Archive for the ‘Trade Show Sales’ Category

Making Trade Shows Interesting

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

Attending trade shows can be an effort in futility, imagine being a presenter at a trade show. Sometimes you need more than just a trade show display…

One of the hard parts about running a conference is figuring out a reasonable strategy for the trade show. Some conferences don’t have a trade show at all; if you can get the attendees to pay all the costs associated with an event, then that’s a worthwhile strategy.

From 2001 until late last year there was such a downturn in the high tech industry that vendors were having a hard time justifying the costs for booths and booth staff. The XML conference certainly noticed the downturn. It wasn’t all about the money, of course. As Tim said, a web site can function as a booth and doesn’t pack up and go home after a couple of days.

Except for, everyone now has a web site, many complete with blogs and RSS feeds and Flash demos of happy customers using the product to do marvellous things. If you know the names of the companies whose products you’re interested in, or the standard name of the type of product you’re looking for (so you can at least google for it), then you’re probably well served by the web. Always assuming that what you’re looking for is the slick, polished, demo information that most web sites specialise in. If you don’t know what types of products you might need, or you don’t know the names of relevant companies, then you have a harder time trying to find it. Or maybe you’re just suspicious of whether the products shown in the slick demos really can solve the issues you have.

I’m reminded of the scientific research community. When I was doing my PhD, you either had time to keep up with the related literature, or you had time to do your own research. You didn’t have time to do both. The way you found out about stuff that actually was relevant to what you were working on was to go to a conference or two a year, listen to the papers, and talk to people. Merely publishing your research in a recognised journal was not enough; you had to take the research to where they were going to be. I think we’re getting close to this with web sites, where one of the only ways for vendors who aren’t household names to be found is to go to a trade show and make it worthwhile for attendees to stop by their booths.

So what makes it worthwhile for attendees to stop by a booth? Part of the answer is for what they can’t get off the web. Eric Sink points out, amongst a lot of other interesting comments, that the big difference is face time. Time to put companies and products into perspective, compare them to the competition, maybe talk to some real developers. Time to see whether they can trust the vendor to fulfill the promises that vendors always make about ship dates, feature sets, and standards-compliance. And time to find out about that new style of product that they hadn’t known even existed before this week.

At the XML conference we’re doing our bit to help attendees get an experience they can’t get on the web. We’re emphasizing interoperability demos, and comparative product demos. We’re getting new vendors on to the show floor, and a lot of vendors this year are planning product launches at the conference. It looks like it’s going to be a good complement to the technical program, showing attendees another side to the innovations going on in XML-land.

Trade Show Etiquette (Display your best foot forward)

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Wonderful article by Cynthia Lett on how to treat your future customers and partners when attending a trade show event. While some of these are ideas are simple (the best ones ususally are) we think you’ll find something even an experienced trade show attender can find useful.

Exhibit Hall Etiquette

Attending and exhibiting at trade shows is all about building relationships, learning about new products and services and maybe negotiating a deal.

But everything starts with the relationship.

It is a fact that we like to do business with people we like. We are less willing to make a deal and write a check to a company represented by disrespectful, ignorant people.

You may say, “Well, of course! That is obvious.” But if it were so obvious, why do so many people treat potential buyers and vendors so poorly?

The first impression we have of a company or product is the person who represents it. As a buyer, when you explore a booth on a trade show floor, you should notice how you are greeted? Is it with a smile? Did someone shake your hand? Were you even acknowledged?

How many times have you walked into a booth on a trade room floor and were ignored completely?

It’s happened to me. When that happens, it is my cue to walk out quickly. If the booth attendant cannot be bothered to greet me appropriately, this is a company I cannot trust to meet my needs.

This is where knowing the proper etiquette and using it makes a huge difference between you and your competition.

A first impression is made within five seconds of meeting someone. We make a judgment about them and how we will interact based on their clothes, facial expressions, energy, confidence, personal power, perceived authority, posture, personal grooming, and most of all, by the way they treat us.

For five seconds, that’s a lot of information being formulated. So you have to ask yourself, do you make that first impression a positive one? Or, do you leave the impression that the person is an imposition, a waste of your time and not worth making the effort.

To make first impressions powerful and positive, keep these tips in mind:

* Acknowledge the other person.

* Smile.

* Look the person in the eye.

* Extend your hand first to shake hands.

* Pump from the wrist, not the shoulder or the elbow.

* Make the handshake firm, not bone crushing. Don’t give a “limp fish shake.”

* Lean forward from the shoulder to put energy into your greeting.

* Introduce yourself by stating your first and last name and position.

* Whether you are the buyer or seller, always extend or accept a greeting–don’t wander into a booth, grab a brochure or sample and run out without making a connection.

* Make the encounter worthwhile–even for the few moments you are there. Ask questions. Attempt to learn something about the product, service or buyer’s needs.

* If the product is not of use to you or your company, thank the booth attendants and say goodbye without wasting their time. This shows respect for their business and their time. It will also leave a positive impression about you, because you never know when you may encounter them again.

* If you are the seller, qualify the lead by asking specific questions. Too many generalities waste time for both of you. Examples of good specific questions are, “Do you believe that our product would be helpful to you?” or “What prompted you to stop by our booth?” Remember, wasting someone else’s time is a huge etiquette faux pas.

* Ask how you can follow up with them if you intend to do that. Don’t ask, “May I have your card?” That is a demand for a gift, not a request for information. The reason we want someone’s business card is to have information for follow-up. If you make the demand for a card, you may embarrass them if they don’t have any to give. What you really are requesting is a way to follow up. Ask instead, “What is the best way to follow up with you?” or “Where may I send additional information?” This leaves a classier impression and respect for the other person.

* Understand the corporate culture. Is it informal? Does everyone use first names immediately? Or does it tend to be more formal? If so, don’t forget to use an honorific (Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.).

* If someone else is occupying your attention when new guests come into your booth, at a break in the conversation, make an introduction and tell them that you will be with them momentarily. This gesture demonstrates several positives. You are acknowledging their presence, and you are making it easy for them to meet someone new.

* People who employ good etiquette act as a resource for others. Know who else is exhibiting and where they are located in case your new prospect would like to know.

* You are either a host or a guest in all situations. If you are the exhibitor, the host role is yours. Everyone who comes to your booth is coming to your office-away-from-the-office. Treat them with the respect you would use if they had made an appointment to meet you in the office. If you are a buyer, you are the guest. As a guest, you have certain duties as well. They include, being present in the conversation; being polite with your questions; making requests, not demands; not wasting anyone’s time; and introducing yourself.

* Don’t be a complainer. Do you like to hear about someone’s aching feet or their hunger for lunch?

* Don’t sit down. A person sitting is unapproachable at a show. If buyers want to learn about your product, and you are waiting for them in a chair, chances are they will walk on by and feel put off.

* Don’t eat in the booth. If you are not in the position to share what you are eating with people who come into your booth, don’t eat in front of them. (Also, chewing gum is a huge faux pas!).

* Be careful not to talk about a function you attended or plan to attend unless everyone at the show has been invited. Nothing makes people feel more uneasy than hearing about not being invited to an event. Along these lines, never make an invitation to one person if anyone else not invited could possibly hear.

* If you said “hello,” you must say “goodbye.” Don’t disappear without closure of some sort.

* Shake hands to say “goodbye.”

* Turn off your cell phone, unless you are on a break. If you must be in contact at all times, invest in a vibrating pager or cell phone. If either does go off in the company of others, ask if you may put the caller on hold until you can excuse yourself to a quiet, private location to talk. Don’t carry on a conversation in front of anyone in your booth. That is a strong form of ignorance. It is the same as broadcasting your business on the front page of The Washington Post.

* If you don’t know what to talk about to break the ice, consider what things you have in common. First, you are at a tradeshow, so ask if it meets their expectations. You had to travel, so ask how their trip was. You probably heard the general session opening speech, so ask their opinions about it. Compliment the guests in your booth on a positive aspect of their company. This could be the number of years they have been in business, their recent merger, their standing on the Fortune 500 list or a recent “win” they had in securing a big contract. Nothing makes someone pay attention to you in a positive way than being complimented.

* No gossiping. When it is slow in the booth, many salespeople revert to gossip to pass the time. This will kill your professional image quickly–even with your colleagues who are also participating.

* Brush up on your grammar. Poorly spoken English causes others to regard you as uneducated. Even a college degree doesn’t count if you use the language improperly. Also remember, using swear words are taboo for a professional image. They also make others quite uncomfortable.

While this is a short list, the tips are important to cultivate proper behaviors at a trade show, or any business function.

Keep this in mind: Treat others with the respect, kindness and professionalism. If you do, you remain in good standing with your competition. You can really stand out if you master some of the suggestions.

Once you incorporate these behavior tips into your approach at a trade show, you will enjoy your relationship-building efforts and make each trade show a more effective use of your time and efforts and each business encounter more productive.

Cynthia Lett is director and CEO of The Lett Group, an international leader in etiquette and protocol training. The Lett Group teaches a seminar called Trade Show & Meetings Etiquette. To contact her, call +1 888 933 3883, or visit

Presenting at a trade show soon. Exhibit Deal can help with trade show display rentals or buy a wholesale trade show display.

Preparing for your next trade show

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Countdown to Success: Twelve Things to do Twelve Months in Advance

When a show�s a year away, it may seem like you have lots of time to get ready. Twelve months is not long, especially with all the pre-show planning…

By Susan Friedmann, 12/29/2005

When a show’s a year away, it may seem like you have lots of time to get ready. But appearances can be deceiving. Twelve months is not long, especially with all the pre-show planning, training, and preparation you�ve got to do. Here is a checklist of sixteen vital items that need to be done approximately one year before you set up your exhibit:

1. Identify Where The Show Fits In Your Marketing Strategy

Every show has a purpose. Do you want to introduce a new product to a new market? Increase existing services in an existing market? Increase your visibility in a new geographical region? Reinforce existing customer relationships? Knowing what you want to achieve at any given show is vital to your success.

2. Decide Which Products To Focus On

Your company may produce dozens, even hundreds of different products. Obviously, you can�t showcase all these items at a trade show. Attendees would be overwhelmed. Instead, with one eye on your marketing strategy, select those products that need to take center stage. Remember that 70% of people attending shows are looking for something NEW!

3. Identify Your Target Audience

Ideally, every show would be attended solely by consumers desperate to buy your products and services. However, things don�t always work that way. Determine who the decision makers are in your industry, and exhibit at the shows they attend. You want to spend your time talking with the people who have the power to make purchasing decisions.

4. Identify Your Exhibit Objectives

Clearly explain to your booth staff what goals you expect them to meet during the show. Make these goals quantifiable. Examples could be number of leads generated, target sales figures, gathering marketing intelligence or educating your target audience.

5. Write an Exhibiting Plan

Writing out an exhibiting plan not only clearly delineates what needs to be done before, during and after the show, what your exhibit team need to do, and a timetable. Include every step of the show in the written plan, leaving nothing out. Re-reading this plan will allow you to identify any items you�ve overlooked.

6. Establish an Exhibiting Budget

An exhibiting budget should include every item needed for show participation. Beyond registration and space rental fees, include charges for show services and transportation. Add in the cost of your exhibit design, signage, graphic, and display materials as well as advertising, promotion and special activities. And, finally, don�t forget your exhibit team�s travel, accommodation and meal expenses.

7. Reserve Your Booth Space

Prime real estate go fast! To get the booth space you want, remember to reserve early. Avoid �discounted� spaces in out of the way aisles or near the bathroom. The savings realized won�t balance out all the attendees who never get near your booth � or worse, who go by in a big hurry with other things on their mind!

8. Pay Deposits

Check in with the accounting department to make sure deposits are paid on time. This often-overlooked item can cause all kinds of headaches, not to mention high late-payment charges.

9. Ensure Booth Design Meets Objectives

There are no one-size-fits-all displays. Make sure your design meshes with your marketing plan, helping to support current objectives while maintaining your corporate image. Booth layout is vital. Make sure it contains all the needed elements, including a �quiet� place to talk with hot prospects.

10. Assess Your Current Exhibit

Give your current trade show exhibit a critical once-over. Does it still look sharp and engaging, or is it tired, faded, and worn? Signage and graphics sometimes travel around the globe several times in a year – and they don�t always look better for it. Check flooring material for wear and tear as well as your other displays.

11. Purchase New Items as Needed

Purchase new items as far in advance as possible. This way, if there are any mistakes, you�ll have time to make necessary corrections. Additionally, allowing yourself extra time gives you the room to negotiate for the best deals. As you replace worn items, make sure the old ones are disposed off � you wouldn�t want your booth staff setting up last year�s signage by mistake.

12. Order Show Services

Show services should be ordered in advance. These can include electricity, signage, audio/visual equipment, booth cleaning services, plants and flowers, telephone and computer hookups, waste removal, and furniture. You�ll be sure to get everything you need, and enjoy a substantial savings over those who wait for the last minute to order these items.

Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training. For a free copy of “10 Common Mistakes Exhibitors Make”, e-mail:; website: