Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Trade Show Technology Strategy for Marketing Rockstars

Marketers and managers can make the most of their efforts with a trade show technology strategy that looks beyond the basics. There’s much more to it than simply throwing presentation slides on a screen or raffling off an iPad.
A well-rounded trade show technology strategy involves a multipronged approach. Technology can play a huge role in each marketing segments (pre-show, on-site and post-show), so choose options that present a cohesive strategy and support your long-term efforts.
iPads can be a part of a successful trade show technology strategy



Pre-show communications


Let your target audience know that you're exhibiting at the trade show, where your booth is located, what you're exhibiting, and what they can expect. A visitor who comes to the show is spending their money and time, so make sure you do everything possible to make it worth it. Over a third of the audience will likely be attending the trade show for the first time and over ¾ will plan which exhibitors they want to visit before even arriving. Let these new prospects know about your participation by advertising in print and electronic publications, trade journals, social media and your blog, well before the show. Mention your exhibit location and what attendees will miss if they don’t stop by. Give them a glimpse of show specials and other on-site promotions that they can anticipate at the exhibit.
Ultimately, attendees should be able to make the connection between your off-site branding and trade show presence. Your trade show technology strategy should take into account everything you promised pre-show, your brand image, overall marketing message and specific show objectives.


Pick the right staff and prepare them well

An important consideration is to choose staff members who are vibrant and enthusiastic about your company and product.
The approachability of the staff, their ability to communicate with the visitors, and their knowledge are also important because they represent who you are on the show floor. Put together an exhibit team that can work well together, knows about your products and services, and is courteous and helpful to the visitors.
Additionally, make sure your staff is trained to use the technology that will be in your booth. Rental vendors, exhibit designers and show venues will likely have on-site staff to help setup and troubleshoot technology, but your staff needs to know at least the basics. This not only helps save time, but also helps your staff look intelligent and organized to potential buyers.


Selling on the show floor

If sales are one of your show objectives, equip your team members with the necessary technology to sell from the exhibit. This is a no-brainer, but how you optimize the process can vary. You can utilize anything from workstation setups to incorporating fully functioning conference rooms into the exhibit design.


Meetings, Demos, Panels and Presentations (oh my!)

Depending on your specific trade show objectives, you have different reasons to host an audience of varying size. Each reason has different requirements that affect everything from booth design to technology needs. But one best practice applies to each on-site event: don’t underwhelm your attendees! Avoid boring or turning off leads by researching the options you have for, at least, the most basic technology.
  • In-exhibit theaters often use video walls or projectors and screens. The quality and setup of which are just as important as the chairs attendees sit on.
  • Conference rooms and presenters often employ electronic whiteboards and large flatscreens to help get messages across.
  • Panels or presentations with crowd participation need dependable wireless microphones (or, if the event is small enough, an app that turns iOS devices into microphones) and speaker systems.
  • Product demos and displays often use iPads or tablets to educate attendees (more on that later).


Give away great stuff for good reason

Offer an incentive to the visitors to come to your exhibit and attend your presentation, talk to your sales staff or generate buzz for you. Make sure the items you give away are relevant to attract qualified leads, too. The prospects who visit your stand are expressing interest, and it is up to you to convert this interest into need.
But giving away prizes or swag shouldn’t just benefit booth visitors. Incorporate best marketing practices to collect email addresses (such as business card scanners), encourage social sharing (show off in real time with video walls) or create show floor buzz.  


Interactive learning and gamification

Encourage the visitors to actively interact with the exhibit staff or displays to promote learning and retention, and to turn them from passive observers to active participants. Stimulating multiple senses can:
  • increase learning retention rates 
  • increase time spent in the exhibit soaking up marketing messages
  • leave a positive opinion of your brand

Simple ideas include running a trivia quiz on a few tablets mounted on pedestals or an electronic polling system, and creating an interactive product demo. In the past, we've seen companies use a mixture of user-controlled sound, image and even smell settings to differentiate the immediate exhibit environment.
More complex ideas include alternate-reality gaming and incorporating RFID into large exhibits. Let your imagination run wild!
Use all available technology like touchscreens and projectors to your advantage. Fun demos, contests, activities, and other interactive approaches offer plenty of benefits to trade show exhibit marketers. It can attract significant traffic to your booth, initiate and maintain engagement, collect data and improve message retention about your product.


Give your booth life

Lighting is important to improve the overall visibility of the booth and affects attendee’s impression. Does the color of the wall offer sufficient contrast so the exhibit stands out? Are the most important areas of your booth properly highlighted? Does the lighting help complement the flow of the exhibit? Use lighting to set the mood as well-- museum-style lighting can illustrate quality, professionalism and even exclusivity while spotlights, colors and backlighting demonstrate different personalities.
Video or projected visual displays create movement and disrupt show attendee’s views to grab their attention. Use this extra (but often fleeting) time to keep them interested and informed with branded messages.


Bring it all together

Every trade show professional knows their work is far from over after the exhibit has been taken down. The lead data collection, education and buzz-generating technology you utilized during the show all help increase the longevity of your efforts.
Be thoughtful of the choices you make in your trade show technology strategy; employ options that make sense for your brand and objectives. Use the above strategies and tactics to make your next trade show spectacular.

What tactics do you use to make your trade show a success?