If you’ve been exhibiting at trade shows for any length of time, then you know the feeling: There, across the show floor, is a gorgeous new booth. Its elegant design, engaging presentations and drool-worthy technology make your exhibit look shabby and outdated in comparison.
At least, that’s how it feels to you. With a few updates, your current trade show booth might have some life left in it. Or, your hunch that it’s time to build something new could be correct. Here are 5 ways to tell.
1. You’ve outgrown your current booth.
Perhaps your business has expanded, giving you more products or brands to showcase. Or maybe attendance has boomed at the trade shows where you exhibit. If space makes it impossible for you to accomplish what you need and want to do, or if your booth is so crowded that it creates a less-than-stellar guest experience, then consider getting something new. While bigger is better, it’s still a good idea to have your designer create a modular strategy so you can scale down at smaller shows.
2. The wear and tear is impossible to hide.
Every trade show exhibit will eventually show its age. And occasionally, as with one of our clients whose booth was damaged in Super Storm Sandy, stuff happens that’s beyond your control. If you’re no longer able to cover the scratches and scuffs, it’s time to put that old exhibit out to pasture.
3. Your current booth is too expensive to ship and assemble.
Trade show displays made of older, heavier materials can be more costly to ship and put together. If you exhibit at a lot of shows, it might be worth making the up-front investment in something that will be lighter and easier to haul around. Sometimes, the money to design and build a new booth can be taken from a budget separate from the one that covers the expenses of individual shows.
4. You’re being outpaced by your competitors.
Everyone needs to put their best foot forward at a trade show, and for some brands and companies, it’s vital to look like a leader. The size of your booth, the quality of the design, the general impression it makes on the show floor speak volumes to attendees before they ever set foot in your space. If you really do appear smaller and shabbier than the competition, it might be time to step up your game and leave them with booth envy.
5. You need more flexibility.
Your trade show exhibit was created around a certain set of activities, but now you want to shake things up and try something new. If your current design makes this all but impossible, then look into something that gives you more options. A good designer can help craft a space that allows you to evolve year after year.
Want to see what one of our clients did to combat booth envy? Check out what MPG and IGE did for Crest + Oral-B.
The new Crest + Oral-B Experience debuted at the American Dental Association convention in New Orleans, and it’s getting rave reviews!
November 2013 marks a special milestone for MPG. We’re celebrating 10+1 years of being in business!
“But wait a minute,” you’re saying. “Eleven years isn’t a big anniversary. What happened to celebrating #10?”
The truth is, we were so busy that we let our tenth slip by without fanfare. Now, as we head toward Lucky 11, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how much MPG and the experiential marketing industry have changed.
It’s not the same old song and dance. Years ago, we routinely created flashy numbers and other theatrical tricks to sell everything from fire equipment to home security systems. These days, clients still expect an unforgettable experience to communicate their messages, but substance is every bit as important as style. Today, our presentations are more science-based, often with demos that bring tough concepts to life. We’re ready and able to bring out the singers and dancers, but we’re also equipped to talk hard science with the most discerning audience member.
Properties are lighter and more sustainable. Companies want to reduce costs. They also want to be kinder to the environment. So they’re requesting booths made of materials that are easier and less expensive to ship and assemble—properties that can be put to multiple uses, that, if possible, are created from recycled goods, and that require less fuel to move from one place to the other.
Technology has boomed. This is no surprise to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock. The tools at our disposal to wow audiences and help our clients build relationships are simply amazing—and they seem to be evolving by the minute. Through it all, we’ve challenged ourselves and our clients to remember that “whiz bang” for “whiz bang’s” sake isn’t a winning strategy. Technology only makes an impact if it connects and communicates in a meaningful way. And technology is still no substitute for the face-to-face interactions that happen at live events.
Travel is tougher. We definitely are not immune to the challenges posed by fewer flights and higher prices. We’ve gotten very good at teleconferencing and reducing costs in other ways. But when our team needs to get to a show, we have to get creative so that travel costs don’t eat up the budget.
Giveaways are no longer throwaways. Trade show attendees used to be happy with a tee-shirt or a pin. These days they want something they can use, something that helps them connect with a company or brand in a meaningful way. Samples are more sought-after than ever—the bigger the better. Attendees also appreciate clever gifts that help keep our clients top-of-mind.
Timelines are tighter. Yesterday’s deadlines now feel leisurely thanks to technological advances, shrinking budgets, and a culture that demands quick thinking, fast response, and ultra-efficiency. Our clients are under pressure to deliver more, faster, which means we’ve grown accustomed to doing great work in record time.
Despite the challenges of a growing industry, some things remain the same for our team at MPG. We’re just as passionate about our work as we were when we started this company. We still have a great time together. And we’re still 100% committed to bringing our clients creative solutions that make their messages unforgettable while forging lasting connections. We’ve been honored to work with amazing companies and partners. Thank you for helping make the last 10+1 years so great.
A great way to connect with your audience is to let them connect with your experts. At MPG, we often look for ways to feature our clients’ researchers, scientists and specialists on video at trade shows and other events.
Expert videos bring credibility to a brand. They help tell your unique story, and they allow your audience a glimpse behind-the-scenes. They also save travel costs.
But featuring your best and brightest isn’t always easy. Unless they have a side career in show business, scientists and other experts do their best work in the lab or with intimate teams. They might not be accustomed to the spotlight. Even if they’re a superstar in big presentations, they might not be a natural in front of a camera.
That’s why it’s important to identify and nurture your best talent. If you’re thinking of featuring an internal expert at your next event, follow these ABCs.
Assess who’s really interested. If your star scientist has severe stage fright, move on to someone else. The camera—and your audience—will be able to tell if they’d rather be having a root canal. Look instead for people who are naturally outgoing and genuinely want to help. A great way to see who might do well on-camera is to have them read a short script and capture the footage with your phone.
Be sure what they’ll say. It may seem like a good idea to just ask a few questions, then let the person talk while the camera rolls, but people rarely speak in complete, video-friendly bytes. Plus they often get bogged down in details when talking about their areas of expertise. Have your agency or staff writer craft a script, then run it past your on-camera expert for approval.
Coach Them. Speaking naturally on-camera isn’t easy! A good agency and director can work with your expert to help them appear more at-ease and deliver their lines more naturally. Prepare your expert for the idea of having their hair, makeup and wardrobe done, and let them know they’ll be doing several takes. Emphasize that it’s all to help them look their best.
Don’t Stop Looking for Potential Talent. As new people come on-board, try to get a feel for how they might do on camera. You’ll never regret building a pool of go-to experts. And keep an open mind—some of the best talent we’ve worked with are people we initially weren’t sure could do the job. Some folks truly blossom under the spotlight.
For an example of how we made one of Crest and Oral-B’s star scientists look his best, check out our post on the Crest Pro-Health [HD] launch.
Can you guess one of our biggest challenges as an experiential marketing firm? Is it budgeting? Logistics? Making sure hundreds of people have a wonderful, memorable time?
You might be surprised that one of our most challenging tasks is editing! As in, making sure scripts for events and experiences are short—but meaty—enough to hold people’s attention and get them excited about our clients’ messages.
Right now we’re crafting scripts for several projects, and with each one we’re reminded how important it is to keep things short and sweet. Optimal running time for main presentations at trade shows is 7-8 minutes. Demos should run no longer than about 5 minutes. For a breakfast event with several speakers and entertainers, we made some tough cuts to bring the time in under 50 minutes.
It’s a real art getting science, claims and product benefits into an experience that’s compelling and compact. We want audiences to walk away wanting more, so they’ll be more likely to engage with our clients face-to-face. That’s where real relationships are built.
And that’s why it’s important to have a skilled writer on your team. Even then, never be satisfied with a first draft. Read scripts aloud, preferably with the talent who’ll be delivering them. Listen for spots where your attention starts to wane. Look for ways to get the same thought across with fewer, snappier words. It’s better to make 2 points memorably than to make 10 and leave the audience numb.
And since this post is about brevity, we’ll cut it off here. Do you have any stories about a particularly challenging event script edit? Tell us about it!
The walkaround brand character is a tried and true crowd pleaser. Costume characters are always a hit at theme parks and other events, so why wouldn’t the same be true for conventions?
It is true, as we found with a recent client who asked to feature a couple of brand characters at dental conventions. It was a great way to engage people as they waited in line for our main theater presentation, and it gave our client additional exposure as the characters walked the trade show floor.
Our MPG team wasn’t surprised—we have extensive theme park experience and, thus, a lot of knowledge on the care and feeding of costume characters. If you’re considering using them at your next convention, here are some dos and don’ts.
DO: Invest in Quality Construction – Your character’s costume will take a lot of wear and tear, so make sure it’s well-made and durable. Have extra shoes/”feet” created, since these tend to get scuffed and damaged easily. Never underestimate the stress a costume will go through—you may even want to purchase a couple of back-ups.
DON’T: Leave Your Character Unattended – It’s hard to see in front of you when you’re wearing a character costume, let alone use peripheral vision. A costume character should be escorted at all times, for everyone’s safety. Even if your character isn’t in a full head mask, he or she needs protection from kids and even adults who might think it’s funny to mess with them. The escort can do some gentle scolding while your actor stays in character.
DO: Know the Boundaries – Each convention has its own rules about where your costume character can roam. Find out in advance whether he or she must stay within your booth footprint, and consider purchasing some extra space, separate from the booth, where the brand character can “live.” If your character is allowed in public areas, make sure they’re part of his or her regular route.
DON’T: Kill the Illusion – Working as a costume character is physically demanding, and your actor will need to rest for about 10 minutes every hour, in addition to lunch breaks. Make sure you provide a place where he or she can take off the head and sit that is out of the public eye. Plan for this in your budget, and make sure your actor is never seen in partial costume.
DO: Be Social – Since people are already taking photos of your brand character, let them know how they can tag you on Facebook and other social media. Your character’s escort can hand out small cards with the information. Likewise, post your own photos of your character interacting with crowds—make the most of it!
A new trade show exhibit can be a huge investment. The last thing you want is an oversight that could create a less-than-WOW experience for your guests, or stand in the way of ROI.
We’ve seen a lot of successes when it comes to trade show experience design. We’ve also navigated our share of challenges. If you’re considering a new trade show exhibit, then plan to avoid these 5 common mistakes.
1. Not reserving enough space — Sometimes you need to lock in booth space before you have a firm exhibit design and strategy. And space can be a tempting area for cost-cutting. But we have worked too many shows where the booth felt cramped and our clients weren’t able to execute new activities as well as they’d like, simply due to lack of space. And trade shows often have strict rules about experiences spilling into the aisles. When in doubt, go bigger. That extra 10 feet will pay you back in flexibility and a better guest experience.
2. Unclear agency brief — The brief is our Bible, so give it extra attention. Provide clear objectives and criteria for success. Lay out messaging musts. Clearly delineate the roles of any partner agencies. Let us know what assets exist and who’s responsible for providing them. Don’t be afraid to ask your agency for help with the brief. A good brief is vital to creating an outstanding, on-equity experience with maximum efficiency.
3. Not staffing with your A-team — A beautiful trade show booth is just a hollow shell if the people inside it stand like lumps, waiting for attendees to come to them. Even if you’ve hired a company like Moening Presentation Group to craft an amazing experience using professional talent, it all falls flat if your company reps aren’t ready to step up, engage, and close the deal. Trade shows require a special kind of personality and stamina, so be choosy with your internal staff. Or follow the lead of some of our biggest clients and hire professional sales hosts.
4. Not following up on leads — We see this too often: An outstanding experience brings tons of qualified leads to the booth, then those leads languish on a spreadsheet, in someone’s email, or—worse—in a booth crate. Building and creating new relationships is a trade show exhibit’s raison d’etre, so keep up the momentum and reach out to visitors who’ve shown they’re open to hearing from you. Good lead-management programs can help. Or simply assign someone to filter and distribute leads after each show. Then, make sure your team is committed to the all-important follow-through!
5. Not documenting the experience — A video recap is a must-have in your measurement arsenal. It’s all about capturing the excitement for leadership and other stakeholders who couldn’t attend the trade show. Showcase all major aspects of the booth experience, and be sure to interview attendees for raves. Weave in the results you’ve measured to demonstrate ROI, and you’ve got a powerful sales tool that can help ensure your trade show marketing program continues.
MPG followers, what are some common trade show mistakes you’ve encountered?
A project kick off is always exciting. If it’s a new client, then teams are pumped to meet each other and see where their creative expertise can take them. If it’s with an existing partner, then everybody’s psyched to build on previous successes and take their events to new levels of engagement.
Having just attended a project kick off meeting with one of our favorite clients, we decided to compile a list of items every event kick off should have. When putting together that agenda, here are some musts:
A Good Brief – No-brainer? Maybe, but writing briefs that inspire great events is an art. In general, we look for two sections: one with the nitty gritty on the event (date, location, target audience, objectives, overall messaging, etc.) and one with an overview and communication mandatories for each featured product and service. Be detailed but concise. Go beyond generic objectives and give your event planner concrete goals. How will you measure success after the event? What sets your company apart? Many agencies, including ours, will provide tips and even templates to help craft your event brief.
Audience Insight – The cardinal rule in marketing is “Know Your Audience,” so give your agency all you can to help them understand yours as well as you do. What would make your targets’ lives and jobs easier? What are their existing beliefs about your products and services, and what might keep them from engaging with you? How do they speak, and how are they used to being spoken to? If budget allows, let your agency do some interviews to see what insights they can uncover. And of course, provide all branding/equity guidelines upfront.
A Realistic Budget (or Realistic Expectations) – If you envision a Broadway-caliber show, an experience on par with Disney, or a soiree to rival Vanity Fair’s Oscar party, then you’ll need to fund accordingly. If you don’t have that kind of money you can still have a great event, you’ll just have to approach your vision more creatively. A good agency will help you understand what your budget will buy. Be upfront with them: what does the budget cover and what items could be funded from another source? Are the numbers hard and fast, or could an exceptionally exciting idea shake down additional funds?
An Empowered Key Contact – To help ensure an on-time, on-budget delivery, you’ll want to designate a go-to guy or gal for answers to questions and speedy approvals. This person should be empowered to make important decisions. If not, he or she should be able to easily and quickly access all key personnel, then compile their collective feedback.
Production Schedule – We usually come to kick off meetings with a preliminary production schedule which we refine as concepts develop. You can help by letting us know any watch-outs. Legal approvals, team member vacations, holidays, and possible snags in product development or claims can all impact deadlines and budgets. It’s best to plan for these early rather than be surprised later.
Quality Assets – What do you have that we can leverage as we create the experience? Testimonials, video, TV commercials, photography, social media campaigns–make all of it available and we’ll mine it as appropriate. Just make sure everything is approved by your legal team, and that images and footage are high-resolution. That goes for all logos, as well. It may seem obvious, but we encourage clients to make sure , especially if multiple agencies are involved.
Now that we’ve listed what you should bring to a project kick off meeting, let’s talk about what not to bring. It’s simple, really. Leave preconceived ideas about what the experience should be at the door. We want to know your vision, of course, and collaboration is key to success. But a presentation technology that worked for another company might not be the best way to tell your unique story. And your budget, logistics and other details might mean it’s best to go a different direction from the one you’ve been mulling.
If you’ve provided the kickoff basics, then we’ll have what we need to work with you on an effective, engaging and memorable experience that will exceed your initial expectations. Want to know more? Visit us at moeningpresentations.com or give us a call about your next event.
Planning an event is a little like participating in a decathlon. That’s what we’ve been thinking as we’ve watched the 2012 Olympians compete for gold.
Event planning and production might not require the physical prowess of an athlete who competes in 10 different track and field events. But if you think about the sheer variety of skills required to go from hurdles to pole vaulting to throwing the javelin, plus seven other activities in the space of just two days, then you get a taste of what an event planner needs to create winning work.
Think you’ve got right combination of depth, breadth and stamina? If your job requires you to plan events, here are some qualities you must possess.
Boundless Creativity – It all starts with a great concept, which means translating your clients’ objectives into something fresh, exciting and memorable. Be curious, be open-minded, and actively expose yourself to new people, places and ideas. Let yourself be inspired by everything from art and pop culture to nature and technology.
Mad Juggling Skills – Events bring together a huge variety of disciplines, from logistics and catering to entertainment and digital marketing. Keeping it all straight, meeting deadlines, and crossing the finish line having successfully realized your clients’ vision requires real talent.
Maniacal Attention to Detail – The tiniest oversight can mean the difference between award-worthy and a ho-hum. In some cases it can spell disaster. Even the most detail-oriented planner should have strategies for ensuring that nothing gets overlooked.
A Cool Head – If the Olympics demonstrate anything, it’s the importance of grace under pressure. Very few events are free of glitches and gremlins. But while anything can go wrong behind the scenes, your clients and their guests should experience nothing but friendly, flawless service. A great event planner can work cordially with many different people, all of whom are under their own sets of pressures. Strong, steady leadership will help everybody keep calm and carry on no matter what challenges arise.
The Ability to Tap Dance – If and when something does go awry, you need plan-B waiting on the sidelines, ready to step in. And if plan-B backfires? Then you’ve got to be able to improvise. This is where that boundless creativity comes in handy. So does having good connections with vendors and colleagues who can help you out in a pinch. Remember: your clients don’t care how strenuous and stressful the job is; they just want an outstanding finish.
Passion and Integrity – Let your clients see how much you love what you do. Engage them in the process and help them feel confident that you really are on their team. Be transparent and honest. Deal fairly not just with those you work for but with those who work for you. When an event comes to a successful conclusion, you want everyone to feel as though they share in the glory of a job well done.
Want to see some of MPG’s event work? Check out the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival and Cincinnati’s Tech Olympics Expo.
MPG’s trade show work has given us a lot of insight into what works, what doesn’t, and what companies are doing to keep their trade show exhibits fresh. In our next few posts, we’ll be exploring some trade show best practices and offering ideas for successful trade show marketing.
You’ve got a beautiful trade show exhibit with a great mix of activities that bring your brand promise to life. Now it’s up to you to bring in the leads. Here are some tips for getting people in your booth, then making the most of the relationships you build there.
- Get Your Team on Board: Hold a pre-show briefing to detail what will be happening in the booth. Preview all activities so team members know what to expect, and make sure all are on the same page with your key messages. We like to do one comprehensive meeting the day before a show opens, then a smaller “check-in” meeting each morning before the crowds arrive.
- Prepare ‘Em for the Spotlight: Your people are the face of your company, of course, but trade show days can be long and tiring. You never know when a VIP could catch someone letting down his or her guard. So lay some ground rules to help ensure your team is at its best. For example: No texting, checking email or playing on smart phones, no eating or chewing gum in the booth, and make sure all attendees are greeted with a smile. Designating an out-of-view spot to decompress and staggering lunches and breaks will help keep everyone fresh and on their toes.
- Use Professional Hosts and Crowd Gatherers: Marketing at trade shows is a special skill. You may have great company reps but drawing people into your booth might not be their strongest suit. Plus, when things get busy you want your best people closing sales. Professional hosts and crowd gatherers are engaging, approachable and expert at bringing a steady flow of attendees to your booth. A company like Moening Presentation Group can help you hire hosts whose look and demeanor best represent your brand.
- Pre-Qualify Attendees: Hundreds of people can go through a trade show booth every day, but not all are what you might consider prime prospects. Some are looking for swag, some are just browsing, and some are family members of attendees. You’ll want a plan to target those who are truly interested in your offerings and prepared to either buy or recommend. Your professional hosts and crowd gatherers offer a great low-tech way to find and send high-interest attendees to your reps. Or you can go high-tech with a digital pre-marketing campaign. Learn more about that here.
- Designate an Answer Expert – Arm everyone in your booth with basic talking points so they can handle most attendee questions, but have on-hand one or two super-knowledgeable brand ambassadors or thought leaders to take in-depth queries. Make sure booth personnel know where these folks are at all times. If your go-to person has stepped away, let the attendee know he or she will follow up as soon as possible.
- Turn Leads into Relationships –Today’s trade shows are more than a way to showcase your products and services, they’re openers to ongoing relationships. So make sure you’ve put a system in place to keep communicating. If your marketing strategy includes social media, then encouraging Facebook likes is a great way to start. Even better is a program that collects attendees’ contact information and allows them to opt in for further conversations with your team. If you’re curious about how this could work for you, contact us and we’ll fill you in on our suite of solutions.