Step out of the Trade Show Stall

Tips and Tricks for Business Planning Outside the BoxPlanning an internal trade show? Leave those pipe and drape booths and straight rows behind.

Think outside the box –

  • Use stretch fabric on frames or trusswork, it can be pulled into interesting shapes that add depth and interest, especially if lit with interesting light patterns or a soft glow in your company colors
  • Try setting up pedestals or kiosks with small surfaces – you’ll invite people to approach from all sides and take up less space while adding far more interest than a 6-foot table and tabletop display piece
  • Set up a game where employees can compete to earn points with their knowledge of your company and products – throw in a few nonsensical facts for fun
  • Try Speed-Knowledge – if your company is multi-functional, chances are there are departments that know very little about the work other departments do. Set up a series of tables with a representative or two from a specific department. Employees in small groups (up to 5) have a chance to talk to and gain knowledge … ring a bell every 3-5 minutes and progress to the next knowledge center

Small adjustments add large gains if you’re willing to try something new and step outside that stall.

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Beyond Smoke and Mirrors

Sample ImageImagine a meeting without technology. No screens … no lighting … no microphones … just a presenter and an audience. What would it be like to remove all the technological wiz-bangs and simply have a conversation with an audience?

As a presenter that image is probably horrifying. As an audience member, it would be great … no distractions, just a person sharing ideas and information.

I’m dating myself but I remember a time when video projectors were so dim we had to turn off all the lights just to see the image. It was a time when we used Kodalith slides and Dr. Brown’s dye to add color to slides. There were no moving lights, HD, image magnification, widescreens, wireless microphones or digital mixers. Just a presenter and technology we stole from live theater and rock and roll.

Over my 25+ years in the industry, I’m amazed at how far we’ve come. Today we can do almost anything imaginable in a hotel ballroom. Holograms, animation, streaming video, LED lighting, haze, projection mapping and auto-mixers are readily available to anyone with a budget. It seems like every day brings a new black box or technical innovation that blurs the line between imagination and reality.

But what is the true cost of all this technology? Do we still know how to effectively educate, motivate and communicate with an audience?

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. I began my career in technical theater and I love how technology has removed the limits of our imagination. But I’m also passionate about communication and delivering a message to an audience. That’s why they come to our events. If we are not communicating effectively, then all the time, manpower, resources and money are simply wasted.

Next time you see or rehearse a presentation, ask yourself, “If there were no technology, would this presentation still have meaning to the audience? Are we having a conversation?”

The answer may surprise you.

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Grow Your Business

Grow Your Business

The Vernal Equinox has arrived once again, signaling the change of seasons in Minnesota.

Just like the seasons, every business changes and the pace of that change is happening at an alarming rate. What drove your bottom line yesterday probably won’t work today.

For example, many companies have spent the last few years concentrating on streamling processes and reducing expenses in an effort to increase profitability and maintain share price. Today that strategy no longer works. You can only streamline or cut so far before it begins to impact product quality and customer service; a bad recipe for long term stability.

Forward-looking companies are focused on growth. They see the economic climate is slowly improving and understand that it’s a great time to gain new customers and market share from competitors who are still in “ride it out” mode. However, growth in this economy requires a whole different strategy than it did a few years ago.

Customers have changed and they now expect customized products and services that meet their specific needs. They demand personalized service and expect to be treated like they are your most important customer, regardless of who they are talking to.

Growth in today’s marketplace cannot be accomplished by a top-down strategy. It requires a cohesive effort by everyone in the company, from the CEO to accounting, aligned to a strategic plan to meet the needs of the customer. Where strategic initiatives were once the guiding force for the executive committee and a few select managers, they now must define the culture and behavior of the entire company.

So how do smart companies drive this huge shift in culture and create a company that instantly responds to market changes? By learning to communicate strategically through all levels of the company so that everyone not only understands the strategy, but believes that it benefits them on a personal level. Employees don’t change in response to an email from the President or because their company introduces a clever tag line. People only change when their beliefs change as the result of new information and a personal benefit.

If your company is ready to grow, give Equinox Creative a call. We’re experts at strategic communication that drives change, resulting in bottom-line growth and increased profitablity.

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Attendee-Centric Meetings

Meeting Attendees GraphicYears ago, a company could schedule a meeting and the attendees would show up to hear whatever the company wanted to tell them.There was much less scrutiny of corporate expenses and everyone was happy to take a few days out of the office on the chance they might meet someone, see something or learn something that would help their business.

Today, the “if you hold it, they will come” idea is no longer valid.Attendees are much more discriminating for several reasons:

Cost vs. Value

Corporate travel and expenses are under intense scrutiny and expenditures are being measured against the value received.Decision-makers want to know the value of attending and the expected return on investment.Those events with clearly defined agendas and detailed content outlines are much more likely to be approved than less-defined events that promise “a unique experience.”

Relevance

Today’s attendees want to gain knowledge and tools that they can immediately use to increase revenue.They don’t have the time or resources to hear about company vision, the latest vaporware or technology that won’t be available for months or years.They demand functional tools, real solutions and differentiated products.If you don’t offer them, they’ll look for another event that does.

Inspiration

Attendees want to be inspired and energized by an event.They want to be engaged.Networking and being a part of something greater than themselves is much more important than theme décor, free drinks or an imaginative menu.

Ownership

Today’s attendees want a two-way conversation.They don’t want to be lectured or talked down to.They want to feel ownership of their experience and to know that their ideas and suggestions were heard by the meeting’s organizers.

The days of passive attendance are over.Attendees have increased expectations for meetings and reduced budgets.They want to know there will be a payoff for their time, expense and the inconvenience of travelling.If your event doesn’t offer what they looking for, a complete listing of competitive events is just a click away.

When planning your next meeting or event, make sure it is attendee-centric and provides your target audience with clear value for attending.If you don’t, you may not get a second chance.

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Create Effective Surveys

Creating Effective Survey's
In the continuing effort of businesses to increase their bottom line, I’ve noticed a sharp increase of surveys hitting my email box in the past several months. It has been interesting to see the tone and direction these surveys have taken.

It’s very obvious that some have much thought and work put into them by professionals. Others appear to have been put together with very little thought or focus to the reason or need for a survey. The result of someone saying, “Let’s do a survey,” but without anyone asking, “What do we want to learn from the survey?”

A survey is very objective, so you must be clear about exactly what you are trying to learn. For instance, asking “Did you like the steak at the awards banquet?” will garner a yes or no answer. If the answer is “no,” you have no further information to find out why. A better question would be, “Was the steak, a) undercooked, b) overcooked, c) prepared perfectly d) tender, e) tough” and allow people to choose as many answers as they like.

Similarly, asking “Did you find the workshops helpful,” with a yes/no answer doesn’t give you the information you need. The follow-up question of “Why?” must be asked so you can plan differently in the future.

Don’t soften your survey questions. Ask “Did you receive the information you needed?” rather than “Did you receive adequate information?” Someone may have received adequate information, but it wasn’t what they needed and/or wanted.

Whenever possible, give people the added opportunity for open-ended responses. Many times I have answered a survey question with yes or no, but wanted to add my own comments to clarify my response.

Creating surveys isn’t rocket science; but it does take some thought.

If you are taking a survey for your client or your own company, be sure to have a clear and concise reason for asking each question. Make sure the questions will give important feedback (both good and bad) and allow you to take actionable steps. You can only improve if you give people the options to tell you where improvement is needed.

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Healthcare Event Saves Lives

Labor Care
It’s not very often that a communications event can boast that it saved lives but one of our recent projects did exactly that.

Equinox Creative was selected by nine Taft-Hartly labor funds to manage the 2010 LaborCare Health + Benefits Fair. The event, sponsored in part by Medica, is designed to educate and motivate union membership to make healthier lifestyle choices. It includes workshops, guest speakers, health screenings and an exhibit floor featuring the leading healthcare suppliers in the region. Topics include smoking cessation, aging, eating healthy/obesity, living with diabetes, exercise, work safety and managing stress.

One of the exhibitors, Suburban Imaging, offered free cardiac ultrasound screenings. In the course of the screenings they identified six individuals with Aortic Aneurysms, a life-threatening condition that required immediate follow-up with their personal physicians. Untreated, Aortic Aneurysms can often lead to sudden death.

In addition to the cardiac ultrasounds, almost 600 of the 5000 attendees had a comprehensive health screening offered by the funds. During these screenings, a number of individuals were found to have health issues, including diabetes, high cholesterol and respiratory issues.

As much as we enjoy providing business solutions to our corporate clients, the Equinox staff found it refreshing and extremely rewarding to work on a project that truly impacts the lives of individuals. We are all looking forward to working on the 2011 LaborCare Health + Benefits Fair.

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