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trade show consultant

State of Engagement: Dell Technologies World 2019

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State of Engagement: Dell Technologies World 2019

Dell tech world logo trade show consulting

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.

caricature artist

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.

sweets on the floor

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.


Hardware

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.

Rating: D


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.

Rating: B


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.

Rating: B-



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!

trade show presenter at dell

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State of Engagement: AORN 2019

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State of Engagement: AORN 2019

AORN logo

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.


AORN trade show consultant

CE Credits

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.

Rating: A


Presentations

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.

Rating: C


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.

Rating: D



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!

don colliver trade show moderator

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Supercharging Prospect Engagement with Exit Interviews at Strata Data 2019

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Supercharging Prospect Engagement with Exit Interviews at Strata Data 2019

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.

Dremio crew at Strata Data
Strata Data logo

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Maximize Booth Preso Results with these Rhetorical Hacks

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Maximize Booth Preso Results with these Rhetorical Hacks

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.

Sigmund Freud, trade show consultant

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

Uncle Sam, trade show consultant

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

spidemank trade show consultant

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!

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State of Engagement: Strata Data 2019

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State of Engagement: Strata Data 2019

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.


trade show engagement game skee ball

Carnival Games

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.

Rating: D


Professional Headshot Station

headshot station trade show engagement

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.

Rating: B


Live T-Shirt Screenprinting

live screenprinting booth engagement

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.

Rating: B


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!

Rating: A



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?

Until next time, best of luck planning your next event marketing initiative. We’ll see you on the show floor!

Don Colliver trade show consultant

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