Archive for August, 2011

What exhibitors want

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

What exhibitors want from show producers

I just returned from the National Speakers Association’s annual conference.  In addition to hearing incredible professionals tell amazing stories that inspired, educated and electrified me, I also spent a lot of time in the exhibit hall.  There were many companies offering a wide variety of products and services to help professional speakers, coaches and authors improve their business and profitability.  I highly recommend NSA to anyone looking to turn their talent for teaching,  training or motivating into a profitable business.      Anyway, I wanted to find out how happy the exhibitors were with the show.  The topic of long hours came up numerous times.  It was a 4 day conference with exhibitors setting up a day earlier. Some days they would start at 7 and end at 4pm.  That is a long day, but it is especially long if many hours are spent in a silent hall because attendees are in the sessions, which was the case here.

  • Events scheduled in the exhibit hall would help to drive traffic to the booths.
  • The morning coffee was stationed in the hall and several box lunch events were delivered and consumed in the exhibit hall as well, which drove traffic to the exhibitors

One of the complaints was that there was no reference to the exhibitors from the main stage. If announcers would have reminded attendees in all sessions to be sure not to miss the valuable resources in the exhibit hall it would have kept the vendors in the attendees minds all day.  Its a small gester that is easy to included in a program, similar to when performers mention to remember to tip the wait staff.  Event producers need to be reminded that much of the income generated from a conference comes from the booth fees.  Exhibitors deserve to be promoted.  Smart show organizers will make exhibitor satisfaction a top priority which will increase exhibitor retention and improve booth sales the next year.

Another suggestion that would work well for many events is to consider integrating the exhibitors into the conference instead of placing them in a separate hall or ballroom.  There was an enormous lobby at this hotel where much of the networking took place in the morning before the programs began and at every break.  There was plenty of room to put all 50 or so exhibitor front and center so they were included in the meet and greet process instead of being isolated where it took an effort for an attendee to walk down the hall and enter the exhibit area.  Just a thought for next year.

For more insights into how to make your next event productive and profitable, give me a call:  Susan Ratliff, The Exhibit Expert,   602-828-1177