Trade Show Syndrome

by David Heitman

“Nothing so concentrates the mind as an imminent hanging.”

My dad’s oft-quoted paraphrase of 18th-century poet and author, Samuel Johnson speaks eloquently to the business of getting ready for an industry trade show.

As I write this, I’m currently at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual meeting and convention in Atlanta where several of our clients are exhibiting. Bob Byrd, our VP of client services, just returned from the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual convention in Chicago. He was there to help with the PR efforts of a medical software client and to see firsthand the new 20 x 20 booth we produced for them (see below). And in another few weeks, we will be attending the PhoCusWright Conference in Phoenix where our client is actually the producer of the entire conference. We were privileged to develop some dynamic digital, print, video and environmental creative around the conference theme: Chaos Calls—Navigating the New.

So I guess this has been trade show prep season at The Creative Alliance.

Despite the tendency for business to be conducted increasingly by phone and online, trade shows are still powerful opportunities for people to connect and for deals to get done.

The thing about a trade show is that it takes months of preparation, and then, Boom! it’s showtime. No re-do’s. It all better be perfect—the booth, the literature, the press releases, the video displays. It’s a live performance.

The deadline-driven nature and the high visibility of trade show appearances make for concentrating the mind…much like an imminent hanging.

You could call this focus/stress/pressure/anticipation/fatigue “Trade Show Syndrome” (or TSS for short). TSS has many side effects including insomnia, indigestion and nervous twitches. On the other hand, it has a powerful way of forcing company leaders to make decisions on what will be the final statement of their brands, their products and their services.

It’s amazing how many times we’ve seen the creation of a brochure or a trade show booth force people to fully concentrate and make the hard decisions about what exactly the message will be, what language will be used, and what promises will be made to prospective customers. No chance to nuance by re-writing some Web copy. This is the final statement of things when you’re at the show.

And that’s why TSS is so beneficial. While it may cause some dis-ease, it clearly forces marketers to make a decision and commit to a course of action. Sure, in today’s fast changing business environment, things will require re-examining and re-tooling by next year’s trade show.

But today on the trade show floor, it’s all about clarity, confidence and commitment.

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