(Episode 2: I just told the show organiser to get bent. Now what, genius?)

It was back on the 11th July that I wrote the first part of this post and much like my golden years of TV where I was left wondering between seasons who the hell really did try to kill JR (anyone reading this sub Gen-X…ask a grown up), I finally have coughed up the finale. Let’s dive straight back it to where I left you…..

So you’ve pulped your exhibitor manual and blocked calls from the show organiser….. Now what?

Create your own trade show. It sounds like a mountain of work and I won’t lie, the organising of your own event is EPIC but there are heaps of people you can outsource to like my wonderful friend Jade who loves staging events as much as I love a rock festival with short queues for food ie. A SHED LOAD!  There are some major benefits to you staging you own event such as:

  1. You own the show

Yep. You company name looms large everywhere and you don’t have that sinking feeling when you get to the traditional trade show and realise that your opposition has spent twice the GNP of Fiji on their stand design.

And have sponsored the keynote.

And they have better coffee.

Your show, your way….doesn’t that sound divine?

The Display Builders do Schneider’s own events and they have had HUGE success with these.  See below for a pretty pic of Schneider’s own event.

Schneider's own event as done by The Display Builders

Schneider’s own event as done by The Display Builders

  1. You set the program

I’d suggest reaching out to your ideal customer here and ask them what would make them give a “HELL YES!” to them to taking time out of their packed schedule and to a self-produced event. Don’t fall into the trap of booking speakers that would parrot accepted business practise. You really want to mix it up! Some of the best events I have been to included a left-of-centre presentation on “How the world sees you” by Sally Hogshead. Totally fascinating stuff (I’m the trendsetter according to her online tes), so make you program free ranging, intriguing and even controversial. But please, no cheesy corporate presenters. That stuff is so Chamber of Commerce 1970’s style.

  1. You control the invites

No more wondering if your ideal market will even be there, you control the list. You will have to work harder at getting your ideal clients along to convince them their time at your event is worth clearing their calendar for. Send save-the-dates at least 9 to 6 months in advance and then have a solid pre-event strategy where you send regular reminders and updates. Consider using direct mail to target your customers and send this in an express envelope (everybody opens an express post envelope!)

  1. You can measure success. (Bonus: You get to define what success means to you) 

To prove the worth of you own self funded event, you can set what you measure against. Invitees versus final registrants. Post customer feedback forms. Number of press impressions. Total count on follow-up meetings or demos booked. No more rubbery figures provided by show organisers. You set the benchmarks of what you want to measure, then you find a way of either counting or measuring this.

I’d recommend investigating further if running your event is a good move for your company to either stage in conjunction with your trade show program or to replace some current trade show events with your own. The first step – as always – is to look at your objectives and see if that is being currently served by your show roster or if you are going to look at solo events to achieve your aims. To help get a feel for costs, speak to your trade show partner so they can give you a budget guide of the costs you can expect to be up for and don’t forget to add in costs to boost your in-house resources. Depending on your expected numbers, you will definitely need someone – or a tribe – to help with the invites and delegate management. Getting your ideal customer to the event is paramount. No-show people wise means no-show event wise.

Now I am moving this blog over to my new home at: http://www.divaworks.com.au/whatdivadidnext/. Please come across and visit me there. I decided I wanted more sparkle, a bigger lounge, perhaps a guest bedroom and a walk in heel-drobe. So yeah, come over, bring a plate and make your self at home!

And if you did find yourself in my actual real home (oooh look! She does have a LOT of recipe books that seem to be only about cake…), you would be listening to this tune on high rotation. I’m going to give it another spin now!  And really….this is the only blurred lines song you need.  That other one with la douche Robin Thicke?  Total rubbish.

 

See you at my new home!

I’m not entirely sure I should be blogging about the MH17 tragedy on my “mainly marketing with a side serve of hard rock” site but I’ve spent a large part of this week in reflector mode. And perhaps you’ve been too.

I don’t consume a lot of mainstream media as so much of it is filled with carping politicians and non-news stories of Kardashians, Kidmans etc. But when the news broke of MH17 being shot out of the sky, the tragedy was too great to process and so I made even more concerted effort to avoid… avoid…avoid.

Until Sunday afternoon, walking through Newtown, I clapped sight of the newspaper front page and there he was, another person lost to his family, confirmed dead on the MH17. Except I knew him. He’s Jack O’Brien, a trainer at my gym. He often signed me in, we exchanged sleepy hi’s / bye’s and my overriding impression of him was a quietly contained and gentle young fella. He always looked bemused if I arrived at gym already fagged from striding up the hill from my home to the gym. And he was my accountability partner when I could not face another stint on the rowing machine. As he signed me in, I would hiss, wide eyed and unblinking “I have a 27 minute erg to do and if you see me leave before that time is up, feel free to shake your head in disappointment.” I never did try him out in that, somehow telling someone you are going do the bloody thing is all I motivation I needed.

Later on that same Sunday afternoon, crossed legged on the lounge I wanted to know more of Jack and the others aboard the flight. So I grabbed a fistful of hankies and read the deeply personal stories that I had avoided earlier. And it is all so unbearably sad, even for someone like me with a tenuous connection to someone on the flight. I have no idea how family and friends live through this.

In settling into this sadness, I have been brittle with time-wasters and incompetents this last week but on the flipside had long, loving, meandering conversations with family, friends and even strangers and we try to fold this tragedy into our understanding. One of the loveliest, heartfelt talks was with one of my besties, Donna who is back safe in Australia after stints living in and around hot beds of conflict. Over the years I have held my breath and repeated the mantra “please let them be safe and well, please let them be safe and well” when trouble bubbles up close to where they live. I now extend that I hope out further to anyone living in and around conflict.

This is where I want to direct my energy: towards love, hope and gratitude for having the life I do with do much love from family and friends. With the reminder that no one we love ever really dies.

I'm no fan of the Beatles....but there is genuine gold in the sentiment "all you need is love"

I’m no fan of the Beatles….but there is genuine gold in the sentiment “all you need is love”

As a counter-point to this meditative post, I need, we all need some whimsy, so here is a special find from my witty, sweet sister that will lift your spirits.

See you next week.

I know I promised Part 2 of “When It’s time to quote exhibiting.  And what you should do instead”.

But.  

I have been laying on the floor at night.  

In the dark.  

Listening to my “Voice of Choice” Henry Rollins cycle through his favourite tracks on Double J.  

I am a BIG fan girl of Henry Rollins.  I have not been this type of rabid fan since I discovered Paul Stanley of KISS and his thigh high boots when I was 9 years old and clutching my first piece of vinyl with accompanying collector cards. Henry is such an interesting, intense fella creating amazing work.  And his taste in music is so broad and mind blowingly awesome!

So – no time to write part 2 of the promised post but I did manage to knock out a piece for Spice Magazine about the 5 ways to nail your expo design. Go here to read it.  Really pumped to be featured in this magazine that I though would be all about spices and how you can do rad stuff with cinnamon…but no, apparently it is about the events and exhibition industry.  

My guest post

My guest post

Ok, so here is one of the bands I have rediscovered thanks to Henry: Beast of Bourbon and their slinky “Chase the Dragon”.  What a tasty slice of Australian rock!

See you next week with part 2 of the promised post!

(Episode 1: Tell the organisers to go fly a kite)

Pulling out of an entire trade show program or even a single show needs to be considered carefully. And requires top shelf spirits.

There was a time back in the early 2000’s when BMW pulled out of doing Motor Shows in Brisbane and suffered heavily for it, both in lost sales and a downgrade in perception. The Brisbane Motor Show was pretty unique in being the ONLY show on the Australian circuit where people actually bought cars off the stand floor. One year when I was managing the Mercedes-Benz stand, and a sports car in a ridiculous shade of 70’s deep purple was off loaded for $200K. That alone covered the costs of the entire stand build. So while other car brands did hot deals at the show, the question remained…where was BMW and were they….you know, ok in the Brisbane market? This perception of not exhibiting at a show bit BMW hard so after several years MIA they rejoined the exhibitor list.

Back in the day of the Australian Motor Shows!

Back in the day of the Australian Motor Shows!

So before you bin your deposit invoice for stand space at a show consider what your absence will say to your customer. “Just being there” is not a single good enough reason to exhibit but you need a strategy around counteracting negative perceptions about your brand’s absence.

Here’s when I think it is time to jettison your participation in trade shows:

1. When you have no support from management or your sales team to participate in a trade show.
This is one of the toughest things to push back against: a wall of crossed arms, closed minds and snapped shut wallets. I always believe in picking your battles. So if your well considered case studies, charts and spreadsheets proving return on investment and customer endorsements are not enough to convince management or your sales team the value of exhibiting, then let it ride. You can always go along to the show and gather intel in staging another pitch for why you should be in the show the following year. Or you could suggest another course of action that does not discard events entirely (I come to this later in the post, sit tight).

2. When the show is crap
Everything has an expiry date, including trade shows. In the last few years the motor show circuit has folded due to reductions in marketing budgets and poor scheduling. But a show does not have to fold to force you out. Trade shows with declining audiences, lackluster programs and an uninspired speaker list should also ring alarm bells. I think there is a definite case for a range of shows – especially medial based ones – that should look to moving their event to every second year rather than yearly as there is not enough innovation in some medical fields to sustain yearly shows. So weigh up the delegates number (cull the inevitable padding done by organisers to boost numbers), study the program and talk to your customers…does this trade show warrant your participation?

3. The organisers are vague / not delivering on promises / hard to get a hold of / have no form.
Look, don’t get me started….the amount of slack-jawed,UN-helpful, UN-organised organisers I have to deal with *reaches for the stress ball and goes to lie on the floor for a series of breath of fire exercises*….Ok, I’m back, let’s start again.

Trade shows can draw a lot of energy form you and your team so if the trade show organisers are continually not making good with promises, don’t return messages and are not working to help you increase the value of participation…then sod them off. A trade show is only as strong and successful as the organizer and too much money is committed to exhibiting to have it fritted away by a hot mess of an organizer. If you have had a bad experience, by all means raise it with the organizer but if you feel that they aren’t capable of improvement then consider not participating in future shows.

So now you have marked “return to sender” on the stand space deposit invoice…now what?

Do your own.

Yes! Do your own event!

A lot of companies like Thiess and Siemens are staging their own customer events so they can control the invitee list and tailor their invited speakers to their delegate’s particular area of interest. This is not as work intensive as it sounds and while there is a significant cost investment, your ability to control and influence the outcomes is far greater than if you attend a third party organized event. I will dive into the ins and outs and what-have-yous in next week’s blog post. This blog post is a two part-er, just like one of my fav TV shows Moonlighting used to do. Except there is no Bruce Willis. Because there something NQR about Brucey these days.

Thiess doing their own thing with a roadshow event

Thiess doing their own thing with a roadshow event

But there is everything right and fabulous about Dan Sultan who I will be seeing playing live tonight!

See you next week for the continuation of our cliffhanger “Just told the show organizer to get bent, now what genius?”

I recently wrote a guest post for Women’s Agenda and I got a TONNE of comments and emails along the lines of “YES!” and “Thank you, I so needed to hear this right now” and “I’m up for shredding some motivational posters….can we create a meetup for that?”.

So if you are stuck, waiting for some sort of sign or still crafting your business plan for the jillionith time….you need to move it lovely!

Go here to read the guest post and I would love to hear what action you have taken recently to move FOWARD in the comments.  I am a BIG FAN of action takers so let me know what you have doing to get what YOU want!

 

This is not your normal motivational poster!

This is not your normal motivational poster!

See you next week!

Fiona

I’ve been designing, project managing and delivering sales offices for my clients for near on 20 years and while I know what goes into the best of sales offices, I also have some pretty strong ideas on what should be jettisoned. Here we go:

1. Two cheap laminated desks staffed by bored guys with bad comb overs and stained ties

I grew up in Newcastle. This piece of information is vital to understanding how I found my way into design career. About every 4 months from the age of 8 to my early teens, my parents used to load my sister and I up in the Commodore and drive slowly through new land subdivisions, gawping at the new homes (Oh look, split level! This one has cathedral ceilings!) while chowing down on Kentucky Fried Chicken. Occasionally the hand brake would be ripped on and we’d all bundle into a display home. But before we got through to the shagpile dream home, we had to run the gauntlet of the two brown laminate nasty-cheap desks. Staffed by bored sales people who barely looked up from the copy of The Newcastle Herald to acknowledge you or barked “Are interested in buying? OR NOT?” With a mosaic of A3 black and white Xerox printed house and land packages taped up on a single wall. These so- bad-they-should-be-spanked sales offices were burnt on my retina and to this day, every sales office I work on is to avenge the ugliness I encountered on those formative Saturdays of my tween years. Hey, I know there are nobler causes out there but I reckon I think championing of beautiful spaces is right up there with upholding synchronised swimming as a legitimate Olympic sport.

Is this a folding card table being used to welcome visitors into a sales office...why yes, it is!

Is this a folding card table being used to welcome visitors into a sales office…why yes, it is!

 2. Cheap and oh-so-nasty visitor chairs

I love a good, solid yet comfy chair. I think making a visitor to your home or place of business sit on an uncomfortable, hard, plastic chair is giving a subtle “please, can you just buggar off” vibe. So I am mad keen to make sure all my sales offices have generously portioned visitor chairs that are upholstered and encourage the visitor to linger, able to ask the questions they need of the sales consultant and spend the time to deep dive into the home or land buying process. There are always budget considerations, but for the love of all things shiny, don’t skimp on comfortable chairs for your visitors.

3. Criminal lack of storage

We’ve all been in those sales offices where manila folders threaten to block out the sun, they are stacked so high on desks, or where lever arch folders have formed en-mass and are now forming barriers that would deter the hardiest of save-the-wilderness protester. Then there’s the patchwork of sticky notes tacked up on any and all available surfaces, photos of cats / kids or motivational quotes sticky taped EVERYWHERE!  And don’t even get me started on the back corner cave of cup-a-soup and Cruskit packets, burn out kettle and funky smelling sandwich press.  I hate clutter.  Haaaaate it, I tell you. It is one of my mandatories in sales office design: practical and plentiful storage.  It really can transform the looks of a sales office from something that looks like a tip to a space that is welcoming and pleasant to be in.  It does not need to cost a bomb and you can do clever things like secret cupboards hidden behind walls with graphics over, like I have done for Metricon.  It just needs a thorough audit of the items that need to be stored and then clever solutions designed into the sales office layout to cope with banishing the clutter.

Where's the clutter...there is no clutter!

Where’s the clutter…there is no clutter!

 4. Touch screens or even standard monitors that aren’t working 

Is there anything sadder in a sales office than the blank monitor with a blue-tacked sign over the face reading “out-of-order’?  Or worse: no note letting you know it is on the fritz so you stand there like a complete muppet pushing the screen until a sales consultant looks up and yells “OI, IT’S NOT WORKING!!!!”  Look, once the investment has been made in the screen and software to give you the mind bending 37,486 combinations of floorplan layouts you can conceivably pick, the onus is on you to maintain those screen like it is your firstborn. So much time and cold hard cash goes into setting up the programs that run on those screens, so your investment needs to pay for itself by actually working and enhancing the customer experience.

5. Not considering the customer experience. THE WORST!

Yeah, I love taking a brief from some clients where they rattle off what they need in a sales office like consultant desk, a place for the consultants to stash their Cruskits, a bar fridge, an all in-one-business machine, a stack of acrylic hangers in the window to display home and land packages….and I quietly interrupt mid-brief and ask “What about your customers…what are they wanting to see and understand when they come to your sales office?”  You see times, have changed where it is no longer about what you want to show your customers – hell, most of them have been on-line anyway to see your offering.  It is now about giving people a compelling reason to shake off the track suits and uggs – or not – and come and visit your sales office. The smart sales office will have this customer journey totally mapped up as well as creating an environment that is representative of the development offer and intended quality or the project.  Because at this stage, people are not buying a block of land or a house, they are buying a dream.  So the sales office better match that expectation from the customer point of view point of view!

Ok, on the tunes list this week, I want to do a throwback to a song that I was really digging back in my tween years that I listed to on my walkman (ask your parents) while in the back of the Commodore hitting up display villages.

See you next week!

If you are anything like me, when I heard there was such a thing as The Stevie Awards, I was over all that like on Obeid on a mining lease. Anything that champions the awesomeness of Stevie Nicks is all good by me (*Disclaimer, I have found out since the Stevie’s do not relate to Stevie Nicks AT ALL. TOTAL DISAPPOINTMENT).  Turns out that The Stevie’s are the world’s biggest business awards and I won a bronze award for Service Company In Australia at the recent Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, presented in Seoul.

But this is not about that.

My Dad and I at the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards

My Dad and I at the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards

I have not really thought too much about what I do differently in my 13 years of being a biz owner to my competitors, I just focus on producing my very best work every time and of being of service to my clients, project after project, day after day.

But if I had to sum up, my business advice can be distilled as this:

  1. Don’t get your semi-trailer containing your Motor Show stand hijacked by two hookers in Perth.
  1. 
Take your own food and snacks to site.  I swear I once ate a burger made of cat at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. It was epically bad. And I gave up eating meat for 8 months afterwards.
  1. The most important two words in any business is thank you. Use repeatedly and more than you think you should.

To follow my own advice, I have a cavalcade of thanks:

  • To my team Fiona, Anastasia, Lisa, Dave and Trudy I am so lucky to have the support of such talented and hardworking team.  They truly embody the Diva manta of “We love being of service” and “Will there be cake?”.
  • To my Mum, Dad, my sister Emma and my Aunty Christine.  They had to endure me as I grew up turning my room into an exhibition space where I displayed my artwork for sale…and then claiming it back once they had purchased it.  They have loved and encouraged me when I decided I was going to make art my career and any success I have is shared equally with them.
  • To the Diva Council.  Most of my friends appear on the council, along with mentors, coaches (Denise, Victoria, Koach Kim, Nathan the Demonic Personal Trainer) and rowing squad.  I glean so much inspiration, direct and sometimes indirect advice from them.  A recent addition to the Council has included Colleen who I sat next to on a flight to Singapore and after a fine time drinking the champagne stash dry in business class, leaned across looked me squarely in the eye, clutched my hand in hers and said “whatever you do, make it FUN!” Who knew that a modern-day sage would be wrapped in Chanel and was just back from drifting down the Ganges and would be sitting next to me?!?  I love these type of random messages from the most unlikely sources.
  • To my suppliers and collaborators.  I am not prolific on the supplier or collaborator front, I tend to use the same team over and over as they can interpret my most whacktactular idea into something able to be built. And they are a joy to work with.  Joy is seriously underrated in business.  Why deal with complete muppets and people who suck your awesome when you can work with a team that take pride in their work, want to be supportive and come up with simple solutions to complex problems?
  • And most importantly to my clients.   I am so ridiculously lucky to have a first class client list that trust me to bring their display projects to life. I thank them for believing in a sketch and ideas played out with exaggerated hand movements, scrapbook torn images, quick drawings on the back of notepads and word pictures.  As the role of marketing is increasingly stretched, I love being of help and trying to find ways that I can at least wipe some elements off your to-do list and prove that the marketing department is not just a cost centre but is the funnel that all orders, purchases and money flow into a business.

And over to you dear reader…thank you. I have no idea how you manage to carve out the time to read this semi regular blog when you could be reading the ingredient list of packaged cheesecake, writing letters to Christopher Pyne with the plea for the love of God to just SHUT IT, or running up a new frock on the Singer.  I know that there are so many things competing for your time and I am truly grateful you spend some of your precious time reading my words.

Want to see an excitable foxy terrier trying and compose herself post award?  Check ME out!

See you next week!

You read that right. Screw the competition. It just doesn’t matter.

As marketers I know you are being encouraged to watch what your competitors are doing: you can set RSS feeds, notifications can pop up alerting you to news stories, you can get data on you competitors social media stats, insider gossip….and all for what? It will paint a vivid picture of what your competitors are doing, but question is, what service or product are you creating of value in the world? Every moment spent agonising over what the other mob is doing is time lost that could have been spent better marketing your own product or service.

Every business I know struggles with this. An event I sat in on recently for one of my large multinational clients addressed this very issue around competition and how you handle it. The CEO’s message was beautifully succinct: keep doing great work that matters in the world. Don’t get so distracted by what your competitors are doing that you abandon your ability to innovate or neglect talking with your customers to see what problems you can solve.

The competition….it just doesn’t matter.

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

I’ve got some examples about how I’ve given the competition the two-fingered salute in recent times.

First up, I was on stand at Ozwater 2014 waiting for my client at handover when another trade show provider sauntered up and thinking I was the client (top tip: check the logo of my shirt next time pal, you’ll save yourself some pain in looking like a arse hat) started banging on about whatever the stand cost, his firm could do it for half that amount. Notice a couple of things here.  There was no question to the “client” over what they are struggling with so they can gain a deeper understanding of how they could truly help, no offer of adding more value, no suggestions about how more leads could be achieved, no ideas about improving the post show follow-up ….the pitch was only about savagely cutting costs.  I smiled at the sock puppet, disclosed I was the stand builder and thanked them for being a dick.  Years ago I would have torn strips off them…and then hang around to then tear strips off their stand after hours.  But I got wise.  The competition…it just doesn’t matter.  My clients don’t come to me for the cheapest stand, it is because I offer shockingly awesome service and solid strategy backed up with amazing designs.  And I also believe that is plenty of work for all trade show providers.  Even sock puppets that can only compete on price.

I also stuck up my two fingers to the competition in the Rowing State Masters this past weekend. I got in my can’t-touch-this bubble a few days out from the event, fine tuning my warm up sequence with Nathan The Demonic Personal Trainer, not even looking at the event draw and who I was up against.  On race day I kept it tight, arriving well before my race to do a warm up and sauntering up to the boat just before we launched so I could not buy into the pre-race “What chance do we have in this race” speculation.  Rowing to the start, I kept my eyes in my own lane and I was so focussed on what I had to do in the race, I still can’t tell you how many crews I lined up against.  In the race itself, I was not aware of the other crews, just counting off sets of 20 strokes in my head and making sure each twenty was better than the last. When we crossed the line and I took a moment to pant….it hit me we had just won gold. Cue mass hysteria!  I can’t tell you how different this approach was to previous years of twisting myself into an anxious state scanning the start list trying to determine what crews I had a chance against and then in the race itself, swivelling my head around checking to see our position in the race.  Here’s my new plan: keep my eyes in my lane, focus on only what I can do that will make a difference to the outcome – that is, row like I stole it.

Hands up who doesn't give a stuff about the competition?

Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Here’s a kicky tune for another mob who could give a staff about the competition.  KISS.  Do you reckon they cared about the musical competition when they formed in the 70’s?  They totally created their own niche with face paint, platforms, a bass player with a tongue that may or may not have been an implant from a cow and some serious brain frying drug addictions.  But the competition?  It didn’t matter!

http://youtu.be/FA2aoSsDEnQ

Want to get some seriously fab tips on creating an AMAZING display that won’t result in hair pulling….yours or someone else’s?  Go here to download your guide.

See you next week!

This post involves me climbing up on Dobbin, my personal hobby-horse so if you are looking for a sun-shiney, all things are AWESOME post….best you move right along. This is an old school RANT.

First up; the good news.  Australia is now seeing more international shows – especially in the medical field – being held in venues across this great land.  This is fab, it means a boost for our local industry and suppliers, brings cashed up delegates pouring money into economy and some kangaroos get patted.

The bad news: with international shows, brings international organisers and their way of doing things including their own suppliers.  Nothing too evil in that but a number of the international organisers have tie ups with international logistics providers and this means heart stopping charges in relation to getting your stand and client gear off a truck and onto the show floor.  By heart stopping I mean whatever you are paying now for forklifting to and from the truck and the stand and THEN the storage of your empty crates and road cases whilst the show is on, goes up by 3 or 4 times (or more) what you would normally pay an Australian provider to do.  Now I won’t be riding Dobbin so hard if the international logistics providers were providing logistics labour that looked like Tom Morello or Josh Homme, turned up with Haighs chocolates and offered to do my ironing but the level of service is on par with what is experienced at non-international shows. So on a straight comparison on services provided by an international organiser tie up and the local services, there is no perceivable difference.  And therefore, no reason that exhibitors and stand builders are being stung with charges 400% and beyond of what they normally pay for logistics services.  GAH!

We have been pretty lucky in Australia that we have been immune to the rort otherwise known as drayage that our American eagle friends have to live with on a daily basis.  Drayage is essentially the on site logistics handling services that get your gear on / off track and to / from your stand. With the prices you pay you would expect a team of white-gloved efficiency experts lovingly placing your goods on gold-edged flat-topped trolleys and then gently pushing them through the show aisles with the utmost care.  But no.  For costs that rival some countries GNP, you get some clapped out forklift driven by some bloke called Bubba get your gear to your stand sometime between “What? Never saw your gear lady…” and “I am on SMOKO”.  Hell, they are always on smoko.

Dobbin, my personal hobby horse

Dobbin, my personal hobby horse

So with some many companies questioning the value of their exhibit program, we need these high logistics costs like a NRL player needs another sleeve tattoo.  And I’m calling it as it is, it’s a rort, with kickbacks between the international organisers and the international logistics firms ensuring that the exhibitors and the service providers are getting billed way in excess of what they should. But it is just not enough to bang on about it in a blog post.  Here are some tips to tackle this bullshit:

  • Get in touch with the organisers and explain – perhaps with use of a map and a stuffed koala – that we are in Australia and we don’t do drayage.
  • Write letters to the organisers and telling them the costs are outrageous and ask what the hell they are on about.  People get all freaky with letters these days as so few people actually write them.  We get all worked up about something, like a post on Facebook thinking that will bring effective change and then forget about it.  But agitating for change takes work and we can’t be flakey about this.  It takes work but if you are committed, you can make a difference.
  • Demand a fixed price for the logistics services in writing.  This really puts the international logistics provider on the spot as they like to issue a sliding scale of fees, based on another currency, with penalty rates added in that are all so complicated to figure out they assume that you will give up and sign off on anything.  Be tenacious about this.  This is your money they are siphoning off. Insist upon measuring your gear yourself, compact your delivery into a small enough footprint as possible (think of these Russian Dolls with stuff sleeved inside other stuff) and give them the two fingers by bringing in whatever you can via the carpark and your own hand trolley.
  • Be pleasant about it but when on site ask the organisers why the charges are so high. Come at it from a curiosity point of view rather than white-hot anger that has the veins in your neck bulging as we are trying to get a positive outcome here, not an apprehended violence order issued against us.

Ok, so Dobbin and I have to move along as I feel compelled to tackle other issues like Christopher Pyne being…Christopher Pyne.  In the meantime, add to add your suggestion in the comments section to tackling the wackness that is creep in of drayage across this great land.

And!  Want to get your FREE 11 step checklist for awesome and stress free exhibitions and displays? Go here to get your immediate download.

Let’s end this rant on a happy vibe with a gorgeous slice of pop from LEN.

See you next week!

I am very, very late with this *weekly* blog post. Partly through staring out into middle distance with my jaw hanging open from all the life altering music I have experienced so far this year.  I am still buzzing after seeing The Boss in Sydney in February. February! The concert was almost 3 months ago and I am still oh-my-godding over it! Confession time: up until the concert, I did not own any actual records of Brooce and had only purchased a sprinkling of songs of his off iTunes but I find him a really intriguing person and having heard about how mind blowing his concerts were, I just knew I had to see him when his 2014 Sydney dates were announced.  As for his concert, I got a master class in performance, passion and entertainment. The Boss also has some juicy lessons for marketers in trade show management too:

1. You’ll do better with some help

When the band strolled out onto the stage I spied a figure I recognised with his guitar riding high on his body.  Could it be…NO WAY!! It was Tom Morello ex-Rage Against the Machine, one of the most unique guitarists of the past 25 years was a now part of the E-Street band.  I went NUTS as he injected his own style into Bruce’s songs with a sense of urgency and purpose.  I love that Bruce recognises that even for himself – if not the audience – he has to surround himself with the very best musicians so his songs are recreated perfectly.  This lesson applies to trade shows too.  To succeed in the crowded trade show environment, you need the very best stand designers and builders who take pride in their work and suppliers who take your calls and respond to every request.  There are no shortage of people vying for your business in trade shows and displays but you need to align yourself with the best as they will ensure the results you are seeking through attending exhibitions are exceeded show after show.

I'm over here Bruce!

I’m over here Bruce!

 2. Put your own spin on the classics

Throughout this recent Australian / New Zealand tour, Bruce become known for the covers he did.  So there was this pre-show anticipation build up around guessing what local and loved tunes Bruce would cover.  I have always been lukewarm in INXS and their music but even I discovered something new in his cover of “Don’t change”. I really loved hearing how Bruce and the band found something new in songs lie “Friday on my Mind” that have been flogged to death.  It is similar with trade shows.  A lot of things that get used repeatedly on show stands are ones that have been done to death but the trick and the magic comes through finding new ways to interpret and present them.  For example can the garden-variety reception counter be turned into a coffee bar with seats to encourage discussions?  Or have touch screens builds into side panels so people can help themselves to information they need?  Just because your team tell you they need the same items on the stand show after show does not mean they have to be displayed in the same way, it just takes some creative thinking to turn the ordinary into something that stops people in their tracks and come in for a closer look.

3. Surprise and delight your audience

With a rich back catalogue like Bruce’s you have no idea what the set list will be before the show. Across social media and Bruce’s own site, punters debate what songs should be played and argue spiritedly about the case to play their favourite.  At the concert Bruce picks out hand made cardboard signs pleading for a particular song from the audience and with one song ending, the newly requested one commences.  The band are that tight and in sync with each other, they can switch from playing an entire album like they did at my Sydney concert to throwing in covers and playing songs from the latest release. There was no obvious build to an encore.  The spirit and passion that was poured into each song ensured EVERY song was an encore.  Imagine if you could surprise and delight your trade show audience like Bruce does.  What if you followed up leads with a hand written note and not the go-to email that everyone else uses?  What if you listed to what your customers are really struggling with and try and solve that rather than memorising a sales pitch and repeating that to every client you encounter?  What if you walled off your stand and only invited your target market inside?  What if the stand was being built during the actual show?  What if you had a guest speaker on your stand that was not from your industry but talked about things like time hacks, the 5 best meals that you can eat while on the go, how to get the best hotel / flight / travel upgrades you can.  So many opportunities exist for doing something creative and unusual and I’m sad that so many of these opportunities get wasted.  (And then I think of Tom Morello and I am happy again!)

 4. Do what you do but do it outrageously well

Look, a rock concert is a rock concert. There are guitars, drums, keyboards, horn sections, backup singers and other musicians.  There’s the stage, lighting and screens. So far, so common.  But they real talent comes through taking common ingredients and executing the outcome so well, it almost becomes an art form.  I met people at the Springsteen concert that had tickets to all dates he played in Oz.  People almost become evangelical when they talked of what they got from his concerts.  Forty thousand people jammed inside a soulless venue and each of us felt this personal connection to some 5 foot something fella and his exceptional band.  To build that connection with your audience – and an audience that has seem you many times, elevates you to almost legend status.  Trade show marketers who apply this same level of detail to their own programs where they make the customer the hero and providing demos, displays and staff that the customer wants to engage with will always see outstanding results from their trade show efforts.  If you do a single – or multiple – trade shows in a year, make it exceptional with enthusiastic staff.  If your budget is tight and your stand small, apply quirky elements that will guarantee you are a go-to stand. If your stand is large and product heavy, offer personalised demonstrations with beautifully presented food and beverage.  There is absolutely no excuse to being sheep in the trade show environment especially when so many ways exist to make you stand out.

Large banner style for Munipharma @ TSANZ 2014

Large banner style for Munipharma @ TSANZ 2014

5. Keep it fresh

While Bruce has a key core of E-street band members, he does change it up so people like my future husband Tom Morello (sorry…did I mention I can really shred?) can join for a single or multiple tours. He is also able to add horns to the signature sound of the Clarence Clements saxophone sound they pioneered.  Backing singers are added and subtracted depending on song choice and where he wants to raise the temperature or quieten the vibe.  He pivots from one career-defining track to an obscure song not played in years.  He keeps it fresh because his muse depends on it.  The trade show environment is prefect for trialing fresh ideas.  You can do cost effective tweaks like ditching the paper sign up form to using business card swipe technology to capture leads.  You can make grand sweeping changes by using the space above your stand with soaring printed banners.  Just because you do a number of shows a year does not mean it has to be the same time after time.  Poll your staff about the changes they would like to see and then implement them – even for just a single show to test.  Look for ways you can include your other marking channels like social media, out of home advertising, print and TV to help support what you do on the trade show floor.  But most importantly don’t just think about doing something new, go try it out!  Thoughts and ideas are worth buggar all unless you are willing to back them up with action.

My year of life changing concerts is not done yet.  I have Arctic Monkeys next week to attend with one of my favourite marketing mavens and then I will be into planning my next round of to-die for music experiences.

This week’s tune is not surprisingly by The Boss.  However, it not one of his better known songs but one that I have always loved for its real life take on relationships and love once it moves on from the initial first blush.  Enjoy and I will be back in touch next week!

Fiona