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Things Presidential Hopefuls Can Learn From Trade Show Exhibitors & Vice Versa

By November 2016 U.S. voters will ultimately be choosing from two, maybe three, legitimate candidates when casting their ballots for president. But as of this writing, there are about 15 declared candidates with possibly as many as another half dozen in the wings.

Come with me now to TempCan Expo – The Essential Marketplace for Presidential Candidates – where I was recently asked to provide exhibitors with some pre-event training.

There are many parallels between exhibiting at a trade show and candidates “exhibiting” themselves for the election. 

My purpose today is to help you succeed at the trade show, so let’s begin.

What are your goals? Can you articulate why you are running for president? What is it you hope to achieve at this event and how does that tie in with your ultimate plans? Perhaps your goal is to meet with the trade press.

Secondly, let’s discuss your positioning on the trade show floor. The expo offers ‘pavilion’ spaces where similar exhibitors can be grouped. This assists attendees in knowing where to look without the burden of really thinking. At TempCan the Red Pavilion is huge, but the Blue is not quite as large. In the far left corner of the show floor there appears to be a space reserved for independents.

Next, I hate to bring it up but realistic budgeting for the expo is a necessary evil. The weight of your baggage (called drayage) will cost you. In fact, sometimes the people who could benefit most or provide the greatest products to attendees just can’t afford to exhibit at TempCan.

When designing your space, let’s remember it’s a crowded field with all neighboring exhibitors going after the same attendees you are. Before they can hear your message, you first have to stand out and get noticed.

Now all of you candidates would be well-advised to avoid the mistake that many exhibitors commit. Don’t spend all of that time, effort, and money and put your reputation out for consideration, then get in front of the targeted audience you seek and fail to say something!

And your messages need to be about what the attendees care about. They really don’t care about you – they care what you will do for them. Your graphics and booth staffers should not be focused on knocking the competition. An encounter and engagement on a trade show floor is usually not the place to get all wonky and detailed. It’s about highlights and benefits people!

The exhibit experience is an opportunity to enhance preference for your “brand.” Your brand is impacted by all in your organization and is how attendees or voters recognize you.

Contrary to popular belief, as well-known as you think you are, about 40% of trade show attendees have never met you and this will be a first impression. For some of you with name recognition, attendees come to the show with preconceived ideas of who you are formed by past experience, the things they’ve heard about you (often from your competition), and what the press says about you. The show is your chance to control the impression they have of you going forward.

Your exhibit space, like all of your well-crafted plans, needs to be functional. It should be aesthetically appealing and ideally offer something new. I went on to say that even if you don’t have something new to offer, sometimes success at a trade show is about highlighting what you do have.

In conclusion, it is important that you measure the results of your trade show participation to understand if your goals and objectives were met.


To learn best exhibiting practices, read the What’s Working in Exhibiting white paper. Improve and perfect your exhibiting experience with these great recommendations and tips. Click here to request your free copy.

About the Author

Steve Hoffman, President of Skyline Exhibits & Design, Inc. has spent almost 30 years in the selling and marketing of marketing products. Following a successful career in the TV Program Syndication business, he joined The Holt Group/Skyline Displays as a Marketing Consultant, then moved into management, ultimately purchasing a portion of that company. He is the author of "The Reality of B.S. (Big Sales...That Is)." Steve is dedicated to helping his South Carolina trade show displays clients achieve their worldwide exhibit marketing goals while improving their efficiencies, too.

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