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Things Presidential Hopefuls Can Learn From Trade Show Exhibitors (& Vice Versa)

June 05, 2015

By November 2016 U.S. voters will ultimately be choosing from two, maybe three, legitimate candidates when casting their ballots for President. But as of this writing there are about 15 declared candidates with possibly as many as another half dozen in the wings. 

Come with me now to TEMPCAN EXPO – THE ESSENTIAL MARKETPLACE for PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES where I was recently asked to provide exhibitors with some pre-event training:

Thank you all for attending this pre TempCan exhibitor training. My purpose today is to help you succeed at the tradeshow which brings me to our first point of consideration:
What are your goals? Can you articulate why you are running for President? What is it you hope to achieve at this event and how does that tie in with your ultimate plans? Perhaps your goal is to meet with the trade press.. (I momentarily was distracted by Mrs. Clinton vigorously shaking her head no)
Secondly, with regard to your positioning on the show floor. The expo offers ‘Pavilion’ spaces where similar exhibitors can be grouped. This assists attendees in knowing where to look without the burden of really thinking. At TempCan the Red Pavilion is huge with the Blue not quite as large. In the far left corner of the show floor there appears to be a space reserved for independents. (Oddly, while Mr. Sanders was eyeballing that space Mr. Cruz was whispering something about extending the floorplan further to the right)
Next, I hate to bring it up but realistic budgeting for the expo is a necessary evil. The weight of your baggage (called Drayage) will cost you.  In fact, sometimes the people who could benefit most or provide the greatest products to attendees just can’t afford to exhibit at TempCan.
When designing your space, let’s remember it’s a crowded field with all neighboring exhibitors going after the same attendees you are. Before they can hear your message, you first have to stand out and get noticed. (Among others, Mr. O’Malley, Dr. Carson and Mr. Pataki were looking at the schedule of events for the breakout session on getting noticed)

Now all of you candidates would be well advised to avoid the mistake that many exhibitors commit. (I noticed at the word ‘commit’ Jeb Bush slyly exhaled)  Don’t spend all of that time, effort, money and put your reputation out for consideration then get in front of the targeted audience you seek and fail to say something!
And your messages need to be about what the attendees care about. They really don’t care about you – they care what you will do for them. Your graphics and booth staffers should not be focused on knocking the competition. An encounter/engagement on a tradeshow floor is usually not the place to get all wonky and detailed. It’s about highlights and benefits people!
The exhibit experience is an opportunity to enhance preference for your ‘brand.’  Historically, some in this particular industry have had problems with Brand Consistency. Remember that your brand is impacted by all in your organization. (Mr. Christie was nervously thumbing his dog eared copy of A Bridge Too Far)
Contrary to popular belief, as well-known as you think you are, about 40% of tradeshow attendees have never met you and this will be a first impression. For some of you with name recognition, attendees come to the show with preconceived ideas of who you are formed by past experience, the things they’ve heard about you (often from your competition), what the press says about you. The show is your chance to control the impression they have of you going forward.
Your exhibit space, like all of your well-crafted plans, needs to be functional (Mr. Paul muttered something that sounded like (“damn”). It should be aesthetically appealing (I think Rubio looked over to Graham and smirked) and ideally offer something new (lots of blank faces in my audience...)  I went on to say that even if you don’t have something new to offer sometimes success at a tradeshow was about packaging (Mrs. Fiorina woke up).
Fearing I was losing them, I started to wrap up: In conclusion, it is important that you Measure the results of your tradeshow participation. (Mr. Chaffee raised his hand to ask a question) “Can that measurement be in Metric?”

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