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5 Top Tips to Improve your Exhibit Demos

Seeing a product or service in action is a proven way to further a sale. Naturally, many companies choose to feature in-booth demos in their trade show exhibits. Here are 5 Top Tips that help ensure that your in-booth demos effectively engage your target audience and… learn more >

The Year of Empathy. Do you have it?

The start of the calendar year ushers in an onslaught of business predictions. After reviewing the marketing trends expected for the coming year, it appears that 2018 will be the Year of Empathy.

“Empathy,” in marketing terms, kicks experiential programs up a notch by offering brand experiences that are framed in a relevant, personal context for your target audience. And

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is emerging as one of the premiere tools to help create empathetic experiences.

The irony here is thick, of course, but let’s leave that for another article. The point is that AI does provide a remarkable capability to learn audience preferences and behavior patterns in real time, and then adapt to their specific needs and learning styles.

Like any technology, it’s important to remember that AI is merely a tool. And it’s more important to know how to create an empathetic experience than to focus on the tools you’ll use to implement them. Pity the carpenter with the newest tools who cannot conceptualize a table.   

Here are some helpful tips that will help exercise your “empathy” marketing muscles:

Walk a Mile in their Shoes: Before you brainstorm experiential activities or programs, put yourself in your target audience’s shoes.  Take the time you need to fully understand their needs, wants, challenges, as well as their fears, hopes, and dreams. Fully define them; map it out; organize a focus group.  If you lack a detailed, personal understanding of your target audience’s life–their context, if you will–your experiential programs will lack the personal context they crave.

Back it up with Data: While developing this clear, emotional roadmap for your targets, analyze how it tracks with relevant study data.. Connections between the emotional landscape you’ve defined and current survey data will suggest experiential frameworks you may have never considered, and will drive your ideation sessions.

Role Play:  Using the emotional portraits you’ve created, assume the role of your target audience(s) and put your interactive ideas on their feet.  How does it make you feel?  Is this experience addressing your personal needs?  Make sure to play different roles; does your experience accommodate different points-of-view? Are you recognizing and validating their feelings, or does it feel like a prolonged “all-about-you” commercial?

Outside the Brand:  Cause Marketing has played a large part in brand experiences for many years, and its importance is growing exponentially. When you make it easy for your target audience to support a worthy cause, while at the same time getting what they need, you are well on your way to converting a lead into a customer, and a customer into an advocate.

The emergence of Millenials as a major market force, with increasing pressure from Gen Z, makes it more important than ever to migrate away from brand-centric experiences and toward consumer-centric, empathetic experiences.

In short, move from asking yourself, “What are my target audience’s challenges and how can I help them succeed” to “What is my target audience feeling, and how can I help them feel better?”



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Four Strategic Building Blocks to Event Success

The New Year is almost here, and with it comes a flurry of expectations. Use these four strategic building blocks to jumpstart event success in 2018.

Traffic Building

Attendees routinely create a “must-see” list to optimize their time on the show floor.  Pre-show communications are the surest way to make the list. Email campaigns are a mainstay of many marketing campaigns, but if it’s the only tool in your arsenal then make 2018 the year you branch out. Digital plays like location marketing and geo targeting can increase the frequency of your outreach and connect with audiences when they’re most receptive to receiving your message. Social Media can play a big role, too. Evaluate your posts with a critical eye. Are you sending out “us, too”, scrollable messages? Or are you making your outreach click-worthy?

Audience Engagement

Whether you’re hosting a corporate event or participating in an industry expo, the question that should drive all planning is “What is the attendee journey?” From there, the goal should be to connect audience members to a branded experience at every touchpoint along the way. That’s the key to creating a brand immersion and achieving important messaging objectives.

The Front Line

It’s an old adage but in an age of instant communication, it’s more true than ever: if your guests have a positive experience, they will tell two friends. If they have a negative experience, they will tell 20 friends. Whether you are organising a corporate conference, an experiential campaign or a VIP party, your event staff should reflect your brand values. All too often, hired hands and even corporate staff don’t understand the importance of their role. Creating accurate job descriptions and conducting training before arriving on site goes a long way toward ensuring performance consistency.

Measure Up

The event is over, the team is debriefing and it’s time to prove the value of your efforts. Can you put a number to the value of learning at your event? Or how that learning impacted business decisions? Can you show the value of your contribution to the sales pipeline? Or demonstrate some other way that your event moved the needle on a key corporate objective? Feel good anecdotes last for days or weeks at the most. Hard data is forever. Make this your first business resolution of the new year: To develop meaningful metrics and a data capture plan for every event in your 2018 program.

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The Challenge of Walking the Walk

When was the last time you challenged your team to embrace the value of “risk taking” or to defy the status quo and engage in “innovative thinking?”

These aren’t just edgy statements. They’re bold calls to action, designed to inspire and guide our teams to excel.

And yet, several years ago we asked event marketing professionals to rank the attributes their management valued most in an employee. The top three attributes, by a landslide, were:                                              ● Positive Thinking ● Being a Team Player ● Creative Problem Solving

The three lowest ranking attributes were: ● Outside the Box Thinking ● Calculated Risk Taking ● Creativity

The disconnect is staggering. How can we value creative problem solving and at the same time devalue outside the box thinking or calculated risk taking? Is management sending mixed messages? Telling us one thing: “We value creativity!” And then punishing us when we step outside the bounds: “Stick to the tried-and-true!” Perhaps.

Or, possibly, the fault lies within ourselves. We’ve all been guilty of being so focused on checking off boxes that we don’t engage in the behavior we’re being asked to emulate. Who has time for innovation? And so it is we, not our management, who devalue the message.

Most of the time, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Which is why third party experts exist. A fresh pair of eyes and an independent point of view quickly recognize disconnects. They know how to push boundaries without breaking them because they’ve already taken the journey.

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Are You Maximizing Your Meeting Content?

“Give me six hours to cut down a tree, and I’ll spend the  first four sharpening the axe.”  – Abraham Lincoln

The metaphor is clear … proper preparation results in an easier process and an improved chance for successful outcomes.

But when it comes to creating attendee value for corporate meetings, content owners often miss an important source of input … the tree.

At the conclusion of most large meetings, attendees routinely complete an internal survey that asks what worked, what didn’t, etc.

This survey often includes a question asking attendees what they would like to see next year, or, specifically, which components of THIS year’s meeting would they like to see repeated. This helps plan for the future.

However … things change.  Personnel, the market; company goals, etc.  What worked last year may be terrifically off-point this year.  

The result is often this; when the next large meeting rolls around, meeting content owners put their heads together to plan, but rarely consult their target audience and ask what they want or need.

I was reminded of this when planning New Year’s Day with my family.  My children had recently become young adults with lives and minds of their own. I was sitting with my wife and we were wracking our brains about what to do that would be fun, interesting, etc.  If you’re a parent, you get it. However, we failed to recognize the most valuable source of information … our actual children.

So, we asked them … “What would you like to do?”  I won’t detail their answer, but I will say that it was nowhere near what we had been planning.  Their answers surprised us, and gave us a deeper understanding of their current wants and needs. Nothing like going straight to the source for relevant, actionable information.

The same is true of your meeting attendees.  You may think you know what they want or need to do at your upcoming meeting … but in reality, you may only know part of the story.

An added benefit is that your attendees experience greater ownership of the meeting, and invest themselves more deeply.  After all, they were the primary drivers of it.

So remember, if you’re a meeting content owner, or if you’re the one directing the meeting content owners, ask the tree what it needs.

You may be surprised by its answer.


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Are Your Globalization Efforts Being Maximized?

While nothing will ever replace face-to-face interaction, the desire to “globalize” your tradeshow exhibit via the web has never been stronger.

The ubiquity and standardization of streaming media makes pushing content out over the Internet simpler than ever. If this sounds like a daunting task, consider this:

Your Exhibit House already creates 3D CAD drawings of your exhibit. Your Marketing Team creates specific, and often new, media, messaging, and engagement strategies specifically for your live tradeshow presence. Your WebMaster normally spiffs up your website prior to an event to reflect your latest branding, case studies, etc.

With a strategic boost, these assets could be leveraged, repurposed, and brought to life virtually for your clients, your prospects, and for those, in new markets, who may have never heard of you.

Current technologies to stream, and promote that stream, are as plentiful as they are varied; podcasts, microsites, multiple social media platforms, push notifications  … heck, your entire exhibit experience could be delivered through a custom app.

The Challenge: Devising a strategic plan.  It’s incredibly tempting to simply engage a streaming media provider and start pushing out content.  However, is this the way you’d approach other major marketing endeavors? Many impressive “live” event programs have been underwhelming online due to under-developed strategy & execution.

The Solution?  Globalizing your event program via the web deserves the same mindshare, the same investment, and the same talented strategic partners your other major marketing efforts require.  

You know that’s true.  Now go forth and globalize.

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Speaking Engagement? How to Hook Your Audience

What’s worse than a rude audience when you’re speaking to a live audience at a conference or sales meeting?

A polite one. They smile, make eye contact, but their brains are busy entertaining thoughts of anything but you!

Naturally, you can’t guarantee that every audience member will be 100% focused on you, but here are two proven strategies increase the odds they will.

Write Your Own Introduction

Your presentation begins with your Introduction, not when you start talking. So … write your own, and give it to the Host to deliver. They’ll appreciate it, and you get off to a strong start. What’s a good intro look like?

Keep it short. Don’t recite your resume. Highlight relevant experience that can be summarized in 15-20 seconds. Insert a teaser. Insert at least one benefit that the audience will derive from your talk. This keeps people from checking their phone. Review pronunciations. Flag tricky words and review with the host. Make it appropriate. Who’s the focus of your talk? You? Your Company?  Hint: It’s not always about you.


We’re a nation of mobile-holics. During the first few moments of your talk, the audience decides if you’re worth their time and attention. Millennials do this routinely with social media. You need to “grab” them intellectually or emotionally … or both.  Here are some suggestions.

Provocative statements. Say something surprising. “By this time next year, 5 of you in this room will be dead.” (beat) “Statistically speaking, that is.“ When it comes to meaningful and fun quotations, the Internet is your friend. But be careful.  As Abraham Lincoln said, “The internet is not always a reliable source of facts.” Stories & Anecdotes. Everyone loves a good story. The best ones keep the listener in suspense. Find an appropriate one. “Imagine my panic three weeks ago, on March 26th, when I was awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a phone call … from a client!” Tough questions. Ask an unanswerable question … then answer it! Conflict/resolution is as old as the hills because it works. “What goes on in the mind of a soldier who–after years living as a POW–returns home to find themselves unable to relate to family and friends?” Use technology, or a simple show of hands. Polls involve everyone, shows you value the audience’s opinion, and generate meaningful metrics. “Please raise your hand if you have needed tech support in the last 12 months.” Oprah Winfrey famously illustrated her dramatic weight loss by pulling a wagon of animal fat equal to her weight loss onstage. It’s an image not soon forgotten. Her “prop” told the whole story. Literal, analogous, or direct, a well-chosen prop can create a powerful hook for your whole presentation. “You may be wondering why I’m wearing this crash helmet?” If you can show a product in action, do it. Nothing beats a live demonstration to capture the audience’s attention, prove the item’s effectiveness, and get them involved directly. “Who would like to try it for themselves?”

When you use these types of engagement tactics, your presentations will have greater impact, you’ll have more fun, and audiences may begin to look forward to your next presentation.

And wouldn’t that be nice?

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How Adding “The Why” Supercharges Case Studies

Simon Sinek has one of the most viewed YouTube videos of all time. It’s a TED Talk called, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”  In essence, great leaders communicate the “why” of what they do, rather than the “how” or “what,” etc. Simon’s mission has expanded into… learn more >

Do Your Booth Attendees Feel Like They Belong?

“Throughout history, humans have been connected through group experience: hunting together, building together, parenting together … Marketing can make a profound impact when it says ‘yes, you belong,’ bypassing the need for ‘proof.’ ”   Forbes Community Voice – May 2017 This quote was taken from a… learn more >

Does Your In-Booth Demo Make Sense?

“Sensemaking” is the process by which people give meaning to experience. This concept has made the rounds of Information Science for decades, and has been applied to various disciplines, most notably by Karl E. Weik who applied it to “Organizations.”  He defined sensemaking in organizations… learn more >

A Step-by-Step Guide to the Trade Show “Ask”

In a recent Exhibitor Magazine article entitled “Asked & Answered,” John Baker (former SVP and COO of American Express) discussed the power of persuasion and shared his “6-Step Asking Formula” for getting what you want, every time. This formula defined a clear procedure that professionals could… learn more >

How To Do Trade Show Interactive Right

Racing simulators. Game shows. Green screen photos. Vending machines. Augmented or virtual reality. What do all of these things have in common? They’re all examples of interactive in=booth experiences. Interactive experiences can make a small booth mighty and a large booth exhibit magnificent. But too many… learn more >

What Do Today’s Trade Show Attendees Want?

CEIR (The Center for Exhibition Industry Research) recently released their latest “Attendee Retention Insights” Report that analyzes why attendees become loyal visitors to events, and what organizers are doing to motivate attendees to return on a regular basis. Trade show exhibitors may feel that this report… learn more >