Author Archive

Let’s get face to face again.

Written by Susan Ratliff on September 18th, 2008. Posted in connecting face to face

If you’ve ever tried to justify why you should spend money to exhibit in a tradeshow, consumer show, job fair or event, to your boss, the company owner or yourself, consider this:
One of the things I love about the show floor is that it is a level playing field. What that means is whether you are a small home-based business or an emerging company you can look just as powerful, professional and successful at your exhibit as the established storefront or thriving corporation, if you spend the time to design an impressive display, engaging graphics and prepare your staff.  Perception is everything at the show.  The value for your time is also terrific if you consider that your salesperson can maybe have 8 sales calls in one day, but reach 1500 people at the show.  The other thing I love about this type of marketing is that you get to personally meet your prospects and personally engage your customers face to face. They get to meet YOU.  A real representative of the business. That is key because a personal touch, in this age of technology dominated by impersonal voice mail, email, blackberries, volp etc will stand out in someones mind.  Face to face marketing keeps you in control of the contact.  Get their information and you can be pro-active.  If they liked you and remember the encounter at the booth you will have an edge over your competitor who only sends the email without ever meeting your prospect.  My good friend, speaker, business owner and cookie queen, Susan Brooks has a terrific perspective on this exact topic.
With her permission I have included a recent article she wrote that really resonated with me. Enjoy it below and let me know your feelings on the subject.

Got a minute, Susan?

You’re busy. Your plate is full. You’re plugged in to your BlackBerry, Treo and Smartphone. You text, email and voicemail at every communication. You accept that your world’s frantically busy, frenetic pace is simply a fact of normal modern life. Sure, you are more productive, but the time and energy it takes to keep up, drains your time and energy from the ‘real world,’ the world with face-to-face potential in it.


I see our ‘disconnect’ at airports with brief reunions, quickly replaced with texting others who aren’t there; I see young children with thumbs in a blur, their minds ‘out there’ instead of in the present moment; I see people at their desks, eating lunch in huge bites while on their cell phones, clicking away on their laptops, focus split. According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, ADD expert/psychologist and author of CrazyBusy, “The Internet and TV may create the illusion that you are connected with millions of people, but opportunities for live social interactions are dropping. Studies say isolation is as dangerous as smoking and high blood pressure.”


Texting is not the same as a lunch date. Email is not the same as a thank you note. Missing out on the human connection is, well, missing out. Whether you telecommute or email your co-workers down the hall, Internet use is replacing personal interaction. The workplace is, after all, one of the richest social environments we have, no? Let’s not compromise, or, worse, undervalue, the benefits of body language, voice tone, and eye contact. Sharing the same air with co-workers and customers speaks volumes.


And what about your personal life? Solutions Research Group did a study showing that 25 million Americans use Smartphones, BlackBerrys and Treos … and, get this, 63 percent use these devices in the bedroom! 68 percent of Americans say they feel anxiety when ‘not jacked into the global mindgrid of the Net,’ deprived and disoriented without Internet access. I think we have a serious problem here…..


Everyone needs downtime.
Everyone needs to slow down…to think, and not to think.
Everyone needs to appreciate their irreplaceable human-ness.


Disconnect your technology so you can re-connect to the energy of a heartbeat or a smile or a warm embrace. After all, it’s the people — face-to-face, and heart-to-heart — that matter!

My best,


Susan Brooks
(480) 994-1918


What you can’t live without at your booth

Written by Susan Ratliff on August 23rd, 2008. Posted in booth essentials, Uncategorized

 There was a great question posed on Linked In recently, that pertained to tradeshows. 

What would you not be without at a tradeshow booth?

There are some intriquing answers (including mine) with valuable information and interesting perspectives on what is absolutely essential to have at a show.  I especially liked  what Denice MacDonald had to say and I invite you to take a look.  Click on the question above or connect with Denice directly.

I’d love to hear what you have to say about this.

You can find out about what I consider to be the five essential elements that will turn your booth into a powerful profit center by checking out my latest book “Exhibit Like an Expert”, at any Barnes and Noble store, on their website or on my website


Denice MacDonald

President at MacDonald Consulting Services

Rebrand yourself

Written by Susan Ratliff on August 13th, 2008. Posted in The importance of branding

It has been my pleasure to serve on the board of an outstanding Arizona organization call ASBA, the Arizona Small Business Association,  I am using this experience as an example of how a company or an individual can remake, recreate or rebrand itself to better serve it’s members or customers.  I recently returned from a strategic planning retreat and wish to share some information about a process that anyone can use to target their purpose and focus for the future.  This process will help you zero in on who you are, what you do and who you serve. By identifying these three things about yourself and your target market, you can be assured that the efforts of your marketing and sales teams and the money you spend will hit the mark. The simple steps are as follows:

1. Identify your target market in as narrow a parameter as you can.  If you serve multiple markets study how each one overlaps or intersects with the other to find the commonalities of need.

2. Engage in market research with your audience by phone, focus group or random interviews to determine their most critical problems and what they most desire from your business, industry or organization. Schedule regular evalutions of your marketplace to stay current on their needs.

3.  Study the competition and report what they do well and where they falter. Outline a plan to differentiate yourself.  Select an area that you can dominate and be catagorized as the leader.

4. Brainstorm with your team about how to position your products or services to best serve the needs of your target and brand yourself as the best.  Discuss the best methods to deliver your message.  

4.  Develop programs and services that fulfil the needs that were uncovered. Create unique offerings that are superior to your competition’s and serve to elevate your position as the prime resource for the solutions your target audience said they desire. Make sure your programing is focused, dependable and consistent.

5. Prepare a marketing program that answers the questions and delivers the solutions your audience told you they wanted.  Listen to what your customer is telling you.  Feed their needs and they will come to you.  Be the best at providing the deliverables they ask.  Deliver your message with authority and ownership in an aggressive and consistent manner.  Find your position of uniqueness. Own your brand.

Speakers get exhibitor training in New York City

Written by Susan Ratliff on August 10th, 2008. Posted in Uncategorized

I recently had the privilege to address an audience of professional speakers at the National Speakers Association’s annual convention in New York City. The theme of the event was NSA Rocks! and I have to tell you it was a rocking good time.  That infectious theme set the pace for the tempo of the event months before nearly 2000 speakers decended on the city that never sleeps.  As a new member of NSA I was truly honored to be selected as one of the concurrent session speakers.  I was concerned that my topic ” Exhibit Like and Expert” might not have peak the interest of the attendees, even though I knew the content of what I was to share would provide valuable, money making instructions to this talented group.  My session was well attended and the feedback I received immediately after my presentation was positive and engaging. My book sold out at the bookstore and the fact that attendees sought me out the day after to talk, convinced me that my message was relevant and appreciated.  I think it went very well.  Enough about me. The conference was incredible and I met so many fabulous people, heard so many incredible speakers and learned so much about how to improve my speaking business that my brain was about to explode.  I am so grateful to have attended and I know that particular conference will go down as one of the best.  I am excited that the 2009 NSA Conference will be in Phoenix next year.

Here are a few of the suggestions and observations I had for speakers about exhibiting.  Many speakers don’t realize that when they leave the stage and go to their table in the back of the room that they are still being judged by their audience.  A speaker should make sure the professional image attendees see on the stage is carried through to their product display. The same principals of good display design and merchandising that apply to an exhibitor in a tradeshow should apply to them.   If they are the best in their field and commanding top dollar for their presentation then their display should look fabulous. 

Unfortunately many highly respected and successful speakers miss this important fact. The presentation you create at your display table should match the professionalism and personality of the presentation you demonstrated on the platform.  What impression does a buyer or potential employer get when they stop to chat at yours?  Are your books in several piles on the table with order forms spread about?  Are CD’s stacked up next to a type written tent card listing the prices?  Do you spread everything out on the hotel’s table cloth stained from the morning breakfast?   You deserve better branding than that.  A simple yet inviting, portable display that attractively elevates your samples and beautifully merchandises your products would make a better impression. Add an eye-catching graphic with quotes from your satisfied customers and an enlarged reprint of your latest book cover and you will be more memorable.  The speakers and consultants I work with assure me that since investing in a personalized and professionally designed display they have experienced a difference in the public’s perception of the quality of their talents and seen increases in the sales of their products. Some have found the exhibiting experience so valuable that they now negotiate for an exhibit booth along with their speaking and consulting fees when it is available.  Maybe it’s time you took a second look at the benefits of exhibiting?


Buy USA or a Cheap import?

Written by Susan Ratliff on July 30th, 2008. Posted in inexpensive alternatives

When buying everything on the internet became commonplace, there was panic throughout the exhibit industry.  Display distributors were concerned that businesses would no longer visit their beautiful showrooms and engage in sales dialog with their staff when they could research thousands of product options on the world wide web.   Exhibit manufacturers truly feared that easy access to inexpensive products from Asia would doom their thriving marketplace.  The reality is it never happened.  I have been selling displays, graphics and exhibiting accessories for fourteen years and I only occasionally lose a sale to an import.  Sometimes it takes a little salesmanship to show the client the pros and cons, but there is still value in service and “made in the USA”. When I attend the Exhibit Show in Las Vegas, which is the largest tradeshow for the tradeshow industy, I get to view and inspect all the exhibit properties manufactured in the US and abroad.  The foreigners seem to try to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.  They produce very similar displays, but from what I have observed, the structures are thinner, weaker, and seem to have inferior parts.  Why would I want to sell their stuff when my reputation was built on representing quality solutions from one of the top portable manufacturers in the county?  Featherlite Exhibits, in Minneapolis, has been crafting exceptional, innovative exhibits for about 50 years. The other issue is repairs, warrantys and quick service.  You cannot get that when your broken unit needs to go back to China.  There are interesting perspectives on this issue and I have been quoted on my views in a great article found in newsletter published by Radius Display products,  Connect to the article below and decide for yourself.