Conferences Are Not Old Fashioned

ConferenceIn our media-crazy world, sometimes we forget the importance of a face-to-face setting with others in our industry, or even in our same company.  But emails, the internet and the occasional video chat cannot entirely replace a well-run business conference where people can come together to discuss new trends and opportunities pertaining to the business.

Coming together doesn’t have to mean leaving your phones at the door.  In fact, today many conference attendees are sharing their experience in real-time on their favorite social media channel.  The event may even have a designated hashtag for sharing updates.  But regardless of the added bonus of today’s media sharing, the attendees are traveling from different cities, or even countries, for person-to-person educational opportunities, networking and (gasp!) a little bit of fun.  So, optimize your next business conference by planning well ahead.

Without going into the specifics of a complete checklist, there are certain important details that should be considered first  – namely, the location, the experience and the materials.  The venue should align with your brand, target market and event goals, while fitting within your budget demands.  The experience – speakers, product demonstrations, games, workshops, & dining – should be planned to address what the people will do, learn and take away from the event.  To enhance and expand on that experience, the marketing materials are designed and the promotional products are sourced.

Regarding promotional products, there are quite literally tens of thousands of product ideas for every event, and they range from the practical to zany.  Journals and pens for small indoor meetings are a must; tote bags, lanyards, badges and bottled water are perfect for larger trade shows and conferences; sport bottles, caps and tees work well with outdoor events; and any item that can be useful for travel events (beach towels in Florida or backpacks in Colorado) are always welcome.  Some items, like personalized robes or a laser engraved bottle of wine for the hotel room are just icing on the conference “cake”.

Conferences are not old fashioned – they are one of the best ways for like-minded professionals to stay in touch.  When planning your next conference, be creative.  In addition to the educational goals, add an element of fun, and take the time to consider which logo gift item will best keep the brand awareness alive after they return home.








In 2014, Resolve To Shake Things Up

shakersNew Year’s resolutions range from ambitious (lose 30 pounds in 30 days); to vague (be a better person); to practical (reduce Starbucks trips from every day to twice a week).  In business, as in our personal lives, positive change is always the goal when making these resolutions.   And when you resolve to shake things up by abandoning complacency and embracing an entirely new approach to building your brand, that change can be surprisingly rewarding.

“Shaking things up” will mean something different for every firm.  Most companies know how they want their brand to be perceived,  but only a few can afford to pay for high profile advertising campaigns to bring that message to the consumer.  Apple always comes to mind when we think of creative branding efforts, and who can forget the E-Trade baby or the Budweiser frog?  However, considering that not every company enjoys that type of marketing budget, there are other ways to build your brand through interesting and unexpected methods of engagement.

Consider the following:

  • Host an event:  use music, videos and lots of social interaction to introduce your next product or service
  • Poll your customers:  with inexpensive on-line tools like SurveyMonkey there is no reason not to get the pulse of your audience through brief, focused surveys
  • Engage in social media:  Facebook and Twitter are a great place to start, but consider branching out into Instagram, Google+ and Twitter’s Vine for micro-videos
  • Extreme brand makeover:  bring your team together to consider what marketing touch points could use a makeover (printed materials, bags, pens, auto graphics, employee uniforms, etc)
  • Cause-branding:  partner with a non-profit or cause-based institution to raise social awareness while increasing corporate profits

This year’s resolution should be to consider new and exciting ways to build your brand.  Ask your internal associates, customers and vendor partners to offer ideas – you may be surprised how fun it can be to shake things up!

Trade Show Checklist

trade-show-crowdd1January signals the start of the 2013 trade show season.  The time when every company takes stock of the success of the shows from the previous year, and moves forward with a fresh perspective and  renewed energy for marketing their business. Some companies have a dedicated trade show associate who is famililar with the routine and has the execution of details down to a fine science.  For the rest of the corporate world, a trade show checklist can be a helpful tool when the task falls to one or two willing individuals who stayed in the room just long enough to be “volunteered” for this sometimes daunting assignment.

  1. Fill out and submit application. This provides the opportunity to submit payment and secure booth space.  Tip:  best booth space is at a high traffic location that limits congestion (no exits, entrances or restrooms)
  2. Confirm exhibitor services & accessories.  Carpet, table, chairs, curtains, electrical, wi-fi, audio-visual, telephone, housekeeping, lighting and security.  Tip:  most trade show organizers will include this information in the exhibitor packet, but it is always prudent to check everything against your own internal list.
  3. Prepare booth.  The construction, layout and graphics of the booth should allow easy display of all product, with creative methods of highlighting new merchandise or services.  Tip:  the money saved on a smaller booth space or fewer shows could be well spent on better display graphics to maximize the experience for the customer
  4. Order promotional materials.  Advertising, print material, product give-aways, pre-show mailings, and customer hospitality items.  Tip:  allow for a minimum of three to four weeks lead time for delivery of custom branded products
  5. Make reservations for booth staff.  Airlines, hotels, ground transportation and dinner reservations should be made as far in advance as possible.  Tip:  respect for the comfort of the staff will pay high dividends with a positive attitude at the show
  6. Establish shipping logistics.  Arrival, labeling, storage, and return of all shipped items should be determined and confirmed with carrier and trade show manager.  Tip:  poorly labeled packages have a way of getting lost
  7. Follow up on all leads!  Do this in the first week after the show.  Confirming the possibility of a sale, or even casual interest for future consideration, will provide valuable feedback for the next trade show.  Tip:  potential customers want to hear from you, but it’s unlikely they will make the time to place the first call

Trade shows are an effective way to reach new audiences, but only if they are well executed without any embarrassing glitches.  Make a list and check it every day until the show is over and you’re back at your desk – you will be glad you did!

(Image via photopin)