• My Mommy Does Shows in Vegas

    By: Megan Tanel, Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM)

    As a title, this comes across as a bit provocative.

    It’s meant to draw the reader in thinking it’s another sad story about a child who is living through neglect while being raised by a woman practicing what some believe is the oldest profession in the world.  In reality, it does reflect an historic profession but probably not the one you were thinking of: exhibitions or more commonly known as trade shows.

    This quote came from my daughter who was 5 at the time and gave an honest answer to her kindergarten teacher when questioned why the little girl’s mom was always traveling.  And in my daughter’s understanding, there was no easy way to explain a tradeshow other than she knew it was a show and it was in Vegas.

    The origins of trade shows can be traced back thousands of years. They started as an opportunity for people to trade goods for necessities. If you look at commerce today, it is all about connecting a buyer with a seller for a transaction to take place that satisfies both of their needs.  The great value with tradeshows has been the ability to review your options, test drive the products or discuss the technology with experts in advance of purchase.

    More recently, I have read more about the negative side of tradeshows: they are expensive, a waste of time and offer no value.  But instead, I question the source of these comments.  Is the source someone who has created a plan around their own participation in a tradeshow with measurable results and clear objectives?  Or is the source someone who put an expense budget together with no clear objectives or way to track results?

    My guess is the latter, and to this I roll my eyes and think “ignorance.”

    I was lucky enough to stumble into the tradeshow industry while in college on an internship.  I never knew of its existence, but now that I look back, I think the closest I could have imagined it to was the annual Folk Fair in downtown Milwaukee, WI.  The folk fair had maybe 100 tables or booths set up promoting the understanding of different cultures through characters dressed in costume, ethnic food samples from the “exhibitors” homeland and a lot of eclectic dancing and music.  Now I understand the goal of that event was to create awareness and with awareness tolerance as well as knowledge of others and their background.

    The tradeshows I am involved in are more about commerce – selling or promoting a brand to eventually sell product or hopefully sell some product or take orders on the show floor. Sounds boring to some.  But again I roll my eyes and think “neophyte.”

    If you’ve never stepped foot on the floor of a quality tradeshow then you don’t understand its draw.  The love I have of my profession stems from the basic human necessity of human contact.  There is no better way to establish or build upon a relationship than face to face interaction.  So much is lacking in our future generations related to their ability (or lack thereof) to socialize, to connect and to simply hold a conversation. I find myself better able to come to a conclusion about a product or service I am interesting in when I’ve had the ability to get to know the company’s brand ambassadors, talk to the product experts about the benefits only this company can provide to me, and share a story about something we share in common which builds my faith in the company and its brand.

    I’m proud to be a member of the tradeshow community.  I cringe that my industry has to fight so hard for the respect it deserves. I know the value of what I bring to my tradeshow buyers and sellers and continue to work hard to increase their value at every event.  And yes, I do shows in Vegas.  I also do shows in Louisville, Nashville, Santiago (Chile), Johannesburg (South Africa) Delhi (India).  I support hundreds of brands around the world by providing them with a marketplace to sell their products to qualified buyers.

    And I know that I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

  • Get Down to Business of Innovation on Site Visits

    By: Dana Freker Doody, The Expo Group

    The site visit is one of the most effective planning methods for trade shows and events. Planners have multitudes of questions and details to discover ranging from the strength of the WiFi to the ratio of servers to diners for a formal meal.

    Being on site should also be a time to plan for innovation. Think about how your attendees are using the space, what their emotions might be within it and how you can leave a memorable impression on them through interactive activities, creative showpieces and fascinating experiences.

    Here are a few questions that can be added to the list to inspire the entire planning team.

    Get Organized

    As the show or event manager, you should be in the lead, communicating specifically what you want to see, what your specific objectives are for the visit, and what the overall strategic goals are for the event. Be sure an agenda is set in advance, and keep to it. Meetings mean business for you, too!

    Every member of your larger supplier team is on the visit for different reasons, they each have their own motivations and a running list of questions they need answered. Assure them time to get all those details covered, but also communicate the need for them to think collectively about the event goals.

    Some great questions to ask of your convention services manager and the contractor’s account team:

    • What have you seen done in this space that was exciting?
    • How have groups used this room successfully? Alternatively, what just never seems to work in here?
    • Knowing our overall event goals, why do you think this room or space is a good fit?

    And my favorite question from my days as a news reporter:

    • What should I know that I haven’t asked?


    Use Technology

    If your Marketing Manager is not making the site visit, but is always good at creating ideas for the lobby, use handheld devices to stream them in for an hour. Likewise if a committee head needs to deal with the AV team, introduce them while you are onsite with five minutes of Skype or FaceTime, to start the relationship that will burgeon in the coming months.

    Technology also enables quick and easy photos, which can be made even more useful with a few apps that allowing the team to communicate their ideas and record discussion points. Try a few of these:

    • Skitch– Take a picture and then immediately mark it up with information and send it to your colleagues by email or save in Evernote.
    • Penultimate– Note writing app that allows you to import images and mark up and send or save in Evernote.
    • Paper by FiftyThree– popular free sketching app that provides a fun way to sketch your ideas and store them in individual journals.
    • Evernote– The ability to synch your notes across multiple platforms is outstanding. Plus there are several great apps (like Skitch) that work directly with it
    • Dropbox– You are going to need a place to store all those photos you’re taking on site and Dropbox just upped their space available to 1TB (that’s 1,024 GB!) for $9.99 a month for Dropbox Pro.


    Think Millennial

    Remember Millennials are people, too. People who are important to have attending your trade show, engaged in your events, and involved in your overall community or association. We were all young once. It just so happens young people today are interacting with each other and the world in different ways.

    Millennials want a seamless experience, and they need to know you are you. Your website, storefront, event graphics, marketing materials, staff shirts and the rest should all adhere to the style of the organization and communicate the entity’s values with a consistent tone. This helps reinforce what you stand for, and millennials especially seek to have relationships with authentic brands. They want to feel good about themselves and the relationships. So look onsite for spots where you can communicate who you are.

    Simplify the way you deliver information particularly for millennials, who are consuming information in new and exciting delivery formats. Have one small banner instead of six smaller ones, for example. Reduce the text by asking yourself if people really need to know all those details. If they do, that’s fine, just establish a hierarchy of messaging to keep it clear.

    What else do you look for on-site visits? Comment below to share how you are using site inspections to inspire your team to advance your business.

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