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Fear and Loathing on the Trade Show Circuit

Event marketing can be a powerful tool. A trade show is seductive to any marketing or sales professional. Whether it lasts a day or a week, it’s at a hotel or a convention center, the show creates its own vibe, energy and excitement.
But anyone who’s worked a trade show knows what a crazy ride it can be. Cheesy “networking” events like armadillo races? Just embrace them. Expo vendor loses your company’s pallet? Really? Roll with it. (Yes, I’m speaking from experience here.)
I’ve attended and/or exhibited at more than 30 conferences in all parts of the country, and, while no two shows are the same, I’ve identified some common and borderline bizarre characteristics, with some tips to help you cope:
Food Mania – Or as I like to call it, “extreme eating.” There’s food everywhere at trade shows. And if it’s there, of course it must get eaten. So on any given day, you’re going to eat about 100 different things chock full of fat and carbs and about 10 times the amount you normally consume. Leave the Atkins and South Beach diets at home. But post–show detox is a must.
Climate “Control” – Why must all expo halls and meeting rooms be set to sub-zero temperatures? Dress for ice fishing in Minnesota in February, and you’ll probably be just fine.
Party Time – One of the cruelest lessons to learn is to celebrate a great day at a show, get a little carried away that evening, and pay the price the next morning. Trade show days are long and can be extra painful if you’re “ahem – under the weather.” Try to avoid this rookie mistake (although I’ve definitely been guilty of this more than once). Want to be a rock star at your next event? Have Tylenol, Rolaids and Band-Aids on hand. You’ll be a hero to at least one of your fallen comrades.
A/V Glitches – Why is it that the degree of severity of A/V malfunctions at a booth or in a session is directly proportional to the distance from the nearest technician? This is as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise, so unless you’re willing to take a crash course from the Geek Squad, just accept it, try to plan for it, and be ready to adapt.
Footwear – After most days you literally feel like your feet are going to fall off. You’re walking more miles than Forrest Gump ran. And when you’re not walking, you’re standing. Rookies do it in heels and suffer the consequences; veterans wear comfortable flats.
Sticker Un-Shock – Whoever said price gouging doesn’t exist anymore clearly has never exhibited at a trade show. Only at conferences can you see invoices with things like “wastebasket rental, $150,” “Internet, $300/day,” or “tablecloths and linens, $40/hour” and not even flinch.  Bring the company credit card. If you don’t have one, read the reimbursement policy (at least twice) before you sign your name on that bill.    
As manic as trade shows may seem, they are undeniably powerful forums that bring targeted buyers and sellers together to the same place, at the same time. So don’t dread your next event. Just be sure to set goals, plan ahead and try to prepare for everything you might encounter on site – the good, the bad and the wacky!
Shameless Plug: Modern is exhibiting at the following upcoming trade shows:
ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo
Nashville, TN
8/9 – 8/12/14 Summit
Seattle, WA
9/29 – 10/1/14
San Diego, CA
10/26 – 10/28/14

By Jeanine Norlin, Marketing Program Manager, Modern Postcard

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