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