Anybody who’s ever coordinated a trade show exhibit knows it’s a lot like herding cats. In a blizzard. On a frozen lake. There are all those moving parts that are constantly changing, and it requires both technical and interpersonal skills to get everything to come together successfully on the show floor.
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Sound impossible? It’s not, really. You may just need to develop some skills that you have overlooked. Here are five ideas where you could start:
Listen better: While you may believe you’re a great listener, you’re likely missing some of the critical steps to be at your peak, listening-wise. Start by concentrating on what the other person is saying, instead of being concerned with what you’ll say next. Think like a journalist and ask relevant questions that inspire in-depth answers instead of just one or two words. As the person is responding, give them good eye contact and nod when appropriate to indicate you’re with them. After they’ve expressed their answer, paraphrase back what you just heard to verify you truly understood.
See through attendees’ eyes: Listening to them starts long before the actual conversation in the booth. Spend time to discover what attendees are really looking for and what problems you can solve for them. Communicate that in your graphics and signage. Appeal to their emotions as well as their analytical side. And it’s always a good idea to make a list of frequently-asked questions and/or objections, then use that to role-play with your booth staff ahead of time. Better yet, answer their questions in your marketing and display so they don’t even need to verbalize it.
Get social and connected: These days, social media marketing is a given. It’s likely part of your everyday marketing efforts, but how well do you tie in with your exhibits? When you are in sync with your audience, you understand their platforms of choice and where they’re most likely to be engaged. Then you need to develop posts that will tell a story and create anticipation for your exhibit before the show, convey excitement at the show, and keep them engaged after the show. (Hint: The key here is to create pre-populated posts long before the show starts so it simply becomes “plug-&-play” during the time when you’re on overload with other tasks.)
Track ROI: We marketers tend to be more of a big-picture species, and when it comes to data and analytics, we get more excited by an afternoon at the dentist. But it’s important to learn to love that data and find ways to slice and dice it so you can truly discover the results of your exhibits. One way is to determine ahead of time what metrics are most important for you to know about the show: booth traffic numbers, traffic-to-leads percentage, cost per lead, or something else. Then create ways to track those numbers for later analysis or show-to-show comparison.
Project management and collaboration: Back to all those moving parts … an exhibit manager is constantly juggling ideas, goals and tasks. There are decisions to be made – both large and small – often on a daily basis. Deadlines have to be met (or consequences paid). And sometimes, in order to get things done, you need to not only be organized, but you have to motivate teammates or vendors to be as well. Thankfully there are numerous tech tools to help with organizing all those myriad of details. And it never hurts to keep it all in perspective by viewing all the pieces and players as parts of an integrated whole.
Sure there will be challenges and times when it feels overwhelming! But by paying attention to each of these five aspects, you will become not only a calmer and more organized exhibit marketer, but also a more successful one.
Which of these areas have you concentrated on and seen positive results? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.