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Hotel Common Sense - Maximizing Effectiveness at Trade Shows Increasing Traffic at your Hospitality Trade Show Booth

publication date: Jul 15, 2011
author/source: Dr. John Hogan CHA CHE CMHS

Hotel Common Sense -

Maximizing Effectiveness at Trade Shows

Increasing Traffic at your Hospitality Trade Show Booth

Part 1

By Dr. John Hogan, CHE CHA MHS, August 24, 2009
The need is very real for hoteliers globally serving every market segment to take hold of and apply a moving set of best practices in addressing the very real concerns of diminishing occupancies and revenues.  Those practices continue to include executing the fundamentals of sales and accurate communication.

Earlier this year, this online service published one of my articles on increasing sales productivity.  The reason I chose that particular topic was that increasing numbers of people were sharing with me their frustration with declining ReVPAR.  

That column was titled How to make more sales calls than any other way or Trade Shows can be invaluable if...  and it offered the perspective that from the standpoint of productivity, substantially more sales contacts can be made at a meeting, conference or trade show in two days than in the same amount of time on the street knocking on doors. 

After attending several trade shows recently and making additional observations on people who do not effectively handle their booths well, I am focusing two additional articles to the topic.  

In these times of  lower attendance at many shows, reduced budgets and mixed economic indicators, we must all use our resources prudently. 

"The purpose in life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is."
Gerhard Gschwandtner (b. 1942), Austrian author, sales consultant and founder /CEO of Personal Selling Power, Inc., a US based magazine and book publishing company
Increasing traffic at your hospitality trade show booth

Selecting the show or conference to attend is relatively easy to do once you have targeted the markets you wish to reach and have completed a marketing plan. Success at trade shows and conferences depends on the marketing strategy you develop to sell your property and the tactics you use to turn those leads into sales calls and, eventually, bookings.

The details of how the booth is set up, staffed and the follow-up are all tactical essentials to a successful and memorable trade show.
A primary goal is to make certain that everyone who visits your booth remembers your hotel or hospitality company in a favorable way.  While many brand shows seem to imply a "captive" audience, your purpose is to end the day with qualified leads.

Evaluate marketing and/or creating awareness prior to the show  

  • Make sure that potential attendees know that you are going to be at the show, especially if you are from out of town. This means working the pre-registered attendee lists. 
  • Generate advance interest in your hotel's booth before the show starts by sending out some interesting details about your hotel and include an incentive. These can be flyers or coupons advising that if attendees bring it to the booth the day of the show s/he will receive a certain redeemable gift.
  • If you have something unique to unveil or share around the time of the show, try to get some media attention.  These may be local or industry media, depending on the message you are trying to communicate.
At the show
To make your hotel or hospitality company booth memorable, consider these factors:  1. Booth design 

  • Make your space open and inviting so that attendees are comfortable to come into your booth to view your displays and to speak with you. 
  • Call attention to your space with a well-designed arrangement, with reasonable seating as appropriate to the size of your space. Choose color for photographs or items that you want to stand out, and match the booth colors to your hotel logo and image. 
  • Make sure your area is well lit. Large convention centers have overhead lighting, but make sure your particular space is inviting.  Overhead lighting has occasional blind or dark spots in some locations on the floor.
  • Take care that your signage communicates clearly, what your hotel represents. Attendees expect your hotel's name at the top of the booth and this is likely part of the trade show agreement. Expand on it professionally to generate interest from your targeted clients. For example, a sign that says BRAND A Hotel is not nearly as clear as BRAND A Hotel, with your prime location or a specialty service highlighted          ( Meeting Central, or Home to more Association Meetings than any other hotel in this (locale) or The Hotel where more people spend their Honeymoon, etc.)
  • Simple, appropriate size graphics that can easily be read from up and down the aisle will allow people who are interested to find you and stop. It will also allow the disinterested others to move on by and not waste anyone's time or efforts.   Reality is that you do not need or want every attendee to stop at your booth, because it is highly unlikely s/he are all potential clients. You want only those people who will likely be qualified leads to stop and take up your booth staff's valuable time.
2. Handouts and/or give-aways You have chosen to participate in a particular trade show because you have done some advance planning and goal setting. You know the people attending the show, why they are attending and this insight of what they might be looking to learn from you should help you design your handouts and sales message. 

We have all attended shows, where there is a demonstration of how a product works. These range from cooking to hot tubs to wine sampling.

  • Since many hotel services do not lend themselves to these kinds of demonstrations, consider power-point shows of how your hotel addresses large meetings or social events or whatever your specialty may be.  Books of photographs are adequate for back up, but they lack action.
  • Do you have items that can be picked up and touched or sampled, such as a special dessert?  If so, make certain they are fresh and adequate for the anticipated attendance.
  • Place literature and give-aways near the back of your space so that attendees will have to come into your booth. 
  • Provide meaningful give-aways the attendee can take back to their office or home, depending on the kind of show. 
  • Make sure that your materials are attractive, summarizing  easy to read explanations of how your services will benefit the client.
  • Keep your literature and the booth's theme similar so that attendees link the two together. 
  • Be sure that contact information is prominently displayed in your materials. 
3. Staffing 
  • Set attainable goals to measure your success.  
  • Friendly, knowledgeable staff and sufficient appropriate literature are essential. 
  • Do NOT shortchange your hotel on booth staff, as most attendees will wait no longer than a minute for attention. We must remember, this is the attendees' show and they either are often in a hurry or are tiring from the show interactions.  This may be your only chance to reach show attendees and depending on the size of a show, it can be difficult to see all of the booths even once. You cannot count on someone returning  to your booth if they could not get what they wanted the first time. 
  • Your staff must stay enthusiastic.  In order to stop the crowd of show attendees, staff should greet everyone that walks by. Be assertive! You cannot sit back and wait for them to come to you. 
  • Even though you want only qualified leads, do not allow your staff to be inattentive. There is nothing more unattractive than staff sitting in a chair behind the table focusing his or her interest on everything but the attendees.  
  • Insist on your staff practicing the sales message. This means, writing it down and practicing in advance.  Someone may not need your hotel's specific services, but may be able to recommend you to someone who does. Greet everyone, but spend your time on those who can really use your services. 
  • Your message should be short -- time is important to show attendees and  show hours may not be ideal to all as they sometimes conflict with other activities. 
  • Make sure that staff can answer questions beyond the information in the short sales message. If they do not have a complete answer, make sure they call upon someone else or follow up after the show. 

  Feel free to share an idea for a column at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops, speaking engagements ............. 
And remember - we all need a regular dose of common sense.

I was invited by Lorman Education Services to offer a teleconference on this topic and they have agreed to offer a $50 discount for any of my readers that mention discount code Z7745121 when they register online. Effective Sales Management: 
Short and Long-term Planning, Forecasting, and Expense Budgeting

September 14, 2009 
1:00 PM ET 
Program # 382449
Both parts of this series on Short and Long-term Planning, Forecasting, and Expense Budgeting  are in the teleconference.
Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD - a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

John Hogan, a career hotelier and educator, is frequently invited to participate at franchise meetings, management company and hospitality association industry events.  He is a successful senior executive with a record of accomplishment in leading hospitality industry organizations at multiple levels, with demonstrated competencies as a strong leader, relationship builder, problem solver and mentor. He conducts mystery-shopping reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including repositioning of hotels.

Expertise and Research Interest
• Sales Management and training
• Turn-around and revenue management
• Professional Development & Customer Service
• Hospitality Leadership and Executive Education
• Making Cultural Diversity Real
• Accreditation & Developing Academic Hospitality programs

He writes weekly columns for a number of global online services and has published more than 400 articles & columns on the hotel industry.  He co-authored (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) LESSONS FROM THE FIELD - a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from info@smartbizzonline.com, ROOMS CHRONICLE www.roomschronicle.com  and other industry sources.  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and expects to publish in 2009 his 2nd book based on his dissertation - The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

Hogan's professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis, including service as Senior Vice President of Operations in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He holds a number of industry certifications (CHA, CHE, MHS, ACI) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John's background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20-year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors' bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world's largest hotel chain. 

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and as brand liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners' Association with his long-term involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,200 workshops and classes in his career. 

Service to the Industry and Hospitality Education includes working with the Educational Institute Certification Commission of the AH&LA, the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration, the Commission for Accreditation on Hospitality Management Programs, the AH&LA and AAHOA Education and Training Committees, the Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Educators (CHRIE), the International Hotel Show and the Certified Hotel Owner program for the Asian American Hotel Owners' Association.

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