This transcript is from Episode 14 of The Savvy Event Planner Podcast
To listen to this podcast, please visit: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/14
Interview transcript only
Tom: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on the line with Andy Saks. Andy how are you today?
Andy: I'm doing great. Thank you.
Tom: Ok, Andy. Did you get your M&Ms;?
Andy: Did you send those to me?
Tom: You didn't get the green M&Ms;, or did you?
Andy: Did you send green M&Ms; to me?
Tom: I did.
Andy: Oh my God, Tom! Oh my God.
Tom: You got those. You didn't realize that was from me?
Andy: I didn't.
Tom: How many people send you green M&Ms; dude?
Andy: None! That's why I couldn't figure out who sent them. That was so funny. I got them, I think on Friday, and we were walking out the door to go away for the weekend. So I sort of, you know, looked in the package and I sort of said, “That's really weird. Who did these come from?” There was no note or anything in the package. And then, I've been thinking about it for the last few days, and I just couldn't make sense of it, and I noticed that the mailing label had referenced Amazon, so I was looking at my Amazon orders thinking “Did I send myself M&Ms; and I didn't remember?” Because green M&Ms; have a special place of honor. The mint ones have a special place of honor in our house.
Tom: Oh, really?
Andy: Yes. My mom loves them, so we get them for her for the holidays, and so that immediately made me think of her, but I just couldn't put it together. Now it makes sense! Thank you very much! I am so very impressed and flattered that you would actually take the time to do that.
Tom: They didn't have chartreuse. I looked. No chartreuse M&M. I don't know what's going on.
Andy: No. No, that was actually a test to see how much you wanted me as a guest.
Tom: Ok, don't be munching them during the interview, dude!
Andy: No, no.
Tom: We have you here and you are a presenter. Tell us a little bit about your background in events services, and how you got to where you are and what you do today.
Andy: It's a pretty strange process actually. I have a background both in theater; growing up I was one of those kids who did a lot of plays and musicals and performances of various types, and in my 20s I had several jobs doing sales of various sorts in the corporate world. The last one was for a division of America Online called Digital City Boston. And I found myself in my late 20's, this is in the late '90s, trying to figure out what I could do with these things that would allow me to set off on my own. I liked some aspects of sales that involve teaching and addressing groups and teaching people what we have and why it ‘s neat, and I also was very comfortable onstage in front of people with this performance background.
I didn't really want to be a starving actor. I wasn't sure I wanted to full time corporate sales or software sales anymore, so I was looking for something that combined these two aspects but wasn't really either one specifically. I was living in Los Angeles while I was contemplating all of this, and my brother came to town for a trade show. We got together for dinner after the first day that he was at the show, and he said, “You know, I see these guys who are at the booths, and they get up every so often, and they give a little 5 or 10 minute presentation about the product. I don't think they work for the companies that they're representing. You should look into this.”
So the next day I went with him to the show and walked the show floor and saw a bunch of guys giving these presentations, and I would watch them, and after they were done I would pull them aside and say, “I'm thinking about getting into this. Tell me how you got involved. How do you book gigs? What do they pay? What sort of training do you need?” And really, I started to get excited and said “This is a really nice blending of my two skill sets but isn't explicitly either one, and I'd like to see if I could make a go of it, doing this kind of work.”
That was 17 years and over 200 trade shows ago, so it's gone well, and it's lead me into all sorts of other cool things that are related like presentation skills training and being a corporate MC and being a live auctioneer for non-profits. Just all sorts of really great directions and working with some wonderful people.
Tom: Well, let's start with talking about presenters because you done keynote speeches. Am I correct?
Andy: Yes I have.
Tom: Ok. When an event planner is thinking about hiring a presenter, say for a keynote or for a trade show, which I know is your specialty, what are some things that they should consider before they reach out and hire somebody?
Andy: Well, I think the number one thing that an event planner or a booth manager would want to look for in a speaker is the ability to give a great performance. And I would even gently say that that may be even more important than their specific topic. You want somebody who's . . . think about it from the audience's perspective. You have people there who you've invited to watch the speaker, and whatever the circumstances they have an expectation, the audience members, that they'll be provided with a great show. And they want to learn something, but even slightly more important than that, they want to have fun. They want to have a great experience. They want to feel that of all the things they could have done with that time, this was the most enjoyable and worthwhile.
And to create that, you want to bring in a speaker who is very dynamic, lots of personality, lots of character. Somebody who can interact comfortably with the audience in front of them. Somebody who you know, as you're watching them, they're enjoying what they're doing, and that tends to rub off on the audience. There's and old saying that long after people have forgotten what you've said, they're remember how you made them feel when you said it, and that's the idea. The factual information that you're delivering will drift away over time, but the emotion of remembering “That was such a great experience,” that will stick with your audience members, and I think that should take priority.
Tom: When somebody's putting together an event, some events have a huge budget, some events do not. If we've got a listener out there who's like “Oh, I've got to get a presenter for my event,” but they don't have the budget, are there any tips that they can consider if they or someone on their staff has to provide the speech?
Andy: Yeah, I'll tell you this is sort of a difficult topic, because I do believe that the presenters, like if you're booking a keynote speaker for a conference, and this person is one of the centerpieces of your show, you're promoting them, you're putting them on a big stage, you're giving them a time slot where there is little or nothing else going on at the conference so there are no conflicts, then that person has great value to you. And part of the value of your conference and why people attend is to see that speaker. And often times in the speaking world, there's this curious situation where event planners tend to ask speakers to speak for free because of budget constraints. But they would never tell the venue, “Could we rent you for free?” And they would never tell the band that's playing as you walk in, “Would you guys play for free?” They would never see if they could get the food for free.
But the speaker's role often seems to be available to that request. So I'm of the feeling that if you have the budget that you're better off spending your budget on a speaker than the really good food. Because that's the thing, again, that provides the entertainment and the people will remember, and it will stick with them, and it will influence dramatically their opinion of the conference as a whole.
But if you don't have the ability to do that, and I understand that some conferences don't, I would start thinking about what you have to trade that is valuable to a speaker instead of actual cash. Just to give you some examples, professional speakers are always looking for video footage. We live in a video oriented age and they are always looking for something they can put on their website, or put on YouTube, or send to a prospect, or put in a demo reel. So if you say, “Hey, we're going to be recording your keynote on camera anyway. We'll include a copy of your footage, it'll be professionally recorded, it will have great audio, and we'll give you full usage rights so you can use it in your own marketing,” that has huge value to a speaker.
Also, if you promise them that you will put a link from the conference website to that speaker's website, that helps boost their ranking in Google search results, and that would have value. If you offered to give a testimonial, maybe even on camera that they could show to other prospects and say, “Hey, here's and example of somebody who booked me and had a great outcome,” that has value. If you could offer to refer them to other conferences that are also booking speakers and keep the no-fee arrangement private, so that the other conference doesn't try to get you for no money, those referrals also have value. And there's a much longer list beyond that, but you get the idea. So if you don't have cash, what else can you offer that speaker that will help them promote their business that they will see as a valuable replacement? And some speakers are happy to do that.
Tom: Now, if they can't find a speaker that's willing to do that, and they're looking at “we've got to bring in our CEO or our president, and he's going to give a speech,” a lot of times, I know from my own experiences going out to events, these guys can kind of not really understand what's going on with the audience. They are so involved, they're so nervous about their own speech, they tend to not read the audience reactions, and these things can drone on and on. So are there any tips that an event planner could use to kind of coach or baby their upper management into presenting a better speech?
Andy: That's a great question, and I know it is a common concern. You want the biggest name, because the biggest name in your conference brochure and your conference website and on the signage in the building and all the rest, a recognizable name is someone who will draw a big audience. But the recognizable name isn't always someone who will give the best performance. They may not be just natural speakers. They may not be very charismatic on stage. Quite often you draw a very large audience in, they've got high expectations, and because of the audience's size, a speaker who doesn't have a lot of charisma or may have considerable speaking anxiety will be even more nervous because of the size of the crowd they've attracted.
One thing I would try to do is find those needles in the haystacks who are big name executives who have the reputation to be able draw a large audience but who also really enjoy being in front of an audience and are really good speakers. I saw Richard Branson speak at a high-tech trade show a couple of years ago and he's a great example. Tons of charisma, totally comfortable on stage speaking in front of what was probably two or three thousand people in the room.
Another thing you can do is offer them some sort of coaching in the days or weeks leading up to the conference, or even on rehearsal day at the conference itself. So you can book somebody who is a presentation skills trainer, and say “We have 5, 10, 15 keynote speakers, and I'd like you to work with them to make sure we get the best performance out of them.” That may mean that you are having that trainer lead a webinar in the days or weeks leading up to the keynote, where they are giving out some basic tips to everybody as a group. It may also mean that you hire that person to come in on rehearsal day before the conference keynotes start, and usually there's a rehearsal day where one keynote speaker after another will go up and practice their speech over a period of hours, and they're testing lights and microphones, things like that. You could have a speaking coach in the room to watch that run-through and to work with that speaker in real time and say, “Here's what you can expect. Let me give you some tips to reduce your anxiety. Now that I've heard your speech, here are some things that you're doing well that you want to build on. Here are some things that may not come across well to this large audience that you may want to change.” And they can work with them in real time at the show in the hours or couple of days before that performance to boost it as far as they can with the limited time available. So those are good directions.
Tom: That's fantastic information for everybody out there listening. Now Andy, you do a lot of trade shows. You mentioned at your very start that you got involved in the trade show business through going to a trade show. Talk about some of your first customers and how you grew in that market.
Andy: Well, I started out mainly working with trade show agents. When I went to that conference in the late '90s in Memphis, presenters, most of them at the time, were getting their bookings through agents. And believe it or not, they're just like talent agents who work in Hollywood who represent actors. There are corporate agents who represent presenters who specifically work at trade shows. So companies who are looking for a presenter can call an agent and say, “I'm looking for somebody to give this type of presentation and who fits this description,” and the agent pulls out some options from their talent pool, and hopefully somebody gets booked. This is really pre-internet, before people were very comfortable looking for things in other ways and online, so this was the primary way to do it.
So when I started out, I registered with a whole bunch of agents and made a demo reel which was the real piece that you needed to have so that the agent could send a prospect a video with clips of your performances and say “This is how this person walks and talks. This is how they look. This is who they've worked for.” And that was supposed to represent you during the selection process. So I did that. It took about six months for me to get my first booking, and I got sort of impatient during that time. So I called one of the agents, eventually that I had registered with several months earlier and said, “Hey guys, I'm here. I've made my demo reel. I've registered with your agency. I check in with you. I haven't got any bookings. What can I do? How can I kick start this process?” And they said, “Well, we don't hake any presenter bookings at the moment, but we are the show officials for a trade show that's coming up in Chicago in September. It's an eight day show. We're looking for people to work at the information counter. If you'd like to do that, it would just be a good way to get the ball rolling with our agency.”
So I did that. I paid my own way. I stayed with a friend, and for eight days I worked in that information counter directing attendees who were coming into the show. And that created some visibility with the president of the agency who was also there, and within a week or so of when that show ended, I got a call from this agent saying, “We have a presenter booking available, and we thought of you because now you're at the top of our minds. Would you like it?” And that's what kicked things off for me.
As I kept going through the trade show world, I found that I often had more success getting referrals from friends who were also professional presenters and for whatever reason weren't available for a given client, and I also started to get noticed on the show floor itself. For example, I would be presenting for one exhibitor, and that means that the exhibitor to the right of us, the booth to the left of us, the booth across the aisle, the booth kitty-corner across the aisle, and usually a handful of others, they would see me get up once or twice an hour, hour after hour, day after day and give these presentations. They would see the crowds that got attracted. They would see my performance style, and that was usually the best marketing I could do. And quite often, one of those other companies, one of the other exhibitors, sometimes one of the attendees, would come up and say, “Hey, I've been watching you. You're great. I'd like to talk to you about working with my company.” That's when I started to get a lot more bookings and a lot of multi-show bookings, where companies would say, “We have six shows this year. Can we just book you now for all of them with one contract?” So you'd do bookings as a group, which was pretty nice as you'd imagine.
Tom: Oh yeah, definitely. Now when you're in a trade show setting, what are some of the logistical ideas or thoughts, or logistical problems, I guess is what I want to say, that an event planner or a booth planner needs to think about when they're having a presenter?
Andy: Well, I think the challenge is the presenter represents a little subset of your booth, right? When people generally think of a booth, they about of the demo stations and the front desk and the closet in the back where everybody hangs their coats, and maybe a meeting room. And all of those things are great, and chances are in a listener's booth, most of those things are necessary. But the presenter, because of their role, because they're designed to be very high profile and talking in front of an audience, they tend to represent the single biggest draw in the booth. And because of that, they need central placement within the booth, and a place that has the highest visibility.
So my first recommendation is to place the theater in the spot in the booth where it's most visible to the most attendees who are walking through the show. And usually that means that you want to place them either on the aisle or in the corner that is facing the entrance to the show floor. The only exception to that is if you are in the very front row, and you're right next to the entrance already, you may want to angle yourself more toward the middle of the room. But let's say that you are 3, 4, 5, 10 rows back from the entrance, or you are several rows over to the left or the right, you want to angle yourself toward that front-middle of the room because that's where you'll find most attendees walking around. And you want to make sure they see you when they look in your direction. So that's the first thing. I've got a bunch more if you can stand it.
Andy: Ok. Another thing is, we've found often, and by the way all these tips are ways that you can maximize the value of a presenter while spending little or no extra money. In other words, if you're already bringing this person in, these are things that you can do to affect the structure of the booth and timing of presentations, which usually cost little or nothing, but can make dramatic differences in how many attendees a given presentation pulls in. And because of that, how many leads and how many qualified leads you draw out of that presentation. It's a great list because it costs you little or nothing but you see a big, big impact out of it.
Another thing is to make sure that the setup for the theater is maximizing, again, the visibility of your presenter. So let's imagine that you've already got this person in a theater that's facing more or less toward the front entrance to the show floor. Another thing to do is to create a stage. This can be a little as six inches, or a foot, or a foot and a half high. It doesn't have to be very large. It could just be say three feet by three feet. But when the presenter stands on it, it just puts them half a foot or a foot taller than the audience and the people who might also be standing around watching. And that means if somebody else is a couple of rows away, if an attendee is walking around, and they hear a presenter and they turn around, they can easily visually identify where that presenter is, because that presenter is standing a head above or a foot above the people around them, so they are easy to see. So that visibility makes the presenter more valuable and will make them more likely to attract a large audience.
Another thing is to be audible, and this is a huge issue on show floors because there's so much noise, and it's coming from every direction. So, in order to break through that and to be noticeable to an attendee, you not only have to be loud in a generic sense, you have to be louder than everything around you, and you have to have some distinctiveness to your voice. One thing I strongly recommend is that speakers use a headset microphone, which is also called a wrap around mic, sometimes it's called a Madonna mic. It's the one that wraps around the back of your head. I often see speakers who are staffers or employees for the companies. They are not professional hired presenters, but they might be a VP of marketing. When they give the presentations, they tend to take these wrap around mics, and instead of wearing them in the proper way around their head, they will hold the small tip of the microphone in their hand up to their mouth.
If you want one way to spot an unprofessional presenter, that's that way to do it. The whole idea of the wrap around headset mic is to keep your hands free so that you can work a slide remote, and you can hold maybe an example of your product or you can give out prizes. Headset mics work very well that way, and you want to have the microphone tip just nice and close to you mouth, often brushing up against your lower lip is just fine, so that you have nice, strong volume. If you're not comfortable with that, or you don't have one available, a handheld microphone also works quite well provided that you put it right up against the bottom of your mouth and rest it against your chin. The one you want to avoid and that often seems to appear, for reasons that I don't understand, on trade show floors is the lapel microphone. The one that clips to the front of your shirt. It's also called the Lavalier microphone. Those work very well in quiet settings; if you were giving a keynote address, for example, or running a training and the room is quiet. But your voice will absolutely disappear if you try to use that one the show floor. So if the audio company brings that, tell them you need something else. How are we doing so far?
Tom: You're doing great, but I have a couple questions that I want to clarify. First of all, let's talk a bit more about the theater. When you're describing a theater, me being from the banquet end of things where I do after dinner events, I'm picturing a theater: stage, curtains, seating. What is a theater in a trade show? Give us some ideas of the different levels of theaters that you've worked in.
Andy: Oh Tom, in what you just described, the stage, the curtain, the green room, that all sounds wonderful and frankly, its pretty rare on the show floor, but I like how it sounds. Most booths, and let's say your average booth might be a twenty foot by twenty foot booth or maybe a bit smaller or a bit larger, don't have a setup like that. So by theater, what I mean is a certain area of the booth. And let's say in a twenty by twenty, it might represent roughly a third of the square footage of that booth. Around the presenter, you'd usually have a wall directly in back of the presenter, and hanging on the wall about half way up you have a large monitor, let's say 50 or 60 inches, depending on the size of your theater and how far away the audience is standing. And if you have visuals, let's say you have PowerPoint slides or you've designed something fancy and “prezzy,” those slides, those visuals are projected there on that monitor.
The presenter himself will usually stand immediately next to the monitor, either just to the left or just to the right, so the audience can look at the presenter and monitor together. Sometimes the presenter has a podium if they need one, and sometimes they'll put a podium out or a small table out if it's necessary for the presenter to run the slides off of a laptop and they have to directly touch the laptop itself. You're better off, if logistics allow, if you can put the laptop behind the wall, which is usually a storage area. It's like a little backstage area where people throw their stuff, and it's where the audio/video equipment sits. And if you can put the laptop back there and just run it using a remote control that you hold in your hand and the signal form the remote goes through the wall to the laptop, that keeps your presenter area a little bit cleaner, and I recommend it.
So then directly in front of that little stage area, this is where your audience sits. Generally in a trade show, you'd have room for anywhere from maybe six or eight at the lower end to as many as 40 or 50 at the large end, and I would say 10 to 15 is probably standard. You have seating for that many people. That can be on benches, it can be on stools, a lot of people now uses these things called “cubes,” they're just large padded squares that sit on the carpeting. Then hopefully, directly behind the audience you would have just a little bit of empty room so that once all the seats are filled, other people that want to watch the presentation can come up behind the sitting people and have a little standing room area for themselves. Does that give you a good sense of the theater?
Tom: That does. Now the next question I have for you, we were talking about the noise level with these events, and I know that when I've been into trade shows, a lot of the booths, or a lot of the contracts like I say, have a noise level that you have to fall within. How did you create the level and yet remain good neighbors with the other booths around you?
Andy: That's a great question. The noise level, although you're right: most shows will have what they call decibel level limits, which means you can only generate noise at your booth that reaches a certain decibel level, and that's it. And I've seen this happen over the years. I've done it a few times myself. If you have a booth next to you that's really noisy, and they're not being very friendly about it, you can actually call the event manager, and they will come down with a decibel meter, stand at the booth, and if they judge that the decibel meter that's coming from that booth exceeds the limit, then they can order that booth to turn down the noise, whatever it might be.
But a better way to handle it, and a way to be a good neighbor, here's what I do: the day before the show is usually for me a rehearsal day. So this is the day when the booths are setting up, and I'm usually at the booth practicing my presentation and testing the audio and video, and setting up the chairs, and just making sure everything's in good working order, maybe organizing the prizes. During that time, I will walk around to all the neighboring booths. I'll introduce myself, I'll tell them I'm a professional presenter, I'll tell them that I'm working for the booth next to theirs. I'll share my presentation schedule with them, I'll try to find out what they're doing at their booth to try to make sure that if we both have events like presentations that we're not running them at the same time.
If I find out for example that they are presenting every hour on the hour, I'll say, “Great! We won't do that. We'll present on the quarter hour or the half hour, so that at the top of the hour you can sort of own the volume in the area, and then when you're done, at the quarter hour, it'll be our turn, and we can own the volume in the area.” But there's no direct conflict.
I also let them know that I am the person to talk to. Often times in your enthusiasm you shout a little bit, or maybe have lots of people in your booth and they make noise, the decibel level goes up. You don't realize it. So I tell them, “Hey. I want to be a good neighbor. I don't want to do anything to ruin your booth. I understand that you have invested a lot to be here just as we have, so I'm the person to talk to. If we get in your way, if our volume gets too loud, if our crowd starts to spill out into the aisle and starts to intrude into your booth across the aisle, talk to me. Here's my phone number. Here's my email address. Here's my name. Come and talk to me, and I will make whatever accommodations we need to make to get out of your way.” Usually for them, just knowing that they have someone to talk to who was prepared to accept responsibility and fix a problem like that, just removes any defenses, any discomfort, any anger that might be starting to simmer. And it makes them much more accommodating and much more willing to let you be loud without feeling like their getting trampled on, and it works pretty well.
Tom: That's some great advice. Now, we're talking about the presentations, and you were talking about if they're doing theirs on the hour, you do yours at the quarter hour. What kind of presentation schedule do you usually recommend for a trade show booth?
Andy: Well, I recommend a schedule, and this is pretty standard in the industry, where the presentation itself runs usually five to six minutes. I would say eight on the outside, and if you have a presentation that's eight minutes or less, you have a comfortable amount of time to be able to run it twice an hour, and that's throughout the entire show. When I run twice an hour, I like to run it at quarter past and quarter of every hour, instead of at the top and bottom of the hour. And this is another little trick, because most booths will run their presentations at the top and the bottom of every hour. So if you run yours at the same time, you are competing with them at the same moment to draw in the exact same attendees who are standing in the aisles between all of your booths. But if you run them at quarter past and quarter of the hour, then you are running your presentations just when these other presentations are finishing up. And the same audience you were fighting to get before, now those folks are done with those presentations. They're spilling into the aisle, and there's nothing else going on at quarter past the hour. So instead of fighting to get a few people, you become the only act on the show floor that's starting at that moment, and you draw in everybody who's available within the sound of your voice. So again, just by tweaking the time that the presentations run, you can get a much bigger audience, much more easily than if you were competing with all the other exhibitors.
Tom: Excellent information. Now what is the downfall? We've talked about the benefits of hiring a pro earlier. What is the downfall of a staffer doing a presentation in a booth?
Andy: Well, I've found in practice, in my experience, that it doesn't often work very well. I say that very gently and with all the due respect that should be afforded to those exhibitors. It's a little bit counterintuitive because you would expect as an exhibitor, that because your employees know your product, they know how it works, they know the marketing, they know how to deliver it, they've talked with people, and on and on and on, that they would be the best candidates to present it. And that's often true when you're off the show floor.
But what I've found in 17 years and 100+ trade shows, is that trade shows are the bizarro world of sales, where a lot of the regular rules just simply don't apply. In a regular sales situation, you might be giving one presentation once a day to one prospect in a quiet room. Here you might be giving, let's say twice an hour, could equal 12, 14, 16, as many as 20 presentations a day, and all of them are to a large cross-section of attendees representing different prospects in a very loud and crowded room where you have to keep their attention amidst this constant din and these constant distractions. And in that situation, non-professionals, although they certainly try very hard, tend not to be the best performers. And the reason is all the obvious stuff. They tend to get tired between presentations, so when it comes time to do presentation number 14 on day 3, they're pretty worn out, and they just don't really have the energy level to deliver it. Because they haven't memorized the script, or they haven't put the script on an ear prompter, and they're not having it fed to them, they tend to sort of fumble through it because they haven't practiced it a lot beforehand. It's a little bit awkward for them. They forget things, they're not quite sure what words to land on. They forget what their central theme is. They may not be comfortable working the audio/video equipment.
So a professional presenter will know exactly what to do if something goes wrong with the slide remote halfway through the show. They'll have a spare in their pocket. If something goes wrong with their microphone, they'll have a spare ready to go. Non-professionals don't tend to think of those things beforehand, so if something goes wrong, even if it's minor, halfway through the presentation, they're stuck, and they freeze. And chances are, the presentation will falter. And I've seen this go as far as where presenters, employees, get so uncomfortable with their presenter role, that they tend to start disappearing. Presentations start late. They go to lunch, and they tell you they'll miss one presentation, but somehow they end up staying at lunch past the next presentation.
When you consider the centrality of your theater and your presentation in your booth, and the importance of the presentation in generating leads, both high quality and high quantity, and the fact that in order to do that well, every single presentation needs to run on time. You need to have consistency of your message. You need to have a consistent energy level. You need to have good flow. All of that needs to run for every single performance. So if anything causes a speaker to miss even one performance or half a performance, or to give a performance but it's not very good, in that moment, you are losing sales. That's, of course, against the goals of why you showed up to begin with.
There's one other reason that is often overlooked I think, and that's the opportunity cost of using an employee as a presenter, and that is that the employee usually has something else they could be doing for which they are a lot more valuable. If you have somebody who has a very deep product knowledge who is good at giving demos, who understands your market, who knows the marketing materials and knows how to give the pitch because they've done it a million times, that person is more valuable to you at the demo station, talking one-on-one with your most important prospects. Or sitting in your meeting room talking with your highest end prospects who are ready to buy and want to sit down and talk about pricing. Or going to one of the seminars at the conference, or scouting the competition, or being on a conference call, whatever it is. But almost inevitably, any or all of those things are of better use of a person who has that much knowledge and that much of a central role in your company. So why would you take that person away from all of those important responsibilities and then make them stand in your theater and give the same 5 minute song and dance 14 times a day? It's just not the best use of your skills, particularly when you have somebody who you can hire to do that job and it is their skill set, and you know they'll come through for you every single show. So that's why I'm a believer in that direction.
Tom: Man, Andy, you make my job so easy, because I ask the question and you're providing killer content for listeners, and I do appreciate that. In case I've missed anything, are there any last thoughts you have on presenting in booths at trade shows that you'd like to share?
Andy: Yeah. I'll give you one big thought, I think, and that is I just want to talk for a moment on how you approach presentations and the idea behind them. A lot of companies approach presentations feeling like this is their pitch. This is their one and only chance, so they want to talk in-depth about the product. They want to say everything there is to say. They want to make sure that every single feature and every single benefit gets mentioned. They want to prove their credibility by using a lot of industry terminology, and usually there's a lot of marketing speak mixed into that. They throw in all the $10 words because they really want to impress the audience.
I have found, literally giving thousands of presentations all over the world in the trade show environment, that although that certainly has its rationale and it makes sense, ultimately, it's not the most effective strategy on the show floor. Ultimately, it turns out that the performance, the dynamics, the entertainment side of it is in that moment more important than the fact finding side of it. In other words, how you deliver your information is more important than the information itself. And that's often why an outsider, a professional presenter, can do a better job of presenting it. In other words, it's not ultimately about the information in that moment. It's about connecting with your audience. It's about making eye contact. It's about making them smile. It's about giving them the sense through your presentation that you understand them: their challenges, their pain points, their needs, what brought them to the show floor, what their priorities are. That you care more about addressing their needs that about pitching your own stuff.
And then when it is time to talk about your stuff, it's important to give them just enough that they want to know more. And you can think of this as an appetizer, with the main meal being the demo and the conversation that they would have one-on-one with the staffers. So instead of answering every question and giving out every feature and every benefit, you want to tease them with just enough in a few minutes. The big picture stuff, the key differentiator that separates you from your competitors on the show floor. And maybe 1, 2, 3 features and maybe 1 or 2 benefits. And all of that is encased in just a short 5 minute presentation, a quick overview. Just enough so that when they finish watching that, the wheels are turning in their heads and they're saying to themselves, “Wow! This sound great, but I'm not sure how it works here, and how does it apply here? And our system uses this, does it accommodate that?” You want them to have those questions when you're done presenting, because those questions provide the incentive for them to stay in your booth. They need those questions answered. That's what pushes them to stick around and want to see a demo and want to talk one-on-one with your staff.
So I encourage you, don't feed them the whole meal in the presentation, and don't feel like you have to mention all 47 features of your product. Feed them a little appetizer. Make it really tasty, really fun. Start the wheels turning in their heads, and I promise you, after your presentation is done, you'll have a good vibe. You'll have a relaxed, smiling audience that's happy to be there. They'll appreciate the fact that you didn't overwhelm them with information, and they'll be charged up to stay in the booth and learn more. And if your presentation does that, your presentation is a winner, I promise!
Tom: That answer right there was a winner. Now Andy, if somebody is interested in learning more about your services or the training that you offer, where should we send them?
Andy: You should send them to my company's website, which is sparkpresentations.com, and you'll see a navigation bar at the top. We offer trade show presenting services. We do training for booth staffs to make them more effective at attracting attendees over, qualifying them, running demos, and disengaging with a follow-up action in place. You'll see information for other services like MC'ing and auctioneering and presentation skills training as well.
So take a look around. I've got tons and tons of blog posts on the topics that we're discussing in this call, so if you'd like to read a little more about them, each one goes more in depth. You may find those helpful. Of course, anybody is always welcome to contact me directly. I'd be happy to just chat informally about your booth, to give you a little feedback, a little advice, and if you think that there's a way that we can help out, of course we can chat about that too.
Tom: Fantastic. We also have a comment section over on our website. If anybody leaves comments, would you be willing to check in and maybe respond to some of them?
Andy: Of course. I believe so strongly in trade shows and their value, in the opportunity that's created within them which is much, much bigger than most people appreciate, and I want companies who are investing the money to be at these shows to get every ounce of value from being there. Anyway I can help out, I'm happy to do it.
Tom: That's fantastic. Now, one last thing before we get out of here. You also have a speech called “Fear to Fun.” Tell us very briefly about that, because I'd like to give our audience a teaser for possibly a future podcast.
Andy: Sure. This is for the times when you do use one of your own staffers as a booth presenter, or somebody is hired to give a keynote, or any time you have somebody on your sales team, an executive, a marketer, anybody who's public facing, who has to give a presentation representing your company. Could be a seminar at a conference, and on and on. What I've found, and Tom, I'm sure you know this, and I'm sure the audience feels this too, speaking is the biggest number one fear in all of America. In other words, more people fear public speaking than any other activity, including flying and swimming and animals, and a lot of other things that could actually kill you.
When I found that, I thought that was a shame because speaking has such incredible power to make an impact for you depending on how you use it. To get your message across to lots of people simultaneously, and all the rest. But people are afraid to do it. They're afraid to jump on stage and grab the microphone and say, “Yeah, I'm the one. I'll represent our company.” And it's because of the speaking anxiety.
So I did a little research, and I designed a program called “Fear to Fun,” which is about understanding the physiology behind your fear of speaking. And it turns out there is an actual reason that your brain makes you feel anxious when you speak or even think about speaking, and it has to do with your brain trying to save your life. It's just a little misdirected at that moment. So it's about understanding the physiology behind your fear of speaking and then getting some quick and easy tips to then try to knock down that anxiety to a level where it's manageable and it's working for you, instead of you feeling like it's crippling you and preventing you from doing a great job on stage. It's gotten a good reception, and I think they'd find it very helpful.
Tom: Well, fantastic. I hope you'll be willing to come back. I've enjoyed this interview so much. I hope you'll be willing to come back and share some of those tips next time.
Andy: Of course. It's my pleasure.
Tom: Okay, thank you so much my friend.
Andy: Thank you.
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