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Trade shows and conferences have long been a cornerstone of most marketing programs. Whether you are a manufacturing company, a law firm or a consumer apparel company, the benefits of these events can be enormous. You have the ability to engage strong targets within your market, develop relationships with new buyers, put new product offerings in the spotlight, increase the size of your marketing list and of course help brand your company and its products. One key drawback - every other significant competitor will also be there. Whether they are direct competitors, replacement products or services, or alternate solutions, they are all vying to get their message out ahead of you.
One of the growing evolutionary trends has been the use of trade show presentations. Multimedia presentations have proliferated for a variety of reasons. The development costs have been reduced by software products like PowerPoint, their capabilities have been improved by software products like Macromedia's Flash and Director and their impact has increased due to the improvements and lower costs in technology such as laptops, projection screens and plasma screen monitors.
Whether you create your own PowerPoint, hire professionals to custom make 'Star Wars like' productions, or like most marketers lie somewhere in the middle, there are some simple things that you can do to improve your effectiveness without excess spending.
Tip #1 - Use Your Presentation as a Handout
People are always looking for giveaways to use at trade shows. How much value did the coffee mugs, stress balls or pads of paper create for your company last year? There is a good chance that it is impossible to come up with even a round dollar figure. Why not use a CD-ROM that contains a version of your presentation? The price will vary depending on quantity and packaging but they are usually only a dollar or two. If a reputable firm is chosen for the multimedia authoring they will target cost the presentation design based on the quantity being replicated and the estimated impact on revenue generation. Unlike typical giveaways, a CD could add a lot of value to your company. When most companies are making a buying decision or developing brand preferences they engage in a relatively complex process. Even seemingly simple decisions require message repetition and usually multiple other decision makers on the buying end. A CD gives the stakeholders a continual piece of reference material and more importantly equips them to become an individual that can push the decision through the buying process. This gives your biggest advocate the necessary resources to build a business case for you. Studies overwhelmingly show that informational resources are valued much higher by legitimate buyers than even high-end giveaways like contests to win a free PDA or a trip to the Bahamas.
Tip #2 - Get to the Point
Two items are typically over played in trade show presentations. First - company history, mission statement, corporate values, facilities, etc. True, you need to build value in your organization and establish yourself as a leader within your niche. The key is not to overdo it. Most people just want to know what is in it for them. How can you solve their problem? Therefore, your corporate background should be an absolute maximum of 15% of your message. Second - don't focus your presentation on aspects that everybody else talks about. This type of information is best served in a brief overview section that covers some of the industry norms. Most of your presentation should focus on the specific points that support your unique value proposition and how your product or services can solve your prospects' problems. This sounds too obvious. Dust off one of your old presentations and objectively evaluate it to see if it meets these general criteria. You may be surprised.
Tip #3 - Graphics and Photographs Should Look Professional
Whether you use an outside firm or create your own presentations your graphics need to look like they were cut from the same mold. Over time people tend to reuse material from years past and combine them with new content and graphics. Charts and graphs are an obvious starting point. Go back and redo the old graphics. They don't necessarily need to look better, just more consistent. For simple diagrams, charts and graphs, this is usually relatively easy and inexpensive. Photographs are another area to improve. Always use professional photography and video production firms. If professional photography and/or professional video production are not an option because of budget constraints your multimedia studio should be able to effectively convey your message with selected use of stock/royalty-free photography, graphics, and animation.
Tip #4 - Consistent Design
Design elements such as fonts, graphics and layouts should look consistent with the rest of your marketing materials. Much easier said than done. Most companies miss this because they hire an inexperienced creative firm. Generally these firms have the visual and design skill required to create something that stands out, but lack necessary branding experience. As a result, internal resources are expended unnecessarily. Another problem is that internal people may apply their artistic skills to PowerPoint presentations. If you need to do it yourself, be very careful and ask for feedback before you go live. Find someone with a good eye and get his or her honest opinion. Don't hover over them while you do this because they may be afraid to hurt your feelings. To present your company in the best light it is recommended that you hire a professional multimedia studio that not only has experience coordinating CD replication, photography, and video production but also have experience working with established brands. People need to have a clear picture of your brand, and that is the result of lots of little things that add up to one consistent set of expectations.
Tip #5 - Have a High Quality Monitor
The cost of electronics is in a perpetual deflationary spiral and the technological improvements make big screens and crystal clear pictures more affordable than you may think. Don't spend the time and effort to develop a presentation and then display it on a 2-year-old 9-inch laptop. Even the biggest plasma screens are relatively inexpensive to the impact delivered. Depending number of trade shows attended per year you can probably justify the cost over a short period. Consider your total outlay and compare the price of a top of the line plasma screen to that. If your budget is tight, try a rental. You could literally double your booth's effectiveness at your next show by taking these steps. Think of the difference in the amount of traffic that can be generated between that old laptop and 50 inch plasma screen.
These items may seem like common sense and you are probably doing a few of them already. If you are still not convinced of the validity of these tips or just don't have the resolve to see them through, take a peak at the best booths at your next show. Chances are, they will only be doing 3 or 4 of these tips. Imagine if you could boost your booth traffic and effectiveness by using all five. Take out a calculator and add up some rough numbers. Your intuition should tell you that this is a solid return on investment. Besides, you can easily scrape together some extra money; just don't reorder the coffee mugs.
About the Author
Greg Marta (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Vice President of Sales for Kurani Multimedia, and specializes in project planning, account management and corporate strategy.
About Kurani Multimedia
Kurani Multimedia provides design, programming and interactive marketing services to a wide array of companies throughout the country. Kurani Multimedia offers a cost-effective approach to web site design, web application development, multimedia presentation production and online marketing strategies.
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