Speaking the Attendees’ Language

Graphic: stock.xchng / ilco
Graphic: stock.xchng / ilco

Do you speak a second language? If so, how did you learn, and how well do you communicate in that language?

Personally, I took one year of French in high school, and although I sounded fairly good at the time, now pretty much all I can do is say hello (Bonjour!) and count to 10 … plus maybe a few other random words.

My husband and I have also had a desire to learn Mandarin for several years and so we’ve purchased several books and audio sets. We even attended an introductory workshop and learned some basic pronunciation tips (Mandarin is very tricky, in case you didn’t realize). But since we’ve never really focused on learning the language, about all I know is hello (Ni hao) and thank you (Xiè xiè). While those are some good basic words to know, they wouldn’t get us very far if we were actually in China!

Now you may be thinking that this only relates to international exhibiting, but you would be wrong. Every time you set up a booth, you have to become fluent in the language of the attendees at that show. And while that may not involve learning to speak French, Mandarin, Spanish, or any other global language, it still requires some focused study.

For example, are your signs and materials in the booth written from the perspective of what your ideal client wants to know? Do you even recognize what that is? You can’t use lots of ‘we’ and ‘us’ bullet points and expect attendees to be impressed. No one really cares about how “We’ve been rated safest in the industry for the past 10 years.” Instead make it all about them and meeting their needs using ‘you’ and ‘your’: “You won’t find a safer XYZ product, as ABC Company discovered with their 400% improved safety record.” (Then include a testimonial or case study.)

Next, lose the corporate-speak! Don’t use words such as core competency, integrated solutions, etc. Sometimes I think corporate copywriters need journalists to translate their jargon into plain English. Here’s an example (names removed to protect the guilty):

“Our long experience ranges from enterprise brand architecture to complex solution selling. More recently we’ve concentrated on the changing responsibilities of marketing executives as they face the corporate culture challenges created by the new social media.”

Say what?!! Now I’m pretty sure you don’t talk like that, so why would you want to write like that? A good rule of thumb is to share your wording with family or friends outside your industry to see if they can make sense of what you’re selling. Or better yet … see if a 10-year-old can figure out what you’re talking about. Not that attendees are like 10-year-olds … except they are when it comes to how much effort they want to put into figuring out what you’re trying to say!

Now there are many other factors involved in communicating effectively with attendees that will be covered during our featured Strategy of the Month calls for June in the Exhibit Marketers Café. You’ll gain ideas for defining your ideal client or buyer personas, telling a story, asking the right questions, and touching their emotions (even if your product or service isn’t exactly an emotional one).

So … how well do you speak the attendees’ language? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

© 2013 Marlys K. Arnold  (from the May 2013 TradeShowTips Online. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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  1. Cathy Severson July 3, 2013
    • Marlys Arnold July 3, 2013
  2. Pam McCall July 3, 2013
    • Marlys Arnold July 3, 2013
  3. Peggy Lusk July 5, 2013
    • Marlys Arnold July 11, 2013
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