Trade Shows: How to Make Sure You’re Heard When Everyone’s Screaming
By Cindy Thomas Wright
More than 1,000 companies exhibited at this year’s HIMSS. Did you go? If you did, can you name 10 companies and describe their trade show exhibits?
If you’re like most attendees, you can’t. Because with 30,000-plus people there and row after row of exhibits, you were probably on trade show overload.
Now let’s put you on the other side of the exhibit table. Your business is there, in a giant room filled with the hottest prospects in the world. How are you going to get their attention when you’re one in a thousand?
Well, you can’t just hit play on a PowerPoint and toss some business cards on a table. You need to engage, quickly and with impact. Here are a few points that will help you do so and can apply to HIMSS or any other trade show, such as HFMA coming up in June and AHIMA following in October.
You have a brand. Bring it to the trade show. What is your brand positioning? What is your brand personality? Have you done the hard work to define who you are? Without a clear positioning, marketing is futile. You can’t tell a story that you haven’t written yet.
But if you do have your brand strategy locked down, that’s what your exhibit needs to tell the world. Throughout your trade show exhibit’s development, keep asking yourself, “Does this align with our brand?”
Make sure the best people are manning your exhibit – and be sure they know their goals. Most people that you meet on the floor aren’t professional trade show folks. At HIMSS, for example, you might see people at the exhibits who are CIOs, program managers, or system developers by day, and they come to this one trade show a year. They are then tasked with “booth duty”, shall we say.
What you see when you walk the floor is often folks looking down at their phones or a laptop, sitting in chairs meant for would be prospects, or perhaps taking a break to eat their lunch. Let’s face it, are you really going to approach anyone whose obviously eating lunch? Or who has their hands in their pockets or are busy texting? These are all issues that need to be addressed prior to the show. Be sure your representatives are outgoing, have their messaging perfected, know how to “triage” exhibit visitors and how to get them to the right person, and most importantly, be sure they know how to make everyone feel welcome and engaged.
Don’t forget that you’re all about technology. We’re in the tech business. So don’t fire up your seven- year-old MacBook at the exhibit. And don’t click through a PowerPoint that looks like it was designed in 1989.
Look at the people manning the booth – do they look “modern”? Are they wearing shoes and eyeglasses from this millennium? Remember, everything you put out there has to be clean, polished, high-tech, new and smart. Because that’s what your company is, right?
This isn’t just about you. It’s about them. So many trade show exhibitors see this as their chance to tell everybody all about them. But remember, people are looking for solutions to their own situation. Find out what people need, and show them how you can fill that gap. Trumpet your solutions in a way that’s interesting, but tangible.
Cindy Thomas Wright is the owner of Thomas Wright Partners.