Archives for category: Trade & Exhibition Stands

(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 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?”

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

 

Recently I’ve heard of a particular firm in the Australian exhibition industry who aggressively targets prospects by calling them up and offering them to cut the cost of doing tradeshows with their current provider by at least 30%. Now while this is one type of approach to get clients by offering the cheapest possible price it also highlights the confusion and uncertainty around what an actual tradeshow stand should cost. How are prices determined?  Do I have a giant lotto style contraption that I pull random numbers out of?  Do I just like the figure $78,690? Do I just charge what I think I can get away with? Apart from the lotto device the answer is, no.

In all my 20+ years of being in the trade show industry I have never seen a quote that lists every single component that is required to deliver a trade show stand. Truly, to list each and every item on a quote would melt your mind! It’s like listing the ingredient of marshmellows, sometimes, you are better off not knowing.  But in the interest of opening the kimono (ooooh, settle) listed below are items that commonly get used on a trade show stand and that are factored into the quote prepared by your tradeshow provider. By no means is this an exhaustive list and as soon as I press published on this blog I’m sure I will think of more, but it is a good starting point to pull back the curtain and reveal what you are paying for:

  • 3-D renderings
  • Working and detailed drawings of cabinetry /constructed items
  • Layouts showing positioning of graphics on the stand
  • Project management including client liaison, meetings with all key stakeholders, sourcing of materials and selection of finishes, liaising with suppliers including face-to-face meetings to work through issues around stand construction and setting up of all documentation, timelines, quote requests, OH&S manuals, orders, and on-site manuals
  • Insurances including public liability, professional indemnity, workers compensations, business insurance
  • Wages / consultancy fees of your trade show partner
  • Your trade show partner’s overheads in running a business ie. rent / utilities / business machines, consumables
  • Cake (not kidding)
  • Flooring
  • Walling
  • Reception counters
  • Workstations and demo bases
  • Specification panels
  • Printed mural graphics, light box transparencies, promo graphics, taglines, messaging, logos, feature graphics
  • Showcases
  • Catering
  • Discussion areas
  • Furniture
  • My pony Buttercup (might be kidding)
  • Meeting rooms
  • Storage facilities
  • Overhead rigging
  • Overhead banners
  • Arm lights, LED Cove lighting, like boxes, specialist lighting techniques, go those, projected imagery,
  • Monitor screens, computers and peripherals, touchscreens, tablets, LCD screens, and tiles, backlit projection, forward projection,
  • Immersive technology, interactive technology,
  • Power, water, compressed air
  • Forklift, scissor lift, plant hire
  • My electric guitar lessons so I can play in the Foo Fighters (ok, kidding)
  • Transport of all items to and from venue
  • Installation and dismantling of all items
  • Cleaning and preparation of stand
  • Photography of stand
  • On stand events
  • Storage of crating whilst show is on
  • Parking at venue
  • Handover of stand to client including any airfares, accommodation and travel fees
  • Writing of stand operation document
  • Post-show report
  • Finalisation of invoicing
  • Compilation of files for client to use in-house and on social media

Okay so while not all tradeshow stand would have every element that is listed above, many would and you can start to see how much is actually involved with each and every trade show stand.  There is probably a very good reason now that many clients look at a quote and think “Holy cats, I could build a HOUSE for that!”  Because yeah, in a lots of ways you are building a house.  A temporary one, but a house with all the trimmings nonetheless.

The pricing of the trade show stand is never just about the dollar cost though. It is also about the value. The murky thing is: value is not easily quantified. Because it means something different to each and every person. For example I love buying products from Mecca Cosmetica. I love being fussed over, I love free offers to try new products, I love being invited to the VIP days where world renowned make-up artists trying convince me that I really can wear strong red lip. I fully understand that I’m paying more than I would if I was buying similar products on strawberrynet.com but for me, the value I get from buying my products direct from Mecca means so much more than a cheap price to me.

And so it goes with trade show stands.

Making decisions around the price you put on value can be answered by this: how well do you want to be take care of during the whole entire process of organising a trade show stand? Do you want to pay for the first class experience of a total turn-key solution where you simply turn up on the day unfussed and stress-free having relied on your trade show provider to handle each and every detail with care?  Or are you prepared to sacrifice this red carpet service to save some coin, work overtime to do things yourself in an industry you only barely understand so you turn up on show day harried and OVER IT?

This stand cost less than $10K to do!

This stand cost less than $10K to do!

Anyone can give you a cheap price for a stand and I can promise you now that the cheap price is also applicable to the cheap service, the casual attitude towards really understanding the needs and objectives of their clients, and the total lack of addressing any issues raised either during the preshow or on-site build up. The all-important value comes in when you deal with people who truly love what they do, who continue to educate themselves in all things tradeshows and marketing, who can offer sound advice and steer their clients away from making costly mistakes, who can be on-call, that can offer alternatives, who will be responsive, and will treat you as their only client. Now while not every company wants to pay for that top level service or may even see no value in all those extras it certainly does make a difference to the success of your trade show and obtaining the all-important return on investment.

This stand cost close to $1million dollars to produce!

This stand cost close to $1million dollars to produce!

Price should always be a factor in determining the trade show provider you partner with BUT their ability to provide added value should also be considered equally. If your provider is only ever competing on price, their business model is on shaky ground because there will always be another company that can do it at a cheaper price. Rarer are those trade show providers that can actually deliver so much mind-bending value that they end up making price irrelevant. And you want to seek out these firms because they make an effort to understand your company, will nail your show objectives, show you how to get the best return on your investment, do what they say they will do and are just damn good people to work with.

Speaking of the red lip that I envy but can’t seem to pull off I’d like to share with you this great track from a lady that knows a thing or two about the power of the pout.  And how to shred a guitar in heels.

See you next week!

To kick things off, let me just say I had no real opinion of the Kardashian Klan until one of them strayed into my much-loved music pantheon with this very ill-judged cameo is Kanye’s latest video.  I mean, COME ON!  The music is bad enough but the soft focus, cheese overload of bike straddling, hair flicking and photoshop trickery is just 37 flavours of fucked up. Yeah, I said it.  If you want to see the car crash go here but for the love of all things sparkly, wash your brain out immediately afterwards with a full viewing of Hole’s “Miss World” immediately afterwards.

Now back to the subject of comparison-itis.  My clients can sometimes ask me in the early stages of a new project “Did you see the XXX trade show stand / sales office fit out?”.  And usually, no, I haven’t.  This might indicate a certain level of laziness of my behalf (partially true) but it is based on a recent realisation that me seeking out “inspiration” and “checking out the competition” was a major time suckhole and dulled my awesome.

The realisation that I was wasting precious time worrying about the competition and what other displays looked like (Were they better? Are they done by better designers than me? Did their clients love them more than mine did of my work?) was delivered through my demonic personal trainer Nathan.  Prepping me for the NSW Masters rowing event earlier this year, Nathan totally changed how I competed by giving me a warm up program that focussed on waking up by body and spiking the heart rate but delivered a side benefit of keeping me so focussed on my warm up, I had no space to indulge my normal schtick of scanning the program, furiously analysing the draw to decide who I had a chance against and who I thought would beat me for sure.

This year was a game changer.

I got up early and started my warm up program for 45 minutes before I even left home and then once at the venue, I spent another 30 minutes on the warm up focussing on heart rates spikes and stretching out the areas that felt tight in the initial phase.  Timing it just right, the end of the warm up coincided with jumping in the boat and rowing to the start.  Because I had kept my brain busy with the warm up there was no self defeating thoughts of “I can’t do this / I have no chance / Who am I thinking that I can row…I’m not even meant to be GOOD at sport!”  To this day, I can’t tell you what crews I lined up against on the start. As soon as I hopped in that boat, I was all business and my only job was to row like I stole it.  Three minutes and 46 seconds later that state silver medal was mine and a whole new world of non compare-itis spread out before me.

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

The comparison-it is can also show up through “I am just going to go research what other stand designers are doing” and “I going to spend a quick 5 mins looking for new design inspiration on the web”.  Look, you can sell it to yourself anyway you want but the cold, hard, loveless truth is that you are stepping into a time and creative vortex.  It is just another excuse for avoiding creating something new and innovative of your own making.  The fear shows up when you stretch yourself, when you try or create something new that has never been done before.  I’m being honest with you here, there are no guarantees that the new stuff will work or will be embraced or even understood by your audience so the fear of backlash and failure is totally justified.  However, the rewards are on offer though for those that seek a new way, a different path and for those that ask ”I wonder if I just did this differently…” And while I love my car, my steel capped heels and my surge protected curling iron to provide me with a sense of safety and predictability, I would never want my art to slip into that same mode.

While I steer clear of looking at competitor stands and displays to tap “inspiration”, I totally drink at the well of other sources.  My standard go-to’s include listening to my much loved music collection, seeing live music (can’t wait for 2014, I have a killer line up with Pearl Jam, Brooce Springsteen, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and Artic Monkeys) walking about outdoors and letting my mind wander, going to a new place in the city and just meandering, hanging out with friends and family that have no ties to my industry and reading a damn good book.  I also get flashes of awesome through baking, yoga, early morning rowing sessions and painting. Happily, these forms of inspiration don’t devolve into crippling bouts of comparison-itis and the download of new ideas and fresh inspiration for creative projects just happens without all the angst and time suckage.

So for anyone that is comparing their trade show stand or display with others, cure yourself for good of comparison-it is.  Create your own category. Strike out with something bold. Intrigue your customer or intended audience with the unexpected. And just do – or commission – awesome work.

Mirvac's Array Sales Office

Mirvac did not get to be first choice for apartments and homes by playing safe and following other competitors

I’d love to hear where you get your inspiration for creative projects from in the comments section below or you can email me at fiona@diavworks.com.au

Speaking of awesome, I will circle back to the opening Kardashian slap down with the link through to the humorous homage to “Bound 2” by Seth Rogen and James Franco. If there is more attractive couple on this planet than this pair, I am yet to see it!

See you next week!

One of my favourite marketing mavens has a sticky situation on her cute paws where some of her brand mangers want an upcoming trade show stand packed and stacked with all their latest gadgets and thingos (technical term) whereas our Ms Maven wants a clean looking stand that invites delegates to come into the space and chat with the brand managers.

To help Ms Maven have some clout with her argument that a lean, clean stand will deliver the business more opportunities to dive deep with existing and potential customers and therefore open to the door to future business, I went on the hunt for some data or research on the stacked stand vs. the clean networking space.  I might have been looking in all the wrong places (I did get waylaid on the awesome gofugyourself.com and the themiddlefingerproject.org sites, to be fair) but I did not find a comprehensive article arguing the toss either way.  So I decided instead to use this conundrum and let it form the basis of my blog this week.

Based on current trade show stand data out of the USA (from the Centre of Exhibition Industry Research) I was able to glean the following stats:

  • In 2011, 95% of exhibitors wanted to reach / identify new customers or sales leads whereas 80% wanted to either launch or promote new products or services.  From this data we can see that the face-to-face marketing (read: the ability to exchange information and present problems and challenges that require solutions in person) that exhibitions provide outweighed the need for product demos and displays.
  • The average spend on an exhibition stand in the USA (and this takes in every shape and size from the small inline booths through to the Brandzilla stands that take up entire exhibition halls) is shrinking.  In 2009 the average spend was $18.5K and in 2011 we were rolling back to $17.7K.  And I suspect that the dollar figure has shrunk further now as exhibitors are under pressure to do more with less.  By cutting the amount of product shown on a stand, you cut significant transport and storage costs.  The space that would have been given over to numerous displays could be configured more cost effectively with a hospitality or presentation area.  The majority of product displays are passive; they are unlikely to be powered up, operational and are shown out of context on an exhibition floor.  The use of space for networking, meetings and presentations on a stand guarantees active participation.  You can hold seminars, launches, host a keynote address, stage a happy hour and the good news with events and activities like these you are drawing people to your stand and encouraging their participation.  No longer are delegates simply moving through your stand space “looking” at widgets.  They are talking to your sales staff, they are participating in hosted buyer events, and they are asking questions of the special guest presenter that you have invited onto your stand.  One of the main aims of any exhibition should be capitalise on the unique face to face marketing opportunity that trade show displays provide by actually creating events and activities that will allow this to take place.  And added bonus to the networking focused stand is that delegates tend to spend longer on this type of stand as they will hang for the presentation, launch, hospitality and so on.
This stand is stacked with widgets!

This stand is stacked with widgets!

Lean, clean stand based around on stand networking

Lean, clean stand based around on stand networking

Further data I found backing up some of my main points above was drawn from the 2013 Economic Outlook survey and detailed in Exhibitor March 2013:

  • 25% respondents anticipate overall marketing budget will increase in 2014, 52% will maintain.  So my take away from that data is 75% of exhibitors will either maintain or reduce their marketing spend in 2014.  Or, exhibiting companies and their marketers will need to continue doing more with less.  If you want a hot tip of increasing your trade show marketing spend, you need to prove the return on investment in displays to your financial department, your board, your mum or whoever’s hand signs the cheques.  It is always hard to quantify people who cross your stand space and simply look at widgets and displays.  Contrast that against being able to do head counts and data capture on attendees to on stand events, participation in demos and launches and so on.  The benefit of a lean and clean stand that is focussed around networking is really beginning to sell itself, don’t you think?
  • 18% of companies will be reducing their exhibit space (over and above exhibit promotion / exhibit properties / show services).  With almost a fifth of companies shrinking the floor space they traditionally take at trade shows, now, more than ever, close scrutiny needs to be applied to every item, display, widget and thingo that is earmarked for inclusion on the stand.  Does the inclusion of this item fit with the overall objectives?  How can we use it to tell a story, create some buzz or leverage off it pre and post show?  And seriously what if we bucked the trend, ditched the item and did something different….what then?
Racked and stacked!

Racked and stacked!

Lean and clean!

Lean and clean!

You know, I get it totally.  There are many trade show booth staff that feel more confident and comfortable talking about the widget as it is a natural way of starting a conversation. You can stand in front of your “thingo” and wax lyrical about its benefits.  But the tethering yourself to a particular thing is dangerous as you miss so many other opportunities to hear about your customers other needs and pain points that your company can assist and even solve.  My most helpful tip I can offer with opening up a conversation on a trade show stand between exhibitor and delegate is start your conversations with open ended questions like “Tell me about….”, “What are you…”  These are such more user friendly that the standard questions that elicit a “Yes” or “No” answer. And once you have the delegate opening about their challenges they are facing or what they are really wanting to see or experience on the trade show floor, you are off and running.

So my latest musical crush is the Arctic Monkeys.  I had been indifferent to them but having heard sterling stuff about their new release “AM”, I dropped some cash on it, stuck it in my car’s CD player, pointed my car in the direction of my parents joint on the Central Coast and then lost my mind.  I listened to the opening track “Do I wanna know” sixteen times on repeat.  Yes, it was that good.

See you next week!

So you might have gleaned from a number of my posts, I have a deep and abiding love for rock music and one of my favourite bands is Nine Inch Nails.   This video I am sharing today shows the lead up to their new tour and the thing of particular interest for the exhibition industry is the showcasing of new lighting, staging and audio visual techniques.

Relocatable screens that register human movement?  Hell yes!

LED frames that are made of strips that show both content and then can be blasted with light from behind so they become skeletal?  Holy cats, YES!

Trent Reznor, my future husband being all intense striving for new effects and new experiences for his audience? Oh please make it so!

Ok, yes you do need coin to employ a lot of these techniques but even the firm with the smallest budget can draw something from this video even if it is to ape Trent’s desire to better serve his audience by delivering an immersive, authentic experience of his brand (and band) through the skewering of existing technologies and effects.  Don’t let all the rigging, audio visual set pieces and middle aged rocker dudes milling about obscure the message of “Do great work, repeatedly”

Now I must go done my tight black T-shirt and stick a pack of Winfield Blues up my shirt sleeve….time to ROCK!

See you next week and if you have any queries about the technologies shown, leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer.