Aviation Trade Shows: Last Minute “Plus-ups”

(This is the second of a brief series of what we hope are helpful posts leading up to next month’s NBAA-BACE in Las Vegas.)

Five tips for last minute things you can do at your booth to draw a crowd and leverage your investment

If your duties include more than trade shows, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the “other duties as assigned” portion of your job even as a major trade show sneaks up on you. Don’t look now, but NBAA-BACE is only about four weeks away.

For those who are running to keep up, don’t lose heart. There are some last minute things you can do to enhance your show presence without breaking the bank and make your show investment pay off. Here are five suggestions of things to consider and that, hopefully, will stimulate other ideas.

  1. Mobile device charging stations. Heavy users of social media and e-mail are constantly running down their smart-device batteries. Offer free charging stations. There are a number of multi-connector devices available for rent or sale. Units for sale start at about $250 for a tabletop device with multiple platform connectors and go up from there depending on how fancy you want to get. Check with your show services provider or your exhibit house for suggestions. You’ll want units that can be secured so people won’t walk off with them.

Charging stations take up very little space. Depending on configuration of the charger and your booth space, you may want to consider offering more than one station, as your booth will be popular once people realize the service is available.

  1. Free Wi-Fi. Internet connectivity at trade shows can be notoriously poor. Try arranging for high-speed free access. Attendees will need to drop by your booth for the access code. Have your Wi-Fi supplier label the network with your company name. Most convention halls have a single authorized show Wi-Fi provider so you will need to work directly through them.
  1. Social media. Since we are on the related topics of free charging stations and free Wi-Fi, let’s address social media. People who love social media (and the numbers keep growing), love to post where they are and what they are doing. Make it easy for them by offering an Instagram camera or similar device for quick upload to the web. Set up an area on your booth with an interesting background, hire a celebrity or create a “posting wall” for people to take selfies. You can also post the selfies on a board at your exhibit for others to see or create a contest around it such as “Most Creative Selfie.”

Be sure to feature your booth name and number somewhere in the background to help online viewers find you so they can join in and share the fun.

  1. On-site demonstration. Let’s face it, many trade show booths are boring. You can make them look great, but if there’s nothing interesting going on they’ll be boring.

If your company sells something that is manufactured, requires assembly/disassembly for maintenance, or is technical in nature, then look into providing an on-site demonstration to show how it’s done. We call this “experiential marketing.” Please forgive my lack of PC here, but people, especially males, love to watch other people work and to see how things are made/repaired. If your product and booth space lend itself to such a demonstration, then try it. It’s a great way to engage the crowd and get them to interact with you.

Depending on the size and complexity of the product, this may require more planning and space than you have now, but if it’s doable it can be a big draw. From personal experience, I know this works. As show manager for Dallas Airmotive, I had less than two months to put together an entire PT6A engine rebuild for the 2014 NBAA. This was an all-out team effort involving a couple of dozen people. It proved well worth the effort. The crowd draw was far and away the best we’d ever had, and it was steady throughout the three days of the show. We received press coverage from every one of the Dailies and post-show from most of the aviation publications attending. It was the buzz of the show. Even better, our competitors walked away with that, “Why didn’t we think of this?” look on their faces. Priceless.

  1. Business card scanner/capture. If you are not already doing this, then you should be. It’s an easy way to track who showed up at your booth and to capture: a) updates on known customers (e-mails, telephone, title, etc.), or b) add new prospects to your database. Scanners are rentable from show services suppliers at any major trade show, or you can buy your own to use at multiple events. The cost is not excessive.

Here’s a bonus tip:

  1. Pre-Show Communications. First of all, if you decide to do any of the Items 1, 2 or 3 above and especially Item 4, be sure to tell people about it. If you have a customer list or can rent an attendee list from the sponsoring organization, it is relatively inexpensive to send a pre-show reminder email highlighting: a) you’ll be there, b) the booth number, c) what you’ll be featuring, d) why attendees should stop by. The communication doesn’t have to be elaborate. Think of it as an electronic billboard. It may be just the reminder someone needs to schedule a stop at your booth during the show.

Also, it never hurts to send a press release to major publications covering the event to let them know you are exhibiting, your booth number, and what you will have on site. Send the release a couple of weeks prior to the event to give the publication time to slot it in to their early editions or post it on their electronic news board. Events like NBAA are heavily covered electronically and a pre-show or day-one mention is a real bonus.