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trade show booth staff training
San Jose, CA- Evolving regulations and increasing investment have created a rapidly maturing Cannabis B2B trade show industry. I visited the Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in San Jose on July 23 and 24, 1019 to check out the state of booth engagement in this burgeoning industry. CBS is produced by the NCIA, the National Cannabis Industry Association, so advocacy and B2B commerce were heavily focused upon.
As this was my first cannabis trade show, I was surprised to find it to be primarily a heavy equipment manufacturing product show, with booths consumed by giant gleaming steel machines and elaborate corporate farming lighting systems. Although there were a few booths staffed by stereotypical overall-wearing farmer-types, many of the larger booths showed growing sophistication in the trade show engagement landscape.
In this edition of my ongoing series of post-show tactical analyses, I offer up a brief overview of some of the engagement techniques I observed at CBS 2019. I hope you can use this info to increase booth effectiveness while saving money and time wasted on unsuccessful tactics.
Giant gleaming high-tech agriculture machines dominated booths throughout the floor at CBS. Most of these booths seemed to have an engagement strategy of simply rolling out their giant machines and then letting prospects wander in and ‘kick the tires’ without assertive engagement. Reasons for this laid back approach included “long sales cycles,” “people who want us come and talk to us,” and “we’re just here for brand awareness.” I would highly recommend a re-evaluation of marketing budget in cases like these to judge ROI. If a trade show presence makes hard financial sense, then booth staff training for assertive engagement is critical to make it worthwhile.
Booth Promotional Models
Unfortunately, a few booths utilized skimpily-attired promo models to promote their brand at CBS 2019. Although this tactic undoubtedly works for a small subset of prospects, this somewhat cringey throwback evidences a still-maturing industry trade show environment. There is a clear disconnect between utilizing promo models and delivering use case-specific messaging to prospects. If this industry hopes to continue growing in legitimacy and sophistication, I hope it will redirect engagement budgets to more effective means like booth engagement training and professional presentations.
Social Media Portraits
A couple of CBS 2019 exhibitors provided professional portrait photographer services in exchange for leads. As one of the few truly useful giveaways on the floor, this tactic successfully lined up prospects at booths. Although not directly related to the solutions provided, as long as booth staff properly engaged and qualified prospects, sales will be in good shape on the back end.
As a relatively young industry in the process of gaining legitimacy and learning to take itself seriously, Cannabis B2B offers many growth opportunities for trade show marketing managers. A few recommendations:
I noticed fairly standard giveaways like can coozies and fidget spinners at CBS 2019. A clever marketing manager could easily create buzz by creating a industry specific branded giveaway. A small tool used in cannabis production that could be branded, perhaps?
Ongoing raffles of low-cost prizes are an easy way to create all-day traffic at a booth. However, traffic is only as good as the conversations generated by booth staff, so ensure that staff is prepared to engage and qualify the crowds.
Booth Theater Presentations
At a show like CBS with obvious experts manning the booths, why not have them add value for attendees by offering scheduled expert presentations in the booth? Just ensure that your experts are properly prepared to present in the distracting trade show environment. If a brand overview is relevant, consider a professional presenter, who will not only deliver your messaging in a compelling way, but will also pack your booth all day long.
Until next time, best of luck planning your next event marketing initiative. We’ll see you on the show floor!
Las Vegas, NV- The Dell Technologies World Conference was originally focused completely on storage, but these days this conference has broadened slightly to include many more aspects of the IT landscape.
On the show floor, booths are hard pressed to compare to the massive engagement expenditure put out by the conference itself. From caricature artists, to rescue dog petting stations, to a giant e-sports arena, its enough to make a Events Marketing Manager just give up.
And did I mention the non-stop food, coffee and booze? Its tough to even recognize the Sands Expo floor with this conference’s black ceiling and uplighting- dare I say… theatrical? Theatrical or not, in this edition of my ongoing series of post-show tactical analyses, I offer up a brief overview of the some of engagement techniques I observed at Dell Tech World 2019. I hope you can use this info to increase booth effectiveness while saving money and time wasted on unsuccessful tactics.
On the show floor at this show, booth space is dominated by hardware manufacturers. Here a rack, there a rack, everywhere a rack-rack… Most of these booths seemed to have an engagement strategy of simply rolling out their racks of technology then letting attendees wander in and ‘kick the tires’ without assertive engagement. I assume this is due to the long sales cycle for these products, making it more of a challenge to show exhibit ROI, so they’re going for the non-measured ‘brand awareness’ objective. In situations like these, I wonder if booth space is the best use of live event marketing money. Perhaps either some booth staff training, or spending more on logo presence throughout the show and foregoing the somewhat underused space may be a better spend.
Booth Theater Presentations
A few booths at this show utilized the crowd gatherer/presenter model of engagement to good effect. Attendees seemed willing to sit through a presentation in order to be eligible for a raffle at the end. Although the “qualified-prospect” to the “I-just-want-the-prize-attendee” ratio can be dubious in these situations, its better than an empty booth, and can certainly drive demos. The challenge could come on the backend, when marketing forwards sales hundreds of scans with no qualification notes. Possible solution? Quicker, flashier on-going presentations with no scan required including a hard call-to-action to the demo stations, where attendees are qualified, scanned and provided a use case-specific demo.
Spin to Win
I saw multiple versions of the classic ‘spin to win’ wheel engagement concept on the floor at Dell World, and each one had massive lives down the expo floor aisles. Each had chances to win products like game systems, high tech backpacks, bluetooth mice, speakers and headphones. All good, expensive stuff, so no wonder attendees were lining up. I like the honesty here- this tactic doesn’t even pretend to be connected to the booth messaging, which is fine (but not terribly creative)! It works, as long as booth staff is trained to engage and qualify everyone in the line so sales knows what they’re getting on the back end.
The somewhat standard booth engagement offerings at Dell Technologies World offer a big opportunity for exhibitors willing to take a chance on a game show or character concept next year. Also, booth staff training could help less engaging hardware-focused booths increase their show ROI.
Until next time, best of luck planning your next event marketing initiative. We’ll see you on the show floor!
Nashville, TN- AORN, or the Global Surgical Conference and Expo, calls itself the largest gathering of perioperative nurses in the world. Thousands of nurses converge upon this show eager to learn about the latest surgical technologies and products. From an engagement standpoint, AORN provides an interesting case study, as most of the attendees are not actual decision makers. In fact, these attendees have widely varied levels of influence on the decision makers, depending on the structure of their individual hospital systems, so its much more challenging to judge ROI on show expenditures. Additionally, healthcare shows in general play by the rules of the Sunshine Act. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires medical product manufacturers to report payments made to physicians and teaching hospitals. This means EVERYTHING, right down to ball point pens, and that usually means no giveaways whatsoever at physician-targeted shows. Even though this show was targeted at nurses, it still seems that most exhibitors shy away from any giveaways, and that presents an added barrier to engagement. In this edition of my ongoing series of post-show tactical analyses, I offer up a brief overview of the some of engagement techniques I observed at AORN 2019. I hope you can use this info to increase booth effectiveness while saving money and time wasted on unsuccessful tactics.
Healthcare Providers must obtain a certain number of continuing education credits, or CE credits, each year to maintain certification. Providers can obtain these credits by learning and being tested about new technologies. Offering CE Credits was the most popular and effective engagement technique on the show floor at AORN. CE Credits are a win-win: they offer a valuable service to prospects, and exhibitors have an opportunity to show their product, although it must be portrayed in a relatively unbiased, educationally-focused overview of options. AORN booths either exchanged educational quiz booklets or delivered presentations/quizzes to provide CE credits. From an engagement standpoint, it is essential to have a moderator who can push attendees to demo stations following the expert presentation, since the expert presenter will be delivering an “unbiased” educational talk.
As mentioned above, expert presentations were heavily utilized at AORN to provide educational overviews followed by a test opportunity for CE credit. Presenters at health care shows are primarily subject matter experts, along with professional moderators to crowd gather, facilitate Q/A and push attendees to reps and demo stations. Attendees generally find interesting presentations via the show program or app and visit the booth at the designated time, rather than just strolling the show floor to find something interesting. However, I saw some booths successfully utilize crowd gathering techniques for less-attended presentations. As the presenters are generally expected to maintain an unbiased perspective, its critical to have a moderator to add the booth call-to-action, whether it be a demo, a rep conversation, or simply a badge scan. I saw many booths miss this critical engagement opportunity.
Other Engagement Tactics
A few booths utilized some of the more common engagement tactics from across the industry spectrum. I observed a money machine cash cube, a few end-of-day raffles and plenty of pen and grocery bag giveaways (the Sunshine Act didn’t apply at this show). While these were nice starting points, most booth staff at AORN were simply not trained to properly leverage these tactics, so the tactics were left dormant much of the time. Healthcare booths are generally staffed by medical company sales reps with specific territories, so assertive general attendee engagement has historically been less than stellar (unless reps recognize attendees from their territory!) No matter how great a booth engagement tactic may be, if booth staff doesn’t assertively engage with all attendees, its worthless.
The nurses on the floor at AORN were legitimately interested in learning about exhibitor’s new technology. However, due to the laissez faire engagement stance of most exhibitor booth staff, many booths were left empty. This presents a unique opportunity for exhibitors willing to use more straightforward engagement tactics. Whatever your booth attract, be sure to spend time training your booth staff and consider a professional moderator to ensure maximum attendee engagement. Otherwise, you’re wasting money.
Until next time, best of luck planning your next event marketing initiative. We’ll see you on the show floor!
San Francisco, CA- Strata Data! Its all about the Big Data here, folks. Whether you’re targeting data scientists, data architects or data engineers, they’re going to be interested in data manipulation demos at Strata. This conference is a perfect example of how the best engagement tactics are completely dependent upon the target demographic. I spent this show conducting exit interviews for a client and learned that these data folks are interested in 1 thing: demo’s. Oh, and maybe stickers as well. In this edition of my ongoing series of post-show tactical analyses I offer up a brief overview of the some of engagement techniques I observed at Strata Data 2019. I hope you can use this info to increase your booth effectiveness while saving the money and time wasted on unsuccessful tactics.
Conference organizers placed 2 Skee-Ball games at the entrance to the expo hall at Strata. These were empty most of the show, and this carnival game trend may be fading away for now (till next time, that is). However, they were part of a relaxation area with seats, desk space and phone charging, which saw quite a bit of use. Attendee seating and phone charging amenities can gain traffic, however prospects won’t necessarily be willing to have a conversation. Passive messaging like looping demo videos work well in this setup.
Professional Headshot Station
Conference organizers provided a professional headshot station for attendees smack dab in the middle of the expo floor. Lines down the aisle were pretty much non-stop throughout the show. Here’s an engagement tactic that truly offers a valuable, usable takeaway for prospects- I would’ve lined up as well if I had the time! A headshot station offers a huge opportunity for direct prospect engagement as long as booth staff has been properly trained to elicit conversations rather than simply scanning badges.
Live T-Shirt Screenprinting
Following the headshot station, the next biggest draw at Strata Data was the live T-shirt screenprinting station, also sponsored by conference organizers. I must admit, I am bewildered by the popularity of this tactic (aren’t they making the same shirts that most other booths are giving away?), but I can’t argue with the lines of prospects that this tactic creates. Also, having booth staff inquire prospects about which design they prefer provides a great opening for a qualifying conversation.
Product Demo plus Trivia Game
This concept was the closest thing I saw to an engagement home run at Strata Data. The data scientists I spoke with had no patience for silly sales pitches and wanted efficient and knowledgable product demos. However, if the knowledgable product demo was combined with a fun, content-appropriate trivia challenge where they could show off their own knowledge, they were hooked. Demo staff had to be not only charismatic, but also highly knowledgable and able to respond to prospect curveballs. Consider bringing on a professional presenter only if you have time to thoroughly train the presenter on the product. This demographic will not suffer fools gladly!
The data scientists, data architects and data engineers at Strata Data were interested primarily in learning through demos on the expo floor. However, the headshot and screenprinting stations were popular draws as well. Whatever your target demographic, be sure to spend some time investigating your prospects’ engagement preferences while planning your booth engagement tactics, or hire an engagement consultant like myself. Bottom line, every prospect wants a knowledgable conversation about a solution to their company’s problem. The question is: how do most efficiently start that conversation with your target prospect?
San Francisco, CA- RSA! They call it “the world’s leading information security event,” and I tend to believe them. The packed North and South Halls of Moscone Center are pretty overwhelming! In this edition of my ongoing series of post-show tactical analyses I offer up a brief overview of the new and old engagement techniques I observed at RSA 2019. I observed these tactics at multiple times of day, during both busy and heavy traffic times. Of course, best booth tactics always depend on marketing objectives, but here, I focus on a blend of volume of qualified conversations with total badge scans. With this info, I hope you can increase your booth effectiveness while saving the money and time wasted on unsuccessful tactics.
I saw quite a few booths utilizing rented and custom skinned classic carnival games like Skee-Ball, Whack-a-Mole and Giant Operation. While seemingly a fun idea, I noticed very few lines forming, and if attendees did participate, they were generally alone and would quickly move on without engaging in a conversation. Games like this seem to work better when hosted by the conference itself in a common area as a way to blow off steam, rather than in a booth for generating brand awareness and conversation. At the very least, the game should be augmented with a charismatic staffer trained to encourage the prospect to share their specific business problems.
Retro was very “in” at RSA, probably due to the Stranger Things 80’s phenomena, and the perfect alignment with the childhood demographics of many Infosec attendees. Many booths had versions of video game classics in both large, multi-player and standard single-player versions. Again, a fun idea (I love video games!), but they seemed to not attract the crowds for which they were designed. Perhaps prospects don’t want to lose or look silly in front of a crowd? Again, the game needs to be augmented with a charismatic staffer to make the messaging connection and encourage the prospect to share their specific business problems.
Celebrity author signings were indisputably the biggest crowd draw I saw at RSA 2019. Lines stretched around booths, down aisles and then around yet more booths. These successful tactics offered a huge opportunity for direct prospect engagement as long as booth staff had been properly trained to elicit conversations rather than simply scanning badges. Utilizing pre-show outreach and conference sponsor publicity options are a requirement here, as relying solely on booth signage to draw attendees is a risky proposition for a relatively brief signing event.
The Charismatic Sales Engineer/ Moderator
Ah yes, the sweet spot! The holy grail of booth engagement! The epitome of qualified lead gathering! I saw a few of these rare animals on the RSA floor: highly knowledgeable, funny and engaging. These folks would gather a crowd, provide valuable, take-away information that wasn’t a sales pitch, and then truly engage the group in a back and forth discussion of the various attendees’ real business problems. Consider adding a professional moderator to gather and energize the crowd and encourage conversations with multiple SE’s on mic for a booth busting conversation. This is how its done, folks!
RSA provided a great overview of the current state of tech trade show engagement. While there were plenty of nostalgia-driven trends, the best option I saw for engaging prospects in qualifying conversations was a highly knowledgeable contractor or Sales Technician who could lead a group conversation, rather than a presentation. This allowed solutions to be presented specifically to prospect titles and problems.
Los Angeles, CA- Whether you know it or not, you've been captivated by what's known as the "Hero's Journey" for as long as you've been captivated by stories. Joseph Campbell codified this common template of tales that have engaged humans for as long as we've been around on earth. In its simplest form: a hero leaves home, goes on a journey, faces a decisive crisis, then comes home transformed with the 'elixir.' Think: Star Wars, Forrest Gump, The Lion King, The Matrix... But you can leverage this eternal model of engagement right in your trade show booth, by taking your prospects on your own "Hero's Journey." Here are three tips to help:
1. Create your Prospect's "Journey"
Cognitive Psychologist Jerome Bruner said that humans are 22 times more likely to remember a fact that's been wrapped in a story. Your trade show booth can utilize this fact by wrapping your messaging in a physical journey through incremental stations, qualifying questions and give-aways. I was lucky enough to attend a presentation from the Live Marketing creative agency describing their collaboration with tech company CenturyLink. Their booth utilized the "Hero's Journey" model to acheive award-winning results, taking prospects through a literal tunnel and deeper into CenturyLink's marketing messaging.
Can you break down your prospect's journey into 3 or 4 info-rich stations?
2. Challenge your Prospect
Each station on the journey provides an opportunity to illustrate your prospect's pain points, and gives them an opportunity to engage. By involving your prospect in the story, they relate emotionally, releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has been proven to make associated information easier to remember and with greater accuracy. A professional Trade Show emcee can guarantee that your booth challenges effectively anchor your messaging.
What messaging-related booth challenges can you create for your prospect to overcome?
3. Provide your Prospect the 'Elixir'
Of course, your product or service serves to help your prospect ultimately overcome their pain points. Finally, your prospect-hero can return home to headquarters, enlightened and ready to move deeper into your sales funnel. It's important to remember, your product or service is not the hero. Your prospect is the hero, and you are simply providing them with the tool to overcome their problems.
How can you frame your trade show prospect as 'hero,' not 'lead?'
By engaging the "Hero's Journey" in your trade show booth messaging, you can tap into your prospect's eternal fascination with this ancient model of storytelling. By creating a prospect journey, challenging them along the way, and providing them with your product or service as the solution, you may be surprised to find yourself a hero in your own marketing department.
Las Vegas, NV- Earlier this year I headed out to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to teach at the annual ExhibitorLive Conference for Trade Show and Corporate Event Marketing. Enthused Marketing Managers signed up for my Cirque to Work Booth Staff Engagement Workshop, which gave them exercises they could take back to their offices to train their own booth staff for better engagement and ROI.
While I was there on the expo floor, Highway 85 Creative, a booth design and construction company, was kind enough to interview me for their Creative Spaces podcast. Check out our interview here:
Las Vegas, NV- Clowning around at Exhibitor Live in Vegas! Such fun leading my trade show booth staff training workshop for Marketing Managers and Event Professionals at Exhibitor Live at Mandalay Bay on March 1st, 2018. Train your staff to surpass your marketing goals utilizing innovative clown techniques! Contact us for more information.
Los Angeles, CA- Professional trade show booth presenter and engagement consultant Don Colliver facilitated his "Cirque to Work" training workshop at NBC/Universal in Los Angeles on November 2nd, 2018.
Members from the employee group Unidos participated in group and solo activities, learning about next level engagementand and the value of vulnerability in corporate communication.
Los Angeles, CA- Professional trade show booth presenter and engagement consultant Don Colliver facilitated his "Cirque to Work" training workshop at the Century City Toastmasters Club in Los Angeles on August 30th, 2017.
Members of Century City Toastmasters participated in group and solo activities, learning about next level engagement and and the value of vulnerability for more effective group communication.
Los Angeles, CA- Professional trade show booth presenter and engagement consultant Don Colliver facilitated his "Cirque to Work" training workshop at the Toastmasters Leadership Institute in Los Angeles on July 15th, 2017.
Executive Leadership from throughout Toastmasters' District One participated in group and solo activities, learning about next level engagement and and the value of vulnerability for more effective group communication.