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Live Presentations
Salespeople normally host our in-booth presentations, but I'm wondering if professional presenters would be more effective. What are the benefits of hiring presenters, and roughly how much do they cost?

The decision to hire a professional presenter often comes down to your level of comfort with a generalist versus a specialist. If you have an abnormal heartbeat, for example, you'll likely choose a cardiologist over a general practitioner. But if you have trouble sleeping, a generalist might suffice.

So first consider the type of presentation you're offering and its importance to your program. If it's a critical component – and I believe all presentations are essential, otherwise you wouldn't be offering them – then a specialist can ensure it's as effective as possible. But to aid in your decision-making, here are some of the primary advantages to using hired talent, along with the cost averages of doing so.

Sales Productivity – In a few short days, trade shows and events allow your salespeople to spend far more face-to-face time with qualified prospects than during practically any in-field sales call. And these in-person interactions almost always outweigh phone or email conversations in terms of effectiveness. What's more, these exchanges accelerate your sales cycle more quickly than any other marketing medium. Professional communicators and presenters, then, should not replace your booth staff and this critical face-to-face interaction. Rather, they should enhance it, making these personal interactions even more successful.

With a paid presenter, your salespeople don't have to prepare for, stress over, or lead in-booth presentations. That means 100 percent of their time can be spent interacting with attendees. A hired professional essentially frees up your entire sales team to do what they do best: talk directly with qualified prospects and move them toward a sale.

Professional presentations also help your sales team increase their productivity. At minimum, presentations offer broad overviews of your brand and products. As such, they eliminate the awkward first few minutes of an interaction between staff and unqualified attendees, during which time staffers usually explain the company and its offerings, and attendees try to decide if your wares are a good fit for their particular requirements.

If attendees stick around after a presentation, they've qualified themselves to some degree. They've already identified that your offerings might meet their needs, so they're in search of additional information. As they talk with your staff, they're a step ahead of people that simply wander into your booth, and they're usually ready to ask critical questions as opposed to broad queries. Bottom line: Hiring a professional presenter frees up your salespeople to sell and helps separate the attendee wheat from the chaff, which in turn improves the quality of ensuing interactions.

Branding and Professionalism – An underlying goal for every exhibit is to consistently represent and communicate the brand and your key messages to external audiences. When you hire a professional presenter from a reputable agency, the latter works with you to ensure the speaker has a firm grasp of all objectives, messages, product details, and branding issues. Plus, it helps you craft an effective script and ensures that the presenter stays on message and offers a consistent presentation throughout the duration of the show. That way, you end up with a presentation that is on brand and that maintains a positive image.

And not to state the obvious, but professional presenters are trained, polished public speakers. They're used to delivering 12 to 20 formal presentations a day during a three- to five-day trade show, which is truly an exhausting job that requires tremendous energy. But professionals know how to pace themselves so that each session has the same energy and spontaneity and that your scripted material is delivered consistently with confidence and a relaxed style. Plus, they understand group dynamics and are trained in communicating to and eliciting responses from various sized audiences of attendees.

While certainly well-meaning, salespeople, on the other hand, rarely offer the same level of consistent professionalism, which can negatively impact effectiveness and your brand perception. Finding an in-house salesperson that communicates clearly, sticks to a script without sounding like a monotone soundtrack, and possesses a high degree of charisma and comfort on stage – all while also performing the functions of a traditional sales professional while not in the spotlight – is pretty much a hopeless endeavor. What's more, salespeople are often most comfortable talking to one person at a time or to small groups. As a general rule, it's difficult for them to offer a consistent presentation sans notes to an audience of 30 to 150 people.

And finally, while most companies exhibit at only a few events a year, there are thousands of U.S. trade shows annually. Professional, full-time presenters know what works on the exhibit floor and what doesn't. They know how to interact with your audience and how to get them to care and become involved. They make your story exciting, compelling, and entertaining. More importantly, they can instantly capture your audience, break down that invisible barrier, and make them respond to your message.

Personally, I think that expecting salespeople to double as effective in-booth presenters is asking the impossible – and it's unfair. Set your team up for success and boost their effectiveness by going with a pro.

Pricing – Given the benefits of a professional speaker, you're probably wondering about the costs. So here are some average breakdowns to give you an idea of what adding a pro presenter will mean to your budget.

For a talent to deliver a traditional business-theater presentation, a typical rate is $1,200 to $2,000 per day. So you're looking at $3,600 to $6,000 for a three-day show. This price includes everything from pre- and at-show rehearsals to the presenter's hotel and travel costs.

This pricing varies according to a few criteria. For example, will the presenter be using one standard script, or will multiple scripts be used to offer varied presentations? Do you plan to host 10 sessions per day, or are you using an accelerated schedule with more frequent presentations and fewer breaks? (Agencies generally schedule 20 minutes of break time between presentations and give presenters an hour for lunch.) How long are show hours each day? (Anything over eight hours will usually require overtime pay for the talent.) Are you asking anything atypical of the presenter, such as wearing special attire?

As mentioned at the onset, you'll need to decide for yourself whether your program needs a specialist or a generalist. From my perspective, hired speakers are kind of the cardiologists of the industry, as they have special skill sets to proactively engage attendees, deliver messaging, and initiate connections. Their presence enables your sales staff to focus on their wheelhouse: interacting with visitors and moving qualified attendees through the sales cycle.

— Anne Trompeter, principal and executive creative strategist, Live Marketing Inc., Evanston, IL
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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