ecently, while attending the 2014 Interop New York show, I encountered an exhibit manager for an offshoot of a Fortune 100 company who, much to my dismay, had never heard of EXHIBITOR. She had held her position as an exhibits and events manager for three years, but like so many other face-to-face marketing professionals, she never received any formal education on the industry and its many unique nuances.
When I inquired about how successful her traffic-building activity had been thus far, she looked puzzled. After all, a small group had amassed, so clearly her traffic builder had, in fact, built traffic. To better gauge how the show was going for her, I plumbed for a better barometer of the booth's success. But my questions about measurable goals, benchmarks, metrics, and lead capture left her a little cross eyed. "I guess we don't measure those things," she ultimately admitted. "Maybe we should."
Similar scenarios play out time and again at the dozens of trade shows I attend annually. I encounter exhibit managers who are doing many things right and obviously grasp several of the key principles of exhibit marketing. But they don't know what they don't know – and after chatting a bit and peering beneath the surface of their programs, that often becomes apparent.
When I encounter exhibitors like the one at Interop, I always encourage them to attend EXHIBITORLIVE, our annual conference and exhibition with a laser focus on improving exhibit and event performance. Last year's event attracted more than 6,000 members of the industry from all 50 states and 48 different countries, learning and sharing their own ideas in a continuous cycle of excitement and inspiration – alongside others who do what they do.
EXHIBITORLIVE is bursting at the seams with the secrets to succeeding in face-to-face marketing. In addition to the "trade show for people who do trade shows," where attendees can interact and build trust with hundreds of potential partners offering everything from exhibit design and fabrication to interactive multimedia, the five-day conference features more than 180 sessions, workshops, and field trips on outsourcing, small-exhibit programs, social media, technology integration, and everything in between.
Just last year, I had coffee with a woman who was attending a session entitled "Trade Show Rookies 'Quick-Start' Program." But she was far from a rookie, and it wasn't her first time at the show. Her biggest takeaway from attending in 2013 was that tenure does not an expert make, and that despite confidence in her abilities, she didn't know what she didn't know. So she was attending the conference again to uncover the basics she'd missed along the way, as well as new strategies and tactics to help her succeed.
Kathy Taulbee, CTSM, marketing communications manager for GE Healthcare, is another past attendee who echoes that sentiment. "Having over 15 years in the trade show industry, I was glad when I learned there was an organization that taught the ins and outs of trade show management," Taulbee says. "I thought I knew it all, but gosh was I wrong."
EXHIBITORLIVE is the place to discover what you don't know – and to reaffirm what you've already learned. Past attendees often tell us that the skills they develop and lessons they learn at the show help them not only to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, but also to achieve greater levels of respect, authority, and even compensation. Bottom line, if you're not taking advantage of this learning opportunity, you're short changing yourself and your organization.
Like the aforementioned marketers, I might not know what I don't know. But one thing I do know is that I hope to see the woman from Interop at EXHIBITORLIVE next March. And I hope to see you there as well. For more info, visit www.ExhibitorLive.com.