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If it Ain’t Broke…Fix it Anyway

The aphorism, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is sound, practical advice … that isn’t.   If you own a car, manage an IT network, or run a business, you know that “preventative maintenance” keeps inexpensive problems from becoming expensive ones. Trade show engagement programs… learn more >

What’s Your Story? Making Better Connections

Many articles have been published in business journals lately exploring how to “tell a better story.” Most use a business or client meeting as their setting.

Nowhere, however, is the need for powerful storytelling greater than on a tradeshow floor.

In a matter of seconds you must intercept, engage, qualify, and connect with attendees. A provocative opening line is great, but then what?  A powerful story creates and cements connections.

A major pitfall to avoid is telling a business story “for no reason.” This means, the content is self-referential and does not contain a clear “intent to connect.”  You’re talking “at” an attendee, and not actively connecting with them.

So what makes for a good “story” on a tradeshow floor?  First, let’s explore “content. Your stories should:

Pre-address the issues you know your attendee will have, e.g. “I know what you’re thinking…” Inspire the attendee with your company’s vision in action, not just a bald statement of fact.  A mini-case study with compelling results supports this goal.. Include organic and specific “next steps,” e.g. step up to a demo, set an onsite visit, etc. Share proprietary or new information the attendee can use.

Now let’s explore how you tell your story.

Transition from being a mere narrator to being a true storyteller. Don’t offer a sterile laundry list of events, “Then this happened, then that happened … ” Share the emotions that compelled you and your client to act; “Their supply chain was filled with bottlenecks, and Dawn was getting intense pressure from her Senior Management.  Her coffee consumption went through the roof and the situation was starting to impact her health … ”

When you include useful content, clear next steps, and frame it with real-world emotions, you you create stronger connections.

Bottom line: Don’t be another spectator in your story; be the driver and invite your listeners to climb aboard.

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Three Critical Communications Concepts

In the November issue of Forbes, Kathy Caprino explores three critical communication concepts that help strengthen relationships, forge stronger bonds, and improve communication skills.

These key concepts also enable you to engage, inspire, and connect more powerfully with your target audience at tradeshows and events.

Listen with a willingness to be changed by what you hear. Ms. Caprino shares a quote from Alan Alda that details the difference between “listening and pretending to listen.”

Listening = waiting for your turn to speak Truly listening = allowing yourself to be changed by what the speaker is saying.

This is never more important than on a tradeshow floor.

Many reps feel that their #1 job is to communicate their company’s message … which often causes them to not truly listen to their prospect.  If they had, they would have discovered important information that may have “changed” what they were going to say, and subsequently been more relevant to the prospect.

Before you speak forcefully about something, frame it with a value statement. On a show floor, you have minutes, sometimes seconds, to catch a prospect’s attention. This often results in reps appearing to come on too strong.

To mitigate this, frame forceful comments with a value statement.  For example, “We feel very strongly about this … for us, it’s a matter of honesty and integrity … so it’s important for me to be clear about where we stand.” This statement reveals control, and turns forcefulness into a virtue.

Meet the listener where they are and speak from an understanding of their needs and mindset. This one practically writes itself. This is good advice for any relationship … personal or professional … but especially on a show floor.

Some keys to doing this are 1) Validating what they say to with statements that reflect their viewpoint; 2) Replacing “why” questions, that may appear judgmental, with “how” questions that probe their feelings about solutions; 3) Be open and honest about your desire to build a stronger relationship. Unless you ask for it, you may not get it.

The more you communicate an understanding of your listeners’ viewpoints, and the more respect and compassion you radiate, the stronger and more satisfying your relationships will become.

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Speaker Tactics That Generate Attention

There is only one thing worse than a rude audience at a corporate meeting; a polite one. They smile, make eye contact, but their attention is elsewhere.

The goal is to create an engaged audience. Here are a few proven tactics that generate audience attention.

I.  Write Your Own Introduction

Your presentation begins with your Introduction, not when you start speaking. Therefore, write your own and have the Moderator deliver it. Here are the hallmarks of a successful introduction:

Keep it short. Don’t detail your resume. Focus on relevant experience. Insert a teaser. Feature at least one benefit the audience will derive from your talk. Review pronunciations. Flag tricky words and review with the moderator. Make it appropriate. Who or what’s the focus of your talk? Hint: It’s usually not about you.

II.  Grab-em!

During the first few moments of your talk, audiences decide if you’re worth their attention. You must grab them intellectually and/or emotionally.  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 just three weeks ago, I was awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a phone call … from our biggest client!” Tough questions. Ask a difficult 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 returns home–after years living as a POW?” Polls. No matter the format, polls involve everyone, demonstrates that you value the audience’s opinion, and generates meaningful metrics. “Please raise your hand if you’ve needed tech support in the last 12 months.” Props. Oprah Winfrey famously illustrated her dramatic weight loss with a wagon of animal fat equal to her weight loss. This single visual aid told the whole story. Literal, analogous, or direct, well-chosen visuals create a powerful hook for your whole presentation. “You may be wondering why I’m wearing this crash helmet?” Demos. A product or service in action captures attention, proves effectiveness, and directly involve audiences. “Who would like to try it for themselves?”

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

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How to Increase Attendee Dwell Time

If increasing attendee dwell time in your tradeshow booth has become your responsibility, here’s a powerful solution: an electric dog fence.  

You know the kind …a dog collar that delivers a mild shock when they attempt to leave the yard.  In this case, as each attendee enters your exhibit, you slip an electric collar around their neck, and when they try to leave …. bazinga.

A less “stingy” (and less litigious) approach is to create and deploy a clearly defined engagement, education, and connection process. For many, this means greeting an attendee, asking an open-ended question, and being a good listener. This is 100% valid … but … what then?  What is keeping them from leaving your exhibit?

Answer: Process. This means more than “next steps” … it means a series of activities that build in relevance and cause attendees to feel they are moving toward a specific, well-defined, relevant objective.

Think of your booth engagement as an “If-Then” flow chart. Initial engagements tell you about the attendee. Now you can guide them to a relevant next step, like a targeted case study or specific demo, etc.  After that, you can choose from a selection of relevant steps. The point is, at each level, you have choices.  This is pull vs. push marketing. When the attendee feels they’re experiencing information that makes increasing sense to them, they will become their own electric dog collar.

Of course, every well-defined “process” must include escape hatches to release prospects who are not qualified. This is the hallmark of a successful engagement program; it separates the wheat from the chaff, and maximizes a rep’s engagement time in the exhibit.

Interactive apps on attendees’ personal mobile devices are emerging as a popular tool to accomplish this.  The mobile app:

Enhances interactions within the booth. Appeals to a Millennial, always-connected mentality. Delivers relevant information in a familiar, easy-to-digest format Increases dwell time with “live” interactions that enhances the mobile app experience.

Mobile apps also live long past the booth engagement and create avenues for future engagement and education.

Of course, it would be great if the app also delivered a mild shock when the attendee tried to leave your booth.  

Ah … a marketer can dream  …

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Keep It Engaging

You’ve just accepted an invitation or assignment to give a presentation. What is the very next thing you should do?

   Develop an outline    Create slides    Define what your audience cares about

If you didn’t pick 3, read on.

People everywhere are the same; they are more likely to engage with material that’s relevant and useful to them.  Put yourself in their shoes … would you actively engage with a presentation that offered irrelevant or useless information? Whether it’s a 10-minute high-level overview, or a 45-minute keynote, ask yourself: What value can I bring the audience? How can I make their time spent with me worthwhile? The easiest way to answer these questions is to …

Ask Them

If presenting to peers, or a well-known segment of your own company, your familiarity gives you an edge. However, you must still do your homework. Ask your peers what they’d like to hear or learn about. Even though they know you, or at least know of you, people still like to feel like they’re the ones driving the car. Establishing two-way communication like this will help you gather important information and build a valuable rapport weeks before your presentation beings.

For audiences you do not know, you must do even more homework. Look past website marketing-speak and search for online peer discussion groups or articles that speak openly and honestly about current challenges, trends, and points of contention in their industry. It’s important to understand what they value most, and what keeps them up at night.  When you have a clear picture of this, frame your content by creating a link between their values and pain with topic. Your audience will be immediately drawn in. Wouldn’t you?

Be Conscious of Diversity

Learn the male/female ratio of your audience; age ranges; ethnicity; religions (if applicable); cultural differences; etc. This information is invaluable and will help you develop a presentation that’s inclusive.

The success or failure of your presentation may boil down to using the right personal pronoun or visual.

Much of this is intuitive, but it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of complacency. It’s always what you don’t know that will come back to haunt you.

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Gamification is Here To Stay. What Now?

Popular studies, supported by real-world experience, remind us that everyone everywhere learns and retains information better when it’s delivered using the elements of game theory.

So … now what?  Break out Yahtzee™ and Chex Mix™?

Even if you’re a believer in gamification, implementing it is a challenge.  What style of game?  What’s the reward?  Is there a reward? How long should it be?  Physical or electronic? Person against person or machine?

When considering these questions, it’s clear that industry and target audience directly influence the activation.

This blog provides a “next step” on your gamification journey.

There are 5 styles of games, defined by Gamasutra –  a leading game developer.  Here they are, along with a short profile of the type of person to whom each appeals, as well as the industries in which that game may find traction.

Game Type: Accomplishment

Player Profile: Games that involve rewards, both internal (pride, knowledge, etc.) and tangible (physical prizes, monetary, etc.). Industry: Banking, Surgeons, Doctors, Government, Construction, Business

Game Type: Imagination

Player Profile: Games that appeal to a target audience’s empathy, and predisposition toward pretending and storytelling. Industry: Education, Nursing, Nutrition, Architecture, Design, Hi-Tech, IT

Game Type: Socialization

Player Profile: Games that appeal to a target audience’s desire for camaraderie and group identification. Industry: Agriculture, Horticulture, Public Safety, Construction, Nursing, Education. Business

Game Type: Recreation

Player Profile: Games that appeal to target audiences who like to have fun and “get away” to adjust their physical, mental, or emotional state. Industry: Health & Fitness, Industrial, Manufacturing, Construction

Game Type: Subversion

Player Profile: Games that appeal to target audiences who consider themselves renegades, and who like breaking social or technical rules. Industry: Hi-Tech (all industries), IT, Design

This list is not exhaustive; and industries are repeated.  Tradeshow classifications are also not finite (e.g. the classifications “Business” or “IT” encompass dozens of subdivisions).  Furthermore, many gamification strategies must and should include multiple types of appeal, e.g. integrating accomplishment, socialization, and imagination in one game activity, etc.

However, this list should give you food for thought and set you on a clearer path toward identifying the type of game that will appeal to your target audience, connect with their personalities, and metaphorically (or literally) communicate your brand promise.

For a deeper dive on the subject, take a look at our white paper, Gamification: Winning the Engagement Challenge at Tradeshows and Events

Happy gaming!

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4 Ways to “Go Digital” at Events

The annual CMO Survey unfailingly offers useful information to dissect and analyze. A key takeaway this year reveals that event marketers continue to increase the use of digital marketing tools in their tradeshow and event programs.  While the average company invests one out of ten… learn more >

Top Tradeshow Engagement Tips for Booth Reps

You discover that you are in charge of demo-kiosk engagement at your next tradeshow.  You know you’re good at one-on-one interactions, but you don’t have much experience talking to small groups in a non-traditional environment, especially when your audience is tired, distracted, and willing to… learn more >

The Care and Feeding of Social Media: A New Paradigm

Facebook is currently in the spotlight. But whatever new regulations or controls may be put into place, Facebook, as well as LinkedIn, SnapChat, Instagram, et al, will continue to have two things in common; they will continue to crave content, and they will increasingly need… learn more >

5 Tradeshow Trends Every CMO Should Know

LinkedIn recently published an ePaper entitled, “5 Trends Every CMO Should Know.”  The content was drawn from trusted industry sources, and each trend was accompanied by an inset detailing how CMOs can use LinkedIn to take advantage of each. This blog will do the same, but with a… learn more >

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… learn more >