Leaving Las Vegas on a red-eye flight after another long trade show, I lean my bleary-eyed head against the dark window. Fortunate enough to at least have noise-cancelling headphones, I barely hear the drunken outbursts of broke gamblers and over-tired infants. After 4 days of perpetual motion, I quickly fall into a deep sleep…and dream.
It’s early on the first day of set up, and as I walk through the show hall towards my booth space, I am greeted by a cheerful labor crew, who have finished unpacking all my crates…which were already delivered. The set up goes smoothly and is completed on straight-time. Even the new trade show exhibit graphics that were sent directly from the exhibit house fit perfectly, matched the color of the existing panels, and had no typos. I go to dinner that night relaxed, and even have time to go to a show.
The next morning, two full hours before the trade show opens, and all the little booth details are done. The lead cards are on clip boards, the pens are in place, the at-show promos are unwrapped, and every computer is in place and hooked up to the internet. All my booth staffers are in the booth eager for the pre-show meeting to start, so they can be completely familiar with our goals for the show, the benefits of the new products, the booth layout, and our leads system.
There is also an extra booth staffer, brought by a co-worker. “Ted just started this week,” says his friend. “But don’t worry about him being a burden – he used to be a client. Ted knows our products and what our clients value about them, which is why he joined our sales team. He has also staffed trade shows before and twice won a best booth staffer award.”
Ten minutes before the show starts, the CEO arrives. He is smiling broadly at how well the exhibit expresses the company brand, how much better we look than the competitors, and how friendly and professional the booth staff look. He greets the entire booth staff and encourages them to do their best, then leaves to gloat by the competitors’ trade show exhibit booths.
When the show opens, there is a mad dash as attendees flock into the booth, eager to learn more about the new product they heard about before the show via email, direct mail, Twitter, and from their local Account Executives. The torrid pace continues throughout the day, and there is a steady crowd around the product demo stations. The only break I get from staffing the booth is to introduce the CEO to a writer from the industry business journal who wants to do a feature story about our new product.
On day two and three of the show, the pace in the booth is still strong, even as the overall show traffic level slows down. The booth staff remains cheerful, aware of how their hard work will pay off for the company. By day three we have to run to the show services desk to get two extra rolls of paper for the lead retrieval machines.
Then, almost abruptly, the show closes and the last visitor leaves. Just as we wave goodbye to a repeat client leaving towards the entrance, the carpets are being rolled up from the other direction, to allow a forklift to arrive with all our empty crates. The booth staff stays until all the small stuff is packed away, and the labor crew takes over to complete packing the exhibit.
I am just about to leave when the CEO shows up again. He had heard about how well our booth and staff performed, from clients, business partners, and even some jealous competitors. “I know trade shows take a lot of effort to pull off, and that you did your best to make it look effortless,” he says. “This show will mean a lot to our future sales, our image, and the quick adoption of our new products. Thanks for making it a success.”
Finally, the CEO asks if he can hand-carry the leads himself back to headquarters, as he is flying home that evening. He wants to personally bring the leads for his morning meeting the next day with the VP of Sales and Marketing about accelerating the follow up plan.
I leave the show hall, walking on air, looking for fairy wings, magic mirrors, and pixie dust.
Sound like a pipe-and-drape dream? I hope this isn’t all fantasy, that with good fortune and hard work, some of it has already happened to you. What else would be in your trade show fantasy? Let us know in the comments box below. And keep dreaming big!
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