Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: June/July 2008
Getting The Most From Your Trade Investment

The travel industry loves trade shows as a way to market their products and services. And why not, we have beautiful destinations to show off and a continuous change in, or improvements to, the products and services we have to offer - a new convention bureau, new hotels and other infrastructure.

Trade shows can be used to introduce a new product or service, reinforce a brand, generate market recognition of an established product or service, and help you stand out from your competitors in an otherwise ultra-competitive travel market place. So how do you get the most bang for your buck? How do you measure success?

With so many trade shows, you must analyze those that fit your business and target client. The following questions must be a part of your analysis. What do you want to achieve by exhibiting? Who is your target audience? At which shows do your major competitors exhibit? Which show do your customers need? Which show do your suppliers need? What are your major industry shows? And last, but not least, what is your budget?

Those are just the basic. Then you'll need to gather information about the show's history, trends for the past few years, what is special and unique about a particular trade show, attendance and exhibitor figures, how far in advance does the trade show management start to market and advertise the event and what percentage of attendees pre-registers. I can literally come up with 100 questions to ask in your analysis.

Once you've successfully analyzed the trade show and decided to attend, it's time to consider your presentation. Below are some tips I gathered from the Trade Show Exhibition Association that should help maximize your trade show effectiveness, starting with creating a winning booth.

The booth presentation should be looked upon as a marketing opportunity - it's an extension of who you are as a company and what your company represents. We've all heard the cliché about lasting first impressions. Treat your booth as that first impression. Anything less and you've lost a wonderful opportunity to connect with a captive audience. After all, most of us who attend trade shows in the travel industry are already interested in what you have to offer or we wouldn't be there in the first place.

We've all seen that generic booth that we all rush past on our way to someplace else. Those who pay attention to the small presentation details are almost always rewarded with increased traffic and a better opportunity for more business. These booths are easy to spot, just follow the crowds. But does that mean you have to spend millions to attract attention - no. It's a combination of design and effective messaging.

So lets start with booth design. Here are a few tips to increase your booth presentation:

  • Improve your lighting. The human eye is attracted to light.
  • Bright colors are pleasing to the human eye. Certain colors create a different mood in the human psyche. If you'll notice a lot of websites, they are done in blue because it conveys serenity. Green means nature, red means excitement, yellow represents optimism, black equals authority and white represents purity.
  • If you can, put down a padded carpet around your area and make sure the carpet matches in color what's already on the floor. Believe me after walking around on the hard floors at many of the conventions I've attended, that soft carpeting makes me want to hang around if for no other reason than to rest my aching feet.
  • Make something move in your booth. It could be something as simple as a television monitor or tossing some sort of giveaway in the air.
  • Design the booth so visitors can navigate easily without feeling crowded.
  • Keep the atmosphere intimate and remove any barriers between yourself and your audience. Your message is also important. You can't be all things to all people so try to identify your market before hand. Who are you after and what do you want them to do? Here are a few presentation tips.
  • Keep the message simple so as not to overload visitors with information.
  • Have a clear goal and make it specific. Don't try to accomplish too much.
  • Use product demonstrations where possible for visitor memorability. Make sure these demonstrations are not so long as to lose your audience and keep them interesting.
  • Address the needs of the target audience.
  • Use signs and graphics to focus attention on your message.
  • Consider giveaways or promotional product giveaways that tie in with your message.
  • In conjunction with your booth presentation is the people you select to represent your company in the booth. Some business owners are not good at public presentations. If you are one of those business owners, find someone on your staff who is personable, or hire someone. This is the time to be honest with yourself. Most corporate types are comfortable speaking to investors, shareholders and accountants, but not necessarily in dealing with the public.

The travel industry is full of small business owners, so bringing in someone else might not make economic sense. My suggestion would be to seek out a media coach or observe others who you admire and work at it. Rehearse in front of people who will give you honest feedback. A poor presentation will do you more harm than good.

Booth etiquette should enhance and further promote your image. When it comes to attire think - what image do you want the visitor to walk away with?
We are in the travel business, so a suit and tie for men, or a professional dress or pants suit for women isn't always the right image you want to convey. The travel business promotes fun if you are trying to entice tourists to your destination or hotel. Many of our friends from Africa wear traditional African attire - this is an excellent use of dress to convey a powerful message.

You might even want to incorporate your own dress code. Come up with some kind of attire that all booth personnel should wear that identifies your company.

Other booths may require more professional attire because you are targeting a different audience. Either way you go, the image should match what you hope to convey. But there is more to booth image than what you are wearing.

More things to consider:

  • Stay out of your competitor's booth. I've witnessed booth personnel from one exhibitor trying to steal clients from a competitor's booth rather than focusing on their own company. Not only is it unprofessional, it sends a message of desperation.
  • Do not solicit in the aisles. Trade shows are set up to allow for a free flow of traffic through the aisles and enable exhibitors to do business in their booths.
  • Do not disrupt other exhibitors or visitors by playing loud music, talking louder than necessary or other behaviors that could be deemed disruptive.
  • And finally, it's imperative that all booth personnel have product knowledge. This sounds simple, but I can't tell you how many times I've approached a booth and been greeted by someone who did not even have basic product knowledge. It's one thing for a booth to be busy and have to wait for help, most of us understand that, but lack of product knowledge is something a visitor or exhibitor should never tolerate.