6 Ways to Increase
Tradeshow Productivity and Profits by Using the Web
If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed that your to do list seems to be getting longer and longer every day. Meanwhile, there are still only 24 hours in a day and we still only have two hands to handle all of this extra work. It seems that our only option is to become more efficient in order to handle more work in less time. Nevertheless, we all know that’s easier said than done.
This was the situation for Angel Fortenberry, show manager for the International Development Research Council (IDRC), located in Norcross, Georgia. Her executive board decided to host two trade shows this year instead of one. This was great news for the association, with both shows generating an excellent net profit margin. However, this meant that Fortenberry faced the challenge of finding a way to get her job done more efficiently, and FAST! She turned to technology. Fortenberry found the answer to her challenge in a web-based solution that enabled potential exhibitors, attendees, the show manager and administrative staff to access the event through a link on IDRC’s web site. The solution includes an online booth sales module, registration system, invoicing, and confirmation system and more that would help save time and money. "Now," says Fortenberry, "exhibitors will never misplace their exhibitor prospectus or exhibitor kit again. And, I am never more than a click away from the information or reports that I need."
Here are six ways Fortenberry was able to save time and money with the exhibitor management portion of her online tradeshows.
Exhibitor Prospectus & Exhibitor Kits: Fortenberry saved thousands of dollars by not printing the exhibitor prospectus or exhibitor kits at all, rather putting them online. Since her two shows were technology focused, she decided that if a potential exhibitor did not have the ability to access the prospectus or kit online, that they would probably not be interested in exhibiting in her show anyway. If your exhibitors aren’t all tech savvy, you can still download and print an attractive and economical copy from the website and fax or mail it to them.
Online Booth Sales: In the old days, potential exhibitors would call Fortenberry expressing the desire to purchase booth space. Then, Fortenberry would repeatedly fax marked-up floor plans, applications, confirmations and invoices, in order to execute dozens of space buys. By putting the process online, Fortenberry eliminated all the paper shuffling as well as the politics involved in assigning booth space. Exhibitors can see a real-time floor plan online, color-coded to show which booths are reserved, the company occupying each booth, and which booths remain open from which to choose. The entire selection process, from actual booth space selection, to making the request and making the payment online not only makes life easier for the show manager, but has earned rave reviews from exhibitors as well. Fortenberry said that her exhibitors have told her that the process as "very simple" and "a piece of cake." She was able to sell 40 percent of her booth spaces in the first two days, all online as well as cross-market her two shows.
Invoicing: Fortenberry wanted to improve the time consuming process of querying, setting up each invoice, printing and preparing each for mail or fax. Even with her established accounting system, she found herself spending a great deal of time preparing invoices. Now in a matter of clicks, Fortenberry can select a group of exhibitors, create and email the invoices, along with all the necessary forms the exhibitor would need to make the payment.
Confirmations: Mailing or faxing confirmations is a thing of the past for Fortenberry. For example, after exhibitors register online Fortenberry generates the confirmations and sends them electronically along with booth set-up instructions and a link to the online exhibitor kit, saving Fortenberry a significant amount of communications costs. "I also take this opportunity to get in a few reminders like the urgency of completing their online booth, so I can get their program copy downloaded from one of the great reports the program will generate," says Fortenberry. Furthermore, Fortenberry’s online program tracks every confirmation sent, so she always has twenty-four hour access, from anywhere, to an up to date record of every confirmation sent.
Creating the Printed Program: No more re-keying exhibitor descriptions and contact information for her printed program. Fortenberry found that her technology solution was very helpful in saving her preparation and editing time for their printed program. She could access the all of the information keyed by exhibitors into their online booths, and download it to create accurate, timesaving files. Fortenberry explains, "I simply copy and paste the information from the program, paste it into a word document, edit and send it along to the marketing department. No more re-typing and proofing copy before it goes to press. The exhibitors supply the information and I just pass it along. Another time saver!"
Increased Value for Exhibitors: IDRC had been preaching to its members for years about how the Internet was going to change lives and make us more efficient. This year they were able to practice what they are preaching. In addition to the time and money savings, IDRC enjoyed the benefit of having the positive image associated with having innovative cost cutting and time saving technology. They were able to pass on this value to exhibitors by allowing each to set up an online booth, where they can enlighten members, promote their products and services and generate and manage leads all year. Fortenberry explains that she has received a tremendously positive response from her exhibitors. "They've told me, 'it's awesome and easy to use.' They just love it."
I know what you are probably thinking-- in order to take advantage of all these time and cost savings with online programs, you will need to convince your Board of Directors to include it in the budget for next year. However, as Fortenberry would tell you, you probably already have what you need in your current budget. She was able to redirect 90 percent of her printing budget along with a portion of her postage, long-distance phone and fax budgets and apply it towards her online application.
If you are like most managers, you
have probably found yourself in a similar situation as Fortenberry’s;
increasing amounts of work, with no increase or even dwindling staff, equipment
and budgets. Moreover, you know how overwhelming it is to look at the clock and
know that there are still only 40 to 50 hours in a workweek. Rest assured,
knowing somewhere out there a fellow show manager has taken on this battle of
compressing processes and money. And with the help of web-based applications,
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