How NOT to Pay to be on the Showfloor Courtesy of Inc. Magazine

March 11, 2013

Lisa Apolinski

Lisa Apolinski is a professional speaker, blogger, and digital strategist. With her company, 3DogWrite.com, she works with event managers to get their message to attendees, particularly through digital channels, on and off the show floor.

There has been a lot of debate recently over a questionable blog post in Inc.  I am sure all of you already know the blog – how to leverage a trade show without actually paying for it was the basic premise.  Here is the article link in case you missed it: “How To Commandeer a Trade Show: 4 Tips” by Don Rainey. It bothered me on a lot of levels, but there were two main things that stuck out.

First, it guided our colleagues with newer companies that they do not have to work hard to grow their business.  It actually promoted using other companies’ hard-earned success (including the show itself) to try to cash in for their own business. 

I almost felt like it was telling someone to pick pocket a $20 from someone who just went to the ATM.  Yes, I do feel that these tactics are no more than stealing – stealing the resources, time and money of companies who were once new and struggling, and worked their way up the trade show food chain.

Second, it promoted a huge amount of disrespect for the attendee experience.  Do they really need to be hit up in an aisle, like they are at a swap meet?  Or do they really need to be tricked into learning more about one of these companies?  That really upset me – the idea that attendees are gullible and can be manipulated like that.  In my opinion, how you interact with your prospect speaks to the moral fiber of your organization. 

I am in the same boat as the target audience for that blog.  After years of working under someone else, I have decided to branch out and I have started my own consulting company.  I will be attending Exhibitor2013 this coming weekend, even though I cannot afford a booth on the show floor. 

However, I am doing the hard work of networking ahead of time and setting up only a few meetings with potential clients outside the exhibit.  When I am on the show floor, my focus will be on what new trends are coming that will affect how I work with clients and actually use this time to educate myself so I am a better partner for these companies, and share my knowledge with my readers.

This is a slower route for sure, but I have a sense of pride in my hard work to win each client’s business.  They have earned that.  And I have a service that I would not cheapen with any of those tactics listed in the questionable blog.

It is a shame that a blog would promote an unethical type of practice and a lack of respect for the industry in general.  But I am glad that this has promoted some great debate, some great conversation, and the industry responded in force. 

If you are one of the companies that blog was intended to sway, keep this in mind:  the cat is out of the bag, and if I see your company logo on a button on a bellhop, I will certainly notice it, but not in the way you intended.

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