Exhibitors Learn What Attendees Want Learning the Ropes

Exhibitors Learn What Attendees Want

Exhibitors for The New Jersey Cooperator's Annual Condo, HOA & Co-op Expo recently gathered for Exhibitor University, a day-long workshop to teach the benefits of exhibiting in trade shows and making their appearances a success.

The standing-room only workshop at the Meadowlands Exposition Center was presented by Yale Robbins Inc., the parent company of The Cooperator, The New Jersey Cooperator, and New England Condominium magazine, each of which hosts annual real estate trade shows for the cooperative, condominium and homeowner association marketplace. The next Annual Condo, HOA & Co-op Expo will take place Wednesday, May 5, 2010, at the Meadowlands Expo Center, 355 Plaza Drive in Secaucus, New Jersey, from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Trade show expert Jefferson Davis, owner of the trade show consulting firm Competitive Edge, instructed his audience of about 100 exhibitors on steps they could take to survive the recessionary downturn the country is now facing. The United States has undergone six recessions since the 1970s and has come roaring back each time. "Make a decision not to live in fear. Ignore the negativity,” he said.

Serving Your Audience

Davis' presentation, along with tips on how to exhibit, are part of a concerted effort to educate Expo vendors on how to better respond to attendees’ needs, said Henry Robbins, executive vice president of The New Jersey Cooperator. “Most exhibitors have had no training in how to exhibit,” said Robbins. “They do logistics great, they show up, they get their booths running, they have their literature. But they really don’t know how to serve the needs of the attendee,” he said. The purpose of training exhibitors before the show is to “make vendors responsive to people’s needs,” to answer questions in a professional and timely manner, said Robbins.

Turning toward specifics for the upcoming New Jersey Expo, Davis said exhibitors could benefit from a positive attitude and outlined how trade shows can be a great opportunity to achieve significant company sales and marketing goals. To make that opportunity happen, exhibitors must switch from spending minimal time on pre-show preparation to mapping out an ambitious marketing strategy that starts months before the show. Research, Davis said, shows that 75 percent of trade show attendees arrive with an agenda, deciding in advance who they will talk to and what booths they will stop at. The trick, he explained, is to use pre-show marketing to get attendees to stop at your booth. That’s accomplished by a combination of pre-show direct mail, print advertising, emails, and sending out personalized VIP invitations to top prospects, he said.

Following a plan for pre show marketing, at show behavior and post show follow-up will result in attendee satisfaction and exhibitor success.

A Board with a View

The afternoon led off with a panel session of board and management experts, each of whom spoke about their reasons for attending trade shows, and what they are looking for in return. The panel featured Mel Neulander, board president of The Briarcliff, a co-op in Cliffside Park; T.J. Barnes, a board member of The Sky Club, a luxury condo in Hoboken; and Denise Lindsey, regional vice president and a property manager with Access Property Management in Flemington.

Davis asked the panelists how the economy has impacted their day-to-day operations. Barnes said maintenance is a top priority. "Keep capital improvements current. I think the key capital improvements you have to do these days are the ones that everyone sees," Barnes said. It's hard to keep everyone happy but some things are a necessity, he added. The building just recently redid their elevators which contributed to the overall appearance, he said. "We did get the money to refurbish our elevators because they’re the first thing people see when you come into our building. It’s a very competitive market out there. A lot of supply coming on, so you really have to make sure that your place stands out. And in those areas, the common areas, where people are walking around and seeing. That also goes for your services: your concierge has to be very friendly, uniforms at the front entrance when you walk in. That’s very important, and when you quantify it with property values and show what some of the comparables are in some of the units in your building, you have to quantify it.”

Neulander emphasized the benefits of both exhibiting in and attending trade shows. "I exhibit in trade shows. You need more information. There’s always new products out there in the market. We’re working on 30 floors and renovating the hallways, as we speak. We started the hallway restoration in our development. We have three lobbies, huge lobbies, and we’re going to start with that. I want to see what green, particularly for us, what low VOC, environmentally-sustainable surfaces and products are around. You’ve got to keep up with technology."

Trade shows are also a place for learning, said Lindsey. “I also exhibit, our firm also exhibits at trade shows but one of the things that I go for are educational seminars,” Lindsey said. "If there’s any kind of seminar, I try to attend, I’ve spoken at a few. If someone comes to one of my seminars, they take something away, they learn something. So that’s what I go for I look for learning new trends, maybe someone has something—to coin a phrase, a better mousetrap—I want to see it. I want to talk to them about it, see how they’ve arrived at that, what success rates they have. Usually I’m more for the educational stuff."

Lindsey said she even reaches out to all her board members encouraging and inviting them to attend the trade show, in the hope that it will be a beneficial and educational experience for them.

More and Less

Davis asked the panelists what they'd like to see more of and less of at trade shows. The majority indicated that they opposed high pressure sales tactics and said money could be spent more wisely on booth promotional material and less on novelty items or tchotkes.

“Me frankly, I’m not looking for tchotkes," admitted Neulander. "I don’t need key chains, I don’t need pens. If it’s interesting to me I’ll just take the literature. You want to get business cards, and if it’s something I’m interested in, I’ll leave my name and have them contact me. “

Barnes said tchotkes are welcomed if they're useful and clever and suggested that exhibitors spell out where they are located and make it easy to identify what they can do.

The panelists also said that followup emails are good tactics and stressed that they may not get an instantaneous response.

The Annual Condo, HOA & Co-op Expo will take place on Wednesday, May 5, 2010, at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. For more details about the event, please visit www.nj-expo.com.

Debra A. Estock is managing editor of The New Jersey Cooperator.

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CooperatorEvents NJ Expo Returns to the Meadowlands!

CooperatorEvents NJ Expo Returns to the Meadowlands!

Wednesday, June 7 - Register for FREE at nj-expo.com