Our agency’s been making a case for business aviation for almost a quarter century. And we can tell you, absolutely, unequivocally; no marketing platform bests face to face. As a result, both the number of aviation tradeshows and participation in them continue to grow, seemingly exponentially. The cost of these shows is high. The cost of not maximizing them fully is even higher. Here are the top 10 lessons we’ve learned.

  1. Know the culture.What’s right for Abu Dhabi and Dubai may be quite different than for Shanghai and Singapore, Geneva and Paris than Sao Paulo and Las Vegas. Nuances abound. Run your marketing messages and plans past your reps in the region. Sooner rather than later. We’ve had exhibitors tell us the lack of clear wording has led people to walk right past a booth – and just by changing messaging, they’ve seen booth traffic increase.

    Knowledgeable, engaging staff capture and keep your attention.
    Knowledgeable, engaging staff capture and keep your attention.
  2. Plan your approach. Set times with key customers and prospects well in advance. They feel respected and special, and you come across as more strategic and organized – the type of person they want to do business with. Tap into apps that show you everything from exhibit maps to press events. It’s never been easier to work the floor smart. And maybe even save you a few steps.
  3. Create buzz. Work your media contacts and your social network to get the word out about press conferences, announcements and news. Engage your tribe through social media. Include a snipe on ads. Issue emails to current and prospective customers. Talk up your plans in person and over the phone. Make your information – press releases, invites, new product information – easily accessible digitally, but also have print copies on hand. Check when others are making big announcements and do your best to hold yours during a different time slot.
  4. Choose your team.Put your most personable yet assertive people front and center – and prep them so they’re fully in the know. Keep the conversation going once you’ve drawn people in. A booth’s no place for shy-wallflower-staffers. They stay backstage.

    Offer adequate bandwidth and people will come to your booth – and stay.
    Offer adequate bandwidth and people will come to your booth – and make themselves comfortable.
  5. Stand out. We still remember Aircell’s surfer guys and gals even years later. Avinode’s turned heads with something simpler, but equally memorable: apple-green Converse sneakers for suited-up staffers. It works because you hadn’t seen it before. And remember, comfort and functionality matter. Offer good WiFi and thick carpet padding in your booth. People will come. And linger.
  6. Offer and publish activity. Create an interactive draw in your booth. If possible, give people the chance to demo your product/service. Take video and share it on YouTube and through your social channels. Haven’t tried Vine yet? What are you waiting for? Either hire a photographer or designate a team member to take photos and video throughout the show. Capture booth events, press conferences and more. Don’t miss an important moment. Also, please, please, please be sure your sound quality is good. We’ve all attended announcements where you couldn’t hear what was being said. Don’t be that company.
  7. Give something away.But not just anything. Make it worthy and appealing to customers. And, ideally, tie it to your marketing message. Wichita’s small-but-mighty economic development coalition offered a Cessna Skycatcher at one NBAA. More than a thousand people entered to win. You can bet they all walked away knowing Cessna calls the Air Capital home.

    One of the most memorable product launches we’ve attended: the new super-medium twin Bell 525 Relentless at Heli-Expo 2012.
    One of the most memorable product launches we’ve attended: the new super-medium twin Bell 525 Relentless at Heli-Expo 2012.
  8. Avoid budget busters. Plan upfront for any deviation from the norm to take twice as long and double costs. Expect the unexpected. Give yourself some cushion so you don’t find yourself locked in to the same-old tired thinking and execution. Have a back-up plan, especially when your booth’s centered around technology. Allow for ample testing and a Plan B if something stops working.
  9. Solicit input. Give people a chance to tell you what they think while they’re in your booth. And have a process in place to capture that. Build in frequent breaks for booth staffers so they can log input before it’s forgotten. Consider capturing input, too, with video kiosks, iPad/laptop/computer stations. Provide options, including making feedback anonymous if people prefer.
  10. Pace yourself. Build in something of interest every day of the show. Could be a press conference on day one, an end-of-day cocktail hour on day two, a drawing on day three. Keep them coming back. You don’t want them to think one and done. Consider hosting a VIP or exclusive preview. You make people feel extra special when you create an event just for them.

Buyers and sellers will unite April 16-18 at Shanghai Honggiao International Airport for ABACE. Hope these tips help you add some final polish to your plans.

*Originally published in the March 14 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.