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What Happens in Vegas … Surviving A Trade Show in Sin City

With CES upon us, it’s worth remembering that Las Vegas can be a very unforgiving place.  These Ten Tips can help you return happy, healthy, and with your 401K intact.

10) Dont be fooled. Youre in a desert.
With all the glitz, technology and marvels of architecture, it’s easy to forget where you really are … but your body won’t. It’s dry. Really dry, and your eyes and lips know it.  If you wear contact lenses, try to avoid wearing them all day and night, keep a Chap Stick with you at all times, and most importantly, hydrate! (I don’t mean the free drinks.) You need tons of water. Buy water when you land. Drink it before you even get to the hotel. You’ll never know how dehydrated you are until it hits you like a freight train. You’ll lose your voice, or maybe even consciousness! Hydrate.

9) Dont go overboard.
There’s no sense telling you to avoid the nightlife. That’s part of the Vegas experience. But for your own good, practice moderation.  Consider this:  There are no clocks in casinos.  There are no windows.  And sometimes it seems like there are no doors either.  Why do you suppose that is? It’s simple:  THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO LEAVE … EVER.   More than once, I’ve heard friends exiting the trade show floor with the words, “I’m just going to play a little craps.  See you in the morning…”

Seven free drinks later it’s 3 a.m. and they’re rolling in the next day looking like an extra on “The Walking Dead.”

So give yourself permission to have a good time, but make sure you can easily work and function in the morning. Ultimately, you’re a company representative—with or without a hangover.

8 ) Dont break the bank at dinner.
It’s oh-so-easy to spend $500-600 bucks at dinner at one of Las Vegas’ amazing celebrity restaurants. Just know: There are equally wonderful eateries just off the strip at a much more reasonable price. It may not be as “glamorous” as that rock star chef’s destination, but it’s great food at a fraction of the price. Yes, you’ll find world-class dining right outside your door, but if a $500 meal is beyond your per diem, take advantage of amazing affordable places just out of the way.

7) Dont stay in one place.
There’s much more to the area than just casinos. With just a short drive in your rental, you’ll find beautiful locations and activities away from the excess of the strip. A simple Google search will set you up with a daylong itinerary, if you like.

6) Dont leave your casual shoes at home.
Comfortable shoes are the key to a successful Vegas trip. At the bigger trade shows, it’s not uncommon to wait … and wait … and wait for shuttle buses or cabs. And if you have casual shoes, you also have the option to walk back to the hotel. It’s a great way to de-stress when you leave the exhibit hall.  This is a really crucial point:  At CES, or any Vegas show, you go from the din and electronics of the trade show floor to the din and electronics of the casino to the din and electronics of your hotel.  It’s never-ending.  Walking back to the hotel will create a modicum of space and time between chaotic destinations.  (Of course, you MAY have to take a detour around a pirate battle and an erupting volcano, but you get my point.)

5) Dont exhaust your funds on high-priced entertainment.
We all want to see Blue Man Group.  Many of us want to check out the latest Cirque du Soleil offering.  You might even want to see if the Criss Angel show is as lame as everyone says it is.  It’s understandable that you’d want to check out some of the very special acts that call Vegas home. Just keep in mind that some of the best entertainers you’ve never heard of are also just minutes away. Talk to the locals. Find out who’s worth seeing. There are magicians and comedians and entertainers of all kinds who put on amazing shows for a lot less than the big names.

4) Dont leave your food situation to chance.
It’s easy to come back from a trade show trip feeling physically “off” because of how badly or irregularly you’ve eaten. Rather than settle for trade show floor fare, bring your own! When you pass a place selling really nice Paninis, grab one and throw it in your bag. Then, just as importantly, try to find a soothing place to eat.   If weather permits, you might be able to sneak out a side door into a really pleasant, sunny environment and breathe real air!   Think of it!

3) Dont allow your trip to be only about excess.
All around you are some of the finest health care and gym facilities anywhere. You don’t have to be a hardcore athlete; just bring some gym clothes, ride the bike and listen to your iPod. It’s a great way to create some balance before or after your time on the trade show floor.

2) Dont believe what you read.
Vegas obviously offers things other than alcohol. You’re bound to end up with, shall we say, some very “compelling” promotional materials when walking around. Resist. What they’re selling is not what it seems … and even what it seems, probably isn’t legal!

1) Dont forget to remove your badge when you leave the trade show floor. There’s nothing like having a long conversation with a very beautiful person only to realize that wonky nametag was there the whole time. No wonder they were smiling!

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What did I leave out?  I’m sure youve had some Vegas experiences in your day.  What did YOU do that you wish you hadn’t.  

I’ll post a follow-up with all of your ‘Things Not To Do.”  I’m sure we can all benefit from the mistakes and lessons-learned of our fellow trade show adventurers.

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.

PUT TOGETHER A TRADE SHOW TOOLKIT AND BRING IT TO EVERY TRADE SHOW

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 …)

Make your next trade show your BEST trade show.