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Show time!

March 10, 2015  By Rich Porayko

The right approach makes  shows worthwhile.

I get a buzz from tradeshows. The smell of the carpet. The logoed shirts. The bloodshot eyes. The chatter. Industry event season is fast approaching. What’s your plan: exhibit, attend, sponsor or all or none of the above?

If you do your homework and, more importantly, your follow-ups, trade shows can be highly effective tools for lead generation and building brand awareness. All too often they are not taken seriously. Companies go with little or no preparation and simply use them as an excuse to expense a trip. Sure, fancy dinners can be a perk of working the conference circuit depending on where you sit in the customer/supplier food chain, but the keyword is work. People call me the Booth Nazi. I take it as a compliment. Companies spend a fortune to exhibit at a tradeshow and everything is lost if the execution is dropped. If you exhibit, train your people and hold them accountable. It’s not that complicated. Show up early. Leave late. Look the part. Keep the booth clean and tidy. Don’t eat or drink. Don’t talk on your phone. Know where you should be. Greet visitors, make them feel welcome but don’t crowd them. Attend as many seminars and presentations as possible. Write a one-pager on the plane home about what you saw and heard. In short, be a professional and take it seriously.

The decline in attendance at shows is just apathy, and it drives me insane. Being involved with regional, national and international associations, I have noticed a recurring theme when trying to get contractors interested in attending meetings and conferences. When times are busy, we hear “We’re too busy and don’t have the resources to send anyone.” When things are slow, we hear, “We’re too slow, we can’t spend the money.” These responses are echoed over and over across the country. And it’s a cop-out. So much for professional development. The attendees you see at all the shows and conferences are the same forward-minded companies and individuals that are attracting new customers, opening new markets and growing their businesses. The “A” players. If you want to be an A player, you have to act like an A player.


Develop a strategy. Who, what, when and how much. Exhibiting is an investment, so it is important to know your audience. For a regional meeting, small tabletop displays are more than appropriate. For a national or international show, however, many tradeshow veterans believe if you go with anything less than a 20-by-10-foot booth, you shouldn’t
bother going at all. If it is available, go endcap or, even better, island, however this is when things start getting real – real expensive. Depending on the show and the venue, for a
200-square-foot booth it’s easy to spend $40,000 on a single event,so it’s important to make sure you maximize your investment. Promote your participation before, during and after the event. The actual trade fair is only one piece of the puzzle.

Bring on the razzle dazzle. This is not the time to be shy. Offshore exhibitors pretty much exemplify what not to do at a show. They eat, they drink, they sit down. It boggles my mind that a company would spend time, money and resources to send someone overseas to a show where they can’t even have a conversation with their target market. If you exhibit overseas, use this a lesson in what not to do. Learn about the local culture. Get a professional translator. Have your literature translated by a reputable company – I recommend Montreal-based Lionbridge.

There are many ways to skin the trade show cat and companies can absolutely do it easier and cheaper, however these are the same companies that are often disappointed with their results.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffet

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