Friday, October 15, 2010

The Postmortem

It really isn't as final as it sounds. But it is one of the final things you do after you return from a show.

You need to look back and assess the show so you have some lessons learned for future shows.

The basic elements of a postmortem to consider are:
  1. Call a meeting of key participants in the process: the marketing manager, the sales manager, the key tech guy, possibly your exhibit supplier.
  2. Make it a one-hour meeting.
  3. Plan on reporting performance (expenses versus plan, lead count, key events)
  4. Before the meeting (which should be within a week of the ending of the show; no more than two weeks), set an agenda and ask some key questions, including:
  • What worked?
  • What didn't?
  • Would you go again?
  • Did you meet any key customers?

Roll this up at the end of the meeting with action items (if any) for the participants.

Apply the lessons to the next show on the schedule or the next year's show.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Really now,.....

.....did you really think show attendees wouldn't notice your makeshift demo?

Anybody else seen a suitcase demo propped up on a chair before at a show?


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Starting the Postmortem Discussion

It starts at the show--usually during set up: the "what-worked-what didn't" list.

This list is comprised of the items that you need to improve or fix but also the things that did work. For example, on the NACS show we are in the midst of today, there are a number of fixes we had to make on show site, but there are long-term things, too. I have three categories of fixes:
  • Immediate
  • Must-have when we return
  • Nice-to-have when we return
Immediate are things like lights, broken or damaged things that can be fixed on site that impair demos or keep business from being conducted. A broken monitor, missing panel or damaged carpet.

Must haves are similar but can't be fixed on site, but need to be repaired for long-term use of the exhibit. Think a door that doesn't have to be used.

In the nice-to-have category are things like: can this counter be higher? do we need that structure? Customer interaction would improve if we had an enclosed conference room or storage needs to be added.

And don't just limit it to exhibit structural things. Consider strategic ideas as well as tactical considerations.

At any rate, start the list now and complete it by the end of the show. At your postmortem meeting, you'll have a talking paper.

What's that? What's a postmortem meeting? We'll talk about that in another post.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Attention to Detail

Are the lights the right color? Are the monitors paired correctly? Is that graphic hung right?

It is the devil--details are, that it. It's getting close to show time and it seems time and motion slow down while the clock is spinning. The first day of set up with the major structure going up went quickly. Now, all of the detail work, seems to slow things down. A few details to consider:
  • Graphics--are they mounted in the right locations and correct?
  • Carpet--seams straight? Cuts from previous shows hidden?
  • Booth structure--chips covered? Panel seams aligned?
  • Other parts--fabric steamed and without wrinkles?
  • Reception counter--stocked with pens, paper, staples, mints?
  • Staff support--do you know where the rest rooms are? Meeting spaces?
  • Other booths--competitor's, partner's booth locations relative to your location?
There are tons of other things to add to this list. Let's start with this today. More later.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

First Things First: Before the Set Starts

There are a number of things you can do when you first arrive at a set up. In fact, it can set the tone for the whole show.

When you first show up, a quick visit to the site and your space can put at ease and get you started.

I usually arrive mid- to late-afternoon the day before we are scheduled to start set up. Some of the things I do, if I have time are:
  • Confirm electrical order and/or placement
  • Make sure a hanging sign is in place or ready to be hung
  • Spot freight for easy installation or confirm freight is to be unloaded
  • If the service center is open, check n your orders
  • Check out the hall location with reference to the hotel and meeting rooms
  • Pick up or change badges
  • Say hello to the association staff and get an schedule changes

There are other things. But the fact you are there early gives you a slight edge to your start of work on Day 1.


Preparing the Staff Before a Show

We've been gearing up for this show for months now. Things are all in place for a successful show. Did I forget anything?

Does the staff know all they need to know?

This process actually starts long before we all arrive at the show. There are a series of things to do with the staff to make sure they all know what's going to happen leading up to and at the show. The tool I've used the past few years is a process that involves a package referred to as "show notes" and a series of meetings and communications (e-mail and phone). The centerpiece is a memo that, in PDF form, goes out to the team periodically prior to the show in 6-, 3- and 1-week intervals. This package includes:

  • Show hours, days and dates
  • Set up days and dates
  • A list of the team members attending and who's in charge
  • Date and time for booth staff meetings
  • A floorplan of both the hall and booth
  • A list of demos and in-booth activities
  • Expectations on lead gathering
  • Key customers who will attend
  • Instructions on what do do with media
  • Hotel confirmation numbers
  • Ground transportation options
  • Contact information for on-site team members

Anything else isn't left to the imagination: team members are encouraged to contact with questions (and they do). I am fortunate to have a crew who knows me and the drill, so our shows go off as planned (usually).


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Leaving Early from a Show

We've all done it (or at least thought about it): packing before show hours are over and being packed and gone as early as possible. Usually we consider this option because it's the last day of the show, things are slow and the aisles are empty.

You could be setting yourself up. Don't do it.

Case in point came from my friend, Joe. The other evening we were trading show stories and he recollected that one of his first experiences with a show was back when he was a teenager. Joe would go out on the road with his dad, a store fixture salesman, to set up, tear down and generally help out at local shows. On the last day of a show, dad left the hall early to get some packing stuff and get the car, leaving young Joe to man the booth. While Joe was holding down the fort, a buyer came by the booth. During the course of conversation, the woman bought a rather large, pricey fixture from Joe. It was one of the bigger sales of the whole show.

Another story comes from the old National Hardware Show in Chicago. This back when the big box retailers were just coming in and pushing out the smaller retailers (and changing the face of the industry in the process). This was a 4-day show that wound down (at glacial speed) on a Tuesday afternoon. Historically, many exhibitors would start tearing down before the end of the show. However, after one year when Home Depot made their baying walk on a Tuesday afternoon, that stopped. Those that were still in their booths and doing business, got to talk to HD. Needless to say, the early-departure practice ended.

The point is, if you leave early you may be leaving business (and money) on the table. Consider that you bought that space for all of the show hours and should squeeze every minute out of them.