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2021: Meet the New Empathy

The term “2020” has evolved into more than the enumeration of a calendar year … it’s become an adjective. “Life was great … and then everything went 2020!”  One positive result of this challenging year has been the strengthening of our collective “empathy” muscles. We’re all feeling… learn more >

4 Ways to Improve Your Storytelling

Connecting with your target audience is tough, even under the best of circumstances. Connect face-to-face, you can see your listener’s reactions. Connect virtually … it’s a crapshoot. They might be listening … or they might be playing digital Solitaire.  No matter how you’re communicating, the best way to keep your target audience engaged is by telling powerful stories. 

Here are four ways to improve them. 

Set the Scene … Hint: It’s Not About You

It seems intuitive; your story should feature your products and services … right? Yes … but not initially. Start with current industry challenges, powerful market forces, and specific client needs. Set the scene … a challenging scene your listeners will find all too familiar. Done correctly, they’ll cast themselves as a character in your story. 

Get Personal

Include emotions … the powerful emotions that drive the characters in your story. Your listeners are most likely experiencing them right now.  They know that if they don’t solve their problems, they’ll lose more than business; they’ll lose market share; they’ll lose valued employees; they’ll lose their jobs; and ultimately, the company could close its doors. By recognizing and validating these emotions, your listeners will remain engaged to see how your story–now their story–turns out.

Enter … Your Solutions 

Now that your listeners are intellectually and emotionally hooked, it’s solution time. But remember, the biggest reason the characters in your story succeeded was not your products or services … they succeeded because they were able to change their minds.  Change is hard, especially when you need to admit that what you were doing before wasn’t working.  Frame your products and services as natural outgrowths of this new mindset. Provide data and real-world results. These relevant details add credibility and weight to your story, and help listeners feel comfortable with changing their minds. 


Last, but certainly not least, look to the future … but be realistic. Don’t describe a happily-ever-after.  Detail potential new challenges they may face along the way, but also include how your products and services are prepared to solve these as well. This gives your listeners hope, which any behavioral psychologist will tell you is the most important human emotion.


Your solutions are not the star of your stories … your customers and prospects are … your products and services are merely the supporting players that help the stars succeed.

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2 Elements of a Successful Virtual Meeting

Virtual meeting technology platforms abound, but creating a successful virtual meeting architecture takes more than clicking “Connect.”  

To ensure a successful, educational and engaging virtual meeting, make sure you consider these two important meeting-architecture elements. 

Large Group Interaction

During any meeting, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.  This is especially true during a virtual one where a world of distractions are available at the click of a mouse.

Here are a few ways to keep your participants engaged, interested, and fully-invested in the meeting’s outcomes.

BADGING: Using badges during a virtual meeting (or a series of meetings) is an effective learning incentive and offers many advantages.  They:  

Provide immediate visual progress feedback Offer a meaningful “carrot” that acknowledges accomplishments  Enable participants to display their accomplishments to the group Create a common learning environment and shared goals Establish a clear map that lets participants know where they’ve been, where they are, and where they need to go. 

GAMIFICATION:  Several years ago, Game Theory found a new home in event and meeting culture; and for good reason … it works. Here are a few ways to “gamify” your next virtual meeting:

Evolve your meeting language: Instead of using words like Objectives, Milestones, Recognition, Obstacles, or Competition, use words like Epic Quests, Missions, Challenges , or maybe even Slay Dragons (for the Unbowed, Unbent, and Unbroken) Make it Fun: Support this active language by adding virtual quizzes, match games, digital prize wheels, and other interactive, message-based games.  This builds anticipation, and reinforces important educational material. Build alliances: Some of these games should be individual, but others should be team-based (regional, cross-departmental, etc.).  This cross-pollinates team members who may otherwise never get a chance to meet. Your meeting template may also support this “gamified” atmosphere. The addition of scores, timers, hints, and other interactive elements transform a traditional meeting interface into an interactive gaming dashboard. 

Interactive games energize a virtual meeting, generate excitement, reinforce learning, and build community.

THE HALLWAY EFFECT: At in-person events, much of the “real work” gets done in informal settings, e.g. receptions, coffee breaks, etc.. This has been dubbed “The Hallway Effect,. 

Here are a few ways to add “The Hallway Effect” to your next virtual meeting: 

Chat Channels. These are online “Attendee Networking Lounges.” They’re free-form, with no specific topic or agenda.. Example: A private, branded Facebook page with a closed set of members. Participants build profiles with photos and personal info so others can “put a name with a face.” Attendees choose their subjects and chat at their leisure.  Discussion Forums: Similar to Chat Channels, these forums are topic-based and curated to keep discussions on track and to provide useful information links. Participants could also create profiles with photos, etc. to build community. One-on-one or small-group private meetings.  These meetings are focused and granular. Attendees book times within the boundaries of the virtual event to meet on-camera in the same way they book meeting tables or nooks in networking lounges at in-person events.

Creating a “virtual hallway effect,” allows attendees to interact in smaller, more focused groups.  This creates a safe space where introverted participants can comfortably share. It also, in general, drives increased investment in the meeting’s overall goals.

Adult Learning Dynamics

Teaching adults is unique.  Here are strategies for educating adult learners.

Keep It Relevant:  Adults latch onto information they feel addresses their immediate needs. Integrate Emotion:  Adults identify best with emotionally-driven content. Real-life story-telling and visuals keep adult learners engaged.  Encourage exploration: Adult learners prefer to come to their own conclusions.  Create projects that inspire collaboration and exploration. When adults reach new understandings on their own, the information becomes stickier. Make it Convenient:  Adults are busy, so assignments should be easy to complete, e.g. via mobile devices, tablets, etc.. The easier assignments are to complete, the more likely they will be completed. Always Offer Feedback: Waiting too long to give adult learners feedback is a missed opportunity. Strike while the iron is hot or they’ll move down their To-Do list. Final Words

Constructing a virtual meeting is a complex undertaking, and entails much more than getting a bunch of people to log into ZOOM.  

Consulting a Virtual Meeting Professional can ensure that you:

Optimize your meeting interactive & engagement strategy  Maximize results Respect your participant’s time Supercharge participant learning, and most important … … make them look forward to the next one.  learn more >

2 Ways to Create a Digital Trade Show

You did a great job.  Your team designed an excellent exhibit.  It’s an exciting representation of your brand and you can’t wait to show it off at your next tradeshow.

And then … the trade show is cancelled. What’s a Marketer to do?

Good news!  You can still leverage your hard work by creating a digital version of your exhibit and invite your target audience to experience your brand virtually. 

The question is … what does that experience look like?

Here are two digital formats that combine your beautiful booth design with all of your digitized assets to create an immersive brand experience. 

Real-time Rendering In A Browser

This framework transforms your 3D architectural booth model into an online walkthrough. It’s like a VR experience … without the headset.  

Your exhibit model is positioned in a 3D World … a world visitors travel through using their mouse, arrow keys, or tab key. “Information” icons float near product stations to let visitors know, “There’s a learning opportunity here!” Clicking an icon opens a pop-up window that delivers brochure copy, close-up images, charts, graphs, etc. Links to video assets open in a separate browser window. 

These 3D walkthroughs are accessed directly through the user’s browser, so they don’t need to download and install any special apps or software. Visitors simply enter the space and move around freely … almost as if they were on the show floor. 

Microsite Fly-Through

For brands with extensive video assets–like product demos, expert interviews, or mini tutorials–a microsite approach offers a more streamlined viewing experience.

The microsite background is a still frame taken from a fly-through animation of your 3D exhibit render. Using their mouse, visitors embark on a linear journey through your exhibit frame by frame. Pausing the scroll pauses the fly-through; this allows users to control how quickly they move from area to area.  

Pop-up windows appear at strategic points, offering product and equipment videos. These videos are all hard coded into the microsite and play with a simple mouse click – no need to follow a link to open a separate window. 

For visitors who don’t wish to take a linear journey, top-bar or sidebar navigation panels allow them to jump around the exhibit and access videos from drop-down lists. 


Just like any online project, the functionality of your microsite is limited only by your desires, imagination, and budget.  Additional features could include:

Pixel tracking that generates visitor metrics Interactive surveys Meeting scheduler Links back to your primary website … and much more. Final Word Regular updates keep the digital exhibit fresh Reps can leverage it during sales calls throughout the year Each visit is a clear, consistent, and interactive brand experience.

Whatever format you choose, a digital version of your trade show exhibit gives you the chance to connect with your target audience before, during, and after your live trade show event … even when it’s cancelled.   

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Presentation-Rehearsal Pro Tips

In today’s connected world, virtually all information is at our fingertips … or voice command. In response, our collective attention spans have shortened exponentially.

The result is the demise of the “Corporate Presentation Rehearsal.”  In performing circles, rehearsal is alive and well. But in corporate circles, rehearsing a presentation is often seen as a time sink and relegated to running through notes over lunch, during a commute, or in an office taking to the wall.

What follows are four Presentation-Rehearsal Pro Tips when preparing an effective rehearsal structure.

Rehearsing is a MUST:  You may have brilliant ideas, but if you cannot communicate them, they are worthless. Harsh but true. Furthermore, your value is directly linked to the value your audience places on your presentation. Rehearse out loud:  You must rehearse out loud in the space where you will be delivering your remarks, or one that is highly similar. How you hold your body; how you interact with the mic; how your voice feels in the actual environment; how you interact with visual support; none of this can be replicated in an office or cube. Do not memorize:  Few people can effectively memorize a 20-minute presentation and deliver it with spontaneity.  You may wish to script key parts of your remarks–and refer to notes at specific moments–but for the most part, work from bullet points and know what you want to say and how you want to say it. Your audience will have an easier time connecting with you as a human being if you are, indeed, speaking and acting like a human being. Give yourself a break.  While it’s important to look professional, give yourself permission to make mistakes.  If you’re properly prepared, a flub will not make you appear off-track or confused … it will make you appear normal.  How you handle a flub or technical error says more about you than the actual error itself.  When errors occur … and they will … simply correct yourself and move forward. If quizzed about it, the audience will most likely not remember it.

There are many other ways to prepare for a business presentation (take a deep dive into this subject here), but if you accept the fact that you must rehearse, in real time, in an appropriate space, and allow yourself to make mistakes, you’re well on your way to becoming a better, more successful speaker.

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Unpeeling the Onion of Event Success

MPI recently published a blog entitled, “Event Planning & Unpeeling the Cultural Onion.” It explores the importance of understanding how your target audience’s cultural experiences drive their actions and reactions.  The “onion” metaphor is apt; we all have multiple layers of attitudes; some are easily detected near the surface, while the ones closest to our core are stronger and harder to detect.   

But while analyzing your target audience’s hidden attitudes is important, it’s equally important–when creating trade show engagement programs–to look inward. When you reveal the unknown and/or unspoken needs and desires of your internal decision-makers (and yourself, for that matter), you’ll create trade show programs that are perceived as successful by your entire organization. 

Here are some questions that may help you “peel” your Senior Managements’ onion:

How do event goals align or differ between various layers of management, i.e. what spells success for your C-Levels, as opposed to Senior Management, Marketing, Sales, etc?

It’s common to assume you know the answer to this question.  If you unequivocally ask each level of management, “what spells success for you,” their answers may surprise you.  Then you can use their responses to re-engineer your approach to trade show messaging and engagement.

What attitudes influence how your team operates, and how do these attitudes affect their creative processes? 

We’re all limited by our peculiar experiences.  It’s important to understand your team’s talents, as well as their limitations.  An outside POV may be necessary to help move the needle on this. 

What is the generational/cultural/racial relationship between your team and your target audience? 

In today’s multicultural “woke” environment, defining these limitations can reveal valuable correlations, as well as harmful disconnects. Witness South Dakota’s tone-deaf marketing campaign from last year, “Meth: We’re On It.” 

What kind of historical data do you have about things that worked well?  Is that data relevant today?

We live in a world consumed by data; but data has a shelf-life.  What was true five or ten years ago … even one year ago … may currently be irrelevant or detrimental to your goals.  

Do you know why a past engagement program didn’t work? 

If you don’t know, fixing it will be difficult.  Again, an outside POV may be the answer.

Finally, it’s easy to allow your personal biases to color your perception. Therefore, it’s important that when you quiz various levels of management, you listen with an open mind to their answers.  

Only then can you uncover what they may not be telling you, and how the unspoken attitudes that lie at the core of your management’s personal “onions” will shape the perception of your trade show program’s success. 

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The POWER OF “Why”

Simon Sinek’s TED Talk … “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” is one of the most viewed YouTube videos of all time. It clearly outlines how great leaders communicate the “why” of what they do, and how this drives people to connect with them on an emotional, aspirational level.

Trade Show exhibitors must also clearly communicate the “why” of what their companies do to drive attendees to connect with them on an emotional, aspirational level. 

A common marketing tool is the customer case study. But case studies are often logistical and devoid of “the why.” To improve their story-telling value, consider enhancing your case studies by expanding their “why.”

Start by detailing your featured customer’s “why.” What makes their company tick; what makes them feel fulfilled.    Next, describe the challenge that’s keeping them from living up to their “why.” How does this make them feel?  How is this specifically keeping them from their goals? Now detail how your solutions helped them solve this challenge, and how they were once again able to continue realizing their “why.” Lastly … and this is important … close with how helping this customer fulfilled your why. This approach not only keeps your story customer-centric, it transforms an otherwise dry recitation of facts into an aspirational Success Story.

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

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

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Perfecting the Tradeshow “Ask”

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

Increase Your Tradeshow Hook-ups

Exhibiting at trade shows is a lot like using the popular dating app, Tinder.  If you’ve never used Tinder before, here’s (briefly) how it works:. Photos of nearby users appear on your screen. You make a split-second judgement to hook-up (swipe right), or ignore (swipe left.).  Rinse & Repeat.  Attendee… learn more >

What Are The New Differentiators?

A recent article in Inc. Magazine revealed what Gen Zs want most from managers: care, trust, and support.  Managing “the whole-self” of employees is the new norm. These attitudes are not limited to Gen Z; they are shared by Millenials and Gen Xers as well.  Coincidentally,… learn more >

Is Your Brand a Haven of Trust?

This year’s Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum (ETCEF) featured a session, lead by Dina Cappiello, Editorial Director & Group Head at Edelman D.C, entitled, “Storytelling in a Fake News World”. During her session, she said, “People are looking for reliable sources. Exhibitions can be a… learn more >

Is it Time for a Marketing Rethink?

Times change; technologies change; people change; attitudes change.  Ask yourself … are you making engagement marketing decisions based on past assumptions that may no longer be true? For example: Assumption: Augmented Reality (AR) is too expensive. Reality: It’s more affordable than ever. Assumption: AR is too involved. Reality: It’s… learn more >