Success Strategies for Tradeshows 2012

Written by Susan Ratliff on December 24th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

Make this tradeshow season great. Just a few simple steps and a little attention to detail can make the difference between success and failure at a tradeshow. 

Here are ten top tips to consider. 

Plan ahead: Prepare for every event well in advance. Order show services and schedule shipping early. Evaluate display properties for damage.  Order graphics ahead of time. Attention to details will eliminate headaches and save you time and money 

Set Objectives: Know what you want to accomplish at the show. Create a list of goals with the staff.  Make expectations clear.  Reward exceptional productivity.

Incorporate social media: Expand your reach to the attendee list, important prospects and the public at large.  Create some buzz before the show and let everyone know you will be there. Consider encouraging interaction with a game or contest with your followers.

 Design A Dynamic Display: Image is everything on the show floor. You have only seconds to attract attention.  Increase visibility by coordinating every display element around a clever theme. Keep the focus on customer needs.

Go for the “Wow” factor: Create a marketing message with impact. Incorporate large,eye-catching pictures and vibrant colors. Keep wording succinct. Sell benefits. 

Project a positive image:First impressions are critical. Every display element must reflect your company professionalism, personality, integrity and style. 

Train you staff: 80% of attendees base their opinion of your company on the actions of the employees at your booth. Prepare your people. 

 Develop a sales strategy:  Tracking results from random presentations from different sales people is difficult. Script a presentation that engages the prospect, qualifies their interest, explains how you will help them and why you are the best choice. Brainstorm with the staff, write your strategy down, memorize and use it consistently. 

Follow up effectively: Contact all leads within one week. Phone, fax, email or mail information that solicits a sale, appointment or interview. Include a deadline or call to action.

 Exude Enthusiasm: Nothing makes a more memorable impression than happy, smiling employees eager to assist inquisitive prospects. 

Factor in some fun: Loosen up. Don’t be too conservative. Show attendees want to be entertained as well as informed. Successful exhibitors combine the two.

 For more information on how to turn your booth into a powerful profit center contact Susan Ratliff, The Exhibit Expert  602-828-1177


A Marine’s Journey- A story of thanks

Written by Susan Ratliff on November 24th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

On this day of Thanksgiving and only a few weeks past Veterans Day please let me share this amazing story that is a great celebration of both.

This happened two weeks before Thanksgiving a few years ago, when my husband’s Mom was 84 and still working everyday (that’s another story). She was living by herself after Carey’s Dad, a Marine, had passed away on July 4th a year before.  Trudy came home from a busy day at work to find the arcadia door smashed in and the house ransacked by thieves. We are pretty sure she surprised the intruders when she opened the garage and believe they escaped out the back door. She called my husband who rushed over to comfort her and review the damage. Drawers were emptied, closets opened, jewelry and money gone. The house was a mess and glass was everywhere. The police were on their way.  After a thorough inventory they had another surprise. Dad was gone. The burglers actually stole the beautiful cremation urn that rested on the table in the living room. Its finely crafted shape and the blue velvet drawstring bag must have made it look very valuable. Unfortunatly the thieves did not realize the true value was in it’s beloved contents.  The next day I am at work telling this story to a
business associate who owns a Public Relations firm. She was shocked by the incredible details and the irony of the date. It was veterans Day.  She immediately had an idea for
getting the urn back. She made a few phone calls and in 20 minutes five TV stations were on the phone begging to speak to the victim, come to the house to view the scene, get a picture of the deceased or the urn or both. You know, a real media frenzy. No way would my husband or his Mom agree. Trudy was really scared at this point and did not want anyone to know how, why or where this happened. I certainly understood and wanted to protect her. I also knew that some media attention might help locate the urn.  We decided that I would tell the story. In the next hours two TV camera men and a reporter came to my business office. I wanted to stay anonymous so they filmed me in shadow and only used my first name. I repeated the story and described the urn with the funeral home’s address on the bottom, hoping for a good samaritan or a thief with a conscience. Luck was with us because a few hours later the funeral home called. Someone actually found Dad on the side of the road. How fitting that he left this world on the 4th of July and he returned to us on Veterans Day. Those Marines are

Here’s good news about exhibitions, for a change!

Written by Susan Ratliff on September 5th, 2011. Posted in connecting face to face, get serious about exhibiting, industry news, marketing, Uncategorized, What's new

I think everyone is sick and tired of being sick and tired about the tradeshow industry.  I know I am ready for a new attitude. We are on the cusp of recovery or at least noticable improvement in the industry.  I know because my phones are ringing and people are spending money on new exhibits. People are calling me to help them with their tradeshow strategies and booth image.  My colleagues are budgeting for more shows and actually getting excited about the possiblilites of a successful year on the show floor.  Budgets for marketing are getting fatter and tradeshows are near the top of the list.  There are some good statistics circulating by the major industry researchers that should make us smile. You can get encouraged by reading some of the findings at

Here’s a few of the findings: The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) announced that preliminary data collected for the fourth quarter of 2010 revealed an increase of 5.4 percent over 2009 for attendees. They say the positive trend of attendees actually began in the third quarter of 2010 with a 6.6 percent increase over the third quarter of 2009.
They also released a report that shows the overall exhibition industry gained 2.4 percent during the first half of 2011.  That is finally something we can get a little encouraged by.

What can you do to speed up the recovery and get us back to the heyday when prospects and profits were overflowing?  You can get out there and attend the shows again, sign up for a booth, launch a new service, introduce a new product, sponsor an event, have a party or book a hospitality suite. Bring your staff to the show and make it a bonding experience.  Take advantage of the educational offerings and attend the classes.  Be present for the recovery.  Contribute to the rise.  See you there.

What exhibitors want

Written by Susan Ratliff on August 25th, 2011. Posted in Making exhibitors happy, Uncategorized

Earlier this month I had a great time attending the National Speakers Association’s annual convention in sunny California.  There was an incredible line-up of featured speakers and each one was a powerhouse on the platform.  I heard favorites like Brian Tracy, Glenna Salsbury, Randy Gage, Larry Winget and Lou Heckler.  If you are not familiar with these talents of talk just google them.   For four days I immersed myself in the business of speaking and filled my brain with ways to polish my presentation skills. One of the benefits of attending the conference is to visit the tradeshow.  The exhibit hall is filled with a variety of products and services to help every level of speaker make money and become better at speaking in front of an audience. I was pleased with my discoveries and now know where I can get a custom cartoon drawn to add some humor to the power point I use when I teach my Exhibit Like an Expert seminar.  I also found out I can turn any one of my books into an e-book for only $99. My most exciting find was getting a one year membership, valued at $800 for only $199 from E Speakers.  Now I just have to load it up and figure out how to use it.

While I was smoozing with the exhibitors I decided to do a little investigative research and conduct a survey with the various booth staffers. I wanted to know if they were pleased with the show, the traffic and the assistance from the show organizers.

One common complaint was that the traffic was not as heavy as they had hoped.  I observed that the exhibitors were located in a separate ballroom a short walk away from the main ballroom.   This event was a conference with an expo attached, not a tradeshow, so attendees had to make a conscious effort to travel to the exhibit hall to visit.  I observed that much of the networking, meeting spots and group activity was concentrated around the coffee stations in the large foyer in front of the main ballroom.  I wondered why it would not serve everyone better to have the exhibits located around the perimeter of that foyer so they would always be where the attendees gathered.  In the heart of where the action was.

A number of exhibitors were hoping for a package price to be able to attend the luncheon or educational sessions. Each extra option was itemized and costly and exhibitors felt they were nickeled and dimed to death if they had any interest in participating in some of the fun offerings.  It was a missed opportunity for some additional mixing and mingling among the attendees and the valuable vendors that would have driven traffic to the hall and probably initiated more business relationships and sold more goods.  A large amount of revenue for  conferences  like this one is derived from the exhibitors.  It is well worth the effort to include them in all aspects of the event which keeps them happy and coming back the next year.

There was an effort by the conference management to bring attendees into the exhibit hall when they had lunch and breakfast there, but it was a rushed atmosphere and a tight time line to grab food and eat, so exhibitors were frustrated that tons of people were in the hall, but occupied with eating not visiting their booths.  A fun function inside the exhibit hall like an auction, cocktail party, ice cream social or networking game would have showcased the exhibitors and given them an activity they knew was their own, designed to drive traffic and make their booth time successful and valuable.  When planning your next event with exhibits, I hope you keep these candid exhibitor requests in mind so everyone comes away having a successful experience.  If you would like any other helpful suggetions for planning your event contact me at

Stay focused on your goals

Written by Susan Ratliff on July 9th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

I got a call from a client the other day asking for my opinion on a booth promotion he wanted to execute at an upcoming tradeshow. His goal was to attract attendees to his booth and tie into the theme of the show.  Good goals, right? His plan included a preshow mailing to the attendee list with an incentive to come to the booth, then there would be a contest they would particpate in when they got there and a drawing for a prize.  He also wanted to have another drawing after the show was over to keep their attention. I didn’t want to curb his enthusiasm about show promotions, but like many exhibitors, he was losing sight of why he was exhibiting in the first place.  He wanted my advice so I explained that if he is already inviting them to the show with the invitation and incentive and there is an interactive game at the booth, then there is no need for another attraction.  I encouranged him to stay focused on why he was there.  The objective is to get leads and make sales not necessarily to play games and entertain. When attendees stop I recommended his team be prepared with a consistent presentation to explain the company benefits and features,qualify potenial prospects and get their contact information to expand the data base, stay in touch in the future, continue to solicit sales and provide information.  He did not need another game to reconnect because he already had their info. The reconnecting comes when you make the personal phone call to follow up. That is when you set an appointment, ask for a sale, get a referral or ask some survey questions.  I did suggest that if he wanted to give another prize, he could select a winner from the leads and use that to open the conversation during the follow up.  It is important to have fun at the show and interact with attendees, but remember why you spent the money to exhibit.  Make a connection, educate, inform, play games, have fun, but if you don’t collect that valuable name, phone number and email address you are missing out on the opportunity for a long term relationship that could result in many sales and referrals for years to come.

Susan Ratliff is The Exhibit Expert, reach her at  face book and twitter