Wage PEACE at Your Next Trade Show

The Volume Wars

wage-peaceThe situation: Day One of the Trade Show.  Your neighbor’s first presentation of the morning begins.  And …. it’s loud.  VERY loud. You wince. You grimace.  You launch the Noise Meter app on your iPhone.

110dB and rising fast.

The sales reps in your booth can’t have a conversation.  Their temperature is rising faster than the sound level.  They’re staring at YOU.  And the look in their eyes is saying ….


Your response: Those jerks are too damn loud. I’m going straight to Show Management. They’ll come over with their own dB meter and get those clowns to TURN IT DOWN.  If they don’t, I’ll just turn our volume UP!!

Their response: Oh yeah!? Well, TWO can play at that game. I’m going to keep my dBs right at the legal limit all day long. We’re going to do four … no SIX, 10 minute presentations an hour.  Yeah,  That’ll show ‘em.  Maybe throw in a little feedback to REALLY make their day.  By the end of this show, they’ll wish they never messed with me.  Bwa ha haaaaa…

Conclusion: OK, this approach isn’t going to do anyone any good.   It’s kind of like making the decision to call the police at 2 in the morning to get your neighbor to turn down his Metallica Retrospective.  Instead of just calling him up.

The Alternative:  Wage Peace

The situation: You’re at the Convention Center on the set-in day.  You’re rehearsing.  Running through your presentation.  Checking your sound system.  The guy at the next booth is doing the same.  And he’s got MUCH bigger speakers than you do.  So in the “volume knob wars,” you’re gonna go down.  What do you do?

Your response: Hey!  How’s it going?  Looks like we’re both going to be doing live shows here.  What kind of presentation are you doing? (Really listen.) Well, I’d like to introduce myself to see if we can coordinate our schedules so we’re not fighting each other for three days.  Are you presenting on the hour and the half hour?  Great.  What if I go at 15 and 45?  Just know that when I do my presentations, there may be pretty big crowds and it could get kind of loud.  But if it does get TOO loud, you can give me a signal and I’ll turn it down.

In fact, since it looks like we’re not competitors, how about if I mention you guys at the end of the presentation and see if I can send some of that traffic your way?

Their response: Hmm.  Nice guy.  I should try to stay on schedule and make sure my volume doesn’t go to “11.”  I wonder … if I send some of my crowds to their booth, maybe I can score one of those screaming monkeys they’re giving away … or two …

Conclusion: Compromise. Wage Peace. Establish a relationship. BE NICE!  I guarantee you, you’ll have a better show.  You’ll have more fun.  And you might just pick up some business.

** Got any trade show war stories that ended up all ‘warm and fuzzy?’  I’d love to hear them.

How To Scream “THANK YOU” (and why you should.)

If you’ve exhibited at enough trade shows, it’s safe to assume you’ve got your own, “Ahh, the show is over” ritual.

  • You add one more Exhibitor Badge to the ever-growing collection on your bathroom doorknob.
  • You peel off your incredibly flattering branded polo-shirt.  (And burn it.)
  • You mix a strong drink
  • You find a hot bath
  • You schedule a foot massage, pedicure, chiropractic adjustment, trip to an Ashram …

Whatever your post-show tradition may entail, I would like to humbly suggest that you add one thing to your list.

Scream, “THANK YOU.”

Let me explain:   At a recent high tech trade show, I asked my client what her goals were for the three and a half days looming ahead of us.  She handed me a long list of ‘deliverables.’  Among them was a rather ambitious lead count.   I looked at the number, looked at her, looked back at the number and said, “OK.  You got it.”  Several hours later, I was in the storage closet having a little confab with my team of four assistants.  These were my crowd-gatherers, booth hostesses, booth ambassadors, my front line …

… whatever you want to call them ….

… oh, and they were not my ‘booth babes.’  (I know, that’s a subject for another blog.)

I explained to my team that we had a pretty challenging goal and I wanted them to do their best to make the numbers.  They smiled at each other and looked at me in a way that said,

“Uh huh … you just WATCH.”

Three days later, they had blown away our goal by over a thousand leads, had kept the presentation area filled with attendees,  AND had moved a huge number of these people into the waiting arms of some very happy sales reps.

When I got back to my office (and before I engaged in any of my own rituals),  I posted a picture showing a rather impressive crowd at our booth on several of my Social Media sites.  There, I publicly thanked the four women who helped me score this big win for my client.  This ‘THANK YOU’ cost me nothing except a few minutes of my time, but I know it meant something to my team.  Why?  Because it was shouted.  It was a declaration to anyone within earshot, that they did an amazing job.  (And from the number of ‘likes’ and comments I saw, it definitely found some ears.)

Why don’t we do this all the time?  Why don’t we tell our staff people, our co-workers, our FRIENDS, the people who busted their butts for us; that we appreciate their efforts?   That we’re grateful.

Why don’t we scream, “THANK YOU” after the show is over?

Do we think, “Oh, my people were just doing their job.”?    Do we think, “Oh, they already know they’re appreciated.”?  Or do we just not think it’s worth it.

How about trying this?  After your next show, single out some of the people on your team who really went the extra mile, who really tore it up for you.  Do a shout out on Twitter, Facebook, on your company network, wherever you want.  But make sure a lot of people see it.

And then see how those people perform for you next time.  See what happens when you hand them an impossible goal  and they smile at you and say, “Uh huh.  You just WATCH.”

(By the way, here’s a shout out to my four miracle-workers: Manya Landers, Jennifer Speelman, Marie Jacobs, and Kecia Cooper King.  I couldn’t have done it without you.)

A Tip For Exhibitors: Don’t Go To Your Next Trade Show

That’s right.  Don’t Go.

  • Don’t go if you’d rather be anywhere else.
  • Don’t go if you don’t like people.
  • Don’t go if you don’t like a LOT of people.
  • Don’t go if you can’t handle the idea that these people won’t want to talk to you.
  • Don’t go if you’re not passionate about your product, your service or your solutions.
  • Don’t go if you’re thinking of it as a break from ‘real work.’
  • Don’t go if you can’t STAND for eight hours at a time.
  • Don’t go if smiling all day makes your face hurt.
  • Don’t go if your favorite sound is that of your own voice.
  • Don’t go if you LOVE garlic and HATE breath mints.
  • Don’t go if your phone is surgically attached to your ear.
  • Don’t go if you’re not good at listening.
  • Don’t go if personal hygiene is something you rarely consider.
  • Don’t go if you HATE waiting in long lines … for damn near everything.
  • Don’t go if “partying till dawn” is your primary skill set.

In short, DON’T GO unless you’re willing to be an ambassador for your company … at all times.  Everything you do on a trade show floor, and I mean EVERYTHING, is a reflection on your organization and your brand.

Sometimes you’re doing yourself and everyone else a favor by staying home.

* Feel like adding to our “Don’t Go” list?  Be my guest.  I’m sure it’s far from complete …

Did You Pack Your Trade Show Tool Kit?

Several years ago, at a trade show in Las Vegas, I was strolling the aisles during the setup/rehearsal day, and happened to pass a very large booth.  IN that large booth was an enormous theatre area with a small thrust stage,  about 80 seats, three pipes loaded with stage lighting, an impressive sound system, and a full complement of crew people wandering around looking … well, like crew people.

Although at this particular moment, this crew was in a panic.

Not being the type of person who can ignore drama, I asked one of the tech guys what was going on.

“Well,” he explained to me impatiently,

“The speaker up there is delivering a presentation and it’s being fed to her ear prompter by a disk player, and well, her receiver has a micro-stereo plug and we need a mini-stereo plug.  And there’s no place open to buy one, and well … we’re screwed.”

“Ah,” I said. “I think I can help.”

“Oh yeah, RIGHT.  I’ll bet!”   “What’d ya pack … a soldering iron??”

“No,” I said.  “I have a bag full of adapters.  And if you’re a little nicer to me, I might just let you have one.”

While he was sputtering away, I opened a small emergency kit I always carry and pulled out a ziplock bag full of adapters.  (I’m a bit of a geek that way.)  I found the one he needed and held it out to him.

“Oh my God.  That’s it.  That’s … that’s …  I can’t believe you HAVE one !”

“Yes I do,” I offered. “And for $500, it could be yours.”

I let him sweat for a second, then handed it to him with my business card and told him to get it back to me at the end of the show.  I also told him to enjoy being the hero of the day.

Which, FINALLY, brings me to my point.


It doesn’t need to be quite as esoteric as mine, but you can be a bit of a trade show hero yourself by having some basic supplies to get you through the inevitable surprises or disasters at your next show.

Here’s a starter list, in no particular order:

  • Packing Tape
  • Scissors
  • Band Aids (First Aid Kit)
  • Aspirin / Pain Relievers
  • Pens  (lots of them … they walk away)
  • Note Pads
  • Post-Its
  • Highlighters
  • Stapler
  • Staple Remover
  • Extra Lead Sheets (more than you think you’ll need)
  • Digital Camera
  • Business Cards (You’d be surprised how often these are forgotten)
  • Paper Clips
  • Rubber Bands
  • Nail Clippers
  • Breath Mints
  • Chap Stick
  • Sewing Kit
  • Velcro (Get a roll of the hook and a roll of the pile.  This stuff can SAVE you.)
  • Screwdrivers
  • Instructions for Return Shipments
  • Shipping Labels for Return Shipment
  • Extension Cords
  • Facial Tissues
  • Glass Cleaner
  • Cloth / Paper Towels
  • Duct Tape (easily 101 uses just at a trade show alone)
  • The right cables to connect laptops to displays (this from a recent disaster that I might write about someday.)
  • A small vacuum cleaner, carpet sweep (you can’t always depend on the exhibit hall crew to get to your booth in time)

I’m sure I’m forgetting something.  So feel free to add to the list as you see fit.

Author’s Note:

(At the end of the show, my new friend returned my adapter in a little bag attached to a VERY nice bottle of champagne.  Now THAT’S a class act …)


Actual dialogue from a recent trade show:

Me:  Traffic’s really down this year, huh?

Exhibitor:  Yeah,  a lot less people.  Seems like about HALF.

Me:   Well, it’s not the greatest destination.

Exhibitor:  No kidding.  But, it is what it is.

Me:  And it sure doesn’t help being in the back of the hall.

Exhibitor:  Well, Whatcha gonna do?  It’s all they had left.

Me:  So, how’s the show been for you?

Exhibitor:  Oh.  FANTASTIC.  Having a great time.  Met some amazing people…

This was NOT the answer I expected.   Why the heck was this guy having such a great time?  Was he delusional?  Heavily medicated?   I had to find out.  So, I stepped away from his little pop-up booth and watched him for awhile.  And in ten minutes, I knew exactly WHY he was having so much fun and meeting so many ‘amazing people.’

He was smiling.  A LOT.  And talking to everyone who came by.  Small talk.  Commenting on shoes, ties, hairstyles, how much free stuff people had accumulated.  The guy was an ambassador of good will.  And it worked.  People stopped and chatted.  They laughed.  And many of them asked HIM what HIS company did.

So, this week’s blog has a very simple point:

When you’re in your booth, SMILE …. a LOT. Chat to people walking by.  Don’t worry about selling your stuff.  Just talk.  And if you’re not in a great mood, then for crying out loud … FAKE IT.

I promise.  You will feel better.  And you’ll have a much better time on the Exhibit Floor.  And you may meet some amazing people …

“That’s NOT in my Job Description”

This week’s “Hey Newman” blog was to be about ‘going-above-and-beyond, ‘thinking-outside-the-box,’ ‘getting-things-done.’  But instead of speaking about this in the abstract, I decided to invite fellow blogger, Jennifer Canale, to share her recent experience at a small trade show in New Orleans.

I believe it  speaks to this subject particularly well:


Question:  What do you do when you show up on Day One of a trade show, and discover…

1.  The product literature didn’t make it to the show.

2.  The show entrance and your booth are at opposite ends of the building.

3.  There are no dedicated trade show hours ??

Answer:  Whatever you HAVE TO DO!!

You may have been brought in as a “Crowd Gatherer” or “Booth Hostess,” but when it comes down to it, you are part of the Marketing Team.  This means you do whatever you have to do to make your show a success, whether you think it’s in your job description or not.


What happens when the Client unpacks the shipping boxes an hour before showtime and realizes that THERE IS NO LITERATURE TO HAND OUT??


You ask them to put whatever files they can find on a thumb drive.  You change into your comfy shoes.  You Google the nearest FedEx Kinko’s.  You take their Corporate Credit Card and off you go.  Thirty minutes later you’re back with bags full of pamphlets and flyers.  You put on your heels.  You’re a hero.   Miracle #1.

Then …

What do you do when your booth is in the far corner of the convention hall and no one is coming to visit?

You work your magic !

It’s hard to be a Crowd Gatherer for a Presenter when he has no one to PRESENT to.  He may be great at sleight of hand, but without anyone to watch him … who cares?   So you grab an extra deck of cards and go out into the main hallways and tell every attendee you see to “Pick a Card!  Any card!  Take that Magic Card to Booth 1617 and turn it in for a prize!”  Next thing you know, the booth is full of attendees watching the Presentation!  AND, since all the attendees are turning in playing cards for prizes, your client has a pretty good idea who it was that pulled in the crowds.  Miracle #2.

And as if THAT wasn’t enough …

What do you do when the only time the attendees are in the Expo Hall hall is for meals?  To make matters worse, the Caterers, in their infinite wisdom, put a giant curtain in front of your booth, so no one sees you or your presenter.

Step out from behind the curtain.

That booth in the corner is now part of the dining entertainment.  Visit the tables during lunch and welcome the attendees.  Invite them over to you booth for some lunchtime magic.  Tell them that your presenter will teach them a trick and give them a special gift to take home with them. Miracle #3.

And after this third miracle, you are officially a New Orleans Saint  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Tricks like this (pun intended) will get your booth full of prospects, and get your client to see the value that you bring to their trade show marketing effort.   If your client doesn’t get good leads, they’re not likely to come back to this show.  And if they don’t come back to the show … you’re not working for them.

So …

You step up.  You help wherever you can. You do things that might not be part of your job description.  You make problems disappear.  Then, the morning after the show, you get an email thanking you for the great job you did along with a contract for their next three shows.

Life is Good.


Have any stories about things YOU’VE done that were not part of your job description? Emptying trash at your trade show booth?  Vacuuming carpets?  Rebuilding a server?  We’d love to hear them.