This is quite a success story: a tenured theater teacher leaves education and gets hired on an event team. Was it a fit? Yes it was. Teachers are used to dealing with children and helicopter parents which comes in handy in the events industry as some internal clients often act like children. This former teacher fought for and won her budget; teachers work with strained budgets and know how to make the most of what they have. This ex-theater teacher was also experienced at executing large productions with a clear vision and making it come to fruition with every details considered. Theater teachers’ skills are immediately transferable to the event world: they design their shows (creating a unique and compelling environment in a booth or room), casting (hiring), teach acting (training), hire and supervising an orchestra, lighting crew, sound team, and stage personnel (working with vendors and unions), and are used to working long hours. If you are looking for someone (new blood? Someone who thinks outside the box?) to join your events or trade show team, consider a theater teacher.
I just returned from the 2014 CEMA (Corporate Event Marketing Association) that was held north of San Diego in La Jolla at the Hilton Torrey Pines.
I had a great time. It left me energized. I saw people in the event industry that I only see once a year at the CEMA Summit. And it’s great to be the attendee!
The atmosphere at the Summit is one of camaraderie. No selling. No posturing. Just enjoying the people;, talking about the industry, each other, our interests and lots of storytelling.
I always laugh a lot at the CEMA Summit. These people are funny – especially after a glass of wine or two. In case you hadn’t noticed, most event professionals have engaging personalities and when they get to play attendee instead of being the producer of an event, they are big fun!
There are conference sessions at the CEMA Summit but most of them run unopposed and are open to all. The conference speakers are top-notch. They are marketers from the biggest and most successful companies, futurists with their eye on what will happen, technologists talking about the latest stuff that will help the event industry, psychobiologists who inform us as to why we do what we do, and generalists whose message is uplifting and motivating.
CEMA is a growing organization because of its high-level, strategic approach to marketing and, most importantly, its members. I have been a member for 12 years and it is the highlight of my year to re-connect, learn, and laugh with my fellow CEMA members. I encourage you to check out CEMA and reach out to Kim or Olga (below) for more information.
CEMA Executive Director
CEMA Member Services Director
Whether you’re an independent event planner or a trade show manager for a company, here are 10 reasons why you should attend at least some of the trade shows you plan – especially the big ones.
- To ensure consistency in your client company’s overall trade show participation you need to be on-site to make sure what you expect to happen actually happens.
- For larger, more important shows, to ensure the success by being there to monitor labor, your vendors and your client’s own exhibit staff.
- To take care of any issues (and there are always issues) quickly and efficiently using the experience and expertise that you bring to your role and that would not be there if you were not there.
- You do not need to be at every show, especially all of the small table-tops and 10x10s but you should drop in on at least a few of those per year to make sure the trade show “kit” you send out is working the way you expect it to.
- Your ability to evaluate and improve your client’s entire trade show program is dependent upon you being on-site a fair amount of the time. No amount of phone calls, emails, or surveys from your client’s exhibit staffs and your trade show vendors are as unfiltered as you being there observing and evaluating so you can tweak the program to make it better.
- Relationships matter and being on-site will allow you to build even better relationships with your client’s own people (your exhibit staff), the on-site vendors, show management, other exhibitors and even some of the attendees.
- By being on-site and talking with other event and trade show managers, you can exchange ideas on best practices, obtain referrals for vendors, and discover new and effective exhibit designs, messaging, activities, etc.
- Being on-site will help ensure the best performance out of the exhibit staffs. You know that some of them slack off when no one from the office is in attendance. And the staff’s performance is the most important factor in the success of the shows. The exhibit staff doesn’t work for you, but you need their cooperation. Being on-site with them and working with them will help them understand their role and huge impact they can make.
- Managing your client’s trade shows is your job. To just hope that everything goes as planned means you almost have to entirely rely on other people who are on-site. And anyone who know anything about trade shows knows that anything can go wrong and knowing how to fix it, or work around it, or implement your Plan B or Plan C, can best be done by you when you’re on-site. To think that your client’s evaluation of your performance is going to be judged by the success of the trade shows and you don’t even get to be there is not fair and not reasonable.
- Wanting to be on-site for key trade shows and a few of the smaller ones is what I have seen to be standard practice from my hundreds of clients over the past 25 years. Most companies want the trade show manager to be on-site. Trade shows are the public face of your client and should be treated with the respect they deserve. That includes the person with the knowledge and experience to be there to make the your company is represented as best as possible. Build the expense for being on-site into your contracts.
First, understand what a visitor might ask for from you that could potentially waste your time or get them frustrated.
Second, know how to manage these expectations. Especially how much time you can spend with them depending upon how busy it is.
Third, if you’re polite and reasonable, visitors will agree to just about anything.
Visitor’s expectations to manage include your:
- Depending upon how busy the booth is, or how busy it will get, you may not be able to spend the amount of time with a visitor that they planned on. To manage their time expectation, you first need to find out what they want to hear about. Then estimate how long you can spend with them. Take into account:
- How big the opportunity is with this visitor (spend as much time with huge clients as needed).
- How busy the booth is.
- How long it will take to discuss their area of interest.
- Then say something like, “Let me take five or ten minutes and show you our new product.” That’s all it take to manage their time expectation. Then after five or ten minutes, it’s your choice whether to continue or not depending upon if the booth got busier or less busy.
- If your conversation with a visitor started off as one-on-one conversation, they may think it will continue that way no matter what. If other visitors begin to wait for you to finish, you may want to invite them into your conversation (but not always). To do this politely, you need to ask permission of the visitor your currently talking with and tell them why you want to do this.
- The visitor may not get to speak with the person they’re asking for, or with the person who can answer their question. You choices are:
- To get a message to that person.
- If they’re at the show but not in the booth to call them right in front of the visitor and ask them if they can come over to the booth.
- Get them to someone else with the ability and/or expertise to speak with them.
- You may not be able to answer the visitor’s question or know enough about a particular product or service. Your choices are:
- To get the visitor to one of your colleagues who can help them.
- To commit to get back to them later (preferably while the show is still going on). If possible, get their mobile number.
- You may not have the authority to grant a requested exception, make a decision, etc. If it’s appropriate, without putting your colleague (and maybe even your boss) on-the-spot, get them to someone in higher authority.
For more information on The Hill Group’s Trade Show Training, click here.
Eight Trade Show Training Tips
Be prepared: Know your role, know your demo
• You represent the entire company to every visitor
• Know what else were doing at the show; sponsorships, events, etc.
Be on time: Don’t be late and don’t wander off
• It costs your company about $700 per hour for you to be in the booth. Honor your schedule, be on time, be in the booth for entire shift.
• If you need to leave the booth, let us know so we can cover for you
Be approachable: Don’t give any visitor any reason not to approach you
• Don’t stand in circles and talk with your colleagues
• No eating, drinking, talking on the phone, or reading. Visitors will not interrupt you.
• Your 30-second “elevator answer”
• Some qualifying questions
Manage your time: Be in control of how much time you spend with visitors
• When the booth is busy, have shorter conversations
Don’t make visitors wait:
• Acknowledge waiting visitors
• Add waiting visitors to your conversation
It’s okay to interrupt: There are no private conversations in the booth
• Interrupt politely and ask how long your colleague will be
• Ask permission to add a visitor to an on-going conversation
End the conversation: 3 ways to end a conversation
• Generate a lead
• Escort them to another part of the booth
• Dismiss them
For more information on The Hill Group’s Trade Show Training, click here.
The days of giving away pallets of tchotchkes are over at Pharma trade shows. It’s been almost a year since the Pharma code has been in effect and to surprise of many, doctors still visit Pharma companies’ trade show booths. (The part of Pharma Code that details this new give-away policy is at the end of this article.)
And it’s been sort of strange during this transition year. Attendees and exhibitors alike are not sure if current conference behaviors are new habits or if everyone just in the middle of figuring out how to interact under the new Pharma code. It’s like the attendees don’t exactly know what to do. They can no longer take back a bunch of pens and squeeze balls to their kids so I bet there were some reflective moments when they had to ask themselves, “Do I really need to go into the exhibit hall?” After all, their required CME (Continuing Medical Education) obligations are always the priority at these conferences. The exhibit hall, for some, was always just an obligatory visit for trick-or-treating the booths.
Show management has been making an effort to lure attendees into the hall. The Poster section is usually in the hall and more and more shows are offering free coffee breaks and lunch in the exhibit hall. It’s like the grocery store strategy of putting the milk at the very rear of the store; you have to walk down at least one aisle to get there and you might see something you like or need and an additional purchase just might happen.
But the booths I have worked in this year in seemed to be well attended. Maybe the attendees have just been well conditioned over the years. After all, that has been a successful strategy for a lot of Pharma companies: Send three reps per day from the same company to call on the same doctor and through brute conditioning and repetition, when the doctor sees a specific condition the prescription goes to the conditioned response. Does that really happen? Automatically prescribing a particular drug is probably not a totally reflexive move, but that drug that the doctor gets beat over the head with every day or every week probably gets considered just for that reason. So if you have always gone into the exhibit hall, maybe out of habit, you just keep going. After all, it is a part of the conference.
So why should doctors and other attendees continue to visit a Pharma exhibit hall? New drugs (pretty rare these days, FDA approvals are few and far between), new studies, new indications, new information on efficacy, interactions, trials, dosage, are some of the motivators. But I think force of habit, seeing the Pharma reps they have solid relationships with, the free food, and posters are the reasons. Not necessarily in that order for all doctors. I’ve seen some attendees cut through booth to get the free lunch and turn right around and leave the exhibit hall to eat it. But some are realizing that this “den of vipers” isn’t so bad after all, and they have made trial visits into some of the booths. Maybe they miss the face-the-face interaction. From my experience, across all trade shows, not just Pharma, attendees want to hear answers to their questions and to learn about new stuff face-to-face in an exhibit booth even though virtually everything that can be publically talked about is already available on each exhibitor’s website.
And I think it used to be sort of an unspoken trade or barter between a doctor and a Pharma sales rep: you can have a bunch of our give-aways but then you have to at least give me 60 seconds to talk about our drugs. But doctors even found ways around this. They’d send their spouses to do the foraging in the booths and these folks could legitimately claim that they knew nothing about any of the drugs but if you didn’t let them fill their bags with free stuff they’d tell on you to their spouse and you’d never get another prescription from them again.
But this year, I always see a number of productive conversations that began because of a personal relationship; the doctor came in to visit their rep. I’d like to think that the Pharma industry is still a people oriented business. There is a certain humanity and respect that is nice to see between doctors and Pharma salespeople.
I’ve been asked to provide my staff training at a number of Pharma shows this year because the companies weren’t sure what was going to happen and wanted their staffs to be ready for anything. And since there would not be any more doctors booth begging at each counter and therefore, at least for a few seconds, available for the exhibit staff to at least talk to, these companies wanted to make sure that their staffs greeted and engaged every doctor who came into their booths – a basic staffing skills that eludes most exhibits staffs.
And I don’t know what percentage of the attendees actually visited Pharma exhibit halls this year. Do you count those who are just there for a free coffee or lunch or to get to the Posters without visiting any booths? You shouldn’t. From asking at the shows I’ve been to this year and from what I’ve read, attendance is down, in general, at all trade shows probably 25% to 30%. For those who didn’t visit the exhibit hall, I hope they end up wishing they had. And I hope they realize that most of the conference is made possible by the exhibitors paying for exhibit space and throwing money at sponsorships. Without the exhibitors, the attendee registration cost would probably double or triple.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out next year when everyone has had a year to figure out what they should do, what they actually did, and what they’d do different at the same conference the next time.
I still believe there is tremendous value in the face-to-face interactions in a trade show booth. Professionals discussing areas of mutual interest will never go away. But some hospitals and HMOs forbid any appointments from Pharma reps. Doctors and pharmacists are not allowed to meet with them and the reps can’t even get in the door. These organizations are making their formulary decisions (A drug formulary is a list of prescription medications that a drug plan will pay for) by committee without seeing Pharma reps.
What the attendees at these Pharma conferences value most are the sessions, posters, mingling and networking with colleagues, and the exhibit hall, probably in that order. I’d like to think the Pharma industry isn’t so cold and impersonal that face-to-face interaction is seen as unnecessary. And I would guess that on surveys and questions from their own hospitals, universities, and clinics, that doctors would not admit that they value visiting the exhibit hall as much as they really do. But the value is there. The Pharma companies and doctors need each other and the relationships they have with each other yield both tangible and intangible benefits. It’s the people thing and I don’t think it will ever go away.
11 Educational Items
It is appropriate for companies, where permitted by law, to offer items designed primarily for the education of patients or healthcare professionals if the items are not of substantial value ($100 or less) and do not have value to healthcare professionals outside of his or her professional responsibilities. For example, an anatomical model for use in an examination room is intended for the education of the patients and is therefore appropriate, whereas a DVD or CD player may have independent value to a healthcare professional outside of his or her professional responsibilities, even if it could also be used to provide education to patients, and therefore is not appropriate.
Items designed primarily for the education of patients or healthcare professionals should not be offered on more than an occasional basis, even if each individual item is appropriate.