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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… learn more >

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 a movement he calls “Find Your Why.”  He helps people discover what makes them look forward to going to work, and what makes them return home feeling fulfilled.  

This raises the ironic question…why share this with you?  The reason is simple; to succeed on a tradeshow floor, organizations must clearly define and communicate their “why;” why do they exist … why do they do what they do?  This enables attendees to connect with them on an emotional, aspirational level, which will in turn motivate them to seek out more information about the company on their own. High-level branding often communicates the “why,” but then stops short at the exhibit carpet line.

This raises the next question … how?  How can companies incorporate “the why” into their trade show messaging programs?  One proven way is to take a common tool … the customer case study … and enhance it with “The Why.”

Start and End

Case studies are often logistical in nature; Company A had this challenge; here’s how we helped solve it.  This one-two informational punch delivers relevant and useful information … but they are often dry and uninspiring; thus the word “study” in its title. Consider this enhanced format:

Start by briefly detailing your customer’s “why.” What makes their company tick … what makes them feel fulfilled.   Next, describe the challenge that is keeping them from realizing their “why.”   Move on to how you helped them solve this challenge, and how this helped them continue pursuing their “why.” Lastly … and this is important … close with how helping this customer fulfilled your why.

All of the relevant product/service nuts & bolts information remains, but by starting and ending with “the why” … both theirs and yours … you’ve transformed a simple customer case study into an aspirational Success Story that exemplifies what your company is all about.

Sound pie-in-the-sky?  Ask Apple, Harley Davidson, Disney, Nike, or other top global brands.  

Actually, you don’t need to ask them because they have so successfully embedded their “why” into our collective psyches, you can answer that question for yourself.

That’s brand power.

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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 Forbes article written by Heather Pinay, Business Consultant and Founder of Authentically: Business & Life Solutions,  In it, she explores the human brain, and specifically how marketers must target.the limbic part of the brain to build lasting brand loyalty.

Why? Because the limbic brain is constantly asking, “Do I belong here?”  This feeling is primal and influences behavior and fosters connections more powerfully than any marketing message can.

Brands like Harley and Apple do this extremely well; witness the lines of people camping out for the newest Apple device, or the people wearing Harley-branded clothing and participating in the Harley culture … who don’t even own a motorcycle. These people aren’t just brand loyalists; they belong to a tribe.

This raises the question … how can you make your target audience feel like “they belong” in your booth?

Professional Engagers: Booth design and colorful video may communicate your brand’s look and feel, but nothing connects with a human being better than another human being.  Successful booths have trained staff who greet attendees and make them feel “at home” by connecting with them on a personal level, asking relevant questions, and making them feel like they’re in the right place to find what they need.

Relevant & Immersive Messaging:  After an initial greeting, booth presentations, demos, or interactive activities should focus less on your what your product or service does–talking at someone—and more on what your attendee needs–talking with someone.  By identifying a shared challenge, people come together and start to feel part of the group … part of the tribe.

Codified Metrics:  You can’t make someone feel like “they belong” if you know nothing about them.  Professional Engagers initiate this process, but your in-booth engagement strategy must include ways of gathering detailed metrics. This information helps sales reps follow-up with relevant, even personal, information that fosters the feeling of “belonging.”.

If you think of yourself as the “host” of your exhibit … welcoming guests and seeing that their needs are met… your target audience will react accordingly; they’ll let their guard down a little; they’ll increase their dwell time; they’ll give your messages greater mindshare; and most important, your exhibit–and your brand–will become a safe haven where “they belong” on an otherwise noisy and hectic tradeshow floor.

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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 >

Make Sure Trade Show Marketing Fuels Sales

There is a historic “disconnect” between what sales wants and what marketing delivers. Much has been written about how to fix it.  However, for many, marketing and sales alignment has proven to be elusive. According to a recent survey by SiriusDecisions, the biggest inhibitor salespeople see… learn more >

Social Media & Tradeshows: 3 Best Practices

Facebook, LinkedIn, ShapChat, Instagram, et al, all have one thing in common; they crave content. To satisfy this need, savvy marketers across most verticals are leveraging their tradeshows and events to capture customer testimonials, live product demos, expert interview, PR roll-outs and much more. This… learn more >