Influence people

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Stirred, Not Shaken

An angel investor and a tradeshow producer, Marco Giberti and Jay Weintraub, have pooled their considerable talents to write the 185-page book The Face of Digital, a look-see into the turbulent tradeshow industry and the changes that will be wrought by technology in the coming five years―a time they agree "will redefine the way we think of digital media in connection with live events."

Tradeshows, "the original social networks," can stand a stirring, the authors insist. Exhibitors, who foot the bills, cannot calculate ROI; and attendees, shows' raisons d'etre, can barely navigate them.

But the improvements wrought by tech will be gentle, the authors say.

"The events industry is not ripe for a disruption, in the mold of Uber or Airbnb," they write. "Instead, it's more likely that hundreds, even thousands, of small players will emerge to solve individual problems."

Among the problems solved by digital technology:
  • No attendee will ever again stand in a line to get in; apps will let them buy their badges weeks in advance, in seconds.
  • No attendee will ever again feel lost in a crowd; apps will signal when friends are nearby.
  • No one will waste time scrutinizing inscrutable signs; apps will recommend the best path to the next booth you want to visit.
  • No attendee will ever miss a speaker's session; livestreaming will let her watch it on demand.
  • No attendee will ever go home empty-handed; matchmaking apps will connect her to other attendees and exhibitors even after the show.
  • Exhibitors will no longer pay a penny for drayage; products will be demonstrated in virtual reality.
  • Follow-up will no longer be dismal; CRM systems will automate and personalize the activity.
  • Exhibitors will no longer grouse about foot-traffic; beacons will smooth crowd-flows.
  • Rainforests will no longer fear tradeshows; digital will replace paper exchanges 100%.
The solutions to these problems aren't imaginary, the authors point out: they exist now. 

Tradeshow producers just don't know it―or care much.

"Like the newspaper industry," they write, "the events industry is still very much in transition between the predigital age and an era in which digital integration will become commonplace in every aspect of our lives and businesses."

But competition against digital marketing for exhibitors' dollars will wake complacent producers up, just in time for "the Cambrian explosion of digital tools for events."

Giberti and Weintraub's book is a must-read for every tradeshow producer and exhibitor, as well as anyone whose livelihood is derived from face-to-face. Their viewpoints are sensible and admirably realistic.

My own is that the changes ahead will be less incremental; that the tradeshow business is less like the newspaper business and more like the apartment-rental one; and that an Airbnd-ish "disruptor" lurks just over the horizon.

Yes, tradeshow producers have a lock on things for the moment.

But, as James Bond might say, the industry's about to be "shaken, not stirred."

Saturday, August 19, 2017

How to Draw a Crowd

Drawing attendees to events remains producers' runaway biggest challenge, as Sam Lippman's latest ECEF Pulse proves.

Six in 10 producers name attendance acquisition their Number 1 challenge, according to the study, while numerical event attendance has declined three straight years in a row.

That's a pity, because drawing a crowd ain't rocket science. The formula goes as follows:

Step 1. Build an evergreen e-list by promoting your event year-round. Use e-mail marketing and social media. Smother prospects with great content. Supplement those tactics with retargeting. And rent prospect lists, to be sure you're covering the universe.

Step 2. Mobilize your speakers, sponsors and exhibitors to help spread the word. Tap influencers to do the same. Make it easy for them to help you. If some resist, move on: there are more than enough enlightened ones out there to make a king-size dent in your universe.

Step 3. Telemarket VIPs. They merit a special touch. And roll out at the same time some targeted direct mail―attendee marketing's Old Faithful.

Step 4. Hire a decent agency. Attendance acquisition isn't a DYI project. If you want a recommendation, I have one.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Power Corrupts

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

― Lord Acton

Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich has accused President Trump of "trying to start a civil war" to forestall his impeachment for treason.

It can't happen here, you say?

I have two words for you.

Aaron Burr.

A Revolutionary War hero, Burr lost the 1800 presidential election to Thomas Jefferson, becoming his vice president.

Jefferson rapidly distanced himself from Burr, withholding support for his renomination to a second term in 1804.

Alexander Hamilton, quoted by a newspaper at the time, called Burr "a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.”

Burr killed Hamilton in a duel over the remark, and fled from New Jersey to New Orleans, where he met with an agent of America's old nemesis, Spain. Together, the two men plotted to create their own independent republic in Texas, and began assembling a militia to seize the land.

In 1807, while leading that militia, Burr was arrested for treason in Alabama by the federal government (his co-conspirator had snitched on him), and taken to Richmond for trial.

As it happened, Burr was acquitted on grounds that he had not waged war against the US.

Chief Justice John Marshall argued that Burr had a First Amendment right to voice opposition to the government, and that merely to engage in a conspiracy against it isn't enough to be convicted of treason: you have to wage actual warfare. "There must be an actual assembling of men for the treasonable purpose, to constitute a levying of war," Marshall wrote.

After the trial, Burr fled to England, where he tried without success to convince several foreign governments to provide him an army with which to seize Texas.

He returned to America five years later, when the incident was all but forgotten, and lived to age of 80.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Break with the Past

If you don't contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you're not thinking.

― Malcolm Gladwell

Three months ago, I insisted the 1,500 Confederate memorials peppering public spaces throughout the South should be preserved.

After Charlottesville, I have changed my opinion.

The monuments represent not only an eyesore to most African Americans, but a threat to public safety. They should be removed from the streets and parks where the former Confederates placed them.

Enough souls―625,000―perished in our Civil War.

No more need do so.

RIP, Heather Heyer.

What's your opinion?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Don't Follow Leaders

Looking back, you can usually find the moment of the birth of a new era, whereas, when it happened, it was one day hooked on to the tail of another.
― John Steinbeck

To many observers, Charlottesville feels like the birth of a new era.

But we've known for years―
since 1965, to be exact―don't follow leaders.

That was the year credulity died, the year we entered 
The Age of Suspicion.

Since then, we've experienced The Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Enron, Iraqi WMDs, subprime mortgages, Madoff and, now, Trump.

It's no wonder customers―no matter their ages and demographics―are bred-in-the-bone non-believers.

Yes, you hope they won't deflect your message; but hope's not a strategy.

If they're not already of your tribe, customers discredit your message before they’ve even taken it in.

To capture their attention, you must adjust for mistrust. You must:
  • Harmonize your message with customers’ notions of “truth;”

  • Speak authentically; and

  • Achieve artless clarity.
To achieve those three things, you must:
  • Get out of the office and talk to customers. Lots of them. Large ones. Small ones. Happy ones. Not-so-happy ones. And don't stop until you have a firm grasp of the "scene" they’ve painted inside their heads. For better or worse, that's the world they inhabit, and the only one they know.

  • Revise the premise of your message to conform to the customers' worldview. When you next tell your story, begin with their "truth." And when you speak, at all costs resist the temptation to challenge that worldview. Customers will dignify your message with a moment of their attention only if your message meshes with their notions of who’s sincere, honest and caring.

  • Tell stories. Customers spot disingenuous organizations a mile away. Your words trigger their BS detectors—even if you’re squeaky clean. They no longer tolerate the expert opinion, the reasoned argument, the manufacturer’s warranty, the “act now” deadline, or the product-claim based on the avoidance of pain. So skip the superlatives, ambiguities, unsupported claims, advertising clich├ęs, jargon, legalisms, fine print, and fear-based sales-talk. Just tell stories. "Once upon a time..."

  • Speak as tersely as possible. If you keep it simple, you’re trustworthy; if you don’t, you’re not. Don't say, "Membership in the association provides professionals the opportunity to pre-register for our annual conference at the member-only rate of $495 instead of the non-member rate of $595.” Say, "Membership saves you $100 on our annual conference.”

  • Include context, to assure you’re understood. Don't say, "We serve more than 100,000 dentists.” Say, "We serve more than 100,000 dentists, two-thirds of all dentists practicing in the US today.”

  • Omit unimportant facts. Don't say, "With more than 300 programmable features, the MLX is a workhorse that directly replaces our SP-88 series.” Say, "The MLX is a powerful new workhorse, with more than 300 programmable features.”

  • Use plain, crisp words and lively figures of speech. Don't say, "Our exhibition is the most comprehensive and efficient way to see the industry’s latest offerings.” Say, "A day at our show gives you a year’s worth of trends, tips and technologies.”

  • Minimize tech- and corporate-speak. Don't say, "Our face-to-face and e-learning opportunities will provide leading-edge techniques to expand your skill set through world-class experts." Say, "Learn the latest techniques from experts in our seminars and Webinars.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Coaches who love coaching teach players to love learning.

— The Coach Diary

Can you run a successful business from the sidelines?


That’s the message of Lessons of an Entrepreneur: How to Grow, Take Risks and Survivethe new book by The Expo Group’s chairman and CEO, Ray Pekowski.

Pekowski's 113-page book is full of personal stories and anecdotes, which makes it breezy and entertaining.

At its heart are teachings only a coach could concoct:
  • Innovative customer service, not growth, should be your business's goal.

  • A servant's mentality in a CEO goes hand in hand with steady growth.

  • Humble leaders are strong leaders.

  • No matter your specialty, you're really in the training business.

  • Only leaders who are mentors can influence corporate culture.

  • Teamwork comes from setting goals specific enough to influence performance.

  • Plan for failures and mistakes—they're inevitable.
It's little wonder Pekowski has published this little book: teaching and coaching are in his blood (he did both before joining the event industry in the 1980s).

And teaching and coaching underpin nearly all his success formulas.

"If you can teach or coach the group or department that reports to you, then in turn, that group can go out and teach the next group and so on," Pekowski writes. "I called it 'Teach the Teacher.' If you have ever taught someone something, then you are both teaching and reinforcing what you have been taught. It is the transformation of both knowledge and culture."

In this era of narcissistic CEOs, it's refreshing to learn some business leaders still put employees and customers first.

In an interview, I asked Pekowski what he'd be doing, if he weren't running his company.

"I’d be coaching in the NFL," he said. "That’s what I really wanted to do. I just love coaching and football. After I graduated, I coached in three different schools. But it’s a tough industry—it certainly didn’t pay then what it pays today. I had an opportunity to work for the Chicago Fire—a one-season team in the World Football League—but the job paid less money than I was getting paid as a teacher, and I had two children at the time."

Lessons of an Entrepreneur: How to Grow, Take Risks and Survive is available from Amazon. Proceeds will be donated to charity.

Monday, August 14, 2017

8 Insider Tricks to Get More of Your Emails Opened

If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark,
nobody’s going to stop them

— Yogi Berra

Because email marketing lives or dies on opens, you need to maximize them. Here are eight ways insiders do:

Qualify. Don't induce people to join your house list who won't love you, and don't expect much from prospect lists. Use "lead magnets" that attract only target customers, not every Tom, Dick and Harry; and rent only high-quality e-lists, such as those owned by magazines. The results if you do this right? According to the Direct Marketing Association, house lists enjoy an average open rate of 21%; prospect lists, 16.4%.

Segment. Don't broadcast; narrowcast. Segment your lists based on product interests, job titles, company size, locations, etc. Segmented campaigns outperform non-segmented ones by 14%, according to MailChimp.

Synchronize. Send your emails at the time of day people will open them: 8:30-10:00 am, 2:30-3:30 pm, or 8:00 pm-12:00 am. Avoid times when people are rushing to clean out their inboxes, deleting everything in sight. (NOTE: Times may differ for C-level audiences.)

Captivate. Tell or tease. Tell readers clearly what to expect in your email, if you believe it's an offer they can't refuse ("5 signs it's time to change LMS vendors"). Play to their curiosity, if it's not ("I heard you're a leader. Is it true?"). Here are more examples.

Clean. Low inbox rates necessarily dampen opens. Delete complainers and inactive subscribers on your list regularly. Using a cleaning service makes it easy.

Optimize. Design your emails for mobile devices. More than half are opened on them. Keep Subject lines short, too (6-10 words).

Infiltrate. Avoid spam filters by avoiding practices that trigger them. Here's a list.

Brand. Most readers don't open emails from senders they don't recognize. So, unless you're lucky enough to have an in-house "celeb," use your brand name in the From field.
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