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Do you attend B2B technology tradeshows? If you do, please answer the following questions to put you in the trade-show mind-set.
  • Do you love tradeshows or hate them, or do you see them as a necessary evil?
  • How good were the leads you got from your last tradeshow?
  • Is the tradeshow on the wane, or is still a viable marketing investment?
  • What's your tradeshow strategy as a vendor...are you like HubSpot and shun them, or do you select the best ones and invest in them?
  • Do you just talk to the visitor or you do a quick demo and hand out a brochure?
  • Do you have a 3-5 slide PowerPoint presentation with just the elements of your story?
  • How do you sort out the visitors who just want a stamp so they can enter the draw for the iPad from a potential prospect?
I attended a trade-show recently and used a visual confection to tell my story. (The confection below is an excerpt of the Advanced Marketing Concepts Whiteboard story - a visual confection).  According to Edward Tufte, Visual Confections are “ structures that consist of a multiplicity of image events that illustrate an argument, organize information, show and enforce visual comparisons; they should be transparent, straightforward, obvious, natural, ordinary, conventional…with no need for hesitation or questioning on the part of the viewer”

visual confection

You have 20 seconds to hook the visitor, 3 minutes to engage, tell your story, qualify and get permission to follow-up

Visitors come thick and fast during the breaks and at lunch and drinks sessions. You have a 20 seconds to hook the visitor and between 2-4 minutes to discover their top issues, tell your story, qualify their interest and get permission for follow-up.

New Tradeshow Best Practices

Here's a set of best practices I used at a recent event that worked very well.
  1. Use a Whiteboard with your story already laid out. A completed whiteboard is a superset of information and technically speaking is a visual confection. Confections are powerful tools for communicating big ideas in a short time.
  2. Perform real time triage of the visitors who come thick and fast in the breaks. Be ready with the stamp to send those looking for a stamp on their way to entering the iPad draw and to the next booth.
  3. Engage visitors with a positioning statement.
  4. Before you present, establish the role and responsibility of the visitor and their interest area...then ask the following question, "what's the biggest problem you are having with....."
  5. If you haven't engaged the visitor with a positioning statement or the prior question and they are not forthcoming with an interest area, then why present? Give them a brochure and politely send them on their way, or ask them to wait till a few more people show up that are interested and then present.
  6. Start your story at the point of visitor interest. Visual storytelling is an opportunity to have the visitor interact with the content and the presenter....you don't have to start at the start or finish the presentation.
  7. Go as deep as you need depending on the level of engagement, but you will only have a couple of minutes at best as others will likely show up half-way through.
  8. Check for interest and understanding, ask questions, does this make sense?, would it work for you?
  9. If interested, they will tell you, or you could ask, "would it be OK if I contacted you after the event to continue our discussion", or if they are interested, but not the right person, ask "would you mind if I followed up after the show and if you could connect me with the right person in the organization?" This may sound obvious, but getting permission to contact them is important. Consider that all vendors will have a list of tradeshow attendees and at some time over the next week or two, most vendors will try and contact each person on the list via a cold call or email.
  10. Mike Bosworth has a strategy for tradeshow leads which I have adapted. You put all the business cards of visitors with whom you had a meaningful conversation in one pocket of your jacket, (after you have made notes about your discussion on it) and you put the visitors who dropped in their card for the "prize-draw' in the other. As you leave the show, you put the cards from the prize-draw pocket in the bin and you work the rest.
Let me know how you get on at your next event and if you would like to contribute any best practices to the list, please add them in the comments.

If you are interested in developing a visual confection for your next trade-show, please join use for the Visual Confection Webinar

Webinar - Create Visual Confections that Sell!