Live Tradeshow Presentations Drive Leads

Great interview with Elaine Cohen, president of Live Marketing, a company that specializes in event planning and marketing. Her company averages 500 shows a year, helping hundreds of clients such as Cisco Systems pick up Best of Show awards along the way. Live Marketing is featured in the Marketing-Playbook.

The plans for your first tradeshow are underway. You want to impress the right people and score big with qualified leads—thoughts shared by each of your fellow exhibitors. So how can you generate attention, without breaking the bank? The answer is, grab a stage, go live and get noticed.

“Other than size, live presentations have more impact and are remembered longer than any exhibit element,” said Elaine Cohen, president of Live Marketing, who pioneered the concept of live, professional marketing presentations at tradeshows more than 30 years ago. “A live presentation can bring you face to face with more qualified prospects in three days than most sales organizations see in three months.”

Sizing down, keeping impact up

For start-ups, the news that booth size isn’t the only attention-drawing factor is especially encouraging. Emerging businesses are discovering that live presentations can put them on equal footing with major competitors, even if they can’t match them dollar for tradeshow dollar.

“When it comes to booth planning, many companies often miss the main objective,” Cohen said. “They focus on carpentry instead of communications.” Live presentations, she says, will maximize an exhibitor’s visibility, effectively communicate the message, reach the most-qualified prospects and cut the cost of lead generation.

Planning to be or not to be (unforgettable)

Planning for most live presentations should begin six weeks prior to the show. Typically, the ball gets rolling as clients are asked to fill out a questionnaire about the company’s target audience, marketing and branding strategy and tradeshow objectives. From there, clients meet with the presentation team to discuss strategy and execution, which are matched with budget and timeline considerations. A scriptwriter joins the process once the creative direction is set, and the presentation is cast.

“Clients need to understand that tradeshows should build on their brand,” Cohen said. “It’s important that tradeshows integrate the marketing message and not exist as an element in a vacuum. You can go for the ‘wow,’ but that ‘wow’ has to work with the message.” For example, take offs on popular motion pictures, with presenters stepping into character roles, often work well by entertaining and impressing the crowd.

Selling the sizzle, in short order

Live presentations work best in conjunction with professional crowd gatherers, who serve as a cost-effective insurance policy by assembling a crowd of 25 to 50 people twice an hour, on average. The crowd gatherers address passersby, tell them about the next show and throw out a teaser or two about the giveaways—a small, but appropriate token or a chance at a grand-prize drawing to thank attendees for their time.

The spotlight then turns to the presenter, who not only delivers information but pushes the right buttons and brings the product to life. Presentations should be concise. Five to seven minutes is usually enough time to communicate the highlights of a message and motivate prospects to learn more. After the live presentation, the education should continue as attendees move to one-on-one or small group demonstrations. Lead cards, completed during the pre-show warm up, help filter each prospect to the right demo area.

“Companies may believe they have the personnel who can gather a crowd or stand up on stage,” Cohen said, “but being a tradeshow presenter is an art, just as sales is an art.” Presenters and crowd gatherers are trained professionals who understand the story they are telling. Their message is delivered consistently—even if that message is replayed 15 or 20 times a day—while maintaining a high level of enthusiasm. And they let sales representatives focus only on selling.

Attracting a crowd that counts

Professional presentations for a three-day tradeshow run $25,000 to $50,000 for an all-inclusive package of planning, scripting, production and media support—a necessary tool to help the audience see and remember a message. Expenses can be reduced a bit if companies take on a more active role, for example, by preparing the media in house. For many start-ups, though, live presentations tend to be a heavy-duty budget item, albeit one that is balanced by the prospect of substantial sales.

Take a look at the statistics. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), live presentations increase brand awareness five to 10 times and the number of leads three to four times. One Live Marketing client that verifies microchip designs took home 250 leads, half of them qualified, at the international Design Automation Technology Conference. Compare those numbers to the prior year, when the same company exhibited without a live presentation and overall leads numbered 50, with only six qualified.

“Professional presenters know how to get the audience to respond, to care, and to become involved,” Cohen said. “They get results.”

Elaine’s Top 5 Tradeshow Success Tips & Tricks
    1. Plan ahead. Give yourself two or three months and have your budget approved up front.
    2. Set clear goals and measurable objectives. Know what you want your presentation to accomplish and how you will measure results.
    3. Focus on high-level solutions and messages. Use no more than four major points. More than that, and your message will be forgotten or diluted.
    4. Keep it short: five to seven minutes is long enough.
    5. Reuse the presentation for other shows, meetings, etc. Repackaging can save money—and continue the momentum—in other shows, press conferences, meetings or additional sales and marketing tools.