get their hands on to determine what the next steps will be and in what market segment. Watch out; here come the magic words! “Research & Development” (R&D). Yes, I said it, the words that have been put on the back burner for so long that everyone thought it was just an obscure part of the stove!

Research and development, future planning with those hit or miss ideas that are worked on behind the scenes and schedule of immediate products. For the first time in a long-time I heard the R&D phrase used by several larger organizations that are now speaking to the fact that teams are now formed, and working on not only the latest in technology but those long-shot ideas that may or may not pan out. Companies are looking to jump into markets no one ever thought they would be in, but investors and growth cycles are screaming for NEW ideas, not just NextGen products.

The NEW-R&D model is also being done through solicitations on social media. I am sure you have seen them on a variety of sites and blogs. Such and such company wants to hear from you, they want to know what you think about a specific issue or in general on certain technologies, projects or future needs. They offer all kinds of things for contributing viable ideas. Data mining online is in fast and frenzy mode, and why? You guessed it, one way it is used, is for R&D planning!

Shows are now adding a bit of extension to this by hosting Hackathons and Hands-On Labs to display working products or developed solutions generating that right on the show floor solutions excitement. The value-add is huge when you can display a great application of working product or solution and have qualified staff to answer questions! Shows are the perfect venue to get a demo out to larger groups and provide answers by qualified customer service staff. Get your participation off to the press to garner even more promotion. Some products/services do not lend themselves to this type of display, but a video trailer of working product and an appointment calendar do great! Check out your Hackathon teams to find the bright stars to bring into your company.

Though I am an occasional card reader/clairvoyant; ok most of the time they are business cards and “oh man here they come, I&D with that – your freight is lost look”!  I do know one thing for certain, people want to work and are creators at heart, and nothing can stop that from happening. Where there is a will there is a way, and in most cases, several ways; and by encouraging the best-of-the-best of those hardworking internal staff to contribute their ideas and reward them for them, is innovative and keeps the best staff working for your organization long-term and the wheels turning for growth. Companies know this; they just get caught up in the tangles of projected quarterly revenue and forget that taking the next step/next gen is only one way to keep moving forward. Taking the brainstorm sessions seriously with a variety of options is the way to go beyond having just the next step into discovering new directions and spinning up with continued growth momentum. Shows often are huge brainstorming sessions if you listen closely!

On the gypsy side attending/hosting/managing/working shows; getting to see and hear about all of this is exciting! Thus validating our tradeshowgypsy contribution to the world! Assisting companies to get the word out, and find the right people, products, services and customers to drive this creativity, and really put it into practice or on the shelves. The show floor is not only a great medium to “market” but to learn, so here are the other ways the best-of-the-best can bring more value to their organizations through shows.

Sales and Business Development staff, who really pay attention and make a show more than just sore feet and the “same old thing” can bring in new dollars and growth information. Often sales and BD go to a show because they are sent, or feel they “have” to go because it is within their territory. They attend with no real incentive to add any extra effort to just being there as a body in the booth. Unless, they are some of the few who know the secret to really taking advantage of the magic that occurs on a show floor!

Companies rarely train staff in this area, and feel it should be intuitive, or a part of the J.O.B. Errr…guess what? You are wasting your money sending people to shows who don’t want to be there; who would rather talk about the internal company issues to their co-workers than to engage with the customers walking by their booth; who complain they could be more effective making calls or back in the office; and often rely on a few leads from people they already know. Big surprise here, staff who think this way are probably right, they have set their expectations and their level of effort so the results are what they expect.

However, best-of-the-best staff who know how to work shows, know the more people they talk with, the more NEW business they can generate! The diamond leads at a show are often in camouflage of a general badge – yes they do that! When you engage with them and give them your full attention, they will fess up and pass on a real card with genuine contact information.

Encouraging sales teams with rewards to get a sale off the show floor; or see who gets the highest number of quality leads; or certain product leads; any of these ideas can be a great way to spark that competitive spirit and generate some excitement in your booth. Sounds silly or non-professional? Watch two sales staff go after a game (darts, checkers, cards, video anything, doesn’t matter) they are a competitive lot! This is a skill! Encourage it and incentivize with a reward and watch your shows become much more effective. This will help keep sales staff from just showing up for booth duty like a death sentence! This also generates what I call “Booth Buzz” that feeling of enthusiasm when you walk up to the booth and you know the people there are not only welcoming but happy you walked in and are ready to find out what you do and tell you what they do! This creates a viral effect, people congregate where they see more people, just a natural state of human tradeshow behavior “show sheepness” (yes I know, not a real word, but you know what I mean!)…it just happens.

The people who represent your company at the shows should be your best – the kind of people who can form a TAG-TEAM and go after everyone who walks past the booth, having people who are technical in nature, who are sales and know a real-customer, who are qualified to talk to analysts/investors/press; who can work with and respond to the general requests and marketing inquiries. Sending BD or product marketing to the talks and listen closely to the opposing perspectives, take notes, talk to speakers, and take into consideration what is going on internally for your organization. This may require show staff to take turns because it can be grueling, especially if the speakers are bad.

The key is to gather as much information as the show has to offer. This can be 2 people; they just have to want to be there and do a little due diligence and be ready to switch off to make the most out of the show. Not saying it is easy but it certainly is easier when staff know why they are there and want to be there.

A RED FLAG issue – SEND SPEAKERS WHO ARE DYNAMIC – if the speaker is your boss and they are let’s just say a little on the lessor side of dynamic – help them out! Send them YouTube videos of competitors who might be good speakers and let them know they will be there; or find a motivational speaker encouraging good speaking habits. If you feel weird about doing that and think they may be offended. Send them a video of a Customer who might be there who may have a video giving a talk (hopefully a good one) and let them see the energy of the person in action. All of this can be found on the web either on YouTube or often on Company sites! Let your high-level speakers know who their peers will be on the stage so they are prepared and ask organizers for stats on attendance for speakers so there are comparable numbers you can provide.

Video their presentation too, so they have something to work with the next time! This is just a good way of planting the seeds to get a little enthusiasm going before their presentation and gives them a little background for the show and the presentation. This can become a standard practice of doing a little extra for them so they have something to generate interest and energy for their presentation. This also helps keep them from having to watch the hall clear when it is their turn to speak as they pull out their 30 slides of 20 bullet points each! Also keeps your gypsy head intact!

Pull the team together at the end of the show (get away days are notorious for everyone bailing before the end of the show, if this is the case do it the night before), preferably in a group as you get a lot more feedback than through an after the show meeting as people rarely take notes and will provide minimal information. This feedback is crucial to making the decision to not only invest and return to that particular event, but to check into new possibilities of product development, pricing, promotion, product release planning; you name it, the information is valuable if it doesn’t just go by the way side or in a folder called; yes we attended this show; or, this show sucked!

Don’t let staff skate by on generalities, find out why, if they say we didn’t see new customers; find out what they did to invite people they wanted to see; or if they scheduled a side meeting. Who did they meet at the show that they didn’t know prior? Could anyone they may have met be a partner/supplier? What are attendees doing in their businesses and could it be a new area we should be looking into? Some of this can be programmed into lead machines but rarely do teams take the time to get real details entered? Let staff know this is going to happen and to keep track of who and what was said. Get the goods before you leave the show; this also helps generate ROI for the event and value for the company.

The key to making this all work is to spread the lessons-learned throughout the organization; generate a show report and bring it up for group discussion and real consideration with all levels in all departments. Often organizations just want the numbers of leads to go into the funnel of lead generation after a show – there is more value to a show, you just have to do the work to make it viable and not rely solely on the leads. Shows are costly and having real participation and engagement with all the best company resources is the way to make those dollars work for the company. Get the staff inspired and send people who enjoy working the shows creating a win-win for everyone. Then spread the word, often there are many value driven connections that occur and really do tie back to a financial conversion through a conversation at a show.

Well gypsies, back home to the wagon circle to regroup and sort through my own notes, leads, and do laundry! But get ready this is not only spring show season but spring break for traveling families and college students! Lots more folks in airports and hotels, give yourself the gifts of leaving early, a little bit more patience, and maybe some noise cancelling headphones!  Travel safely gypsies!

2013 Is Really the New 2014!…Wait…what?

Are You Kidding ME!

Are You Kidding ME!

The show season is not winding down contrary to popular perception. More events are moving into the November/December timeframe as it seems there is a surge in “let’s get ahead” mentality. As the holidays all get shifted earlier and earlier and overlapping all over the place, the same thing has happened with tradeshows!

Organizers have figured out that hosting events November/December are no longer for that particular year – they are giving their sponsors and exhibitors the jump on the next year! Exhibitors and sponsors alike are using that platform to promote the next year’s “available soon” products; or announcing the new product taking orders NOW! The end of Q4 which tended to be the lagging month for some has now become the Q1 intro to business revenue! Garnering clients who they can get to before the first of the year!

Your booth is hanging on by its last bit of floral wire and duct tape and now you have to make it look new with little to no budget left; and make the best out of products that have been packed and repacked 20 times over and handled like unpacked toys on the toy aisle! Now we have to make things look like we are progressing to the next year with a fresh look!

Yup, can’t get engineering to give you one more thing, budgets are on lock down, and you will be using whatever you have left even if chewing gum and super glue are in the mix!

Well, here is one little idea that might help get you through this year with the shift already taking place – generate show buzz! Take a little note from all the movies that are promoted – send out short snippets through social media channels to get those teasers out there for Q1 products. Get your most dynamic speakers on that platform whether it be in actual speaking sponsorships or in your booth with scheduled meet the expert time invitations! PR needs to step it up here and get those press appointments on the show floor! Lead generation can be significant if you are targeted with your invites and promotions. Your ROI will be much more direct with this kind of promotion than if you leave it to the organizer to draw in target clients who you would like to see in the coming year.

With all of this shifting around of product promotion/placement/pricing – many will say, “yeah this has been around for years”. Well, not in every industry and market segment and certainly not as aggressively as it is right now in 2013, check out the show line-up for the end of the year in whatever industry you are in and you will find many more events in those last 2 months than ever before. 2014 is definitely already aligning with even more fever; just ask any organizer working to get a venue!

How to work with this little nuance “wrench in the ringer”? Well gypsies here we go, AGAIN! Need a new potion for this one. So we will throw in a little “new” into the mix to kindle the fires for next year until we can rearrange the graphics, budgets, new booth, marketing campaigns and that little thing we call a marketing plan! Sit down with your management, sales, BD, engineering, and marketing teams and get the word out the tides have turned and let them know that you need something to feed the restless early adopters as the holidays are not the only dates that are jumping way ahead to gather business early!

Oh, and keep track of how you make your miracle because end-of-year reviews will want to know how you made the company money! By saving them money of course!

You can do it gypsies – you are the magic-makers of the company!

Wait…what? Making a FIRM Decision…I’ll get back to you on that…

decisionDecisions are often difficult in uncertain economic times. The catch-22 of; we all know we have to work, and the “what if” projections make business struggle, even the smallest firm decisions become difficult.  The plans that many organizations may have in January often shifts, by March and so on and so forth quarterly throughout the year. Therefore, creating a plan that is financially sound which will still meet the needs of the shifting budgets and marketing efforts is more challenging than ever.

We hear all of this on a daily basis. The rhetoric makes me crazy, because I am one of those gypsies that believes in self-fulfilling prophecies. You say it, hear it, write it enough and WHAP! you are dumbfounded as to why it happens! Well, I say enough is enough, time to get down to real business sense here and make smart decisions that will keep companies not only in business but visibly active and not sitting on the fence waiting for the next rock to make contact.

In order to be smart about things, decisions and show selections have to be done early enough so that you can plan and if absolutely needed cancel.  Where in the past sometimes the dates for such things could slide, they often cannot now because of the “the bird-in-the hand” financial commitments that are done for everything involved with shows/events.  Some insurance that can be used is to check into what opportunities for early marketing exist with the show/event so that if there is a penalty you can capitalize and still get marketing out of your deposit before the event or after cancellation.  Ask, if non-exhibiting sponsorships are a possibility that you can apply your deposits/exhibiting fee to, should anything occur. There are many ways to work your gypsy magic, make sure you ask the questions before sending in your application and get the options  in writing.

Getting a firm decision seems to have evaded many management teams and they are waiting until the last possible moment to make that commitment or are in hopes that things will pass and just go away. Meanwhile, the cow is in the next pasture and could very well end up on someone else’s table!

Early commitments do save money and can bring great benefits if you are vigilant and keep up-to-date with those emails that might get thrown out before they get read. Get in on the social media marketing extensions and PR opportunities to begin marketing immediately, upon sign-up.  Consider how much is spent in social media/network lead generation and that will take some of the burden off of your event costs/ROI and this information may also help to bring insight for your management teams.

Well it is, very true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I always have my wagon squeak free! I do not like being a pesky gypsy, so I work to make/get commitments done early so that the persistence does not get overwhelming. I do this straight from the heart to assure I have done the best I can do and so that fellow gypsies will continue to do business at shows and events. I am in hopes that management teams become champions once again and kick the indecisiveness to the curb and help the staff keep their organizations healthy and growing.

My wagon is hitched up to attend a show in Anaheim next week…(Spring Break)…always fun to see the mayhem of hotel guests that need to work the next day and those that are vacationing.  I tend to make the spring break shows an adventure and make sure I allow myself enough time for everything, that way there is no frustration and I can enjoy my work and travel!

Happy Decision-making and Safe travels gypsies!

High Season ….wait…When?

Magic Packed!

Well tradeshow gypsies, get your magic bag together it is FALL SHOW SEASON! Gotta love it! There are times during the year when shows escalate and sometimes gypsies do not remember what city they are landing in next. After the 3rd show in a row you are not sure if you are looking at your flight number, booth number, or hotel room number; a few times standing in front of my booth number in a hotel YIPES! Luckily only once someone opened the door after my frustration of putting in my key a couple of times; and they were a fellow gypsy that completely understood the situation.

Having your due diligence done, your white board filled in, and your folders filled with printed/dated orders; you have done what you can do thus far. Now it is time to break out the brain yoga and get your flexible mind in gear. Here is where those great creative skills, everyone is always targeting on your performance review, get to shine!

This show gypsy tried to fly in the day before setup day because so many things can go wrong and this would always give me a little more time to deal with any issues.  If you can get to the show floor the day you arrive and get your badge/floor map and any addendum/check to see if your freight is in your booth; that is a time saver and gives you a little more time until you meet your labor/or set-up yourself in the morning.  There have been times when time is wasted when picking up exhibitor badges and your labor is already at the booth and on the clock, if you are lucky and have specific instructions they may start without you, but more often than not they want to see your smiling face. If you are flying in and doing setup the same day get ready to “move-it-move-it” or “hurry-up-and-wait” it could go either way depending on your show and shipping.

When you unpack and set-up for the show, remember it is much easier to tear down quickly if you have your packing boxes and they are in your tiny storage area where you can pull them out and get things packed easily. REMEMBER SHOW ETIQUETTE – no tape guns etc. until the show closes. You know there is always that one customer that walks up at tear-down…always!  Some shows are on a point system and you can lose points for tearing down early and you can jeopardize your booth space selection for the next year, it is a big deal if you are the tradeshowgypsy doing booth selection!

Also, if you have to wait for your show crates, bugging labor in a gruff manner is not going to get you anything but last. Make sure you are professional and courteous to your fellow gypsies they are on the road, and dealing with all kinds of people, and you want to be one that they remember for being nice and helpful. Don’t expect them to be rushing because you planned your flight poorly, they have to support ALL the exhibitors and you are just one of them, put yourself in their shoes.

Looking forward to this fall, seems as though business has a good grasp of the value of face-to face business and how valuable shows can be, even though they are running lean and mean, they are out there and the economy can only get better if companies are doing business! This gypsy is happy to be a part of this industry that deals with real people instead of strictly online communications!  GO gypsies  GO! Great to see companies taking the bull by the horns and doing business and using those innovative skills to help us get growth back on the map!

Trade show gypsy has arrived…

The Trade Show Gypsy Has Arrived!

This blog has been a long-time coming, the winds have finally blown this gypsy wagon into blogging for the good of all those people who have dedicated any amount of time and efforts to trade shows, conferences, workshops, and industry events!

The face-to-face interaction is human nature, but the mobile network has now added a new dimension to the gypsies bag of tricks! Just one of many topics up for discussion.

I hope to reach that audience who can laugh, (after the fact of course), “show-stories”, and share tips on how to make shows work for you. Sales, marketing, business development, company rules, marketing, ROI, logistics, contracts, and personal career tips to make those trips pay off and fun.

And for campfire stories the glamorous (maybe not so much) things that happen as traveling gypsies through the variety of airports, airlines, hotels, conference centers, and the ultimate review in trade show food!

It’s a start!

 

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