Check out my latest event marketing newsletter! Get some rhetorical hacks for your next booth presentation, an insider San Francisco trade show serenity tip and a rundown of the latest engagement techniques. Would love to hear your thoughts!
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professional trade show presenter
San Francisco, CA- Professional trade show consultant Don Colliver conducted quantitative and qualitative exit interviews for Dremio at the 2019 Strata Data Conference in San Francisco, CA. Don immersed himself in the Dremio marketing landscape, then wrote and delivered iPad surveys and subjective interviews to learn prospect engagement needs and desires. The project culminated with a comprehensive 22-page report with recommendations to increase lead count, qualified conversations and demos.
Don acted as trade show consultant at Strata Data occurred from April 26th through 28th, 2019 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.
San Francisco, CA- It was 2017, and I was working at the Black Hat Conference at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. A charismatic sales engineer on a makeshift stage had a crowd spilling out of his booth and blocking the aisle. His prospects were transfixed- cheering on his command, eagerly leaning forward, ready to do anything he asked. No, he wasn’t doing a raffle, he was using the principles of rhetoric to persuade and mesmerize his audience. These classic principles can offer huge power to trade show professionals who wield them effectively. Below I’ll define rhetoric and give three tips on how to use it in your booth presentations to maximize your booth results.
Rhetoric on the Expo Floor
Aristotle defined Rhetoric as "the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion.” He defined the three means of persuasion as ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion) and logos (logic). Most trade show presentations rely too much on logic and can be far more effective by utilizing emotion and credibility/shared identity to persuade groups of prospects in their booths. The “group” aspect is critical. Whereas a sales deck may be presented to a single person, a trade show presentation will be presented to a group of 8-30 people, and groups behave much differently. Just ask Sigmund Freud, one of the first trade show consultants! According to Freud, when individuals are part of a group, they have a tendency to be infected by any emotion within the group, and then to actually amplify that emotion through what he called, “mutual induction.” So, if you can elicit a group emotion through your presentation, it will become self-sustaining and grow on its own accord.
Emotion can be powerful, unpredictable and not terribly bright. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt described a model of emotion as an elephant (our emotional side) and a rider (our rational side.) Chip and Dan Heath elaborate in their book “Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard”:
Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.
Admittedly, in the business-to-business space buying decisions are made with input from many stakeholders over time. However, each of those stakeholders is an emotional human being, and on the trade show floor we should utilize the most effective tools in our marketing arsenal. So, here are three tips to use in your presentation to speak to the emotional elephant, rather than the rational rider.
Identify with your Prospect
Most trade show presentations quickly attempt to establish credibility (Aristotle’s ethos) by overwhelming prospects with accomplishments and social proof in the form of testimonials and case studies. A more efficient and effective method can be to establish common ground and a shared identity. Strive to create an inclusive group which includes both your prospects and yourself. A quick way to do this in your presentation is by defining a common problem that “we’ve all faced,” opening the door to inside jokes and lamenting- only to be solved by your solution later, of course!
It helps here to passionately give voice to your prospects’ common sentiments, complaints and aspirations. The word “demagogue” generally holds a negative connotation, but it deserves a second look in the trade show setting. Google defines the word as one “who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.” Many trade show presentations are simply rephrased sales decks, loaded with highly technical demos and statistics. A quick stroll around the expo floor can show that it’s a tough place for careful, nuanced thought and evaluation. While hard features are important, establishing common ground with your prospect’s identity can also be very effective when used with restraint.
Limit the problem carefully
After successfully establishing credibility through shared identity, its time to frame the problem which your solution solves. Government wartime propaganda offers a useful example here. During times of conflict, news outlets consolidate multiple enemies into one, and portray complicated situations as black/white and good/evil. This is highly effective as a means to create group identity and motivate action, and this technique can also be used in the much lower stakes world of trade show presentations. Consider reverse engineering your problem to clearly point to your value proposition. In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” social psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes an overriding cognitive bias that humans share, abbreviated as WYSIATI, or “What You See Is All There Is.” Essentially, those problems which are most recent and easily accessible seem most important. Consolidating the problem can also further create a shared identity and increase receptivity to your solution. Save those complicated use-case specifics for one-on-one demos.
Connect to basic human needs
Finally, connect the dots from your feature, to your benefit, then all the way back to your prospects’ basic human needs and desires. Sure, your solution is easy to install, but what does that mean to your prospect in his day to day life? More time, saved money, or a longer lunch? Daniel Kahneman offers another tip here from his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow:” Humans have been shown to be primarily loss-averse. In other words, your prospects are more likely to act to avert a loss than to achieve a gain, so showing avoidance of bad outcomes is more effective than showing gains when pitching your solution.
Handle with Care
Using these three rhetorical techniques will have a measurable effect on your qualified booth conversations. Their power has been leveraged for centuries for both good and nefarious ends, so its important to use them with care. Keep in mind what good old Uncle Ben said to Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Aristotle himself also had something to say about that:
If it is urged that an abuse of the rhetorical faculty can work great mischief, the same charge can be brought against all good things (save virtue itself) such as strength, health, wealth, and military skill. Rightly employed, they work the greatest blessings.
Any use of persuasion techniques can cross the line into manipulation, and I’m fascinated by where we choose to draw that moral boundary. Please post your thoughts on this historically controversial issue!
Las Vegas, NV- Professional trade show emcee Don Colliver returned to once again host the exciting "SolveIT" Trivia Game Show for Trustwave at the 2019 RSA Conference in San Francisco, CA. Every hour, Don gathered crowds, energized the 15-minute games and prize giveaways, and then delivered packed and primed booth audiences to Trustwave presenters for their expert presentations.
RSA occurred from March 4th through 7th, 2018 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.
San Francisco, CA- Can you name some influential mentors in your life? Mentors have been essential in helping me move past my limits to achieve my goals as a trade show presenter, and they’ve inspired me to seek out ways to share my experience with others. I’m deeply grateful, and I hope this post inspires you to seek mentoring opportunities as well.
In general, a mentor provides a protege three things: support, wisdom and experience. Support consists of patient listening and unconditional encouragement. Wisdom can be seen as helping the protege solidify his or her own vision and values, as well as knowing when to offer and when not to offer advice. And finally, experience consists of imparting the knowledge gleaned from years in the business.
In my career as a professional trade show presenter, I’ve been blessed with many mentors, but I’d like to focus on three great guys. While each is spectacular in his own way, the overarching quality shared by each is generosity. When I reached out for advice, each responded with a “how can I be of service?” attitude, showing a true abundance rather than scarcity mentality: a great life lesson. While each of these great guys exemplifies all three mentor attributes, I’ll focus on one attribute for each. Three of my trade show presenter mentors are Brian Taylor, Steve Multer and Andy Saks.
Brian Robert Taylor at TaylorSpeak was my first introduction into the world of trade show presenting, and he exemplifies the true meaning of support. A deeply accomplished, professional and positive master of the craft, Brian led the ear prompter workshop that gave me the tools to begin my journey. He provided agency relationship suggestions, equipment tips, demo reel notes and unlimited check-ins, which I absolutely utilized (probably too much)! During those calls and meetings, Brian patiently listened to my early freak-outs, supported me unconditionally and gave me the unending encouragement to keep going. Plus, he’s an impeccable example of a pro on the expo floor. I would not be where I am today were it not for this guy. Thanks Brian!
Steve Multer at SKM Creative is the first business person I’ve ever met in any field that I would consider purely vision and values-based. He has generously shared his wisdom with me in the time we’ve known each other. Steve first introduced himself to me at my first Dell EMC World Expo, where he graciously complimented me by saying I was “in rarified air” as a presenter on that show floor. Not only was I included as one of the ‘crew,’ I was also ‘rare!’ That did more for me than he’ll ever know! Steve and his company offer turn-key solutions for events, and from the moment I met him, it was clear he placed customer service first. Steve has been incredibly insightful in helping me navigate the sticky and often gray-area marketing and contract quandaries that I’ve come across as an entrepreneur. Steve can always see through the fog to elegant, mutually beneficial solutions, and always encourages me to keep my values first and foremost. Thanks Steve!
I was actually very intimidated to first reach out to Andy Saks at Spark Presentations. His perfectly executed website and renown on the show floor preceded him. However, once we connected, Andy has been a profoundly helpful source of experience. If you can imagine pretty much any marketing tactic out there, Andy has already implemented it flawlessly. His contracts and fee structures are crystal clear, easy to understand and utterly professional. He just makes everything so easy: a great example of thinking from the customer’s point of view. Andy’s input has totally upped my game in terms of thinking of my trade show presentation services as a business. Thanks Andy!
So to summarize, these three fantastic gentlemen have each had a profound effect on my trade show presenting business through their support, wisdom and experience. I look up to each of them as mentors, and I’m inspired to mentor those less experienced than myself in the same generous, abundant spirit. I encourage you to consider where in your life you can offer support, wisdom and experience to those making their way along a path you’ve previously travelled. These guys have made a huge difference in my life, and I hope to get a chance to pay it forward once again. I’m eternally grateful. Thanks guys!
San Diego, CA- Professional trade show emcee Don Colliver hosted a fun and informative interactive video game show for hematologists for a major pharmaceutical company at the 2018 American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting and Expo in San Diego, CA.
From December 1st through 3rd, 2018, Don engaged with international physicians and pharmacists, walked them through an exciting video challenge, informed them about a new product and connected them with knowledgeable Account Executives. ASH 2018 was held at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, CA.
Don was booked through Skye Agency, a trade show staff agency.
Dallas, TX- Professional trade show presenter Don Colliver drew crowds of qualified prospects as presenter and emcee for Pure Storage at the Super Computing 2018 Trade Show in Dallas, TX. Don wrote and presented 6-minute presentations, gathered crowds, emceed for subject matter expert presenters, ran trivia contests and handled giveaways.
From November 12th through November 15th, 2018, Don presented at SC18 at the Kay Bailey Convention Center in Dallas, TX.
Denver, CO- Professional trade show booth emcee Don Colliver hosted an exciting interactive education video game show for healthcare professionals for a major pharmaceutical company at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine Scientific Congress and Expo in Denver, CO.
From October 7th through October 10th, 2018, Don engaged with international physicians, walked them through an exciting series of video challenges, and connected them with knowledgeable reps. ASRM 2018 was held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, CO.
Don was booked through Skye Agency, a trade show staff agency.