“Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing!”
That’s a quote from one of the most well known promoters and entertainers in history: P.T. Barnum. Best known for the circus that bears his name, Barnum made his initial fortune as a museum owner where he used spectacle and awe to attract attendees. Attractions such as the “Feejee” Mermaid (a monkey carcass stitched to a fishtail), reproductions of the Cyclops’ retina, and a miniature model of Niagara Falls (“with real water”) drew 38 million visitors between 1841 and 1865. That’s at a time when, according to the 1860 census, the entire population of the United States was under 32 million people.
Barnum knew that people desire to be excited and thrilled, so he fulfilled those needs. “As a general thing, I have not ‘duped the world’ nor attempted to do so… I have generally given people the worth of their money twice told,” he said.
When planning an in-booth presentation at a trade show, you need to think like P.T. Barnum: use spectacle to attract and give your audience their worth. If you want to close the show with some promising leads, you need to engage and thrill.
Here are some tips that can invoke P.T. Barnum and invigorate your next presentation (don’t worry, none of them involve desecrating a monkey’s remains).
Build Some Buzz
Every showman knows that you don’t want to go into a show cold. You need to generate excitement, warm up the audience, as they say.
In today’s world you can do that by sending out preshow email or snail mail invitations to prospective attendees. You should also create a notice on your company’s website, include your presentation schedule, entire trade show schedule, and any raffles you’re holding or gifts you are giving away. (By the way: It is a good idea to have some sort of giveaway. Whether it’s gifts for every audience member or a drawing at the end of the presentation, it’s a nice way to show your gratitude for your audience’s time.)
And, of course, you need to promote your presentation on those all-important, life-encompassing mediums: social media. What channels can you use that will best reach your intended audience? How can you make your announcement stand out from the crowd? What can you do to draw the most attention – and the most attendees – to your presentation? And be sure to create a special hashtag for these promotions.
Utilize Some Crowd Gatherers
Just as carnival barkers were needed to get people inside a tent, your presentation will benefit from some folks roaming the crowd and gathering interested spectators.
These crowd gatherers (who are also known as attendee engagers and brand ambassadors) will approach people on the trade show floor, sell them on your presentation, and even escort them to the seats. They can also help out with any giveaways.
Crowd gatherers can be members of your exhibit staff, but you may want to hire professionals. This is a specialized talent. A crowd gatherer needs to be friendly and outgoing while understanding how to quickly engage attendees and not be put off by repeated rejections. You’ll find that hiring a professional crowd gatherer or two will quickly pay off.
Establish Your Timing and Stick to It
When will you begin the first presentation of the day? How frequently should you hold presentations? These are important questions.
One aspect that may help you determine an answer is the booths surrounding you. Work with your neighbors so you are not giving presentations at the same time and having to yell over one another. Once you establish a schedule, you can even promote each other’s presentation. (“Stick around folks. Our neighbor is about to give a presentation on XYZ in just a few moments.”)
Another aspect to consider is the location of your exhibit. If you are not near an entrance, you may want to give the crowd some time to work their way to your area before you begin any presentations.
Once you have established a schedule, you need to advertise it and maintain it. Display presentation times on large screen that can be seen easily. You should also announce your schedule on social media once it is set – maybe create a virtual countdown to the next show.
Do You Really Need a Presentation?
Why are you having a presentation? If your answer is because you had one last year … and the year before as well, that’s not a great answer. Do you really want to get before a crowd multiple times and, what, promote a four-year-old product or the same old set of service offerings? This can actually harm your company and make you seem out of date and irrelevant.
You need to bring something to the table. Have a compelling reason to give the presentation. Capture people’s attention with what you are offering and make them react in some way. Don’t just offer a list of features. That’s what brochures are for.
Instead, make sure your content focuses on the benefits to the audience and how it is relevant to them.
Now, Set the Stage
If you’ve decided to have a presentation, do it right.
Make sure that the presentation area is visible from the aisle and well lit. Design your booth around the presentation area to create an open environment that encourages people to stop by and listen. This will help you ensure that everything is lit properly and your presentation looks crisp and amazing. Use a high-quality sound and display system to ensure that everything sounds and looks as professional as possible. (And make sure all components are in working order the day before the show starts – few things look as unprofessional as technical glitches that could have been avoided.)
Also, provide seating, don’t ask your attendees to stand around or lean while they listen. These visitors have likely been on their feet a while and will relish a moment to take a load off. A relaxed guest is more likely to pay close attention to you message – and less likely to walk out due to discomfort.
If you are lucky enough to attract crowds that exceed your seating, be sure to have a plan for dealing with the overflow. At most shows, management gets prickly about groups of people repeatedly blocking the walkways. While you cannot completely control the actions of attendees, you may receive a fine or be forced to hire additional personnel to control the crowd.
Write the Script
This is essential. Do not attempt to “wing” your presentation. Nobody wants to listen to a bunch of “ums” and awkward pauses.
The attendees at this show need something you have. What is it, and why should they care? How can you help these visitors address their pain points while saving money, improving productivity, and sidestepping aggravations?
Craft a message that will resonate with your audience and you will hit your lead goals for this show.
Now, when writing the script, there is one key fact you should keep in mind: The Gettysburg Address was delivered in less than three minutes. Follow the Great Emancipator’s example and keep your presentation short. You may not be able to hit his benchmark of three minutes, but seven to ten isn’t out of the question. You don’t need to deliver every single piece of information in your presentation, just entice the audience to remain and engage in a conversation with your booth staff. If you can do that, you have given a successful presentation.
Make Your Visuals Work for You
The visuals behind your presentation should be there to enhance what you are saying, not parrot your exact words back to the audience. This isn’t Sesame Street, no one wants to follow the bouncing ball and read along with your speech. Your visuals need to be powerful, but not at the expense of your words.
However, you can spice up the visual presentation. Add some eye-catching colors, a bold, unusual font (just make sure it is legible), or some video, which will allow you to catch your breath.
Add some interactivity to the presentation. Ask a question that requires a show of hands. This will keep your listeners on their toes and engaged, while subtly supplying your staff with valuable information about the potential prospects sitting just a few feet away.
Practice, Practice, then, maybe, you Should Take Some Time and Practice
There is no way to overemphasize the importance of practice. If you are fully confident and prepared, then you will be ready should something go wrong. Because something is going to go wrong. A light is going to blow. The mic will short. Your ex-spouse is unexpectedly in the audience with a new romantic partner.
It’s impossible to predict what exactly could go wrong, but if you are prepared you can overcome it. Before you ever make it to the show, you should have the script down pat. Then do a dry run a day before the event to work through any AV issues.
It is important that you (or whoever is speaking) be someone who is comfortable, friendly, and believable. Also, that they want to do it. If there is no one in your organization who feels comfortable on stage, there is hirable talent who specialize in trade show presentations.
This trade show presentation could lead to big things for you and your company. As P.T. Barnum said, “Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Large stores, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly. The truth is, the more kind and liberal a man is, the more generous will be the patronage bestowed upon him.”
To see how The Trade Group can deliver the best stage possible for your trade show presentation, call 800-343-2005.