Trade Show Attitudes—Beyond the “Power of Positive” Platitudes


Dur­ing the recent 2015 Exhibitors Acad­e­my in Las Vegas, we were treat­ed to one of the most engag­ing keynote address­es one could hope to have. Pre­sent­ed by Jef­fer­son Davis—better known as the “Tradeshow Turn­around Artist”—his hour-long address had the near­ly 100 Acad­e­my atten­dees furi­ous­ly tak­ing notes and com­pet­ing for atten­tion dur­ing the Q&A ses­sion.

There were more than a few high­lights to Davis’ talk, and we’ll cov­er those as time and space allow here, but the core of his pre­sen­ta­tion, and the con­cept that every­one talked about con­tin­u­al­ly through­out the Academy’s two-and-half days of learn­ing ses­sions and round­ta­bles, was that of how exhibitors per­ceive their time at a trade show—and how those per­cep­tions can either swing your prof­its and growth in the after­math to the black or sink your time and invest­ment in just being at a show firm­ly into the red.

With­out a doubt, attend­ing a tradeshow as big as SHOT Show entails a tremen­dous amount of work, espe­cial­ly for exhibitors who have to deal with the logis­tics of get­ting their dis­play to the show, staffing their booth dur­ing the event and then get­ting it all packed up and mov­ing on to the home ware­house or the next show on the cal­en­dar. This caus­es many to feel trade shows are some­thing that have to be mere­ly endured. But, accord­ing to Davis, it’s just that atti­tude, that a show is some­thing you have to get through and noth­ing more, that will absolute­ly pre­vent you from prof­it­ing all those days, weeks and months after the show. Why? Because work­ing a trade show as an exhibitor is an invest­ment—both in time and money—and invest­ments are some­thing from which you should expect a return.

Davis pre­sent­ed a very sim­ple mod­el for focus­ing on the invest­ment and return, rather than the logis­tics. It looks like this:


Correct Perspec­tive
+ Execu­tion of Strate­gic Prac­tices
= Maxi­mum Tradeshow Results

I’m going to break down this for­mu­la over sev­er­al news posts to, so let’s start with the first part of this equa­tion, the CP, or Cor­rect Per­spec­tive.

Lest you think this is going to be a speech about putting on your “hap­py face,” CP is any­thing but those so eas­i­ly issued plat­i­tudes of “If you just think pos­i­tive, it will be pos­i­tive.”

CP, accord­ing to Davis, actu­al­ly has a num­ber of tan­gi­ble com­po­nents. The first is that you, as an exhibitor, must be clear with your­self (and like­ly your accoun­tant) about just what it is you think you’re buy­ing when you invest in exhibit­ing at SHOT.

Too many think they have to be at SHOT because not being there means they’ll be for­got­ten; in oth­er words, the show becomes noth­ing more than mak­ing an appear­ance. Oth­ers think they’re buy­ing floor space or oppor­tu­ni­ty or chance. While any of these could be con­sid­ered the rea­son you write that check each year, if that’s what you lim­it your think­ing to, there’s not much for you to focus on in the way of returns and increased prof­itabil­i­ty over the rest of the year.

I bet “prof­itabil­i­ty” caught your atten­tion. Good thing, because that’s what you should be think­ing of when you think about the invest­ment you make in attend­ing SHOT each year. In that light, accord­ing to Davis, what you’re real­ly buy­ing, then, is face-to-face con­tact that results in:

  • Place­ment and build­ing of your com­pa­ny, staff and prod­uct iden­ti­ty. This is your brand and rep­u­ta­tion, and there’s no bet­ter or eas­i­er way to estab­lish and then remind every­one else of both than when you have the cap­tive, trade-ded­i­cat­ed audi­ence that is SHOT Show.
  • Face-to-face con­tact with the right.  Get­ting your prod­uct to the con­sumer is a team effort between you and dozens of peo­ple with­in our industry—from man­u­fac­tur­er to whole­saler to retail­er and, yes, the mem­bers of the press who will be telling your sto­ry through hun­dreds of mag­a­zines, blogs, You-Tube chan­nels and oth­er media plat­forms through­out the year. Unin­hib­it­ed by con­sumer rela­tions, SHOT Show is your pri­ma­ry oppor­tu­ni­ty to fine-tune your net­work of inter-indus­try rela­tions, some­thing you won’t have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do through­out the rest of the year with­out rack­ing up thou­sands of fre­quent fli­er miles.
  • An exchange of infor­ma­tion rel­e­vant and time­ly to all those in your sup­ply chain, a direct result of the face-to-face time afford­ed by your show atten­dance. This, in turn, dri­ves …
  • A com­mit­ment to action. In oth­er words, because of your deci­sion to exhib­it at SHOT, you have bet­ter estab­lished your com­pa­ny brand and iden­ti­ty, which leads to improved inter­ac­tion with the peo­ple most like­ly to help your busi­ness grow. With those “right” peo­ple and the abil­i­ty to arrange face-to-face time with them, you have exchanged all the right and nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion regard­ing your com­pa­ny and prod­ucts, and it is that exchange of infor­ma­tion that will prompt all those “right” peo­ple to com­mit to action—buy your prod­uct and move it along to the con­sumer.

All of this is real­ly no more than a way to see the for­est despite the trees. If you can see the forest—the build­ing of a net­work that com­mits to your prod­uct and helps you sell it all year ‘round—then set­ting up shop at SHOT quick­ly becomes the thing you most look for­ward to each year. And isn’t that always a much bet­ter atti­tude to have?

Chris Dol­nack is Senior Vice Pres­i­dent and Chief Mar­ket­ing Offi­cer for the Nation­al Shoot­ing Sports Foun­da­tion. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @ChrisDolnack.

Both com­ments and pings are cur­rent­ly closed.

Trade Show Attitudes—Beyond the “Pow­er of Pos­i­tive” Plat­i­tudes
Trade Show Attitudes—Beyond the “Pow­er of Pos­i­tive” Plat­i­tudes

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