Monday, February 25, 2008

Walking a show in one day--HAI

It's a proven formula: targeting and evaluating/prospecting a show in one long day. The latest example is the Heli-Expo Show in Houston.

This annual show moves between cities (including Dallas, Houston and several others). It takes up most of a multi-hall convention center, so Houston's George Brown and the Dallas Convention Center fill up nicely. The hall is laid out clearly and fairly with the major anchor exhibitors (Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter and Sikorsky) evenly spaced at the right, left and center of the hall, with smaller exhibitors evenly patched in between them all. In other words, just because you bought a 10x10 in-line booth doesn't mean you are relegated to the back and far corners of the hall.

So, the strategy was to see the show in one day: catch a flight first thing in the morning from Love Field to Hobby, take a cab to the hall, get a badge, walk the floor, and do the reverse at the end of the day. It took from 7am to 9pm, gave us an understanding of our client's place in and use of the show and of the show itself (exhibit designs, locations, tone and character) and all cost less than $200. Hey, one could even pick up a few new business leads along the way for a reasonable cost-per-lead.

The highlight of the show was Sikorsky's exhibit: large scrims above the booth showed projected video, the carpet held all of the partners and subdivisions of the parent company, and a stage showed repeated dramatic videos hosted by professional talent. Eurocopter served champagne at the introduction of a new model. Promotions in booths included a maintenance company with a campaign centered around the theme of "think of it as Sky-agra." Some have no shame--but are memorable.

Further evaluation to follow tomorrow.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Closing out AWMA

Closing a show can be tough--but it can be fun and relatively painless, too. The Rule of Thumb that it takes half the time to tear down that it took to set it up really does work. If we hadn't to have waited for crates we would have been finished in 3 hours (it took 6 hours to set the booth).

Things to remember on the down:

1. Call the driver before he or she gets to the hall to pick up your shipment.
2. When filling out the Bill of Lading (BOL) be sure to be literal--stick labels as you pack and count (and count again) as you fill out the bill. Be sure to note if the shipment is prepaid and, if it gets forced (your driver doesn't show up before it has to be moved off the show floor), whether you want it held or shipped by the general contractor on their carrier.
3. Fill out and sign the I&D time card with the lead. If you use general contractor labor, be sure and walk the lead to the desk to close out.
4. Don't forget to turn in your lead machine.

Oh, that was 4, not 3. I thought I thought in 3s?

A good show with some solid leads for the client.


Friday, February 22, 2008

From the show floor at AWMA

This report comes to you from the show floor of th AWMA show in the Vegas Hilton. I'm writing this from the "internet cafe" provided by US Smokeless Tobacco, a major exhibitor at the show. A common practice, it is a nice perk for show attendees.

Today will be consumed with finishing the show, collecting and shipping out leads, managing shipments and closing out bills. More details to come.

On the redeye tomorrow morning to save hotel and other expenses for the client.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Choosing space, Part II

Here's an additional note on choosing space: today the organizer called us in to choose our space for next year's show. Our time to meet the sales person was set on our seniority in the show (a combination of how many years we had consecutively exhibited at the show, sizes we had purchased, position on the board, how much advertising space we had purchased in the association magazines). At the meeting, we were shown a floor plan with the spaces that already been sold in front of us marked out. We reviewed the plan and chose a space that maximized our place on the floor, took into consideration where we were in relation to competitors and partners and the size we could afford. We'll get an invoice and pay 50% within 90 days.

This is a civilized way of choosing space. Some organizers put all of the exhibitors in the same room at the same time and call you in order, ala the NBA Draft. You wait your turn and watch as the prime spaces are picked off by the highest seniority exhibitors.

I have no preference as to how to choose, but you need to be prepared with your choices in order and with your plan of where you want to be.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Set up continues at AWMA

The booth went up today. The usual stuff happened: the crew showed up on time, the electricians took a too-long lunch, it was a mystery finding all of the graphics. But in the end, it all came together and looked really good. And like the photos and initial designs.

Tip #1: make sure you have all of the photos, drawings, crate lists and guides you can have in advance. It takes you less time when you are prepared. This seems like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do this.

Tip #2: make sure you understand the labor rules. They vary from city to city and hall to hall. For example, here in Vegas, monitors, lights, and anything electrical can't be run by you or your I&D (carpenter) labor. So, when my electricians decided to take a long lunch, it left me waiting for the monitors to be hung and cables routed. The rest of the booth was set and crates sent away, while I sat with a pile of cables and monitors.

Tip #3: work with guys on the floor. Our day went quickly and incident free because the lead I&D guy worked with the millwrights running the forklifts. We had a "freight-free" aisle in front of our booth and we couldn't unload our crates in front of the booth. It was a really cool assembly line of moving-unpacking-and-hauling-away. Make friends and see things work smoothly.


From the AWMA Show, Las Vegas

"The Real Deal Expo" is a buying show aimed at putting distributors, retailers, brokers and suppliers together. AWMA (American Wholesale Manufacturer's Association) hosted this expo and conference annually in rotating cities.

With a show floor comprised of over 180 exhibitors selling candy, tobacco, health and beauty aids, general merchandise, technology and equipment, the main target appears to be convenience operators. Booth sizes range from 10x10 (the largest proportion) to 20x40 with a few 30x30s and 20x20s scattered in the mix. The largest exhibitors include Hershey, Cadbury Adams, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco, Altadis and Commonwealth Brands. Several technology companies are also included in the mix, including our client, Retalix, a provider of point-of-sale products and back office systems. Retalix has a 10x20 exhibit at this show.

Freeman is the general contractor and the event is being held in the largest ballroom/exhibit hall at the Las Vegas Hilton.

From the show guide and the organized activity going on pre-show, this appears to be a well-run and managed show. The show floor is sold out and has a waiting list for new exhibitors. Selling is done on the floor and prize giveaways are encouraged. Security from the hotel is good and freight moves well. Electrical service is well staffed and seems to be running on time for installation.

Today is the second set up day and the show opens tomorrow. Details on attendance and floor activity in a later report.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On-site in Vegas

The more you visit Vegas, the more you don't recognize it. The Hilton has been remodeled and new towers added. The car rental process at the airport has been streamlined so you only catch one bus. Off to the hall soon to see how the AWMA show is shaping up.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Off to a show

I'm leaving tomorrow for the AWMA show in Las Vegas. I'll report on what I see and hear. I'll also report (and have an opinion) on what I think works and doesn't in the way of staffing, design, location, show management and all Things Show.

More tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Selecting shows

The top three reasons for attending shows:

  1. We’ve always gone.
  2. It’s the top show in our market.
  3. It’s the best place for us to reach our customers.

Why you go to a show is paramount. You need to have a valid reason (or reasons) and set objectives (measureable ones) before you go.

We’ve always gone. Well, okay. Maybe this is valid, if you are conspicuous by your absence, you are a significant leader in your industry, you have seniority at the show. But always ask yourself: why are we going? Have we outgrown this show? Has this show outlived its worth to us and the industry?

It’s the top show in our market. Now we’re getting somewhere. This is the place to meet your customers, show off your latest products and services, get to be the big dog.

It’s the best place for us to reach our customers. By far, the best of these three reasons is this one. Trade show selling is all about face-to-face selling. It’s the place where marketing meets sales. Who you expect to encounter, how many new suspects or prospects or clients you expect to meet or talk to at a show all are important and the best place is at a show where you expect to meet them all.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Choosing space

Whether you are buying a 50-foot by 100-foot large exhibit for your B2B company or a 10x10 space for your first show, the principles are the same.

  1. Get the right location.
  2. Choose the right size booth for you.
  3. Understand how much you are paying.

Getting the right location. Look at the venue plan for the show you are attending. Watch how traffice flows from left to right, front to back. Most North Americans come in the front door and go to the right. They then snake back and forth, up and down each aisle until they have covered the floor. See where your competitors and partners are. Avoid restrooms and consider being near prize stages or food concessions. Corner booths may cost a premium (see number 3 below) but usually are more apt to be seen as traffic flows.

Choosing the right size booth for you. If you are just starting out or are new to your industry, a 10x10 may work. However, if you are the leader in your segment or industry, consider bigger: 10x20, 20x20 islands or whatever will fit with your strategy. Consider the show, the presence at the show by your competitors and partners, what you can afford to buy, fill and service.

Understanding how much you are paying. Let’s face it, shows are an expensive proposition. You will pay a per square foot charge plus a premium for a corner booth (or for each corner of the booth). But this is just the beginning. The space cost is for a bare piece of concrete. You now have to rent or buy a booth, carpet and graphics to go on top of it; order and pay for the services; promote the show and gather leads; and send, train and keep your staff in the booth for the duration of the show. Your space cost is less than 50% of your total cost.