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Trade Show Exhibitor Preparation with Joel Roy, Creative Dimensions

December 15, 2021

Link to Podcast Available HERE

Transcript to podcast found below:

Bill : Hi and welcome to the next episode of belly2belly Bill Kenny here and today we have a really cool topic and it’s all about trade show exhibitor preparation, and I’m joined by Joel Roy from Creative Dimensions. Hi, Joel.

Joel : Hey, Bill, how are you today?

Bill : Fantastic. It’s great to have you with us and you know this topic. It’s something that it just seems like such an amazing issue. I think I’ve when I think about preparation, I think of what did Woody Allen say said 80% of life is showing up. And if you think about, you know, I actually was talking to a very big exhibitor large enterprise company that exhibits all the time. Not that long ago, and I asked them, you know, how do they define success and just to give context, in this company, there’s no sort of event department and, you know, sort of people have other functions and then they, you know, they also sort of manage the trade show presence, but they bring 30 people to a trade show, so they invest tons and tons and tons of money into this. But, you know, they really struggled with how do they measure success, which I thought was amazing. And I said, Do you is, you know, do you feel relief, when you actually just arrive? Is that just the fact that you got there with all the materials, and you got the printing done at the end and all that kind of stuff? Is that is that some measure of success? And they said yes, which seems like you know, you’ve totally missed the, the whole opportunity and I guess, when you start thinking about, you know, preparation for trade shows, what are some of the things that come to mind for you, when you think about you know, that the keys for an exhibitor?

Joel : Oh, as a trade show organizer, slash designer slash builder. There’s a lot of parts involved. I mean, our job is to make the process as painless as possible. I, it comes with the client vision, really, I mean, we need to do a discovery process, go through a whole discovery process with them learn what it is that they’re trying to achieve. What is their look? How are they going to go through the process? How are they measuring that show? And, you know, understand what the end game is going in. You know, typically, we’re going to have what we call a discovery meeting. And it’s going to talk about all of those things. And our job is to do as much or as little as that client wants us. To do. Some people are savvy, and they want hands on and they’re going to go there and they’re going to take on the world and set it up and be ready for that show. And some people want to sleep in and show up at the booth that day, and everything’s all set for them. So I will say in COVID right now. Though, coming out of it. A lot of companies have lost their staff. And so they’re going to probably be relying on us a lot more. We have We also are short of staff. However, you know, that’s something that we’ve been talking about in the industry. In some of our calls and our you know, meetings with everybody comparing notes, and they’re just saying that people need to expect it to be different than it used to be. So I don’t know if that answers your question, Bill.

Bill : Yeah, I guess I’m thinking about the individual exhibitor. And so I think a little bit of what you talked about was sort of how, how you prepare them, but what are from the exhibitors perspective, when you think about, you know, what are the what are they the keys, you know, for example, how important is it to consider who the customer is, and sort of designing things around as you said the outcome, but quite often it’s a business development related outcome. So what is the I guess when you think about you know, the preparation you know, are there some specific things around sort of Prospect identification and whatnot that that you consider in terms of preparing for a trade show?

Joel : Yeah, I think there’s a lot of shows out there. You can be at a show that’s the perfect target or you can be at one that might not hit it, right. So I think it’s incumbent on them to understand their product and go out and research the best show for them. That gives them a fighting chance going in. They have to also decide how they want to measure what they’re doing. I mean, obviously, with social media these days, and everything else, some, some pre-event touches are maybe a lot easier than they used to be. So knowing identifying those customers knowing who they are reaching out to them ahead of time, I think if you are if they plan to set up meetings, at the show or in the booth, it’s going to raise their level of success versus just kind of sitting and hoping. But being in that target market is going to help that happen. You know, what we’re seeing is that a lot of people going to the shows are more of the decision makers than they used to be used to be a lot more of a party, everyone to go and is like hey, went to the show and let’s go to the pool. But I think the people are going now people are spending the money. They’re taking their people offline. They’re either Manning their booth, or and, or going in hunting for people at shows. And those people are more specific than ever, I believe.

Bill : Yeah. Oh, that’s great. So I what I heard are a couple things. One is it’s really success starts with so Show Selection and Courier. If we were going to analogize this with what fishing as an example. You got to make sure your hooks in the right water right and because we have to go where the fish are. And then you talked about having clear outcomes that you’re looking for in a process to measure those outcomes. And then in between that is really the preparation of whether it’s the people or the or the exhibiting collateral and exhibit booth and so on. Which obviously is your area of expertise. But are they did I sort of summarize that? 

Joel : Yeah, I again, I think getting them to the booth is the key, right? That’s, that’s your home base. That’s where you’re going to have your information. That’s where you’re going to have your face to face meeting. And I think getting ready for that. Now. Technology in a booth can be really important to be able to have them there and capture that three to five minutes with them. I mean, a lot of times you don’t get much more than that. Having someone actually sit down more than that in a booth. It’s actually a big win. So I think that getting them and having your story dialed in that elevator speech type thing that you get your message across as quickly and as efficiently as possible is really key.

Bill : That’s really good. So is it I guess to that end, in terms of pre setting meetings and whatnot, are you seeing that as also a place to prepare? So getting certain target customers to come to the booth and have them set up for specific times and whatnot?

Joel : Yeah, absolutely. Again, it raises your odds of having a fruitful meeting. A lot of times, we actually exhibit we’re in it. We’re an exhibit builder, but we actually exhibit and one of the more frustrating things that happens is you’re in your booth and the person you want to meet with is looming over someone’s shoulder who you’re talking to randomly. Where if you know that meeting is there and it’s booked and someone walks up, you can say to them nicely, hey, this is great. I have about five minutes till Bill shows up. And at that point, I’m going to need to go focus with him because he said in a meeting with me, so it’s a not an uncomfortable try to get away from them on the show floor. It’s more just more regimented and more professional. 

Bill : Right. In terms of you know, obviously there’s the hardware and there’s the logistics and there’s so many sort of elements of executing an exhibit. Well, how about team in terms of preparing the team, obviously, in some cases, competition going with very big teams, but you know, is it normal, that sort of one person let’s say is in charge generally. And then how do they best prepare the rest of the team that’s going

Joel : I witnessed team meetings in the booth the morning of the booth an hour before the show, and there’s I’ve seen it from 3 people to 33 people. And it’s very specific, if it’s going to be successful. It’s going to be you know, what are what is everybody wearing today? How many people are in the booth at a time? How are you covering all of the sides of the booth? Where’s the workstation in its total Protocol Review let’s call it on site. If you are taking a lunch break, generally people have a schedule posted to you go to that booth and you know, from 9 to 11 you’re working in at 11 to 12 You’re at lunch and at one you’re back. And if it’s just haphazard and people are kind of sloppy and kind of hanging around the booth. It presents that same attitude people come in so you’ve got these guys. They’re sloppy. Yeah, right. And do I really want to go talk to that guy that’s on his phone at the main reception area and so there is a lot of booth advocate a lot of booth booth protocol. That is super, super important rather than just hey, people show up there and hang out.

Bill : How are there some things you know, I would guess there are some things that companies can do before they get to the venue or the site to prepare the team and in the weeks before the event or there’s some suggestions you have there.

Joel : Again, I think in the world of zoom or whatever you want to call it Microsoft meetings. It’s ideal. I mean for us to be on a conference call. And you never know what someone’s doing on the other end of that call. But it’s just the same thing. It’s review. It’s repeat the message over and over so that everyone is clear. And absolutely, I mean, you’re making a huge investment to go to these shows, you know, between the time between the flights between the per diems between the hotels, all of that you have to make it efficient. And so all of that pre meeting is huge in making it a success. 

Bill : Cool. And yeah, it’s funny one organization that we saw recently, was actually really remarkable at how much their team had a sort of a common theme. And if you asked any one of their team members what the value proposition of their product was. You’d hear the exact same thing. Yeah, and it was so well probably scripted in practice that the I was just it. It really made you feel like to your point they had a lot on the ball. They were Yeah, they were there to be successful and, and, and and knew what their company was about which was so often you asked that question of five people and you’ll get five really different answers.

Joel : And a good leader is going to reinforce that message and make sure that everybody’s on the same page. And I again, Bill, I think really, it has to be it’s not one meeting. It’s not a 10 minute meeting before you go, it’s probably multiple leading up to it and then the morning of the final sort of review in the booth space. And just making sure everybody’s prepared on on game.

Bill : You know, one of the things that probably not talked about enough and certainly, at least what we see not executed well enough is follow up and sort of ongoing communication with prospects post event. How do you what are the things that you suggest for companies in terms of preparing for that making sure that before the event they’re set up to be successful from a follow up standpoint.

Joel : I mean, I think a CRM is vital. First of all, I think in we’ve done it and I’ve seen other people do it as well is to be interacting with them during the show. So they come to your show that morning. Let’s just say it’s West Coast time have somebody back in your office, looking at those leads looking at other people that came, send them a message because they’re three hours ahead. And that person wakes up in the morning, having gotten a thank you for showing up in the booth the day before and asking them to stop back. And ultimately when you get back just using that same list in a CRM to kind of tag everybody and make sure that the messages are not superficial either when that person is in that booth. I think note taking called note taking however you want to do it but information gathering to use for later on is vital. I mean, if you get something about where the person lives, something about anything that sort of like a little buzzword that’s going to make them feel like you heard them in that booth. You put it in their CRM and you can refer to it then you know, their their birthday that they stayed out in California after the show to go to the wine country. Whatever it is use those things to your advantage to build that rapport with those people. And I think is just consistency and using that CRM to help you, you know, do that.

Bill : That’s that’s perfect. Yeah. And in terms of measuring results, obviously you’ve stated at the beginning that it’s it starts really with having a clear outcome. Are there some you know, even in with your business, are there some specific goals that you often look at for events in terms of outcomes?

Joel : I think it’s just building the relationships. Sure, you’re going to get some people that it’s the first time they see you. And again to me, get as much as you can to be able to intelligently follow up with them. But mostly it’s just to build a relationship beyond I mean, you’re not going to talk business. You’re not going to talk details in that booth that that show, but you’re going to set the stage for some kind of follow up later on and to be diligent in you know, logging your information and gathering your facts and understanding what they’re going after and understanding their timeframe and understand your budget. As much as you can get out of that. It makes your follow ups more fruitful.

Bill : Yeah, no that’s perfect. In before we started, as to share a little bit more about creative dimensions, any sort of final thoughts on preparation or their you know, in your mind? What are the sort of big keys if you’re going to boil it down to you know, a few, a few things. I think you started off with, you know, select Show Selection. And obviously, that comes from having really clear targets, but what else would be in your top list?

Joel : Well, since we are an exhibit, design, build company, knowing what you want that booth to look like knowing what you’re trying to accomplish in that booth, just like the booth planning when you’re, you know, in the booth at the show, and performing your show services. When you sit with your exhibit house, understand what it is that you want your booth to look like, understand your brand. How do you want to be portrayed? What are your materials, what are your graphics? If you have electronics in there, what is being displayed on them if you’re doing a touchscreen or interactive things? How is that working? Know that coming to us as a designer, because we’re going to be able to give you a better booth and you’re going to spend x amount of dollars on a booth no matter what. And a lot of times it doesn’t cost any more to make it look slightly different. So know your luck. Get your team on the same page when you’re meeting with that exhibit builder, I believe. And it helps everybody in the process helps the builder helps your team have, you know, a unified vision. And if you can do that, it’s going to make the process that much better. And then the exhibit company will talk you through here are some options. Here are some other things you can do. Usually it’s a two or three part process going through design where you can change that first design and dial it more in on what you want to do. But I think going into that meeting with the exhibit builder or your show organizer or your project manager for that exhibit is vital as well as to get give you a fighting chance of having them design something that you’re going to be happy with.

Bill : Cool so maybe broadening that a little bit then it’s really about aligning all of the communication that the booth presents, your collateral, what how your team communicates, aligning that communication with the target prospects, I guess is probably the sort of the broader view of that.

Joel :  Of Yes. 100% Yeah. 100% you know, and Bill like I said earlier, understand how much you as a customer want to be involved in the process or not. And know your budget going in. Don’t make that poor exhibit designer, design you the Taj Mahal and then decide that you want to Shanty don’t put them through that and don’t put yourself through that. Because then you basically go back to start in the process and it’s not fun for anybody.

Bill : Sure, sure. So well, let’s say you’ve kind of segue a little bit into creative dimensions you want to tell us about creative inventions. Obviously you really evolved as a company. You during the pandemic but you had already evolved quite a bit before the pandemic, but do you want to give us sort of a an overview?

Joel : Sure. So we’re this year we’re a 35 year old company. 

Bill : Congratulations 

Joel : We started as two companies. We started as a sign company and an exhibit builder. And we merged together somewhere around 30 years ago. And the two the two industries really merged well together. So now in an exhibit, you need signs and and then the customers kind of overlap as well. And that the third part of that is that halfway through our existence. We stumbled across HDTV already ESPN, and they had some sets that were more like Broadway theater sets. And they saw what quality we do in the exhibit industry and they said hey, wait a minute. This stuff is now showing up more in more detail on television. And we need more of the quality that you build. Then we do have the old theater style scenic hand paint things. And that led us to get into the you know building broadcast elements and then ultimately now studios of which we’ve won three Emmy Awards for local, regional but real just the same. And so that now has become probably 50% of our businesses. The studio’s we’ve become pretty well known we attend the major show here we go like focus show we go to the nav show National Association of Broadcasters, and we have found many customers there and to your to the point of earlier. We see all those people in our booth every April except for this past year. And it just builds those relationships. They’re not always ready to build their booth today or their studio today. But they promise they’ll call and they do and they have been more so lately. So we have sort of this three or four prong business now of tradeshow booths, signage, studios, and we’ve actually dabbled in the virtual studio world of creating actual put on a trade show Virtual Show and we’ve attended them as well which I think a lot of people have done at this point. But so we kind of serve a lot of different markets in our in our customers. What’s nice is they like it. They say hey, you do our booth and we can call you for this for our event. We can call you for the signage on our building when our branding changes. There’s a lot of things that just all dovetail together and it’s been wonderful.

Bill : That is great. So we’ll get maybe forecast ahead a little bit. What do you think the next year looks like in the in person event space?

Joel : Funny you asked just got off an industry call and there’s a pent up demand. People are itching to get together. I think it’s going to be a little bit of a stumbling out of the blocks. I think the industry itself is lacking people. A lot of people just have had no work so they’ve gone in other directions or they’re sitting on the sidelines and have to kind of knock the rust off and get back into the game. And while we kind of rebuild and piece that all back together. People are just itching to go to shows I think everyone’s done with COVID They’re ready to go. I’m seeing hesitation. Now. There are a lot of exhibitors that are saying okay, go to the show. Or we’re gonna scale it back a touch. Because even if we go to the show, we’re not sure that people are going to show up yet where they are very, very confident that come springtime and 2022 that it’s going to be a catch up for lost time kind of industry and everyone’s going to be just loving the fact that we’re back back in the game.

Bill : Yet. It’s actually interesting to hear you say that I was listening to a podcast a couple of weeks ago and it was a lady who’s a demographer was talking about she studies big, big data around sort of global issues. And she studied the pandemic 100 years ago and looked at the impact of that and she said one of the most amazing things that she saw was the 10 year period after the last pandemic was one of the largest building booms in world history. And so what was built were concert halls, major concert halls and cities and some of the largest buildings in cities. And what she gleaned from that was this the to your point was how much people wanted to get back together and whether it was to celebrate or to work, but But ultimately, that sort of boomerang came back sort of really hard to towards in person. And it’ll be interesting to see for sure.

Joel : Yeah, I will say yeah, in our business here. Because we build things and we’re manufacturing you know, we were deemed essential, which is kind of funny, but just the same. We’ve been in the building and we find ourselves very, very much more effective, very much more. It’s appealing to be in the building with the people you work with. It’s energy. It’s just there’s something about being together, a camaraderie, a joint effort. And I think that’s going to be kind of in the industry out there as a whole. And I think it’s going to lead to a lot of success and a lot of fun to be honest with you.

Bill : That’s great. Well, I think after that, it feels like the spring is sort of that rebirth. So hopefully, that’s all part of it as the flowers come out. We all get to come out at the same time but this was great, Joel I really appreciate the wisdom and certainly wish you tons of luck. And in continued great success with creative dimensions this year and going forward.

Joel : Thank you, Bill. Pleasure to be on here and I thank you for the opportunity.

Bill : Absolutely and to our audience. Thank you for tuning in. Make sure to like and subscribe and all those fun things so you continue to get updates on new content. We put out thank you so much. 

Joel : Thanks.