I love the Olympics.  If only to see my sport of choice – rowing – get some prime time television love from the major networks that does not involve someone either (a) laying down during a major race or (b) getting batshit crazy a few weeks out from a major competition and being booted off the team.  So yeah, I love me some olympic rowing.  What I am fascinated with is how crews plot their final 500 metre dash for the line.  I know in my own rowing that I have struggled with the finishing off the race and I have been working HARD to overhaul my technique.  My previous idea had been to blow all my energy in the first two-thirds of a race and then have nothing left in the tank to put on a final surge for the line.  One of the best races I have been in was the women’s C category race in the NSW 2012 Masters where, for the first time – praise to baby jesus – I was in a crew that actually improved its split time in the final 500 metres over the first.  The icing on the cake was a bronze medal but it just proved to me how important the finish is and how this can be applied to your trade show performance and ensuring it is successful.

1. Start with the end in mind

With most trade participation being about gathering leads, what processes are you putting place during the show to meet this target? Ohhhh, back up, do you even have a target?  Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking every soul that walks through the venue doors is your target as there will be many people there that have no buying or influential authority within an organisation.  You need to focus on who you want to reach at the show and make it your business to ensure they stop by and learn more about your products, services and their benefits.  A company I worked with earlier this year has a total of 6 – no, that is no error – key influencers they wanted to have on their trade show stand out of a delegate list in excess of over 1500.  So their activities were all around getting this gang of 6 on their stand and made sure their messaging, the images, the inclusions and even the booth staff were all about what those 6 would want to see, hear and touch.

2. Make a plan – and stick to it

Once you have your target list you now have to make a plan on how to gather their details on the stand.  Trade shows are fast-moving and delegates only have limited time available especially if they are being shunted through the morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea windows of access to the trade show display.  So I recommend having a mix of lead gathering techniques on the stand:

a. The badge scanner.  This is often offered through the show organiser and while it can be good to systemise the information, I have seen too many bad examples of both babes perched at the info counter just scanning badges to up the metrics.  The problem is then transferred to the back-end where you have a whole bunch of names but what do they want?

b. The business card bowl.  Well, it certainly beats the pants pocket of the head sales guy, but like the badge scanner, who are these people and what the hell are they interested in?

c. App technology.  You can use App’s like Card Munch to take details but make sure your stand staff have had pre-show training in this.  Not a good look on day one when your stand staff are head scratching.

d. Forms.  This is good, especially when stapled to a business card so all contact details are correct but it can be made so much better when the booth staff fill this out on your behalf either while you are there or straight after the chat.  I get real cold when I get passed a form for me to fill out when visiting a stand.  You want my information?  Then you take down the information about me that you require.

e. QR codes and augmented reality. The QR codes have been around for a while though not used widely and augmented reality is in the early days of trade show take up but both offer huge possibilities and ongoing engagement long after the show is over.

3. Actually follow-up on the leads – I know, CRAZY TALK!

This is where the gold medal is earned.  Follow the damn leads up.  I have this exercise when I visit trade shows to see how many of my details get followed up on.  I am tracking around the 40% follow up mark at the moment which is just shameful.  All the effort of planning a trade show stand, buying the space, doing pre-show marketing, having a stand designed and built, trucking out all your best stand staff and housing them in a different city and for what?  Buggar all.  Truly, this is key.  People have given you their details, they expect to hear from you and with technology being what it is, they would expect to hear from you within 48 hours of the show close.  Or sooner.  Don’t be satisfied with a sub-performance.  Strive for gold!

I have seen so many firms sabotaging their gold medal performance by failing to finish well by collecting leads in a systemised way and following them up.  Hey, the Beastie Boys wrote a song that parlays nicely into this.  And if you have others ways of collecting and following up leads, please share in comments below.

Vale Adam Yauch (MCA).  See you next week!