Minimize to maximize

We are bombarded with marketing messages every day. From the ad on the side of the bus that you were stuck next to in traffic to the flashing banner when you went to check the score of last night’s game on your favorite website. It’s estimated that we will see anywhere from 600 to 20,000 of these messages in a single day. All competing for our attention. All created in an effort to cause us to take action. What results, however, is too much noise and too frequently even well intentioned branding efforts can get lost in the clutter.

Now imagine stepping out of everyday life and on to the floor of a medical convention. Booth after booth. Graphic messages everywhere. On plasma screens. On banners hanging from the ceiling. A virtual sea of lights, colors, images, words and people. All wanting the attention of attendees who are there with their own agendas.

Exhibiting at conventions necessitates a significant investment in dollars and resources. The opportunity to interact with existing and potential customers in a focused timeframe and context can be extremely worthwhile. But how to make your message matter? How to get your targeted audience to care enough to want to see you? How to rise above the barrage of messages? The answer is by employing a deliberate strategy that’s powered by relevance and simplicity.

Here are five things to keep in mind when planning your next exhibit:

  1. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and identify why it is relevant for them to visit your booth. Give them a compelling reason (beyond free food or drink). Why should they care about your brand? Chances are you’ve already addressed this in the formation of your brand strategy, but it is essential to make sure your reason to care is credible.
  2. Fight the temptation to tell everyone everything. Again, what is most important to the people you hope to attract? What’s the one thing you have to say that matters most to them? What is that one message that will stop them because they are actually interested? Focus on that. Everything else diffuses your brand’s stopping power. And if you find that use of particular statement requires a lot of additional language be added from a regulatory perspective, then don't be afraid to rethink your approach and start fresh.
  3. Remember the point of exhibit graphics. Whether you are using monitors or traditional graphics, keep it simple. The job of the graphics is to get someone to stop and pay attention. Even just for a moment. The job of the people staffing the booth is to capitalize on that moment and engage the attendee. Driving down the highway, you tend to notice those billboards that are simple with strong messages. Perhaps you spot a particularly striking image. Those with too much going on, you just pass by. The same is true with exhibits. It’s an opportunity to make your message known. Cleanly, clearly and concisely. Anything else and people will just keep driving by.
  4. Staffing your booth with the right people is paramount. Pre-meeting training is the best way to ensure that everyone is on the same page. It’s a great chance to reinforce your key and supportive messages. It’s also a time where you can make sure that everyone understands the objectives of attending the meeting and your expectations (from booth etiquette to sales approaches).
  5. If you build it, they may not come. This is why it’s so important to make sure that once you have identified the reason for attendees to care, that you also identify a way to communicate in an engaging manner. It could be simply through prepared interaction, or staged speaker presentations, or interactive media. Regardless of the format selected, it’s important to promote and do so consistently. From pre-convention to on-site to post-meeting, you have the opportunity to apply your brand to communication targeted to a key audience. It’s a chance to extend your brand’s presence and let that message that matters most be known.

The next time you are at a convention look around. Really look. You’ll see that less is more. The companies who understand their customer intimately, the companies that have cultivated their brand based on meaningful differentiation, the companies that have honed their message to a simple and powerful statement – those are the companies who will rise above the fray and ultimately reap the greatest rewards.

by Jonathan D. Katz