Thursday, February 9, 2017

FTA's, Mentors and Millennials– Secrets to Trade Show Success

When it comes to creating a successful trade show model, one that can go on year-after-year, there are three things every organizer should consider and adopt.

I should say there are “at least” three things to align with Microsoft speak. If you have ever worked for Microsoft you’ll know this term.

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Two of These are Constant

Catering to these three elements / audiences is is the key to a successful long-term trade show effort. Two of them should always be in the mix of a great community engagement effort for a successful trade show. The 3rd one changes over time as one generation moves on and another slides in to take it’s place.

In fact, catering to these three audiences is the key to a successful business. That's the topic of another post. (stay tuned)

An event can only survive if they can keep people coming back year-after-year. In order to do this they need to keep them happy. Which could mean different things to different people. But, the gist is … Happy People Come Back.

And, Happy People … Tell Their Friends!
Word of Mouth (and Tweets too) is Critical

This is the challenge every event manager and every company needs to help their clients with today and especially tomorrow.

imageMy Suggestion is … by focusing energy and effort on FTA's, Mentors and Millennials any business, and specifically a trade show and community effort can be successful today and tomorrow.

It’s a team effort.

All Hands on Deck.

In order to insure FTA's, Mentors and Millennials are engaged it’s critical to insure they know what’s going on and one way to get the FTA’s indoctrinated and engage is to assign a mentor to them. This is not a new idea. But, it’s one that deserves a new look and some new attention.

As for Millennials … they are either entering the workforce anew or have been in the workforce for a while. The key with Millennials is that they are at the stage in their careers where they are making decisions that impact the organizations they work for in big ways. Of course, there are a lot of millennials starting their own companies. In both cases making sure they can be well cared for FTA’s and/or engaged as or with mentors is critical for getting them into the community.

Below I’ll break down each of the three groups and share a few thoughts about them. I’d like to get your thoughts too. Share a comment here.

If you like what you see … please feel free to “Click to Tweet” this post.

FTA = First Time Attendee

As I have noted before in multiple blog posts about FTA's there is a very strong correlation to FTA's initial experience, perception and their desire to return.

This experience starts at the sign up for the event. In fact, it really starts with word-of-mouth and starts long before they actually go to the sign-up page.

  • Before – Long before the event is scheduled to start there needs to be an easy way for potential attendees to understand the value proposition. This needs to be easily communicated and it must be easy to share via social media and other means.
  • During – In the middle of the event people often can use a little guidance on what do to, where to go (to eat, learn and share). This includes social engagement efforts too. It’s a good idea to have a Social Squad (Microsoft does this) effort staffed with friendly faces (and partners) to amplify the messages and messaging.
  • After – In a sense the event never ends. At least this is the way it should be. The attendees may need a reminder or two about this. A great event manager has thought about this and has set up a way for people to stay in touch even when they cannot physically be in touch. Community365 is the wave of the future.

Mentors

One way to help FTA's understand what's going on and be able to hit the ground running is to create a class of mentors. Some of these mentors might be employees of the firm, but the best mentors come from the community itself. I have acted as a mentor for numerous events including the formerly known as Microsoft WP see. I have really enjoyed my time as a mentor and I appreciate getting back. One thing I've learned about being a mentor is I think I learn more then the mentee.

Millennial's

It should go without seeing that millennial's are entering the workforce more and more every day.

10,000 millennial's are reaching the age of 21 every day

In case you didn't know there are 10,000 millennial's reaching the age of 21 every day. They are starting companies at an unprecedented rate and they are also joining companies because they're graduating from college and entering the workforce in vast numbers.

Pro tip: Don't discount the boomers. They have The FEM factor (click to tweet)

In 2015 millennials out paced others in the workplace for the first time (See Pew Research report)

Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in U.S. labor force
Source: Pew Research Center

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Build a Community – You’ll be glad you did

The trend is to develop a place where first-time attendees, mentors and millennial's can connect with each other and also with the broader community. By showing the FTA's, mentors, millennial's where the front door is and helping them navigate the community everyone wins.

The next step… And I'm not saying the end result… Is that these people become active and fiercely loyal to the community as a whole.

It's not the end result. It's the next evolution in events and event management

Microsoft is ahead of the curve here

With the recent re-organization of the Microsoft partner community I see this as a positive sign with the "One Commercial Partner" model.

You can read more about it in my post A Microsoft Partner Motion … It’s time! and in Partner LUV … ISV's and Industry Expertise are Valued Most.

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This is not the exclusive domain of Microsoft. This is also not be exclusive domain of technology companies. Every company or industry that creates or participates in trade shows should be looking towards FTA's, Mentors and Millennials.

  • imageSalesforce has Dreamforce – Salesforce has their Ohana. I'm somewhat dubious of how that is actually working based on my personal experiences, but I've been told it's working.
  • National Retail Federation (NRF) – As an industry event they continue to bring people to New York City in January every year where they show how to industry and the vendors that support the industry are working together to develop solutions for the customers they serve.
  • Association for Image and Information Management (AIIM) – As a collection of industry professionals they have continued to morph with the times.

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Each of the communities above has catered to their audience for many years. They have made adjustments over the last few years to adopt the virtual model of “trade shows” and community engagement. In order to continue to thrive they will also need to embrace FTA's, Mentors and Millennials.

Also, each of the communities mentioned above are both physical and in-person events supported by virtual communities that happen year round.

The Keys to Success are Community Driven

imageIn order to maximize the value from FTA's, Mentors and Millennials there will need to be a concerted effort to develop a community. And, like all communities, they need to be places where people feel welcomed and know that they are among “their” people. If this community experience (CX) is not authentic people will notice and the community will die.

The challenge for trade shows is going to continue to need to adapt, adopt and align with FTA's, Mentors and Millennials.

I’m optimistic the industry is ready for this change and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the leaders in this space from Microsoft, CRG, and FreemanXP. (I’m looking at you Kati Quigley, Leasa Mayer, and Marc Pomerleau)

What do you think?

  • Are Trade Shows still viable?
  • What other ways can you get people working together?
  • How do you think Trade Shows can adapt for the future?

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Did this strike a chord with you? I would appreciate it if you'd share it with a friend, family member, or colleague!

This is cross posted on Medium and LinkedIn

I have contributed 200+ articles to Entrepreneur, Elite Daily, Yahoo, US News and to the #1 Career blog for Millennials, the Personal Branding Blog

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