Pre-Show/Pre-Con Meeting Product Presentation Guidelines

I have attended literally hundreds of my client’s pre-show and pre-con meetings. I know what you’re thinking but I am not a pre-show or pre-con meeting junkie – they pay me to do staff training at these things. And I’ve become an expert at being bored but looking interested for hours and hours. Anyway, an area that could be improved at just about every one of these meetings are the product presentations. Often times every product presentation has a different structure, presents different categories of information, and they never tie in their product to anyone’s else’s product.

The real problem is how all this comes across and how it’s understood by the audience; the exhibit staff. There is always a ton of information delivered at these pre-show and pre-con meetings and staff is subject to the classic “fire hose” of information. Yeah, I know, the comprehensive pre-show/pre-con package was sent out to them at least a week ago, but most of the staff walk into the meeting having not read anything. They are starting at zero.

So when the booth’s products and services are presented in varied ways, highlighting varied things, not being tied into an overall solution or message, the audience will retain a very small percentage of what they hear. These retention rates are well-proven. Think teenagers or husbands.

What I think is effective, is when a presentation template is agreed upon and adhered to. The audience will find these consistent-looking presentations easier to follow and they can focus on the pertinent information.

Speaking of pertinent information, when I ask some of the exhibit staff about the content of the product presentations, they roll their eyes and say that most of it was unnecessary to know and only a little bit was anything they felt they really need to know.

So I also encourage any product presenter have their content reviewed by a member of the exhibit staff who will give them their honest opinion. What the product people and presenters think is important may not be to someone in the booth.

This template should help your presenters prepare for their short (five minutes or less) product presentation:

The objective for the presenters is to have the audience (exhibit staff) walk away from meeting:
Knowing who each presenter is and maybe a quick bio of how long they’ve been at the company, what they do, and maybe the color of their couch.
What product or service you’ll be talking.
Two or three key features (why people might want to buy it).
A couple of questions the staff might ask to find out if the booth visitors might have some interest.

To make sure the presenter stay on-time, offer the following guidelines:
You have 5 minutes (or less, not more) for your presentation. We will hold up a sign saying “60 seconds” when you have that much time to go.
State your name, your title, responsibilities, and if you want, how long you’ve been with the company.
Introduce your product (show it if you brought it) or service.
Talk about the top three features.
Talk about why someone would buy it or be interested (benefits).
Offer a couple of questions to the rest of the people for them to use with their visitors.

A well-paced, well-structured pre-show or pre-con meeting can be the positive kick-off a successful show needs. Hope this helps!

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More types of booth visitors

FDA or other types of Regulators
If your a health care company (pharmaceuticals, medical devices, biotechnology, etc.), FDA personnel are going to be at every conference and trade show you exhibit at. They’ll be wandering around and checking out all of your signs and graphics and they’ll be engaging your staff to make sure they offer fair balance and that they don’t talk off-label or about what hasn’t been approved. Often times, they will be wearing name badges that do not say “FDA” on them. And some of them are very good at avoiding the “where are you from?” question. They’re not suppose to lie, and they probably won’t but your staff may get sucked into an uncomfortable conversation. My general advice is to be aware of that the types of questions being asked. Questions from FDA-types will be different than those from your own customers and doctors. Your staff should be uncomfortable answering uncomfortable questions and they should refuse to   do so. They should direct anyone engaging in these CLC (Career Limiting Conversations) to medial affairs or to one of your high-paid executive. If you do a show in Washington DC, they’ll be even more of them. These FDA types and other regulator-type visitors are not exactly time wasters, but it is okay to politely dismiss them if you’re making a real customer wait. I’d be very concerned if the FDA asked for you by name and started reaching for their handcuffs.

Show Management
I hope they’re wandering around to make sure that their customers (that would be you) are happy. Easily recognized by their multiple cell phones and 2-way radios. They also can monitor your really loud neighboring exhibitors with a decibel meter if you ask. And as much as you and the other exhibitors rarely get a chance to speak with one voice (except at the exhibitor meeting), I encourage you to solicit feedback from other exhibitors and pass along any shared concerns. And be proactive; tell them you won’t accept any rise in space rental fees or a closed system from the official lead device vendor. And put a colored dot on your carpet for free vacuuming!

Other Exhibitors and Competitors
Every exhibit staffer should have an opportunity to wander around a trade show. If staffers from other exhibitors come in your booth are they now a time waster? Maybe. But maybe not. Don’t jump to conclusions. At some shows I work at, other exhibitors are your customers and going and selling in other booths is okay. But usually, other exhibitors are in your booth because they’re friends or former colleagues with some of your people or because they are a competitor and they’re checking you out. Either of these scenarios place these visitors at a very low priority compared to other visitors who are your customers or potential customers. I think it’s fine for your people to talk with their friends from other companies if there is no one else to greet or to talk with, but they need to dismiss their friend quickly when there is higher value work to do. Almost without exception, your staff shouldn’t waste their time with competitors. You’re not spending $30 a square foot to have them joust with a competitor. They should be politely dismissed quickly. I have worked shows where show management has specific rules about competitors in others booths. Everything is public and they can go into any booth but they can’t ask questions (they could embarrass your people with awkward questions) and they continually have to give up their space in deference to other visitors. One techniques I like to use with competitors is to say, “I really can’t spend any time with you now but how about we meet in your booth in a hour?” And one of my favorite things to ask a competitor (especially an executive-type) when they enter my booth is, “Are you here to drop off your résumé?”

These really aren’t even visitors as they simply “run” through a booth or past an information counter looking very hurried. As they pass they grab brochures, give aways, whatever they can reach. Another form of runners are cut-throughs and they do just that; they use your booth as short-cut to another aisle. I wouldn’t worry too much about runners. If you get tired of have people cutting through your booth but an inanimate object in their way like a plant or your CFO.

Similar to “Runners”, Scanners are always in a hurry, or at least they want you to think they are, and they only have time for a quick badge scan. They don’t have time to answer any questions, chat, see a presentation or anything. They just come up and say, “Would you scan me?” Then they’re off again. So is this badge-scan-only visitor a waste of time? An unqualified lead? Not necessarily. If all you can get is a scan, take it and then check out who it is. It might be a big-time potential customer who is running late for a plane home. You never know. And if you don’t know, ask some of your salespeople to sort through the scan-only leads.

Not just technology nerds. Any kind of nerds. They are excited about your products and your company but they have zero or less interpersonal skills. Their enthusiasm makes up for a lot, but they are tough to be with for more than a couple of minutes. They can be big time-wasters but they could be important customers or lead to big business. My advice is to make them aware of the current situation; like the booth is really busy, or you have a tenth of the knowledge they do, or that the hall has been closed for 90 minutes and you want to hit the bar. Be nice but be firm about asking them to return when it’s not so busy or handing them off to a like-nerd colleague of yours or give them the home phone number of that jerk engineer.

For vendors, what better place to sell than a big room full of prospects sorted by company. What they don’t understand is that they should have gotten a booth too. And they shouldn’t expect an exhibitor to give them any time at all – the exhibitor is there to sell, not to be sold to. Be polite, take a card and/or a note and then dismiss them. I always ask another vendor to my booth where there booth is located. That sets the tone for a conversation where they’ve just positioned themselves as the cheap, parasitic, desperate vendor. Talk about rapport building! It’s just a gift.

Students are future customers. Give them time when you have it. When your booth is busy with real customers, don’t give them much time. But be polite and ask them to return when it’s not so busy.

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