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.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Exhibit Preview

Previewing the exhibit before a show doesn't always have to be done, but many times it is a good idea and worth the expense.

What we're talking about is standing the exhibit properties up in the shop to make sure everything fits and works. There are a number of reasons you would take the time to do this:
  • Review graphic placement and fitting of demos.
  • Determination of which properties will be used and shipped.
  • Confirmation of the actual shipment.
  • A preview for management.
You can also use this as a time to ease your set up. For one client we actually rolled out the carpet and taped the location of where major exhibit components would be placed. Making notes on the manifest, we also staged crates around the space in the hall to ensure ease of set up in the hall.

Things to consider before you do a pre-shipment, pre-show preview:The labor cost to set up the both and repack.
  • Timing--do you have reasonable time before the show?
  • Being prepared for any changes management or other factors will bring.
We'll be doing one of these previews for a client early next week, so watch this space for a report.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Three-Year Plan

Most trade show and event programs are pretty much in place. They run themselves, mostly, because of the nature of the business and the tried-and-true expectations of management, suppliers, promoters, associations and trade show managers.

But what if you had to make over your program?

Relevance and reinvention are a way of life in the world today. How we shop, how we eat and how we work have been transformed by economic forces and technology. One of the best examples of an industry that has been transformed is photography. With digital cameras and being able to download and print images ourselves, the old-style photofinishing store is all but gone. We buy equipment and take classes on line rather than visit a camera store. However, more photos are shot by more people people than ever before.

So it is with the trade show industry. Revenues by general contractors are down 35 to 50 percent, traditional exhibit houses are downsizing, going out of business or looking for new revenue streams. And exhibitors are squeezed with being asked to do more with less budget and staff.

All these facts lead to reinvention: if you had to do it, could you reinvent your exhibit marketing program (let's call it what it is) in 3 years or less? Let's make a short list:

  1. Year 1: assess the show list, the properties, the budgets and history of the program. Maybe let it run as-is except where things are really out of whack. But watch and learn. Look ahead.
  2. Year 2: make changes where you are losing money, eliminate shows that are not targeted or relevant, reduce overhead and continue building with the strategic direction of the company. Start to include new ideas (captive customer events, new one-on-one sales tools). Look ahead.
  3. Year 3: out with the useless, in with the relevant. Eliminate the last of the poor-performing shows and unused properties, recast the budget, solidify those key internal relationships. Look ahead.
Sure, this is oversimplification, but it is a basic roadmap. Change takes time, particularly when you are new to a company or business. But change is inevitable, so get used to it.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Report from the Field: Farnborough 2010

Our colleague, Kimberly Williamson of Aviall, attended and worked the 2010 edition of the Farnborough Airshow. Here is her report:

Aviall's presence at the show was a flurry of activity between interviews and a full staff being on board. The economy is showing signs of improvement with many companies sending multiple personnel as opposed to the Paris Airshow last year. Numbers appeared to be up, but nothing has been released yet that I know of. We had good traffic, especially being right next door to Rolls-Royce (since we are exclusive on three of their engine lines).

This year Farnborough rolled out what they called Future's Day on Friday (the last trade day of the show). Future's Day was basically an opportunity for companies to invite school children to visit the airshow to promote aviation. Yes, it sounds like a great idea, but for most of really wasn't. There were over 4,000 school children running amuck like locusts through the exhibit halls. All of our neighboring exhibitors (with the exception of Rolls) were very unhappy and ended up closing shop early (some left as early as noon).

Sounds like things are coming back and show management is trying innovative things to build traffic and good will with their various audiences.

Thanks, Kim.