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GOING GREEN

As an exhibit manager, what are some simple and effective first steps I can take to create a more environmentally friendly exhibit strategy without trying to overhaul corporate policy?

While having management — or mandates — on your side can certainly speed your course toward Greener pastures, subtle, under-the-radar changes can have a significant, positive impact on the environment. Here are a few areas to consider when your exhibit program is ready to take its first eco-friendly steps.

Exhibit Recycling

When it comes to exhibit marketing, one of the Greenest and most cost-effective things you can do is to extend the life of your current exhibit properties. Compared to building new exhibits, refurbishing or renting properties or components saves energy, forests, money, and more.

The next time you need a new property, retain your booth’s skeleton and simply add new graphics or update your colors and surfaces. When you must purchase new elements, ask your exhibit house to consider recycled parts, such as those left over from discarded exhibits. And make sure the exhibit house either reuses your old exhibit for other clients or sends appropriate elements to recycling centers, rather than simply dumping them in a landfill.

Also, when developing new designs or refurbishments, try to keep all documents in electronic format for as long as possible — rather than printing out every iteration of an unfinished design. You’ll save reams of paper, and a wad of cash.

Energy Use

Saving energy is one of the keys to controlling global climate change and pollution, and it’s central to sustainability as well. However, it’s hard for most people to break down the concept of “energy” into simple, easy-to-implement ways to go Green. So consider cutting down on the following energy hogs.

Lighting. When it comes to exhibit lighting, use LEDs (most efficient) or fluorescents (second best) instead of incandescents (bad) or halogens (worst). And make sure your lights are only up and running during show hours, as opposed to leaving your equipment on when the hall’s closed.

Transportation. Try to reduce the number of shipments — i.e. number of pollution-emitting, gas-guzzling trucks — by consolidating shipments, transmitting graphic art electronically to printers in the show’s locale, shipping less literature (or none at all) to shows, storing or renting properties in convention cities between shows, renting equipment on site, etc. The less you transport, the more you save in terms of not only gas and emissions, but transportation costs as well.

Travel. Don’t forget, moving people is just like moving freight in that both require precious energy to complete the move. So consider ways to keep yourself and others in one place, such as telecommuting, using video or Web conferences for staff meetings, sending fewer people to shows, using regional reps to staff your exhibit, and reviewing exhibit and graphics designs via FTP sites rather than on paper or in person.

Supplier Practices

While you may be interested in going Green, your suppliers may be as eco-mean as they come. However, your money talks, and simply asking your exhibit house or vendors about their Green practices — or lack thereof — may be enough to get them on the Green train along with you.

In addition to asking about suppliers’ Green initiatives, simple office observations can tell you a great deal about the company’s level of commitment. For example, is the office using eco-friendly lighting, and are unused spaces also “shut down” in terms of energy use?  Does the company use skylights to reduce electric lighting? Does it waste heat and air conditioning? Is it recycling simple things such as paper and aluminum products?

Pay attention to the company’s product offerings. For example, are environmentally friendly materials or recycled elements standard offerings? Or do you have to jump through hoops — or pay through the nose — to get them? Does the company even offer Green solutions? And if so, are they truly Green, or are they actually PR brown — trotted out in press releases to try to give the company a leg up on the competition.

And be sure to ask about transportation options. One exhibit van line, for example, is experimenting with biodiesel fuel, which reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 78 percent compared to regular diesel.

You don’t need a corporate policy to effect change in your exhibit program. Rather, you need to take some of these first, simple steps. And who knows, maybe your company will applaud your Green initiatives by making some corporate directives of its own.

— Tom Bowman, principal, Bowman Design Group, Signal Hill, CA



AUDIENCE-RESPONSE SYSTEM

My boss thinks audience-response systems are “cool,” and she’s dead set on adding one to our booth presentation. However, I’m not sure how we would use one. What are some of the most common benefits of using an ARS in an exhibit presentation?

Normally, an exhibit presentation is little more than one-way communication, with the presenter spouting information and attendees soaking it in — or tuning it out. An ARS can transform a presentation into a dynamic, two-way dialogue, allowing attendees to respond to questions and engage in the presentation, and allowing exhibitors to tailor messages to each audience.

Simply put, the ARS process works like this: Via a presenter or some form of electronic device or screen, the ARS poses a question to attendees, who usually answer via a handheld, wireless device. Answers are tabulated, and information is retained for future use or immediately used to tailor the rest of the presentation to the audience.

Aside from maintaining attendees’ interest and stimulating open discussion, here are six of the most common benefits an ARS can offer.

1. Knowledge Assessment.
You can test attendees’ knowledge of or interest in topics, products, etc. The responses help presenters avoid extraneous topics, explain dense concepts more thoroughly, or steer the presentations in new directions.

2. Demographic Gathering.
An ARS can be used to gather demographic data, allowing presenters to better understand the audience’s point of view — and providing valuable data for the exhibit-marketing team.

3. Entertainment.
An ARS can lighten the mood with creative ice-breakers or trivia questions, which increase memorability and retention.

4. Exhibit Evaluation.
Does your exhibit-marketing program fit attendees’ needs? An ARS allows you to ask them, point blank, via an evaluation survey.

5. Decision-Maker Identification.
Certain ARS systems can also help staffers identify key decision makers or job titles within an audience for immediate post-presentation follow-up.

6. Knowledge Retention.
At the end of a presentation, you can see how well key points were retained — enabling the presenter to address misunderstandings or clarify key messages in his or her closing comments and to adapt the following presentations to further clarify messages.

— Stephanie Selig, account manager, One Smooth Stone, Downers Grove, IL

 



 
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