Peter Johnson, a
California-based marketing guru once lead off a workshop at the American Society
of Training and Development with the pronouncement – Accuracy before momentum
will save many a marketing program. I have often thought of his program and how
true his advice was for not only general marketers, but exhibit marketers as
We often go from show to show
to show. I talked with an exhibit manager who told me she had 130 shows this
year. That’s 2.6 shows per week to plan and see that it is executed
effectively. She can’t be at every show so she has to delegate the work. How
can she do anything but go from show to show? Where’s the think time. We are
all falling into the “ready, fire, aim” syndrome. We get caught up in the “I
don’t have time to plan only to do”. When this happens we forsake accuracy for
Exhibit professionals are hit
from every side – sales, marketing, technology and management. They read about
a new show and want to be there without considering these very important
questions. Accuracy before Momentum:
Why are we going to this show? What
do we want to achieve by exhibiting?
Who is our target audience at this
show and will they be there?
What messages do we want this audience
to receive and how are we going to deliver them?
What do we want as our measure of
success when the show is over?
If we can answer these
questions, then we are beginning the exhibit planning process with accuracy. If
we don’t take the time to look at these issues up front, we are only going for
The next step in creating an
accurate environment is to conduct an exhibit market-planning workshop that is
attended by a cross-section of the organization’s functions. That way sales,
marketing (advertising and pr), technology and management are buying-in from the
outset rather than second guessing the momentum when it is too late to change.
The best outcome of an exhibit marketing planning workshop is to assure that
there are objectives for the event that are linked directly to the
organization’s marketing mission.
These objectives then can be
the foundation for your measures of success. If you are exhibiting to generate
leads for sales, then you will want to calculate your cost per lead. If you are
going to increase awareness of your brand, then you will want to measure the
cost per visitor reached. For each objective, your planning will allow you to
generate a measure whether it is return on investment (sales) or return on
The advantage of accuracy
before momentum is that you have a guide against which you can execute the
exhibit plan. One of the factors of 21st century life is that your
environment will change. It is not if, but when will it change and what will be
the impact. If you have planned for accuracy then you can regularly check your
progress against your plan and if there is an environment or organizational
change you can assess its impact and make the appropriate plan changes as you
Too often we have a staff that
is at the show as a result of their being available or in the right location to
be drafted for services. When accuracy precedes momentum, and then staff are
chosen for the skills that they bring to this unique environment – exhibitions.
We also find ourselves gaining
incredible momentum before accuracy when we have demonstrations to reinforce the
application and benefits of our products. When we assume that the personnel
because they are technically competent, they can demo we are in the ready, fire,
aim mentality. Demonstrations are successful when the demonstrator considers
the audience – knowing to whom they are speaking and what needs they want to be
addressed – understand how their product can be presented to address the
visitor’s needs and what is the BIG IDEA they want to the visitor to remember
when they leave the exhibit. This does not occur if we select demonstrators and
give them a time to work the exhibit. Accuracy means planning, preparing and
practicing the demo’s before the first visitor sets foot in the exhibit.
The last area that are impacted
by gaining too much momentum before achieving accuracy is the use of promotional
products. When we don’t consider the uses of this tool, we find ourselves just
perusing catalogs and finding nice and nifty giveaways. You want to identify
why you are going to use a promotional product. Is it to communicate or
reinforce a message or reward a visitor for participating in a demo or recognize
them for coming to visit you? If you don’t need a tool to do any of these
functions, then save your money. If you have come to this conclusion, then you
have practiced accuracy before gaining momentum. If you have a nice and nifty
item, we hope it gets home because the majority of those that are not useful and
functional, taken and not given and are not judged as having a high perceived
value are thrown away or left in hotel rooms for the housekeeper.
Accuracy before momentum is not
just a slick phrase. It means that if your are going to rise above the
competition, you need to think through and plan your event, not just show up and
hope for the best.