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Live presentations have moved beyond PowerPoint and dry product pitches. See how these six exhibitors used live performers to capture attendees' attention and communicate key messages.
By Claire Walling
rade shows have a tendency to reduce normally level-headed professionals into
a pack of 6-year-olds with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The shiny new products, bright lights, and fancy exhibitry can quickly distract attendees from what matters – your product message. So how do you combat the sensory assault on the show floor? One way is to turn to live presentations to capture attendees' attention and tell them about your brands' attributes. But to make these presentations more than just staffers reciting dry PowerPoint slides verbatim, hour after hour, many exhibitors hire professional presenters and entertainers.
They can not only help drum up a crowd, but also teach attendees a thing or two about your company's products. And although the acts vary from break dancing to card tricks, all successful performances have one thing in common: They weave the product message into a presentation, and don't just tack it on as an afterthought. Looking for ideas to create your own entertaining presentation? Then take a cue from these five examples that got it right.
Lighten the Load
Magicians performing in exhibits are hardly unusual. But more times than not, the magician's act is merely a means to pull attendees out of the aisles, and has little to do with the associated company's product or service. But that
wasn't the case when magician David Ren Jenkins performed for Brulin & Co. Inc. in its exhibit at the 2013 ISSA/Interclean North America show. Rather than entertain attendees with a set list of tricks, then pass the baton to another presenter to deliver the product pitch, Jenkins wove the benefits of Brulin's bleach-replacement tablets (BruTabs) into his act. It was no small feat, since BruTab's primary selling point is that a 7-pound tub of it could produce more than a ton of diluted bleach solution, creating enormous savings by eliminating the need to transport hefty pallets of bleach. To illustrate that weight-saving attribute, Jenkins made a table "float" during his presentation, causing jaws to drop in the aisles. He then performed other tricks that correlated with the product's selling points, such as a cuff-escaping trick when he described the strength of the cleaning product. By hiring a magician to perform tricks that reinforced a product pitch, Brulin grabbed attendees' attention and educated them at the same time.
Going With the Grains
Have you ever seen someone create gorgeous, colorful, ever-changing imagery using nothing but a light box, projection technology, and sand? No? Well neither had attendees at the 2013 Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association Annual Meeting, where Global Experience Specialists Inc. (GES) enlisted "sand-animation artist" Charlene Lanzel to perform live in its exhibit every 10 minutes. GES positioned Lanzel's internally lit clear-glass box within a white, GES-branded frame so that only the top of the glass remained visible. Meanwhile, a camera overhead captured the glass box as well as piles of blue sand, which were scattered around the edge of the glass, and projected the image onto a monitor attached to the booth's back wall. At the start of each presentation, a subtle soundtrack switched on, and Lanzel used her hands to manipulate the blue sand across the glass surface, creating not merely patterns and shapes, but entire scenes, some of which symbolized GES' clients. The roughly five-minute presentation not only mesmerized attendees, who clogged the aisles for nearly every presentation, but also ensured that GES had a steady stream of traffic throughout the trade show.
Wave Systems Corp. wanted a tangible demonstration of its primary marketing message – that the passwords people create often aren't as secure as users think they are – at RSA Conference 2013 in San Francisco. So it hired Magnet Productions founder Ken Newman to perform a sleight-of-hand trick. Throughout the show, Newman asked an attendee to reach into a hat and select a random password printed on a disc. At the same time, he guessed the password and wrote it down on a notepad. As the attendee read the random password back to him, Newman showed the audience his notepad with the correct word written on it. The clever trick didn't just provide the perfect launching pad from which Newman could pitch Wave's Trusted Platform Module; it demonstrated why attendees needed the product, too.
Laughing to Leads
Attendees flock to a product-saturated trade show such as the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) to get hands-on with material samples and talk shop with suppliers, but they usually don't expect to be entertained. Wilsonart LLC, a business unit of
Illinois Tool Works Inc., challenged that perception. The maker of laminate countertops, sinks, and more enlisted the help of The Second City Inc., a Chicago-based comedy theater troupe to draw attendees into its exhibit and get them laughing, too. Second City opened its act with a farcical jingle that poked fun at competitors' granite surfaces with interjections of information about Wilsonart's own HD laminate product. Next, the performers acted out approximately four- to five-minute skits working in pairs. While the script remained the same each time, there was a twist: Periodically, a helper would prompt someone from the audience to call out an emotion, and the performers would then have to act out their lines while portraying happiness, anger, etc. But the stunt didn't end with the final round of applause. After the performance, staffers ushered attendees toward iPad kiosks, and any attendee who took a short branching-logic survey received a ticket to see a show at Second City's theater. During six in-booth performances over the course of the show, Wilsonart gave away 100 tickets and collected more than 100 sales leads to boot.
A Sweet Single
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a division of Wells Fargo Bank N.A., wanted to add a little song and dance to its exhibit at the 2013 Realtors Conference and Expo in San Francisco, hosted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Working with Live Marketing Inc., it positioned a pair of dueling piano players atop a moveable stage attendees would pass by while disembarking
Wells Fargo-sponsored shuttle buses and entering the Moscone Center. Each song played featured the words "sweet" or "home" in its title – keywords central to Wells Fargo's messaging at the show. While the musical greeting gave attendees a taste of what was to come, the real entertainment came when they arrived at the company's 50-by-80-foot exhibit. There, staff ushered attendees into an enclosed theater, where a pair of rappers performed a remix with lyrics emphasizing the "Home Sweet Home" theme. The performers encouraged the audience to participate, with phrasing such as "I say Wells, you say Fargo." The lyrics underscored that Wells Fargo is the nation's top retail-mortgage lender, and got the crowd of realtors singing along. And just like a song that keeps running through your head, Wells Fargo's musical message stuck in attendees' minds far longer than any bullet point ever would.
Bridgestone America Tire Operations LLC, aka Firestone, enlisted Chef Anton of Tricks of the Trade Inc. to perform billiard stunts at the 2013 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville,
KY. Anton began each roughly 28-minute performance/sales pitch hybrid by clearing all the balls with a single shot and paralleling that feat to how the decreased rolling resistance and
longer tread life of Firestone's tires can also knock truckers' problems out with a single shot. Once Anton had formed a rapport with his audience, he asked for a volunteer for his most daring stunt. While blindfolded, he shot a ball out of the attendee's mouth, which struck a tire that rolled across the pool table and into a pocket. Those brave enough to risk their pearly whites were given a branded ball as a memento. As a grand finale for his act, Anton created a five-foot fall stack, using 33 balls in total, and shot them all at once. And while he has performed the signature trick for other clients, this time it involved a product-centric twist. Instead of standard billiard triangles for the stack's foundation, Anton substituted pieces of Firestone's tire tread to demonstrate the product's strength and durability. Anton performed his tricks every hour throughout the three-day show, and attracted upwards of 250 attendees each time. Moreover, attendees spent an average of 22 minutes in Firestone's exhibit, a duration that's greater than industry averages. Ultimately, Anton's knockout shot helped Firestone sweep its competition, too.