How do you create aviation trade show sales presentations that don’t stink?

Don’t be the guy that sits alone at a trade show booth while prospects flock to your neighbor’s exhibits!

Listen Here:

[smart_track_player url=”″ background=”default” social_linkedin=”true” ]

Transcript  – Trade Show Sales Presentations that Don’t Stink


Announcer: You are listening to aviation marketing hangar flying, the community for the best sales and marketing professionals in the aviation industry. You can’t learn to fly just from a book, you learn from other pilots who know the tools, the skills, and the territory. Your hosts John and Paula Williams are your sales and marketing test pilots.

They take the risks for you, ensure strategies, relevant examples, hacks, and how to’s. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes, so you won’t miss a thing.

Paula Williams: Welcome to aviation marketing Hangar Flying episode number 105, aviation trade show sales presentations that don’t stink.

John Williams: Wonderful things.

Paula Williams: Exactly. That’s what you’re there for, right?
So I’m Paula Williams.

John Williams: And I’m John Williams.

Paula Williams: And we are ABCI. And ABCI’s mission is,

John Williams: To help all you ladies and gentlemen out there in the aviation world sell more products and services.

Paula Williams: Absolutely, we say that every single time but it could be the first time somebody’s ever heard of us.
So we have to say it every time. Also we say every time, if you have any questions, comments, arguments contentions, quid pro quos, whatever, [LAUGH] about this or any other podcast that we do. You can use the hashtag #AvGeekMarketing and that will help us find it and we will reply to every tweet, right?
We might not agree with you but we will reply, right?

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Okay, so big ideas for this one. Everybody who is working in a trade show booth should understand that they are participating in a sales presentation. You would think that would go without saying, but it certainly does not, right?

John Williams: No it doesn’t. At least not in the aviation land. Well, actually not in IT and all the other print show booths we’ve done in the past.

Paula Williams: Absolutely. The second big idea is that the result of  aviation trade show sales presentations is to close for the next reasonable step in your sales process.
And we’ll talk about what is reasonable and what is not at a trade show for this, right?

John Williams: [LAUGH] Yes.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Okay. Third big idea is if you’re not there to make sales, why are you paying for a booth?

John Williams: And why are you there?

Paula Williams: Why are you even there, exactly.

So yeah, it seems there’s a lot of people that go to trade shows just to have a presence there. And we hear that phrase a lot, actually about NBAA and some of the other shows that we’ve been to. They’re like, well we’re not really collecting leads, well we’re not really making sales, well we’re not really doing anything, we just have to have a presence here.

John Williams: They’re just throwing money down on the floor.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Right. And I do understand, there is a certain thing about if you have always gone to a trade show, then not showing up would potentially be a detriment. Because people will wonder, well was it a bad year for them, are they going out of business, did somebody get sick, are they not organized.
Lots of things go through people’s heads and most of them are not good, right?

John Williams: [LAUGH] Right.

Paula Williams: If you normally do a trade show and you suddenly downsize or don’t show up. In fact, it’s kind of a cynical thing, but one of our clients told us, which was actually pretty true, the time that they notice you the most in an advertisement is the first time it shows up and the first time it disappears, right?

John Williams: True.

Paula Williams: And I think that’s also true of trade shows. The first time you show up at a different trade show, that is definitely notable. And then the first time you don’t show up at a particular trade show it’s become a tradition for you. So there is something to be said for being there, but if you’re going to be there you might as well make it worth it, right?

John Williams: Well, if your boss wants you to make it worth it.

Paula Williams: Well, of course, we’re assuming we are the boss, right? [LAUGH]

John Williams: Well, we are, but, you know?

Paula Williams: Yeah, people listening to this, you may be the boss or you may not be, but knowing what the boss is after is in your best interest in most cases, right?
Okay, cool. So the problem, right?

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: A lot of folks, this is really kind of the dreaded thing at a trade show, is that you show up. You’ve got your brochures. You’ve got your pens out on the table. You’ve got your charts and graphs behind you.
And you’re sitting there bored to death while everybody’s going to your neighbors booth, right? That’s the problem. And that’s what everybody fears is that something like that is gonna happen, and there’s a couple of things that this person is doing wrong. We’ve got a picture of some poor schmuck in a suit with the standard trade show setup.

John Williams: Be nice now with facial recognition, somebody might figure out who this is.

Paula Williams: Might know who this is, exactly. [LAUGH] So, you know, just some nice looking guy in a suit, sitting there at a trade show booth. He’s got a table cloth, he’s got pens out, he’s got these binders that probably have some great information in them, he’s got charts and graphs behind him on the wall.
And he’s looking over at his neighbor, as everybody in the world.

John Williams: Standing next to him.

Paula Williams: Standing next to him, and talking, and engaged, and happy, and [CROSSTALK]

John Williams: In fact some of the people in his booth are standing over there looking.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Exactly. Encroaching on his space while they’re paying attention to his neighbor.
So there’s a couple of things that are going on here that could have been prevented. Number one is he’s sitting down.

John Williams: That’s right. That’s the no no. You don’t even need chairs.

Paula Williams: Exactly. And it’s unfortunate because trade shows are long, and hard, and arduous, and everything else.
Bar stools are probably somewhat acceptable, but you don’t look approachable if you’re sitting down. Number two he looks like he is primed to launch into a sales pitch at any given time.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Right?

John Williams: Screen a little to the left-

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Nobody wants to be the victim of that, right?

Of the the pitch that’s just about to launch from this guy’s mouth. And the second thing is his booth bait, if he has any, he’s not doing the contest, he’s not doing anything fun, he’s not doing anything funny or entertaining or anything like that. His booth bait, if you call it that, is a neatly arranged little row of pens, right?

John Williams: It looks like work.

Paula Williams: Makes it hard to look at. Yeah, right, and nobody wants a pen. Nobody wants a brochure. If they’re interested in your product or service they’re interested in a demo of your product or service, right? They’re not interested in a brochure or a dry sales pitch.

John Williams: Unless of course one can’t do a demo.

Paula Williams: Right, but there’s always things that you can do, right?

John Williams: Of course.

Paula Williams: Okay. So this is how not to do a trade show. And I think there’s probably, that was one, two, three, four, five things wrong. Can you see anything else that you would do differently here?

John Williams: Well, yeah, it looks like a very, what is the word.

Paula Williams: Vanilla?

John Williams: At least.

Paula Williams: The name of his company is not visible.

John Williams: Right.

Paula Williams: You can’t tell what he’s selling.

John Williams: Or what he thinks he’s selling.

Paula Williams: Yeah, what his product or service is, that’s not obviously from here.
It could be-

John Williams: No, nothing talks about benefits.

Paula Williams: Right. He could be selling anything from insurance to airplanes. You really don’t know. Anything else?

John Williams: Probably, but-

Paula Williams: Okay, cool. So that is how not to do a trade show booth. Or how to not do an aviation trade show sales presentations.

John Williams: Too much detail on the back wall.

Paula Williams: Yeah.

John Williams: You need to have pictures, not data.

Paula Williams: Yeah and you need to have one focal point, not four, right? Okay, so simplicity is a wonderful thing. And also you need to get your point across pretty quickly. And I’m not sure what his point here is other than the fact that I’m here, I’m professional and I have data.[LAUGH]

John Williams: Where did we take that picture?

Paula Williams: We didn’t take that picture.

John Williams: Okay. Cuz didn’t remember that one.

Paula Williams: A stock photo of desperation in the trade show booths.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: And that’s thing number eight, or whatever number we’re up to, is he looks desperate.
And desperation is a repellent, right?

John Williams: Yeah, that shows through just like black on white.

Paula Williams: Yeah, exactly. So it’s most unfortunate. Please, please, please don’t ever allow yourself or any of your people to be in this kind of a situation. You really wanna give them every possible advantage to A, enjoy the trade show and B, make some sales right?

John Williams: Exactly.

Paula Williams: Or at least, get some people further down the road on the sales process. So-

John Williams: This. I took this picture.

Paula Williams: You took this picture. This was one that was a couple of years ago at a show that we were doing. If you are not the most interesting person that you know, you want to hire the most interesting person that you know, and outgoing, and ridiculous person that you know, right?

John Williams: Because it works.

Paula Williams: Because it works. These two people here, you know there’s a picture of me in a trade show booth with Mark Leaper who is a sales person that we have worked with from time to time and he has done some poaching and things like that for us.
Much better at, what would I call that, the cold approach that I am. And Diamond Jim Davis, who is a phenomenal card slinger, right?

John Williams: Magician par excellence. [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Absolutely, and both of these guys are so much better at the cold approach than I am. And we had both of them in our booth.
We were armed for bear that year. [LAUGH] And did a lot of things right, but we also did a lot of things wrong that year. This was one of the very first shows that we did in the aviation industry, right?

John Williams: But even so, at the end of the show, the folks that were running the show came up to us to ask us, what did we do to get us such a crowd around our booth all the time.

Paula Williams: Right. Well and thing number one is that we had a presentation in progress pretty much all the time. That picture that we just looked at where that guy was sitting there just primed, ready to go and ready to launch into a presentation. Nobody wants to be the first one to have a presentation launched at him, right?[LAUGH]

John Williams: No, exactly.

Paula Williams: But if you have a presentation already in progress at any given time, people will sneak up to listen, right? So this is really a huge secret that we learned from Diamond Jim. And that is getting that first person to your booth is really a matter of us having fun ourselves, right?

John Williams: Yeah and he was good because people would walk by and they were ignoring us, the booth, Mark and him. And he said that’s it, nobody else walking by will ignore me, period.

Paula Williams: Right.

John Williams: And they didn’t. [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: And they didn’t. He was doing card tricks, which was fantastic, and he was one of the best trade show performers that I have seen, because he really integrated his card tricks with our aviation marketing messages.
Like, how do you multiply your investment in marketing? And people would give him a $1 bill. He’d ask them for a $1 bill and he would turn it into $100 bill.

John Williams: That’s right, in front of their very eyes.

Paula Williams: In front of their very eyes, yeah, and then he’d turn it back into a $1 bill and give it back to them.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Which is really cool. I never did quite, and he actually showed me how to do this, and I still can’t do it to this day. There’s a certain amount of fabulous manual dexterity and other magical properties to that I will never know. And he did a whole bunch of different tricks so that if people walked by more than once, he would have a different sales presentation in progress at any given time, and it didn’t look like a sales presentation, right?

John Williams: Yeah and to get the first folks in there, what he did was they got so irritated that everybody’s ignoring him. He sprayed a deck of cards out into the aisle,

Paula Williams: [LAUGH]

John Williams: And enlisted everybody’s help in helping pick them back up.

Paula Williams: 52 card pick up, yeah.

John Williams: And then during the process he started in on a sales pitch about coming over and doing this and doing that, and somebody said really, and he said yeah come on over.

Paula Williams: Right, exactly.

John Williams: And we ended up with 20, 30 people around that. And they just rotated, but they were 20, 30 people around trying to see what was going on all day long.

Paula Williams: Exactly, and if we ever got to the point where there were two or three people standing around, he would get to the point where I couldn’t even take a picture of him because he’s somewhere in [LAUGH] this mess here of people. It was so crowded at our booth that we had an opposite problem.

And that is that it was difficult for us to really, he was doing a good job of presenting our initial message which is multiply your marketing dollars which was one of our sales messages. Another one was don’t gamble with your marketing investments. And other things like that. And people will walking away with a very simple message, and they’re also walking away with a deck of cards.

Because what he was doing was he was handing out decks of cards in exchange for a business card from anybody that came by. So we weren’t doing any kind of qualifying here. We were just collecting leads. So as a lead collection mechanism, this worked really, really well.

John Williams: It really worked well, that’s where we got our initial stash of leads for that show.

Paula Williams: Right, and it really kinda launched our business in the aviation industry because we went home with hundreds, at least-

John Williams: Yeah, easily hundreds

Paula Williams: And everybody that had come by, that I talked to later on the phone and this is important, remembered our booth, they remembered having gotten the deck of cards, they remembered the card tricks, they remembered the sales messages that Diamond Jim had delivered.

So in that sense it was a success. So in that case we were just closing for leads, right? And we’ll talk more about what is a reasonable expectation from a trade show. There’s lots of other ways to do this. You don’t have to have a magician. You can do a trivia quiz.

You can do product demonstrations, just make sure that number one you have a demo going on pretty much all the time. And if you have to demo to your own people do that [LAUGH], because other people will walk up and it’s good to get the practice.

John Williams: If you’re going to give away something like an iPad then make dang sure that you qualify the people that are going to drop their card in there.[LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Right yeah, these decks of cards, we spent more money than we probably should have on this show, going back over the numbers afterwards. But-

John Williams: With the lease we got, we came out okay.

Paula Williams: The lease we got, yeah, we’re pretty quality. So yeah, you wanna make sure that you’ve got a presentation and progress at any given time.
That it’s fun, that they know what the business is. You’ve got really simple sales messages. You’re not trying to make them remember 47 pages of charts and graphs from your wall. Fun sells a whole lot better, especially at a trade show, than data does. You can always give them the data later, right?

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: Okay, cool. So presentation in progress, right? Okay, so there was another presentation that I saw just recently that I thought was really fantastic.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: And this one, unfortunately, wasn’t in aviation. This was at a home show in Salt Lake City,we live near Salt Lake City in a small town.

But this was in the big city of Salt Lake. [LAUGH] We went to a home show that we got some tickets for. We weren’t really all that interested in much of anything, but this guy gave an absolutely mesmerizing presentation of this little grater plate. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of these, it’s like a plate that has little notches in it and you can use it to grate garlic, and ginger, and everything.

I had no idea I wanted one of these things, right?

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: But we walked by, there was a sales demonstration in progress as we walked by a guy in his chefs hat and with the ginger and garlic. And you could smell it from across the aisle.

All of the senses engaged and everything else. And of course you had to stop and see what he was he’s doing.

John Williams: And then you said, well that can’t be right.

Paula Williams: Exactly.

John Williams: That won’t work.

Paula Williams: That won’t work, exactly. So he did some really amazing stuff with this particular grater and grated ginger and garlic and spices and this and that and the other thing.
And demonstrated-

John Williams: And cinnamon.

Paula Williams: Yeah.

John Williams: Cinnamon stick.

Paula Williams: Cinnamon sticks which are really hard to grate. If anybody out there is a fan of Indian tea and likes their freshly grated Cinnamon, you know how hard that is on your coffee mill, because it makes it all sticky.
And anyway, so here I am selling this grater. [LAUGH]

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Anyway, I can’t help myself. The guy who was doing the presentation was absolutely phenomenal, and he always had a presentation going on at any given time. If you walked by 20 minutes later you could see he had a crowd around, you know, he was doing a really good job of doing a physical demonstration of a physical product, right?
And that’s always easier that trying to demonstrate insurance or risk management or one time we had to do, what was that?

John Williams: DIACAP

Paula Williams: DIACAP, some documentation standard thing. It was horrible right? And that was in a military aerospace kind of a convention where they had all of these exploding things and shiny things and beautiful things.

John Williams: But again we had, I mean, we say the president of the company working for us sat across at some place where he could look at the whole show, and he said we have more people at our booth than anywhere else at this whole show.

Paula Williams: Right.

John Williams: I said thank you very much.

Paula Williams: And again, you can do something like a trivia quiz. Or something like a mini seminar or something like a, did you know that, a bunch of interesting facts and things like that in kind of a game show. There are lots of things that you can do to make it a whole lot interesting, whatever it is that you’re selling.

But if you have something physical that you can do that makes it a lot easier. So we ended up buying one of these graters and taking it home and using it, and they’re not nearly as good as the guy who was doing the presentation.

John Williams: But it worked.

Paula Williams: But it does work yeah and it’s actually pretty cool. All right. So what you’re doing at a trade show is you’re closing for the next step, right, whatever that is. And at our first trade show one of the problems that we had, or one of the things that we did wrong is we were closing for too much.

In addition to closing for leads, which we kind of reverted to as a means to an end, we were selling courses. We were selling marketing courses on different topics. But nobody, A, wants to take home a book and a CD, and a bunch of stuff from a trade show.

Number two, nobody really wanted to learn that. They wanted done for you services. We hadn’t done good enough market research at the time. And number three, nobody was buying anything at this trade show anyway. It was just one of those kinds of shows where people go and look, and then they go home and talk about it with their-

John Williams: Or whomever.

Paula Williams: And then they make decisions before the end of the year. And we didn’t know that about the culture in aviation at that point. So here we are trying to close for a sale, which is the one at the top of the list. And actually we got a list of things here from the most useful to the least useful.

If you can close for a sale, fantastic, right? That little grater that I bought that was, what, $30?

John Williams: 20.

Paula Williams: 20, something like that. So if you’re selling something that’s less than $100 that somebody can make an instant decision about without a whole lot of information, great, do that.

I think at the NBAA shows they sell models. I’ve seen people actually buy those on the spot. They sell putters. There’s a company that sells putters on the spot. Those might be, I don’t know, $500, maybe even $1,000, I don’t know. But some amount of money that people can actually make a decision on at the time, depending on the demographics of the group that you’re talking about.

So if you can close for the sale, that’s fantastic. Another thing that you can close for that is almost as good is if you can get people to dig out their planner, or their calendar, or their cell phone and set an appointment right then and there. That’s fantastic if you can do that.

And to do that you may have to work a little bit harder, because people generally don’t want to do that. They’ll say, well I’ll call you when I get back to the office and we’ll see if we can schedule something. So if you can get them to set an appointment, you might need to give them an additional incentive.

If you set an appointment today, you get to walk out with this free thing, or something, $100 gift certificate towards services in the future, or something like that. Or whatever it is that you want to do to make that more urgent and important. Another thing that you can close for is agreement to follow up, which is a little bit different than setting an appointment.

If they don’t wanna set a specific time at least say, yes let’s sit down sometime before the end of the year and do that. And you get a handshake on, yes, let’s do that. A step below that is permission to follow up. Can I send you some information?
And then you get their contact information. And then you can of course use your marketing magic to turn that into a sale later, right? Okay, and the last thing is at least getting their contact information. So if you can get them to drop a card, or zap their badge or whatever it is that you do to collect their contact information.

This is kinda the order in which you can do things from most to least valuable. And you may decide, depending on the nature of the show, the nature of what you have to offer, the nature of what kind of presentation you’re prepared to give. All you can do is collect contact information, and that’s what we did very successfully at that show.

And then, of course, the sales all depended on our follow up process, right?

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: Okay, so close for the next step. So big ideas from this episode, this was a nice, short simple one, right? But I think much needed after seeing a lot of the weird stuff that was going on at the last show we were at.

So number one, everybody who’s working in a trade show booth should understand that they are participating in a sales presentation, right?

John Williams: Absolutely.

Paula Williams: Right. Number two, close for the next reasonable step in the sales process.

John Williams: The clients of ours that we saw at the show were doing exactly these things.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Yes they were. Of course they were. And number three, if you are not there to make sales, then why are you paying for a booth? If you’re gonna be there, you might as well make the most out of it, right?

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: Do it right, okay?
So subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play and wherever fine podcasts are distributed. And do leave a review, that’s how other people find us and we want people to stop doing random acts of marketing. So you do your part by sharing this podcast.

John Williams: [LAUGH] Of course she did.

Paula Williams: All right. Have a great week, and we’ll see you next Monday.

John Williams: Ciao.

Announcer: Thanks for joining us for aviation marketing Hangar Flying. The best place to learn what really works in sales and marketing in the aviation industry. Remember to subscribe on iTunes and leave a rating