4 good reasons to walk on (and 3 to stop)

How many displays, banners and slogans did you really see last time you visited a trade fair? How many times did you stop? When did you speed up the pass? Most likely, this is what triggered it:

  • Puzzles: A display is more than a blow-up of a catalogue page. All information too complex or detailed gets lost anyway, so the best idea is to keep things simple: one strong picture and a handful of catchwords should do the job. Just. Be. Concise.

  • Formulas: Even if your target audience can write down the chemical formula for styrene maleic anhydride without the slightest hesitation, it is not a good idea to fill all the walls of your booth with this kind of chemistry. As professional as they may be, the visitors in the aisles have a day out too. Entertain them!

  • Langwich erors: Native speakers get easily irritated when they perceive language errors. They may interpret it as a lack of professionalism or even a lack of respect. Errors in print – flyers, brochures or the slogan at the booth - make the company less trustworthy. Do not rely on Google Translate.

  • Almost-but-not-quite: Presentation concepts that are not elaborated in every single detail usually miss their target. Walkers-by do not ‘feel’ anything, their attention is not triggered and they do not get the message.

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And this will probably make you stop at a booth:

  • People:  Pictures of people work really well on visuals, as they trigger a number of positive associations such as reliability, proximity and enthusiasm. Go one step further and turn your own employees or customers into models. Have the pictures made by a professional photographer.

  • Surprise: As they walk the aisles, visitors unconsciously filter away a great number of visual stimuli, - unless these stimuli surprise them in one way or another. Unexpected images have a huge stopping power and hold the attention of the visitor long enough to by-pass  the automatic filters.

  • Recognizability: Pictures of actual circumstances and contexts that are easy to recognize, give a convincing answer to the question “What’s in it for me?” They add to the imago of a company that knows its clients and their businesses.

April 24, 2018

Reduce environmental impact

The exhibition industry is increasingly aware of its environmental impact and develops considerable efforts to make its business greener. As an exhibitor, you too can take a few measures to take part in a more sustainable way.

There was a time ‘build & tear’ booths were common practice: the entire construction was used only once and after the show most of it ended up in a waste container on the exhibition ground.  As the cost of waste increased, re-use of booths and its elements became the new standard. Entire booths are designed and constructed in a modular way, so they can serve for several trade shows or have a second life in the company premises. The use of materials has changed too ; often, traditional woodwork is combined with – or completely replaced by – lightweight aluminum building systems that can be used time and again. Discuss the available options with your booth designer before he starts drawing.

So, is this where your sustainability ambitions should stop? Not really! There are plenty of rental companies that can help you dress up the booth with stuff that will be used again and again: flooring and carpets, furniture and plants, lighting and audiovisual equipment. Try to source them locally from trusted suppliers instead of flying them in over long distances.

 

Up next is information: in an ideal world, a booth much like a modern office would be completely paperless. However, at a trade show having some print material in the booth usually comes in handy: it is a great accessory to help you manage visitors in the booth and a little ice-breaker for those who are reluctant to interact or to enter. That said, sending information digitally after the show – instead of distributing sturdy hard-copy catalogues on the spot – is by far the most environmentally friendly option.

 

You may have noticed that at many venues the catering offer is changing rapidly. And this too is inspired by sustainability considerations. Instead of ‘fancy’ food ingredients imported from far away fields, caterers now switch to local and seasonal products.  Probably a great idea ; after all, visitors do not come to a trade show to have an exquisite dining experience at your booth.

April 17, 2018

Prepare follow-up of contacts

These numbers are horrifying: over two thirds of the contacts that are established at the booth are not or poorly followed up. Exhibitors suppose that the brochure they handed to a visitor at the stand will do its work: remind that visitor that this company is potentially interesting and might have a solution. This is seldom the case.

 

Over 75 per cent of hard copy information that is handed out at the booth, does not reach its final destination, the desk of the decision maker. Brochures get lost at other booths, in the catering area, on the train or in the children’s playroom.

 

In order to make a good impression – who doesn’t want that? – it is essential that you take the lead and make the first moves in following up on a trade show contact. This starts immediately after the show, or even at the end of each show day. Send a short message to thank the new contact for his visit and his interest. Indicate what the next steps will be. ‘In two weeks, you will receive our quotation.’ ‘Our engineer, mister X. will call you next week to make an appointment.’ …  Every timing that has been agreed upon at the booth, is a good timing.

 

In order to be fast and correct in your follow-up, two measures ahead of the show are essential: 1) make templates of the messages you want to send out immediately after the show, including all necessary variables, in the languages you will need, and 2) make sure that all the information you exchange with a visitor at the booth, is adequately recorded. You can either opt for a fully digital system with an electronic badge reader or for the ‘old skool’ paper version of a contact form. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. But both work well to prevent you from making disturbing errors in the follow-up, like choosing the wrong language, mistaking the gender of your counterpart or sending information your potential client did not ask for.

March 27, 2018

Control your body language

In written and oral communication there is a lot of room for nuance. When talking to someone, you speak faster or slower, stress some words, change the pitch of your voice or add gestures. In writing, you can carefully select the most adequate words, but additional content between brackets or hyphens – just try it later today – or refer to background information with footnotes.

At the booth, there is a considerable amount of verbal communication: the slogan on the wall, the texts on the displays and in the brochure, the conversation between booth staff and visitors, the voice-over and the subtitles on the video… Non-verbal communication does its part of the job too: illustrations on the displays, the larger than life visual that catches the attention of walkers-by, booth lighting, the color scheme and the team’s corporate outfit… It all helps to get the message across. And yet…

 

In transferring information from a sender to a receiver, the non-verbal channel is much more active than the verbal one: most of what the visitor perceives and remembers, is transferred through non-verbal communication. Subtle signals that suggest boredom or fatigue, a glance that is interpreted as untrustworthy, the smell of the curry you ate earlier that day, the sweat that is beading from your forehead, moist hands...

 

Much of the non-verbal communication at the booth is beyond our control. It is caused by the unnatural circumstances we are in and the assignment that some booth staff deal with much more easily than others: talking to complete strangers. Counterproductive body language surges when we are not fully focused on meeting people: quickly checking our e-mails on the laptop or messages on the smartphone, browsing to a magazine or the show catalogue, chatting with other team members.. Visitors see this as signs of disinterest.

 

There are a few things you can do to maximize your effectiveness. First off, make sure you feel comfortable: wear comfortable shoes and a comfortable outfit. Bear the goal of this event in your mind and move to the outer edge of the booth. Smile at people and say hello. Do they stop or slow down? This is the moment for your next move: ask a strong opening question. And smile! Listen to the answer and use this content to ask your second question. And smile! Is the conversation getting in second gear. Invite the visitor over to the center of the booth. Give him the time and the room to tell his story. And continue asking questions.

March 20, 2018

Set clear participation targets

“I want it all!” Maybe your remember this hit by Queen. Great song, - but the principle does not work at a trade show. Most likely, if you want it all, you will end up with nothing, - or with very little. There are hundreds of (good) reasons to take part in a trade show. But that does not imply that they all work well for your particular case.

When defining participation aims, you have to make tough choices and define priorities. These are the questions that help you outline your participation aims: do we want to meet existing customers or do we want to establish new contacts? Do we want to increase our share in existing markets or explore new ones? Do we want to sell directly or through other players in the value chain? With existing products and services or with new solutions yet to be developed?

 

Especially at busy international trade shows the question “What do we want to achieve?” needs a clear answer ahead of the show. Often this boils down to a geographic demarcation and the choice for a specific distribution system. Add to that a time-frame: most of the time, the contact at the booth is only one in a series of contact opportunities that finally lead – often after a considerable amount of time – to a contract.

 

Participation aims ought to be SMART:

  • Specific: There needs to be a direct link between the contact at the booth and the contract / business transaction it ultimately leads to;

  • Measurable: Measurability can be both direct or indirect, precise or an approximation. But it always allows to evaluate in an objective way;

  • Attractive: Aims are supposed to motivate the booth team. Translate collective goals into ambitious individual targets for every single team member.

  • Realistic: Picture the donkey and the carrot. Booth staff need to have the feeling that they are ‘nearly there’ at any given moment during the show.

  • Time-based: It takes time to convert a contact into a contract. Measure results immediately after the show and 6 months or 1 year later.

 

As not every team member has the same talents and capacities, it is wise to translate collective goals into individual tasks and targets, adapted to specific competences of team members.

 

Meet with the team well before the start of the show to discuss collective and individual targets. Take some time at the end of the first day or the next morning to organize a short crunch meeting and let team members share their experiences and observations.

March 13, 2018

Organize your own market intelligence

How well do you know what customers and users of your products think? And how well do you know what ex-customers and non-users think? Your booth at the trade show is the ideal place to get an adequate picture of what is happening in the market and to understand which developments will impact your business today and tomorrow.

Trade shows – especially trade shows with a high national or international relevance – have a high agenda-setting power for the industry they are serving. The simultaneous presence of manufacturers and buyers, developers and users, importers and exporters, prescribers, experts and media representatives creates a highly dynamic environment: manufacturers present their novelties, experts discuss developments and their impact on the business, users share their experiences with peers.

 

Your trade show booth is the perfect base for several types of market research: do you wonder whether the new product features will please (potential) users? Let them try them out and look how they react. Curious about new technologies that are on the edge of breaking through? Talk with experts and trend watchers and they will tell you. As an exhibitor, you are even entitled to inform about the future investments of the visitor who is in front of you.

 

In order to optimize the harvest of information – i.e. transforming market research into market intelligence – the entire booth team needs to be aware that market research is one of the participation aims. Ahead of the show, discuss the key questions and how they can be integrated in a conversation scenario at the booth. Additionally, select the more experienced team members to focus on this part of the mission.

 

You may want to talk with your booth designer too. Some types of market research require a slightly secluded, quieter area to interact with the visitor.

March 06, 2018

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"If it happened at a trade show and I was there, you will read it here."

Christophe Landuyt

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