I write this post amid streamers, champagne, cheesecake and a kicky little number from Janelle Monae on the stereo.  Yes, Diva Works my 3D marketing business is 12 years old and about to kick into the surly teenage years.  Over 12 fabulous years, I have seen things rise and fall, new trends expand and combust but here are the 12 secrets I’d like to share about the trade show and exhibition industry.

1.  They work.

I was reminded of this by Nicola Chatham who is exhibiting for the first time at the Better Homes & Gardens Expo in Melbourne this weekend.  Based on some supreme pre-show marketing, and some true grit, her opt-in based around her exhibition added 3500 plus subscribers to her list.  RESULT! Nicola understood that the exhibition or trade show is not just a stand alone event and for face exploding results, you must and absolutely have a solid pre-marketing and post show plan.

2. They don’t need to cost a bomb.

I’ve done stands made of balloons.  Temporary displays using printed banner vinyl stretched over timber frames.  A 3D promo sign made of painted foam.  The key ingredient is that your idea must be KILLER and don’t do crazy stuff just for the sake of it, tie it back to your objectives and stand theme.

Riverwalk 3D Sign

Riverwalk 3D Sign

3. Relationships are KING.

Work with people you like and respect.  Time is the most valuable non renewable resource we have  and should not be spent battling dodgy suppliers that cut costs and therefore service and results suffer.

4. The most valuable asset is your sense of humour.

Stand loaded onto a semi-trailer hijacked by two hookers?  A water dragon with a snapped off tail being nursed through a Motor Show build? Jeff Kennet launching a major project with a backdrop being buffeted by high winds being weighted down from behind by every meaty bloke within a 2 km radius?!? Yep.  It’s happened to me and I came out smiling and high kicking.

5. You simply must have objectives that you want your display to reach.

No excuses.  Keep the objectives to three or less to really sharpen up your trade show presence.

6. There are no perks to being a wallflower.

Stand up and stand OUT by doing something different to all your competitors. In these current times with so many firms being timid and safe there has been no greater time for trying something new.

7. You get what you pay for. ‘Nuff said.

8. Sometimes you need to call people out on the crazy.

I have a thing called the “Are you for real?!?” test. An example: I recently received a quote from the SCEC for supplying oranges, 2 x home style  juicers and an operator for the cost of $224.00 per hour to provide fresh juice.  Applying the “Are you for real?!?” test by imagining asking the question of your average punter in the  street if that cost was feasible and fair and receiving the gut result that no, indeed that was not fair or reasonable but off the chart gouging I conveyed these sentiments to SCEC.  Outrageous costs / head scratching rules and regs need to be called out and shown for the crap they are.  The trade show industry needs to thrive on not be weighed down by shit-crazy pricing and arse covering OH&S policies.

9. Figure out an ROI or ROO

Return on investment (ROI) or return on objectives (ROO)…whatever your method, make sure you have some way of measuring your trade show success because when your Chief Financial Officer comes into your office, he is not there to admire your Kikki K coordinated stationary, he wants to know what benefits trade shows deliver to your company.  Make sure you always have some level of measurement documented.

10. This is the new normal. Get with it.

I have been hearing a lot about ye “good old days” where motor shows were plenty, budgets were not as tight, you did not have to get designs past a small tribes of people you have never met….but those times are gone and are done. This is the new normal and the best antidote I can find to these crazy-weird times is getting creative and seeking out the new.  Check this!  New find of Context: a whole bunch of surfaces you can load artwork onto.  Cue a new way of presenting ideas!

Billboard Diva

Billboard Diva

Laptop Diva

Laptop Diva

11. Show me, don’t tell me.

Our brains have been re-wired due to the multitasking we have been engaged with and so our attention spans are getting even more limited.  Cutting the amount of text used on a stand and replacing with relevant images, demos, actual people able to ask questions and give succinct information is a smart move.

12. Don’t give up.

As with life, if something in your trade show program or on your exhibition stand is not working, try something new.  Truly.  Fortune favours the crazy-brave right now so dig in to get a better exhibition presence with enduring results.

Now fess up: do you have your own trade show secret?

You know that Janelle Monae track I mentioned in the opening?  Here is the whacktacular video in all its glory! It is going to blow your mind!

See you next week!