Trade Show Best Practices

Advocating For Our Industry – Bringing Back B2B Events and Jobs

Socially distanced audience at the Together Again Expo

The past five months have been hard on the live events industry. An estimated 6.7 million jobs have vanished as Covid-19 forces the cancellation of conventions and meetings. The economic impact to cities is also grave as hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses lose customers.

Our clients are in a less-than-ideal spot, too. We’re seeing and hearing that digital experiences, while a great stopgap, aren’t providing the same connection, awareness and ROI that come with in-person events.

The good news is that safer events are possible and starting to happen around the world, led by innovative professionals dedicated to ensuring the safety of attendees, exhibitors and staff.

Our industry is resilient and innovative. We know the fight against Covid-19 will be a marathon. In order to lead with hope, we’ll need to work together to educate our local, state and national leaders, as well as other decision makers, about the benefits and needs of the live events industry.

B2B Does Not = Mass Gathering

In her Summer 2020 update, Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, says exhibitions in the U.S. are categorized as mass gatherings rather than controlled environments.

As we saw at the Together Again Expo in Orlando, meetings and conventions are nothing like festivals, concerts and other events that are lumped into the “mass gatherings” category. With limited capacity, masks and temperature-check requirements, mandated traffic flows and constant sanitation, they absolutely are controlled environments. This is a message our legislators need to hear loud and clear.

Face-to-Face is Vital to Business Success

Breden also had some enlightening insights during the State of the Industry panel at the Expo. Within the consumer sentiment surveys she’s reviewed is a “pent-up demand for a return to live events.”

“Exhibitors have told us they’ve lost leads and sales opportunities, not having the ability to build brand awareness they’re accustomed to at live events, and a difficult time in maintaining and building the types of relationships with current customers and prospects (that they could face-to-face). And of course many companies launch new products into the world at live events.”

Safe Gatherings Are Possible

The Together Again Expo demonstrated how a convention can operate safely. Just prior to that, an estimated 12,000 parents coaches and kids participated in the 2020 AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando. Reports are that there were no positive Covid tests after that event.

Many organizations have written guidance on how to safely and effective return to events. And some countries have started exhibiting again.

Raise Your Voice

Whether you’re an event professional or marketing manager, we need to educate legislators and political leaders about the impact of live events and the need to support them through financial stimulus, tax credits and other initiatives that help the business event ecosystem.

Talk to your elected officials. Do your homework on the issues before Congress. Take action!

Here are just a few of the organizations and initiatives that are advocating for our industry.

Exhibitions Mean Business

Go Live Together

Events Industry Council

Lead With Hope

2019 was our industry’s best year ever. With collaboration and creativity, we can return to that kind of success.

According to David Dubois, president of IAEE, China’s event industry is stronger than it was pre-virus. He expects parts of the U.S. to start slowly ramping up in early September followed by parts of Europe.

And Karl Ely, Vice President and Publisher at ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, says the digital events so many companies are turning to now come with a “silver lining” in that they’re drawing in people who will be more open to attending live events later.

As companies and attendees grow more comfortable with gathering again, it’s up to us to model what safety and success look like. The precautions and protocols we develop now will only help us be better prepared to face the next crisis, whatever it might be.

To discuss how our MPG team can help you get back to in-person events, contact us.

Innovating for Safety: Returning to Exhibits and Presentations

Stage at the Together Again Expo

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of flexibility and innovation. As Covid-19 continues to challenge marketers, we’re talking with our clients about how they can adapt to safely exhibit and sponsor events at meetings and conventions once again.

The reality is that Covid will be with us for some time. And while digital events have been a great pivot for these early months, we’ve heard and experienced a “pent-up demand for a return to live events.”

Those were the words used by Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Event Industry Research, at the Together Again Expo in Orlando as she described the consumer sentiment surveys she’s been reviewing.

“Exhibitors have told us they’ve lost leads and sales opportunities, not having the ability to build brand awareness they’re accustomed to at live events, and a difficult time in maintaining and building the types of relationships with current customers and prospects (that they could face-to-face). And of course many companies launch new products into the world at live events.”

Every business is different. Companies must make the call whether to attend and/or exhibit at conventions and meetings. In many cases, those decisions are driven by things like travel restrictions to and from destinations, as well as quarantine requirements upon return home.

But it can be done. And we are excited about the creativity and commitment to safety shown throughout the industry. When it comes to individual exhibits and presentations, the experts on our team are planning to:

Cut Down on Crowds – Reducing capacity within tradeshow booths is vital, and organizations like the Global Biorisk Advisory Council have issued guidelines to help ensure each person can have 6 feet of space around them at all times. At MPG, we’re reviewing current booth layouts and expectations to determine how best to keep visitor count at the “sweet spot” of reaching as many as possible while maintaining social distancing.

Make Traffic One-Way – MPG has always advocated experiences that have a distinct journey, including a well-defined beginning and end guided by friendly ambassadors who keep things flowing smoothly. Traffic control and pulsing is one of our areas of expertise, and we anticipate utilizing it even more in the coming year.

Design for Distancing – Overt and subtle cues help visitors stay in their own zones. Seats in our presentation theaters will be spaced six feet apart. Furniture can be placed strategically to encourage distancing. And touches like drapes, plants and lighting can help create a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Go Touchless – At a time when touchscreens, games and other high-touch interactives could help spread disease, live presentations are going to shine. They’re a great way to deliver a complete message and engage your audience safely and succinctly. At the end of the experience, rather than handing out sample bags, consider giving a code visitors can enter digitally to get samples sent to them.

Give Branded Masks and Safety Swag – Our MPG team sees this as an opportunity for our clients to transform their visitors into walking advertisements.

Dividers, Partitions and Shields, Oh My! – In areas where people will be in close contact, we’ll use transparent partitions to provide extra barriers. We also are considering a transparent panel between our presenters and audiences.

Re-imagine Panels and Presentations – Space chairs and podiums six feet apart. Instead of a shared mic, use individual mics or a boom. Participants should wear masks unless they’re speaking. And instead of a large panel, consider pre-recording the conversation on a platform like Zoom, then playing it back live.

Sanitize and Sanitize Again – While each venue should have services and guidelines for disinfecting surfaces and air, plan and stock up for your own cleaning protocols as well. At MPG, we already know we’ll be disinfecting our presentation theaters after every show. It not only reduces germs, it provides an added sense of confidence that we’re taking care of every detail to help keep visitors safe.

For the time being, these are “the new norms of face-to-face engagements.” But with a few modifications, we can still provide a great experience. To discuss how you can create a safer exhibit at your next convention or meeting, contact us.

Experiential Marketing White Elephants: Turn Challenges Into Gifts With These Tips

Happy holidays from MPG! As the year comes to an end, many of our clients are creating exciting new marketing experiences for 2019. Most projects, however, come with a few white elephants—challenges and line items that no one really enjoys, but everyone has to make the best of.

If that sounds like your next project, check out these tips for transforming some common live marketing white elephants into gifts your audience will love.

Challenge: Old booth or exhibit that generates little traffic

Transformational Tip: Consider adding a live presentation or live demos. Touchscreens and graphics rarely capture or hold attention. But a live person delivering your message creates instant engagement, plus the impression that your space is a “must visit.” Why be static and dull when you can tell a complete story with a personal touch?

Challenge: Highly technical content with lots of jargon

Transformational Tip: Find a theme that allows you to simplify while engaging your audience’s imagination and emotions. If you’re marketing to an audience of subject matter experts, you don’t want to dumb it down. But a layer of storytelling can bring your message to life and make it more memorable.

Challenge: Too much content

Transformational Tip: Spread it out over several mediums. Keeping experiences under five minutes—eight minutes max—keeps people from getting bored. Capture their attention first. Then post content experts nearby, hand out supplemental material, or direct your audience to a website.

Challenge: Too many cooks

Transformational Tip: It’s common to have a lot of stakeholders giving input and approval throughout the creative process. To minimize delays and bottlenecks, create a clear schedule with plenty of time for everyone to weigh in. Then create one point of contact between your internal team and your agencies.

Challenge: Unmotivated team

Transformational Tip: Face-to-face marketing is a specialty. Expecting your sales team to sparkle at a trade show for 8 hours a day may be unrealistic. Professional brand ambassadors, on the other hand, are experts at drawing people in, communicating full messages, and maintaining friendly smiles, even when their feet are killing them.

Do you have a project that could use transforming? Contact us to find out how we can make your message shine.

Interactive Games for Presentations: Make It Memorable By Making It Fun

Interactive games for presentations

Want to make your next presentation memorable? Then get the audience involved. Tactics as simple as questions that require a show of hands can pull people out of passive-listening mode. But if you really want them engaged with your message, then interactive games could be a winning strategy.

High-tech, low-tech, sophisticated or silly, games give your audience a stake in the experience. To find the right one for your presentation, start with a few questions.

What’s my tone? If your topic is light and your audience is up for a good time, you can be humorous—even zany. Ask yourself how far you can push before it feels like “too much.” Even with a serious subject, games are still a viable option. Go for something like audience polling, and keep the approach more buttoned-up.

What’s my objective? Want to drive home a key message? Try a game that includes trivia or call and response. If you want to collect information from your audience or gauge their knowledge, then surveys or polls are a good bet. And if you just want to infuse a little fun, then go for something that gets them out of their seats, competing, and smiling.

What’s my budget? Audience response systems, touchscreens and other high-tech game interfaces are impressive if you can afford them. If not, there are plenty of options that cost little to nothing.

Once you know your goals and parameters, you’re ready to get gaming. Here are some of MPG’s top interactive games for presentations.

Classic Games – For Crest and Oral-B each year, we’re tasked with engaging people as they wait to get into our convention booth. Our objective is to help pass the time, prep them for what’s coming, and reinforce some key product messages. Dental professionals like to have fun, so we’ve done versions of Family Feud, Pictionary and even “hangman” with a Crest + Oral-B twist.

Classic games are great because nearly everyone is familiar with them. So you spend less time explaining and more time having fun.

A few tips:

– Most classic games can be adapted to fit your presentation theme. Choose one based on how it engages the audience, then tweak the name, visuals and other elements.

– Most classic games require audience members to answer questions in order to score or advance. So they’re great for driving home key messages and providing jump-off points for deeper dives.

– Some classic game templates are available in Powerpoint, or they’re easy to create. For a game as simple as tic tac toe, all you need is a dry erase board.

Audience Response:  These work well in more structured presentations. And with a range of technologies and costs, it’s not hard to find one that fits your budget. You can take polls or ask the audience survey questions. You can even get segments of the audience competing against each-other. Challenge yourself to be creative and make it fun.

Interactive games for presentations

Low-Tech, High-Impact: No money for bells and whistles? These games require little more than a good presenter and a willing audience.

– Elimination: Have everyone in the audience stand, then ask segments to sit based on criteria such as years in their profession. The last people standing should represent an achievement or point of view that your presenter can elaborate on or celebrate.

– Word of the Day: Audience members vote, by show of hands or applause, on a word or phrase that the presenter must weave into his or her remarks.

– Call and Response: Whenever the presenter says a certain word or phrase, the audience must respond with their own phrase and/or action.

– Singalong: Re-write the lyrics to a popular song, put it onscreen, then invite the audience to help sing it. For extra fun, add some choreography.

Not sure whether a game is the right approach for your next presentation? Chat with MPG. We’ll craft a strategy guaranteed to connect with your audience, then execute with excellence.

 

 

Making the Most of Experts at Events

Make the Most of Experts at EventsOne big benefit of face-to-face events is the opportunity to have experts and scientists interact with industry thought leaders. Not only does this bring credibility to your message, it makes guests feel like VIPS with exclusive access to your company’s best and brightest.

In a recent post, we discussed how you can leverage experts on video if they aren’t able to appear at your event in person. If budgets and schedules do allow you to feature a live expert, then follow these tips to make the most of the experience.

Choose someone who enjoys the spotlight. Brilliant in the lab doesn’t always translate to brilliance in front of an audience. If possible, select someone who speaks well, succinctly, and with confidence. (In our earlier post, we suggested keeping a working list of professionals within your company who are good public speakers.) If your star scientist isn’t a people person and doesn’t mind handing off the microphone, consider sending his or her second-in-command.

Make the most of their time. When travel budgets are tight, you can make a better case for an on-site expert by having them appear at various venues and in a variety of capacities. Schedule them for seminars, evening meet-and-greets, and Q&A’s at the booth if you’re attending a trade show. Are they social media savvy? Have them Tweet, Facebook and Instagram from and about the event.

But don’t overwhelm them. Event professionals like trade show presenters and hosts are used to interacting with the public for hours on end with few breaks. Your experts probably will not be able or willing to do this, nor will it make a great impression if your spokesperson is exhausted. Trade show activities should not be built around live experts. Rather, they should have areas and times when experts can slip into the experience and enhance it. For example, schedule 3 to 4 appearances throughout the day, then advertise them and feature a few complimentary activities to make those times extra-special.

Prepare your experts well. Of course your expert knows his or her material, but try to review it before the event to make sure the content is presented in a way that’s engaging. Help your expert create visuals that really sing and, if possible, have him or her practice with you. If you’re expecting media coverage, brief your expert on questions that are likely to be asked, as well as how to handle any sensitive subjects that might come up. You want the expert’s contribution to be part of one cohesive message, so make sure he or she understands the overall goals of your event.

Let them know they’re not alone. Treat your experts like VIPs by assigning a point person to help manage their schedules and make sure they’re taken care of. You want the experience to be positive, not just so that your experts can put their best foot forward, but so that they’ll want to help out the next time an event calls for the kind of content and credibility that only a true company insider can provide.

Booth Envy – Is It Time for a New Tradeshow Exhibit?

MPG and IGE Group created this stunning new booth to replace an older property for P&G's Home Away from Home at the BlogHer convention.

MPG and IGE created this stunning new booth to replace an older property for P&G’s Home Away from Home at BlogHer.

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!

Exhibitors: Avoid These 5 Common Trade Show Mistakes

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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?

How to Work a Trade Show: 6 Musts for Successful Exhibiting

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.

A friendly professional host can draw people to your trade show booth and help engage them.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Successful Trade Show Tips – Be Your Company’s Convention Superstar

Whether you’re just starting to exhibit at trade shows or you’re looking to reinvigorate your existing program, we’ve identified some “must haves” for trade show success. Check out these trade show tips, and let us know if you have any to add!

Let people connect with people at your trade show booth

This interactive presentation for IAMS allowed attendees to connect with a personable and professional brand representative in a booth that provided a welcoming “wow.”

Bring in the experts. It can be tempting to DIY, especially for a smaller trade show exhibit (and you’re probably thinking, “of course, a company that specializes in trade show marketing is going to encourage me to buy their services”). But professional designers and producers will bring the level of quality you need to be competitive—in fact, they could save you money by doing things right the first time. They’ll troubleshoot areas you probably haven’t considered, help with hidden costs and free you up to focus on your attendees.

Let people connect with people. The point of a trade show is bringing people together.  Technology can be powerful, but don’t overdo it at your booth; attendees can interact with touchscreens at the supermarket on any given weekday. Instead, take advantage of the face-to-face nature of tradeshows and create opportunities for them to engage with human beings.

Staff strategically. Make sure everyone represents  your brand with excellence. Choose only your best, most personable sales reps and thought leaders. Then back them up with professional hosts and presenters who can draw people to the booth and make them feel like VIPs.

See tradeshows as part of the conversation. These days, trade show exhibits aren’t on-off, once-a-year things. They’re a chance to start and continue conversations and relationships. Reach out to attendees before the show and invite them to visit you. Collect their data and track their interests while they’re at your booth. Then follow up and keep them engaged until the next time you meet. MPG is using event digital marketing to help clients do just that.

Be a spy. Make sure to get away from your booth for a little reconnaissance. Check out what your competitors are doing. Look for inspiration from other exhibitors: How are they engaging attendees? Is there anything you could take and make your own? Include your agency and designer in this exercise; it’s never too early to start planning for the next show!

Track ROI. With budgets getting leaner, it’s vital to demonstrate how marketing at trade shows benefits your company’s bottom line. Decide what trade show success means for you—is it number of visitors? Actual sales? Qualified leads? Whatever the benchmarks, track them and follow up. Also, consider investing in a good “sizzle” video to communicate the excitement to higher-ups who couldn’t attend.