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!

After creating my inaugural “gratitude with attitude” list last year, I thought I would make it an annual event.  I love reading other people list of what fired them up and browned them off for the past year so with no time to waste (we ALL have somewhere else to be and some more tinsel to fling around), let’s do this, starting with the list of LOVE:

1. Family, friends and the ever-expanding Diva Council

More than previous years I really relied on the strength and wicked humour of my tribe.  While I might not have come out and said “I am having a little trouble standing upright in heels at the moment, can I please borrow your awesome to help me through the next few hours”, that is exactly what I did.  Through being around or listening to phone calls from my tribe it made a year that I would politely to describe to people I don’t know as “Ooooh….interesting!” and to those that know me well enough to quote my heel size as “You have GOT to be freakin’ kidding me!”  And I was not the only one.  Within my circle I know of sudden and shocking deaths, lingering illnesses, uncertainty around future work, rising levels of anxiety, a malaise that you can’t quite name and fluctuating levels of energy and inspiration.  I do know this.  Whatever you are going through, whatever is really stretching you uncomfortably, you will do and feel better if you share the ride.  I have a lovely friend whose grandmother’s saying was “Bundle of Sticks….we are stronger together”. She is so very right and I am so blessed I have so many wonderful, strong, wise branches of love to hold tight.

2. Awesome clients and suppliers.

Without either, I am just some tall drink of water with a good idea and no one to implement or action the project.  I never take either for granted and I am so grateful that I have suppliers that will turn miracles to bring to life the visions and the hand waving I present them with and the clients to trust I will deliver on the promise of an A3 rendering and a big reassuring smile.  I can’t believe that I have the good fortune to do what I love  – create art – on a daily basis.  Heartfelt thanks to all I collaborate with.

3. Whacky yoga

Ok, this year I tried out aerial yoga that had me suspended horizontally a metre above the ground in a fabric sheath in the “coffin pose”.  Later in the year I tried out Kundalini Yoga where I the “Lion’s Claw” for 9 minutes opening and closing my arms above my head while creating claw-like tension through my hands.  Sounds easy, feels like OH GOOD GOD NO.  Still processing the insights from both sessions (ie. this is day 7 of unwashed hair as I can’t lift my hands above elbow height, I wonder when I will feel sensation in my arms again) but for some reason, the weirder the yoga got, the more normal I felt.

4.The rowing crew

For those that know me from school and uni days, I think we can all agree by saying I was absolutely and utterly epically bad at sport.  I hated it. I could not run, catch or throw.  When I moved to Melbourne in 1993 and Sydney in 2006 and knowing no one the idea occurred to me that since my grandma was a champion rower, I might share some of her sporting genes.  I gave rowing a try in the hope of meeting some other people who like getting up at 4am and not looking in the direction they are traveling. While still having no natural skill in rowing – truly, I have to fight for every stroke and mutter endless mantras of “tap down stay down / siting UP / early square” – I did re-write the story I had been telling myself about my lack of sporting prowess.  I was in the crew for the 46km Hunter marathon in July, the Head of the Yarra in November (beating our previous time by 5 minutes and being in the top 3 for our category) and finally – I can barely believe this as I type it – I was in the crew that claimed gold for the State Sprint Championship.  Hand on heart, I don’t have natural rowing talent.  But it turns out I have tenacity, a relentlessly patient Koach Kim, a wise zen master cleverly masquerading as Nathan the Demonic Personal Trainer and a squad of funny, inspiring, ladies who will never quite understand the gift they have delivered in teaching me that talent only gets you so far, heart needs to carry you the full distance.

5. I love my jawbone! So great to wake up of a morning and find out I have had only 4 hours and 26 minutes of deep sleep and woke up 3 times.  Oh YAY!

My jawbone and I

My jawbone and I

6. The “War of Art”.  Get your butt in the seat and do the freakin’ work, OK?

7. The Monocle Magazine.  The lovely Becca of Cohen Cellars introduced to me this fine magazine and is perfect for those with wanderlust and curiosity about the world not shown on TV.

I love me some Monocle!

I love me some Monocle!

8. The music releases of Nine Inch Nails / Queens of the Stone Age / Artic Monkeys / Janelle Monae / Mark Lanegan / Pearl Jam.  For all those low flying (I mean totally within the posted speed limit) dashes to the rowing club, this is perfect kick-my-arse-into-gear sing along tunes with the volume turned UP.  Epping Road…you’re welcome!

9. Cake.  I love you, always and forever.  The sugar shunners and shamers can SUCK IT!

I love cake!

I love cake!

10. I am a proud Novocastrian and I could not be prouder of Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox and Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy in bringing the soul-destroying stories of child abuse in the Catholic Church and other institutions to light.  Both have fought through death threats, being stone-walled, ostracised, questioned about their professional motives all to bring to justice those that have suffered the unthinkable.  Their efforts – along with many others – in committing to end the cycles of shame and abuse, have resulted in the Royal Commission being called to investigate the claims.  Peter, Joanne, their families and supporters are the best versions of what we can be when faced with unimaginable horror.

Enough of the sunbeams and galloping unicorns of love, let’s done the leather heels and serve up an extra large serve of attitude.

11. The rise of the dickhead.  Oh god, you could not strut 10 metres in heels without tripping over one, could you?!? Justin Beiber? Congratulations, you just booked yourself a first class seat on the Douche Train.  Clive Palmer?  You too sir have right of passage.  Pick any random name from the NRL belting up women / getting a sleeve tattoo / starting a bar fight in the Cross the night before a game….you lot define the term dickhead.   George Pell?  The worst kind, a righteous dickhead.  Miranda Kerr?  New age preachy dickhead.

12. Christopher Pyne.  I don’t think I will ever better the description that Julia Gillard had for him as  “mincing poodle”. He was a mild irritation for me before but now he has his paws all over education, one of the most important government portfolios….I just want to break shit up whenever I hear reference of him.  GAH!

13. Jeststar.  On the rare occasion that I have to fly Jetstar to the Gold Coast, why do I always feel like they have deliberately cranked the seat back 5 degrees forward off vertical so you sit with a Mr Burns like slump?  Add to that the narrowness between each row and you feel that the romance of air travel has well and truly been sucked out by Jetstar.  LE SIGH!

14.  The mainstream media.  Getting more shrill and dumbed down each day.  Turn it all off and go for a walk / pat small furry animals / read a damn good book to your niece instead.

So as I wrap up my 2013 list, I was to add one more to my gratitude list and that is you dear reader.  In these times where you could be doing anything other than reading my blog post – such as raking through hard rubbish collections on the nature strip, baking cheesecakes etc – I am truly grateful for your readership and the emails / calls and comments I receive.  Have a lovely Xmas season and I wish you and your tribe the happiest and healthiest  2014.

My favourite song for 2013.  Crank it!

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.

So this is cheery topic for a Friday! What the hell I am doing writing about suicide when this blog is mainly focusses on displays, trade show stands and my deep and abiding love for rock music?  Because people read blogs and there maybe people – perhaps even you – that have faced or will face giving up someone they love to suicide.  And I want you to know it is OK to talk, think and write about this. The more a light a shone on suicide the less it is covered up, denied and kept in the dark in some secret place to fester.  What prompted this post now is a dear friend is mourning the loss of someone in her tribe and I want her to know even in this confusing, emotional turbulent time there is much love. Always, there is love.

There is always love.

There is always love.

I have two areas for you: the before and after.

Tricky, this “before” phase.  Once you loose someone to suicide, the years, months, days and moments before their death plays like a never ending show reel in your head.  What did you miss? What signs were there that were overlooked?  What clues did they give that indicated they were thinking of taking their own life?  You will torture yourself and twist your brain looking for answers.  In truth, there may have been markers.  Or none at all.  But I can say that whenever we feel someone is having a rough time, take the time to really ask the question “Are you OK?”. Pick your moment in a quiet place free of distractions so it won’t prompt a rushed answer and then really, really listen to the answer. It might open the door to a larger conversation about what is going on with them or they might shut down.  Either way, keep an eye on them.  You don’t have to stalk them, have the solutions to their problems or be up in their face with “How are you’s????” but be a presence in their life so they know you are about as they weather this tough time.  Will this stop them from taking their life?  For those that have made the final decision to suicide, I don’t believe so but for the ones that might be wavering, the lifeline that you throw by those simple words “Are you OK?” might be a step towards removing the suicide option for them.

The “after” phase of suicide is all about those left behind.  I am going to give it to you straight here.  You will never be the same.  There will be big, yawning holes punched through your life.  Nothing with draw these holes closed.  Physically you will be in shock so expect to feel achingly cold, you will not want to be touched or held, any sort of well meaning conversation will grind against you. The nights are the worst.  Your mind puts the show reel of their life on full rotation as you seek out what you missed in the hope you will find the answer to unlocking the mystery of why…why did they feel they had no other option but suicide.  When sleep finally does come, you have a few precious seconds each morning where you forget they are dead until your brain snaps back from the fogginess of sleep and reminds you they are dead.  Dead.  And you tumble back into the pit of despair.

Here’s the thing about the holes that now puncture your life….this is where the light gets in.  After some time – and I can’t give you exact timings (sorry), this is your experience, and your experience alone – you will laugh out loud at something.  You’ll enjoy eating ice cream in the sunshine.  You will hum a favourite tune in the car.  You will accept a dinner invitation.  And you will remember your loved one with less ache and more softness. That’s the gift of suicide. You learn unconditional love. After the hurt, and white hot anger, the devastation and by the slowly stitching your life in a new pattern, all else fades and you are left with love.  The cliche is true, life does go on.  You won’t be the same, nothing is going back to the way it was but you do get through it with a new understanding of love and compassion for both yourself and others.

If you are facing more challenges than you feel you can face yourself, can I please recommend these outstanding organisations:  Beyond Blue and Lifeline. Both these organisations are also a good place to find support if you have lost a loved one to suicide.  Please don’t try to go through the aftermath of suicide alone.  As one of my BFF says “Be like a bundle of sticks….we are stronger together”.  Word.

One of the best ways for me to cope with challenging times is with humour and so let’s finish with a “up” vibe with this clip from  The Colbert Report doing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”.  Best bit?  Jeff Bridges doing the booty bump on the stairs. The Dude gets down!

See you next week…and go hug someone!

I’m going to keep it nice and tight today as I am still in recovery mode from my 46km marathon row up the Hunter River last weekend.  Any by recovery I do not mean massages, steam rooms and green juices.  No, my go-tos are chocolate brownies, alcohol and weighted lunges. But more on all that later.

On the start line for Head of he Hunter

On the start line for Head of he Hunter

So here it is.  Do you want to know why, after spending months preparing for your trade show, smacked down some coin on a good-looking stand, organised a roster so your best and brightest were there to help visitors and hell, you even had a (insert sharp intake of breath) a TOUCH SCREEN on the stand that your results, ROI or however you measure your trade show success is in the toilet?

Listen up: It is because you failed to follow-up leads and enquiries your acquired on the stand.

I have a perfect example. I attended Designex in Melbourne in late May I was disappointed in the quality of stand exhibits.  Designex used to be a high point in stand design with all sorts of funky and interesting stuff being done.  No more. It was a sea of ordinary.  So yeah, I can overlook ordinary if exhibiting firms want to show me so cool and interesting stuff. But my fellow design maven Shirley and I were shocked at how many exhibitors – and this was even within the first few hours of opening morning – were focussed on tapping out stuff on their iPads, laptops, smart phones and not engaging in the face to face marketing that exhibitions are perfect for.  Both Shirley and I both browsed on exhibitor stands, clearly interested in the products but even then we were ignored, the lure of the digital screen proving more important that two red-hot leads strolling about your stand.  Even when I finally made contact with an exhibitor and handed over my details (I gave out 12 business cards in all) to have follow-up information sent through, only one out the twelve got in contact.  Props to Forbo Flooring for following through but Dulux…James Richardson Furniture…hello?  Nah.  Not freakin’ good enough by a long shot.

You could argue that perhaps they lost my card – and if that is the case, then a new type of lead capture device is sorely needed.  You might surmise that they will still get around to getting in contact but seriously….2 months has passed and even a digital thank you note can be sent off before I have even stepped foot off the stand if the company cares enough.  And that’s the rub. Many exhibitors don’t care about the results or their customer and therefore don’t put in place the systems and procedures to gather leads on the trade show floor and then follow-up effectively.

You know, all this lack of lead follow-up is a good thing if you are an exhibitor.  This is a perfect opportunity to grab new customers and market share when so many of your competitors have a lazy approach to lead capture and follow-up.  Imagine what a superstar you would be if you actually do what you said you were going to do by getting in touch.  And sooner.  Like now.

Now I would normally share some photos of Designex at this point but they had a strict “no photography” policy plastered everywhere which blows my mind and not in a good way.  With so many ways to share information over the internet and amongst your tribe, I don’t know what muppet within the Designex organising team thought it was a good idea to ban links and buzz building through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc etc. But whoever the sock puppets were, get a grip and get with the times.  And also give your exhibitors some much-needed tips in effective trade show strategies.

So instead of Designex, I am going to share a photo of my Dad and I at the end of the 46km marathon and yes, this is him holding me up. As much I as I am awe of what my lady crew and I did by actually completing the race, I marvel at my dad for his involvement.  He was up at his Central Coast home at just after 4am on a SUNDAY, zoomed up the highway to Newcastle with a boot full of muffins, water and bandages and stood around keeping the mood up  with witty quips while we waited clad only in LYCRA in icy conditions for the fog to lift. Once we set off, he stalked us up the river stopping at five different locations to yell at us like those slightly unhinged types do in shopping centre carparks, phoned back GPS coordinates so my Mum and sister who were  manning ground control at home and could follow our progress up the Hunter.  And then finally, FINALLY when we reached the finish line, he fished me out of the boat and gave me one of the best hugs ever.  I hear a lot about women being in supporting roles to men doing stuff.  But our lady crew totally subverted that.  On our success team, we had Koach Kim, Nathan the demonic personal trainer, our coxswain Roberto the Unbelievable, General Len (what does Len do?  Generally pretty much anything and everything including rowing and towing) and my Dad. So this is big love to all the wonderful men who made our row that much easier and sweeter.  Go hug a man today!  (The fine print: Obviously not one of those recommended for sentencing in the NSW ICAC corruption enquiry, those dudes are NQR.)

I love my dad, he is holding me up!

I love my dad, he is holding me up!

Tune wise, I want to share one of my fav songs we had playing in the boat during the row.  It came on in the final 8 kms when fatigue is biting and the distance drags.  Madonna, her hot pants spurred and my crazy Dad by the side of the river waving his jumper helicopter style above his head spurred me on.

See you next week!

The exhibitor that packs up and leaves before the end of a trade show is a bad look.  The show ends when the show ends and for delegates to be faced with cleaned out exhibition stands save for a few random boxes and forgotten donkey (it happens), well, it is really not selling the importance of face to face marketing that trade shows provide.  Earlier this year I was interviewed by IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events) about some of the ideas I might have to keep the early leavers at bay and here are my ideas:

(1) Why are exhibitors tempted to leave early when they run out of merchandise?

Because they should not have been exhibiting at the show in the first place.  If you main objective for attending a show is to give out free stuff, then my advice would be please, save yourself time and money by not exhibiting.  If you have the opportunity to interact with people face to face that have attended the show because that have enough interest in your industry to take time out of their busy day, to pay crazy stupid amounts for parking – or have even come into town for the show – suffered through deep fried whatever food for you just to shove some free stuff their way….Holy cats, please don’t attend.  Trade shows are so, so unique as a marketing tool as it is THE way to interact personally with your customers and potential customers. Flinging free stuff at anyone who comes by your stand without talking to them about your product and even determining if they are part of the target market is just so flawed.  The exhibitors that do leave once the free stuff has gone have the view that “Well, now we have given out all the stuff, we’ll jet off” whereas the smart exhibitor will recognise that one the free stuff is gone, opportunities still abound.   You know, have a reason to call on people with the line “Hey, I am sorry but we are all out of samples at the moment but I will be in your area next week, can I stop in and see you then and give you the sample you are after then?  BOOM!  You just got a reason the stay in touch and a sales call!  The smart exhibitor knows also that until the show closes, anyone, ANYONE might be he one to place an order, request a follow up call or require information.  If you are the muppet exhibitor that is in the bar after they have given away all the free stuff, all these opportunities have passed you by.

Fully Sic!  But no one home...

Fully Sic! But no one home…

 (2) How does that affect the other exhibitors, the attendees, and the show?

If I was an exhibitor I would think “Praise to baby Jesus!” as I now have a potential competitor out of the way and the chance of getting my message across in a crowded market has just become that much easier!  For attendees, I think you would be disappointed or think it a little weird that a show stand is unmanned and unless you were highly motivated you would not seek out that company post show.  As a show organiser, you would be quite understandably upset have unmanned booths but you could turn it into something amusing by putting up a handwritten cardboard sign in the unmanned booth saying “We regret to inform you that Stand X is not manned due to an alien abduction but stands Y and Z have booth staff that dodged the alien capture and would be happy to chat with you.”  I think if you treat it with a sense of humour outwardly while inside you could be seething would help stop complaints from other exhibitors and attendees.

 (3) What strategies can a show organizer adopt to keep exhibitors at a show until the very end?

Firstly, it needs to be written into the hiring of the stand space contract.  Something as basic at staying to show close seems pretty freakin’ obvious but unless it is written down, don’t assume that everyone gets it.  I would also suggest that if it happens, the exhibitor that left before show close is banned from attending the show again.  In extreme cases,show organisers might want to introduce a bond amount of a thousand dollars or so that they hold the credit card details on and if the exhibitor leaves before show end, happy days, $1K goes to the charity of choice.

 (4) If an exhibitor wants to leave early, how should a show organizer explain the importance of sticking around?

The show organiser should get them some information of Trade Show Exhibiting 101.  A youtube video could be made, so simply and for low cost that runs for 5 mins or less explaining that being a face to face form of marketing, you need to make sure your FACE is there at the show until the very end.  You could even have the video transcribed for them if videos are not everyone’s cup of tea.  Whatever the method, provide key points on the benefits and how to leverage face to face interactions.

 (5) What are the most important things that show organizers and exhibitors should know about exhibitors staying until the end of a show?

1. Your last enquiry of the day could be you best and biggest order ever or your dream client.  Who knows?  But you certainly won’t if you leave the show early.

2. If your approach as an exhibitor is simply to give out stuff at a show, then don’t come.  Best you leave whatever free stuff you were to give out in the middle of the street for anyone to take as that will be cheaper for you than attending the show and it will provide you with the same outcome ie. poor quality leads, more people just wanting free stuff off you.

3.  As an organiser, you don’t want the dump and run exhibitors at your event.  Either spend a little bit of time putting some training in place or cut them off from attending future shows / go nuts on their credit card bond!

So I feeling like some old school Madonna.  Let’s get into the groove for a Friday, baby!

See you next week!

I’ve found recently that the subject of “having a balanced life” has come up for a bunch of my marketing clients. And then I was only asked last night how I achieve balance. Errrrrrr….I don’t. And I don’t seek too.

Here’s why. A few years ago when I swapped Melbourne’s lane ways for Sydney’s Harbour, I decided I was going to make the most the city swap with a full tilt launch into getting my life into balance. I was seduced by the claims of self-conferred gurus extolling the virtues of a life in balance. How serene I would be, how unrushed I would feel and how I would float from one obligation to the next. Most probably in a white lace dress from Laura Ashley and patting a white bunny. As I carefully and lovingly placed my business and my personal life on either side of the scales I waited for perfect alignment.

What tosh.

After nearly making myself blind with anxiety trying to spend equal time on all my interests, I gave up and here’s why you should too:

1. Most of my marketing clients are female and they have the full buffet of interests and demands on their time: kids, partner (or no partner but dating. Or not dating. Until George Clooney dumps his latest broad and comes-a-calling), a career, friends, family, activities, running a household and finding time for themselves like sneaking a look at Who magazine while on a flight to somewhere.  With all of that and more on the table, how could you ever hope to achieve balance?!? So let’s make a pact right now to give concept of balance the two-finger salute.

Go give balance the two finger salute!

Go give balance the two finger salute!

2. We’ve been sold a pup and a very mangey one at that. The “life in balance idea” goes that if you get all your stuff into perfect alignment, suddenly you will be calmer. Happier. Less harried. And less prone to eating only processed cheese for dinner. Look, I’m not here to tell you desiring all those things and self-improvement is not valid, they most definitely are. But the image of the scales is instructive here. To get either side in line, you have to use equal measures. Who do you know that have an equal amount of interests and commitments at any one time? No one! Life is fabulously messy and it can be dirty and as unyielding as a feral donkey so why would you take on the mammoth and ultimately exhausting task of trying to tether your interests to some out moded concept of balance?

3. Once I kicked balance to curb, I have found a super power. I can bend time. And I reckon you can too.  The act of bending time comes into play when you decide what you will devote your attention to and discard the white noise that is distracting. We all have the same 24 hours, right? So you have the freedom to decide how to allocate your time.  I’ll give you an example from my own life.  Right now I am committed to doing a 45km marathon row of the Hunter River at the end of July.  (And flat out trying to stage an alien abduction to get me out of it) To get the necessary training up to even function over that distance, I have parked some of the other things I like to do (brush my hair, extreme baking) so I can swing over extra time to get this rowing training done. I guess I see time as like an ever-expanding container where I can drop things in and take things out as I need to do.  Sure, the container can get pretty jammed up and look very close to splitting but it holds together and I know that even when I am pushing too many things to get done, it will only be for a short period of time and the stretching of time will soon snap back to something more manageable.

I am going to leave you with a comment from a one of my recent dates.  (Hey, I date and I vote!) He asked “Do you even have time for a partner?!?” after I described what a typical week look liked for me.  I thought for a moment and then said in absolute truth “ I will always make time for the things that are important to me, I will create space for that”.  So ditch the concept of balance and instead embrace life in all its beautiful messiness and trust that you will find – and make – time for all the important things that matter to you.

I recently tripped over the delicious Kathleen Hanna ex of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre being her bratty best with her new outfit The Julie Ruin.  Check out this slice of awesome with bonus points for female lead guitarist with kicky solo!

See you next week (and share this post with someone you know that is struggling with balance)!

Earlier this year I was interviewed by IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events) about trade shows and one of the subjects I was asked to wax lyrical on was trade show registration. Here’s the Q & A:

(1) What are common areas of show registration that attendees find frustrating?

From what I hear – and from what I do myself – we are stuck in that sticky mud of filling out so much content into forms, not entirely sure how it will be used despite some well buried link about privacy and how your details will be used and then being given a paper form to print out and bring along to the event to gain entry.  Some shows are moving to providing a digital entry code that you can use with smart phones but the take up is still too small.  With this new technology available for registrations there is then too few people at the trade show entry to help with any glitches or queries.  I think there is so much scope for using App’s, QR codes, digital entry techniques but show organisers are just going to what they know, regardless of its suitability or pain points.

 (2) Why are they frustrating?

They are frustrating largely as they are time consuming (filling out all the information, printing out the registration form, remembering to bring it will you to the event due to be held in a few months etc) and added together with the missing in action support staff at show entry, people are thinking “Why is this so hard?!?”  (insert face palm) and “Why are we still stuck using last century methods when there are so many easier options out there?!?”

Yep, face palm time!

Yep, face palm time!

(3) Do they deter attendees from coming to a show and affect the image of the show in the minds of attendees?

I don’t know that these frustrations would actively deter attendees from coming to an event as you already have to be pretty motivated to go with making the time in your calendar, arranging travel and working out what sessions to attend but I do know that trade shows are suffering from an image issue and it the poor image is not helped by antiquated registration processes to even simply attend an event.  To have a strong, robust exhibition industry and to be able to explain to potential the exhibitors on why trade shows still matter, we need – as an industry – to keep finding ways to streamline the attending of events for both attendees and exhibitors.  People have enough frustration and demands on their time – the successful firms and trade events of the future will develop ways of removing this pain and thrive on.

 (4) What are some ways to simplify the registration process to avoid this frustration?

Ooooh juicy! Imagine just scanning your business card and someone in the back end of the show organiser entered in the details and then just sent it through to you to check before registering?  It’s is always easier and quicker to proof read a document rather than having to enter all the information yourself. Imagine having more payments for trade show linked to paypal or another digital payment system so you did not have to fill in your individual credit card details?  What about taking off all information on the registration form that relates to finding out why you are attending, what you want to see, are you responsible for the purchasing decisions etc and develop and show app that people can interface with as they attend the show and give feedback on the show floor?  I think the quality of information would be so much richer than the pre-show registration process where people are just trying to race through filling in the information.  What if an entrepreneurial person recognised an opportunity and gave you – the regular trade show attendee – a whole list of shows around the world that you might like to attend based on your interest and industry and once you indicated your choices, they could be responsible for the registration process and even the travel arrangements?  The cost for the service of registration could be paid by the show organiser and a percentage of the travel arrangements billed back to the attendee.  Sure, the service would not appeal to all but it is time the industry looked for ways of increasing premium options in line with the view that attending trade shows can deliver outstanding results.

This is one of the more succinct registrations going about!

This is one of the more succinct registrations going about!

 (5) How can show organisers best implement these ideas without taking things out of the process that are necessary?

Largely, I think show organisers need to partner with others to implement some of these ideas.  I think that so many show organisers are stuck on the “must sell space / must get delegates through the door” spin cycle they are oblivious to other opportunities out there.  And, you know, I think the whole registration process needs to be stripped back and look at it from a whole new fresh perspective: what information do we truly and really need from a delegate and does that extraction of information have to happen at the registration stage.

 (6) What are some do’s and don’t you would suggest to show organisers looking to simplify their even registration process?

Do: Nuke what you are doing now and take a whole new view of the registration process.

Do: Simplify and once you’ve done that, strip another 50% of what you have out

Do: Think of how you (the show organiser) would like to attend an event.  What are your pain points?  Once you answer this question, it is guaranteed that almost everyone else is facing the same frustrations and you are on your way to really innovating a broken system.

Do: Open up to new technologies / opportunities

Don’t: Keep doing the same damn thing and thinking that it is situation normal as everyone else is doing it.  Innovate or die.

Feel free to share these tips with your favourite show organiser (tell them I said and to lift their game) and leave a comment in the section below.

This week it is time for some flat out awesome hard rock by Foo Fighters.  Hit it!

See you next week!