The Magic Booth

What makes a tradeshow booth standout?

EOO_1[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou have a great booth location at AIMExpo, so all you do now is show up in Orlando in October and, like magic, the rest is done. NOT QUITE. Have you ever wondered why two 10 x 20 booths next to each other can be so different? One is jammed with people and the other looks like they’re brewing the plague because nobody is going near it. Does one exhibitor possess some kind of magic? I don’t think so.

Long before the show started, they knew they had to have something or someone to draw a crowd. It is great to have the hottest new product in the motorcycle industry that everyone can’t wait to see, but if that happens once every five years you are probably doing better than most. You need to create an inviting vibrant atmosphere that invites attendees (dealers/buyers) in to check out your offerings. If you can’t afford a professionally built booth, one that no one can pass by or you don’t have the next “got to have product,” then you’d better have an exciting personality manning your booth.

I don’t necessarily mean a celebrity, but rather a representative of your company who understands the importance of getting your message out. Let’s go back to 1979 at the Dealer Expo in Cincinnati. Yours truly was attending his first trade show. First off, I was excited to be there and ready to show the world what I could do. I did not have a hot product. I did not even have a 10 x 20 booth. I was selling bungee cords out of a box that unfolded to be the back drop of a 10 x 10 with a million sizes and colors of bungee cords. Who cares? ME. I stood in the middle of the aisle stretching those cords shouting warnings about doing the same with inferior bungees with hooks that would break off and pop your eyes out. Could you really afford that liability? I sold bungees to Rocky Cycles, Accessory Distributors Inc. and Beck Arnley, probably three of the biggest distributors at the time. The point is, if you want to play on your computer, read a book, eat lunch or any other activity in your booth other than sell your product, you probably shouldn’t even reserve a booth in the first place.

Now the real magic comes when you create a booth space that everyone has to check out. That honor goes to my friend, Ken Boyko. Ken is one of the co-founders of Cobra Engineering, a chrome accessory and exhaust manufacturer. Every year, Ken would have none other than Denny Berg, a well-respected customizer, build a special custom bike that everyone in the industry had to check out. The bike would stay covered until the unveiling. The unveiling time was publicized to build anticipation and by the time of the unveiling people were 20 deep around the Cobra booth. Of course, the booth itself was properly laid out with an impressive display of Cobra product. Cobra had it all, hot products, a celebrity builder and a great hook to bring everyone into his booth throughout the entire show and even afterwards, because the bikes Denny built were so cool they showed up in magazines for months. This was not inexpensive, but it paid out off with Cobra’s continued success. Even Ken will tell you the thought and up-front effort that goes into a well-planned, effective booth is more important than the dollars spent.

My point is, the better the show, the better your effort has to be. Remember, you are the show! The dealers are coming to see you. Since its inception, exhibitors have been singing the praises of AIMExpo. Other exhibitors have also said it could be more of this or more of that.

The bottom line is the show is what you make of it. If you want more of your dealers there, incentivize them to be there. Tell them in advance to come to the show and come to your booth. The platform and the atmosphere of AIMExpo couldn’t be better for networking. It is, after all, the ultimate opportunity to prove why you are the company to do business with.

Now, more than ever, as part of the MIC, your participation in AIMExpo is a contribution to the future of our industry. Please join me in Orlando for a celebration of motorcycling as only we can do it together.

Bob Kay is the V-Twin Director of AIMExpo/MIC Events. He’s been involved in the motorcycle industry for more than 40 years.

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