In the Trenches: The Stress of Exhibiting at a Conference
Editor’s Note: This week we are proud to present the first of an ongoing, weekly series of dispatches from Brett Snyder, a seasoned writer who is one of you: A small business owner struggling with the day-to-day issues of keeping his ship running. From making payroll to dealing with irate customers, Snyder has seen it all. Correction, he is seeing it all, and he’s going to share those experiences with us here every week. In the inaugural edition of “In the Trenches,” Snyder looks at the challenges involved with exhibiting at his first ever trade show.
When I started this business, the idea of exhibiting at a conference seemed far-fetched. The insanely overgrown and polished booths that well-established companies put together are intimidating and costly, and I just couldn’t imagine being in a place to participate in a such a spectacle. Amazingly, an affordable opportunity to sponsor a conference came up and we decided to jump in.
This was a conference for ultra-savvy frequent fliers, and our service is generally more helpful for the less knowledgeable, so why did we bother? It was a good way to get involved in the traveling community, and the audience was bound to be ripe for referrals to friends and family. Once people know you’re a travel pro, they never stop asking for advice. We figured that if frequent fliers knew our service existed, we could help free up some of their time by helping their friends and families. With the price of sponsorship at an affordable level, it was hard to say no.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go out to Chicago for this myself, so I had to send someone else. This, of course, spiked my stress level even more, being the control-freak that I am. Initially, I had been told that we would have time for a 10 minute presentation, so I put that together, rehearsed with the person who would be attending, and we were all set. Then we found out that we would also have a table for exhibiting. Uh oh.
There was no way we could put together a professional-looking booth, so we settled for the best we could do. We had ordered stickers long ago to give out to clients, so we got those together and had a bunch of business cards. I also arranged to have some flyers professionally printed at FedEx Office so our attendee could pick them up in Chicago.
This wasn’t an incredibly formal conference, it was more a gathering of like-minded frequent fliers, so in the end, we felt pretty good about how things turned out despite our lack of polish. The presentation seems to have gone well, and we’ve had clients sign up as a direct result. Was it worth it? Yes, definitely. While most tradeshows and conferences are priced out of our range, if more like this come up, we’ll jump on them.
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.