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Consider Non-Traditional Exhibiting

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Have your heard about anyone lately using approaches other than the traditional trade show to reach their clients and prospects? You probably have and maybe you are already using another format or considering one. 

What other alternatives do you have available to you other than the more traditional trade show?  These other non-traditional events might take the form of private shows, user meetings, open houses, road shows or dealer and distributor meetings.  

Why the change? After all, trade shows and non-traditional events  both can increase market share or increase share of customer, so why add another element into the marketing mix?  The fact is that some of these non-traditional events can increase market share, but also share of customer – and ----- they can do it better.  

Why do you want to consider these alternatives?  The primary reason is to capture mindshare.  Your audience’s channels of communication are becoming overtaxed, with the result that people are tuning out. The average adult receives about 3000 marketing messages a day. This sounds high but think about the more unusual places you have seen corporate messages of late – on baggage carousels, on step risers in show halls, on pay phones or even the back of bathroom doors in public restrooms. Consider the current length of TV commercials – what had been 60 second or 30 second spots are now 15, 10 or ever 5 second spots.  Just to capture our attention. 

Non- traditional events offer 7 distinct and unique benefits.

1.     Undivided attention of attendee

2.     Lack of competition

3.     The ability to speak more freely      

4.     Communicate proprietary information

5.     Conduct in-depth demonstrations- not just to pique interest but demonstrate applicability and proof.

6.     Educate the audience on key issues or select topics of your choosing

7.     Conduct more open dialogue 

There are both similarities and differences of exhibiting in this fashion. Similarities include such things as knowing your objectives for the event, having a theme that will create and increase memorablity, creating several simple messages, and identifying who and how the staff will work the event, and how the role of senior management can not only enhance but drive your event and set the tone. 

There are key differences that not only need to be acknowledged but also addressed with the selected staff if you are to have a successful event. They all center around communication – how to be a good conversationalist, how to make your visitors feel comfortable with the use of small talk, some tips on good topics and how to prepare as well as the abilities to use and tell stories. 

So how does one prepare to be a good conversationalist – and aren’t we doing OK just as we are?  Believe it or not, it is important that all the staff involved in the event do the following:

1.     Plan, prepare and practice

What will you say and how will you say it? How will you begin a conversation, how will you direct it towards your messages, how will you ascertain interest level?

2.     Focus on the visitors conversation first

3.     Be good listeners

4.     Smile, interact, do not stand back – you are the hosts

5.     Remember the process that must be used if it is to work at all

Reach out- don’t wait for them

Relate to your guests, their agenda, their interests and their needs

React and respond to what you hear, along with your messages as well

Record that information –mentally and physically  

What a record – all will be in vain

6.     The primary job is to make your guests feel comfortable


Small talk? What a turnoff – We think of it as inane, boring, a waste of time. But it is an essential element in the non-traditional event. It is a means of finding a fit to begin a dialogue. It’s about finding common ground or basic needs that can be addressed.  After all, you have no visual clues.

1.     Small talk is not about us – its about them – your guests

2.     Small talk should be about both groups – you and them

3.     Small talk is not about interrogating , but rather, having a two way conversation – a dialogue

4.     Small talk means finding those small clues about them that will lead to some insight and understanding about that person.

5.     Small talk is critical not boring – it gives you cues and clues about their interests ( is this a big picture thinker or a detail person) , their personalities ( are they flexible, rigid, open to new ideas) and even clues to their speaking styles. 

Story tellers? Why do we need this too? This is getting very complicated.  Stories are wonderful because they are logical – they have a beginning, middle and end. They are visual and allow the listener to see it all in their “mind’s eye”. And finally, stories are normally about people, and people buy your products and services regardless of complex or technical they may be.  Stories allow you to show how you have worked with other customers, how you solved a seemingly unsolvable problem, how you created good will or even increased their return on investment. 

Certainly there are topics of conversation to begin a communication and others that should be avoided. Stay away from religion and politics – these can be a problem even with close friends.

Some good “small talk” topics include:

Sports  weather local events
Films or film festivals art
PBS TV  travel 


Books magazine articles hobbies
School issues  holidays    college
Events( a wedding)   this venue – its location, etc.  


A few last thoughts as to how to overcome that awkward situation when the conversation comes to a halt – what a horrid feeling. Consider:

                        O – Offer an observation (about the industry, economy, the show)

                        A – Ask a question – you don’t have to do all the talking

                        R – Reveal your thoughts, ideas or opinions (it gives them a glimpse of   what you are like so they can continue the dialogue.

                                                                                                Susan RoAnne 

So, will non-traditional events work for you ? Do you see the need, the benefits, the return on investment that can perhaps be more immediate than a traditional trade show? How important is it for you to have the ability to communicate more openly, more freely, about proprietary details of your products and services and their applications and not have to worry about the competition?  How important could it be to have your visitors’ undivided attention?\ 

If these events are to work, you must create a complete plan, execute the event enthusiastically and aggressively by having a trained staff that understands the objectives of the event and follow-up thoroughly so that you take advantage of every opportunity the event produces.

© 2013 by Mim Goldberg