5 Tips for Adding Value – A Show Organizer's Perspective

October 13, 2012

Jamie Hillegas

Jamie Hillegas, CEM, CMP, Director of Trade Shows for Produce Marketing Association, runs the Fresh Summit Exposition, which is the largest fresh fruit and vegetable expo in North America.

How do we stay innovative, deliver value to our exhibitors and stay personally motivated about our work when we have less time, money and resources? After almost 13 years with PMA, I feel lucky that I’m still excited about what I do.

Yes, I still have nights of being awake at 3 a.m. because I can’t turn off the ideas in my head,  and I still get all “giddy” when I get feedback from exhibitors about something that really worked, no matter how small.

One of the biggest things I struggle with is having enough time to come up with new opportunities and ways to deliver value to my exhibitors and stay out of that “same as prior” rut. With over 1,000 exhibiting companies, 18,000-plus attendees and a commodity that is perishable and has to be moved in and out every day of the show, it can be a challenge to come up with new things, let alone keep up with the day-to-day stuff.

Here are five tips for providing value:

1. Borrow Ideas: Do a quick Internet search on sponsorships and exhibitor marketing tools to check out what other shows are doing. Attend another show for new ideas that may add value to your own and swap registrations with another show manager to save money. Utilize your team, and not just those who work directly with you. I get some of my best ideas from brainstorming with staff and vendors that are not as close to a topic as I am. (Check out PMA’s online exhibitor resources here and borrow from me, I’d be honored!)

2. Use Your Resources: Work with your official services provider to deliver educational content through a webinar or online. At the end of the day, who is a better subject matter expert than you and your vendors? Especially in areas like logistics. Also, call upon your internal subject matter experts to deliver tips. We all have a marketing guru that’s working behind the scenes, bring their skills to life! What about survey results and statistics? Educate exhibitors on how they can use the survey results to maximize their investment in your show – pull out specific stats and make the “connections” for them.

3. Re-purpose Content: What do you already use that can be reused? Last year, we did a series of interviews with top buyers in our industry asking what they were looking for from exhibitors, what bugs them most, etc. We posted the interviews individually then provided an opportunity for Q&A from exhibitors. This year, we took those interviews and combined them into one tip sheet to share with returning exhibitors and as part of a “welcome packet” for first timers.

4. Deliver: None of the first three tips matter if you’re not delivering value in ways that work for everyone. We all know that one size does NOT fit all. Often, we deliver information that’s important to exhibitors through a variety of channels to fit every member’s needs. For example, blogs, email, webinars, Web site and e-courses.

5. Listen: Use your Exhibitor Advisory Committee, or if you don’t have one, a focus group with key exhibitors to bounce ideas off and ensure you are allocating your resources toward things that mean the most to them. If you are looking for feedback from a larger group of exhibitors, use tools such as your booth application, where you can require a response, to ask questions.Call or visit exhibitors to show them how much you value their feedback.

Now, get out there and interact with your exhibitors, borrow from your peers, pick the brains of your fellow staff and vendors and show value in new and innovative ways!

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