Navigating the Trade Show Landscape: Insights from Doug Foley, President of Giant Goat

Trade shows are experiencing a resurgence following the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, companies continue to grapple with familiar obstacles as they navigate these events. We sat down with Giant Goat President, Doug Foley, to discuss the common struggles companies face during trade shows and explore strategies for creating impactful experiences for attendees. Doug shares his expertise on pre-show planning, techniques for engaging visitors during the event, and the critical importance of post-show follow-up.

Q: Could you tell us about some of the challenges companies face as trade shows regain popularity after the pandemic?

A: It’s ironic that companies struggle with the same issues both pre and post COVID. Poor booth attendance, lack of engagement, and inconsistent experiences continue to hinder their success. Walking through a trade show can be frustrating, with booths resembling high school hallways divided into cliques. Some booths have salespeople huddled in corners, while others have overeager staff in your face. The key problem is that many companies fail to view trade shows as experiences and neglect proper planning. By clarifying their goals and reverse engineering the process, they can address these challenges effectively.

Q: What should companies do to create impactful trade show experiences, considering their goals and the preferences of attendees?

A: Companies need to be crystal clear about their trade show goals. Whether it’s brand awareness or generating sales, the approach will differ. For brand awareness, creating a fun and engaging experience with salespeople to interact with is essential. However, if the goal is to secure commitments or close deals, a more intimate and focused approach with sales offices and meeting rooms would be more suitable. These are two distinct experiences, and companies must choose one or develop separate strategies. Pre-show planning, on-site experience, and post-show follow-up should align with the chosen approach.

Q: Let’s delve deeper into these three important stages: pre-show planning, on-site experience, and post-show follow-up. Could you discuss each stage and what should be included?

A: Pre-show planning is often overlooked but crucial. Companies must have an email sequence to invite people to their booth or related events before the show. It’s vital to communicate the presence, location, and reasons why attendees should visit the booth. Leveraging social media and show promotion opportunities is also essential. On to the on-site experience, it’s crucial to create a memorable and engaging atmosphere. Simple tactics like offering coffee or popcorn that stimulate sensory experiences can draw people in. Using game shows, live interviews, or unique activities related to the brand can serve as effective pattern interrupts. Finally, post-show follow-up is frequently neglected. Companies must have a well-defined follow-up sequence and execute it diligently. The key is to do what you say you’ll do, promptly following up with leads and delivering on promises. Direct mail, especially personalized and handwritten notes, can make a significant impact.

Q: Are there any alternative approaches to trade shows that you’ve seen work well?

A: Absolutely. Instead of confining efforts solely to the booth, companies can have their salespeople actively engage with attendees throughout the event. Attending other events or hosting impromptu gatherings can help foster connections. Securing speaking gigs at the show elevates a company’s authority and offers an opportunity to drive traffic to the booth. The focus should be on creating a connected experience that goes beyond the booth space and utilizes the presence of the target audience. Thinking creatively and aligning activities with the brand can yield exceptional results.

Q: Any final thoughts or advice you’d like to share?

A: Have fun! Trade shows are an excellent opportunity to meet new people, expand networks, and form valuable connections. Even for introverts like me, it’s important to approach trade shows with a positive mindset and enjoy the experience. Take the time to build relationships, make new friends, and explore potential partnerships. Trade shows can be memorable and enjoyable occasions, so embrace the opportunity to have fun while achieving your business goals. Remember, a positive and enthusiastic attitude can go a long way in making the most out of your trade show experience.


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