Steve Miller is not your typical consultant. He doesn't come on to you with a know-it-all attitude. As a speaker he is down-to-earth and humorous. He wins over the audience with his engaging demeanor and easy-going style. As a facilitator he quickly gains the confidence of the group and elicits necessary and useful information. The results are always positive and beneficial. Steve is very dedicated to his clients, that's why so many of them bring him back time and time again.
Jim Carney - National Truck Equipment Association
Will Your Show Be Alive In Seven Years?
An open letter from Steve Miller:
It's funny how often we ask that question and people respond with a laugh. Of course we will, they say. We're a successful event and have been for years. We'll be around for a long time.
Then it's our turn to laugh. Isn't that what a lot of well-known brands once said? What about the National Computer Conference, the National Home Center Show, Summer CES, Summer Housewares, Trans World Airlines, Plymouth, NetGrocer, Westinghouse, Philco, maybe Comdex ... ? ... well, I could go on.
The point is nobody is invulnerable. And from our point of view that especially applies to conventions and expositions.
Is your organization under fire? Most are.
Are you responsible for:
Long-range thinking and planning?
Generating high visibility through exhibiting?
Creating innovative marketing campaigns?
Staging high-valued, high-attended events or meetings?
In a recent email sent to his members, ASAE CEO Mike Olson said:
"Most associations to some degree are facing severe and immediate pressures to their operating environment. The ASAE Foundation has found ... rising member expectations and a greater demand for return on investment ..."
Associations depend heavily on meetings and expositions for the non-dues revenues they generate. Yet more and more attendees and exhibitors are loudly decrying the value they get in return for the substantial time and dollar costs for participating.
Corporations aren't any different. The spate of bad news in the media lately has only made life tougher for those who haven't been downsized, rightsized, or just plain laid-off.
Steve is THE beacon of wisdom in the trade show industry! It's too bad that more people (especially show organizers and exhibitors) don't heed his message for the need of perpetual enhancement of the attendee/buyer's value, ROI and experience at expositions. Believe what he says! "Innovate or Die!"
Jason McGraw - International Communications Industries Assn.
A Wake-Up Call
Many organizations are learning the hard way they can no longer play a passive role in facilitating their events. Exhibitor defections and attendance downturns have dramatically impacted the vast majority of state and national associations in the last twelve months, and there is no quick turnaround in the foreseeable future. And the brutal fact is that few organizations have positioned themselves to be ready for this.
Why? Because for years associations have had the luxury of managing events that pretty much sold themselves. They've had the luxury of extraordinarily high profit margins and cash flow, because they didn't have to invest heavily into marketing and merchandising. They had the luxury of owning their association's biggest "bake sale," where boards of directors could annually squeeze out higher fees from exhibitors and sponsors without giving commensurate value in return.
That was yesterday. The low rumblings of "We can't measure ROI," have given way to LOUD complaints - even ultimatums. The corporations who have grudgingly paid the bills for so long are digging their heels in and stating "NO MORE!"
They want VALUE
This is my 19th year of consulting with hundreds of associations and corporations about their events and - quite frankly - I am still scared for the future of many businesses. I've prepared this admittedly lengthy but very important message as a "diagnostic warning:"
Over the last several years I've publicly predicted the serious problems plaguing many of the nation's largest events, even naming those specific expositions that are now teetering on the cliff of disaster. The harsh reality is that their problems are not unique and I predict that many of today's "mature" shows will join the graveyard of dead and buried past mega-events.
I don't want you to be in THAT "club.
|Steves insight to the tradeshow industry is tremendous. He presents an approach that provides new ideas and tactics that can be copied or modeled from any service industry. Since organizers of tradeshows and events do not have a product, other than service, Steves contributions provide an advantage to anyone who is listening.|
The 6 Fatal Diseases That Quietly Eat Away At
A Convention Or Exposition Business
Most people don't see these diseases until they are so far gone it's nearly impossible to cut them out. Others notice them but plod along in denial. With this message, it is my intention to begin by FORCING you to CONFRONT these diseases to hold YOUR show up to the "honesty mirror" and see if Death looks back.
If you are tempted to say, "bad things only happen to the other guy," or to ignore this little exercise, let me remind you that your entire organization is probably being heavily supported financially by your conventions and expositions. Get the accounting records, take away that revenue, and see if you'd survive. THIS IS IMPORTANT. So, let's get to work:
Disease #1: If We Build It, They Will Come
Take a look at your annual convention and ask yourself a very hard question: "What makes OUR convention different and better than any other communication option available for our members, attendees, and exhibitors?
Why do we hear over and over, "A trade show is a trade show is a trade show?"
Because the hard fact is that, with very few exceptions, EVERY convention and exposition has used the same, tired, old template for designing, marketing, and merchandising their events. EVERY convention and exposition has used the same, tired old reasons to attend or exhibit. EVERY convention and association has kept advertising, marketing, and merchandising budgets at the lowest possible levels. EVERY convention and exposition designs the look-and-feel of their events with the same, tired, old pipe-and-drape, headers, banners, aisle signage, etc., etc., etc.
Is it any wonder that in this MTV Generation, experience-driven world, people are simply getting tired of "same, tired, and old?"
THE CURE: PRACTICAL, APPLIED INNOVATION
I am eager to show you why and how to create the most innovative, most talked-about, and most eagerly anticipated events in your industry; events designed to not only WOW your attendees and exhibitors, but to ensure high, take-home value for all stakeholders.
Disease #2: Arrogance, Complacency, and Rigidity
Nobody likes being accused of arrogance. I'm sure you don't. Still, I find most events suffering from a non-deliberate managerial arrogance; that is, taking the sponsors and exhibitors for granted.
Here's what I typically find: 50% to 75% of an association's gross revenues and 80%+ of its net profits are dependent upon the convention and exposition, which lives or dies first and foremost by exhibitor and sponsor participation .... yet most associations don't even spend 10% of their revenue AND give almost no time, attention, energy, creativity or dedication to year-round, quality communication with exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees...to continuous Partnership Marketing.
Prove me wrong.
If I asked: "Show me and explain to me your DETAILED strategy for strengthening and improving relationships with all stakeholders between last year's event and this year's" - can you do it?
NOT strategically and creatively investing in nurturing this all-important asset is a form of arrogance, complacency and rigidity.
It is an ASSUMPTION that the industry has to be there. But they don't. Conventions and expositions are no longer the sole efficient marketplace they once were. Corporations now have a myriad of marketing and communication tools that are far cheaper and faster. Major conventions and expositions are no longer the 800 pound gorilla in their industries. And for many events, by the time this rethinking starts, the priest is already bedside to give last rites.
THE CURE: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT AND NEW, NEW MARKETING
I want to present you with a paradigm shift in the way you RELATE to your stakeholders.
Steve has helped our people understand what they need to do to have a successful Trade Show today. Steve is preaching the gospel of change for our Exposition Industry. A real Change Agent. The old methods are not necessarily successful in today's markets and Steve provides us the thought processes we need to transform our existing Trade Shows. We have sent a number of our Offinger Management Co. managers to Steve's programs and they all have come away with new fresh ideas that have benefited our Shows.
Walter E. Offinger - Offinger Management
Disease #3: Misplaced Priorities
One of the responses I get, when I talk about Disease #2, is "Helping our stakeholders isn't our responsibility. We just need to concentrate on the operations side of our event, and get out of the way of our members, attendees, and exhibitors. If they are too dumb to capitalize on that, that's their problem."
Maybe dead wrong.
This is a very dangerous attitude.
What business are YOU in, anyway?
You are in the rising-tide-raise-all-boats business. You are here to help EVERY individual and EVERY corporation in your industry thrive and survive. You are here to enhance and improve their lives through a three-dimensional EXPERIENCE.
Let me remind you: you sell an advertising and marketing medium which must compete for dollars with EVERY other media, vehicle and opportunity -- and increasingly, yours is being harshly compared to the others......many of which have more articulate, persuasive advocates who are able to demonstrate value and return-on-investment. The days of the automatic annual convention and exposition budget, a bit bigger than last year's, are almost over. Today and certainly tomorrow, you will compete head-on with print advertising, trade journals, seminars, video conferences, broadcast fax, websites, email, webinars, intranets, even infomercials for each client's dollars.
I know this to be true. Remember that I walk on both sides of this street; I consult with associations about convention and exposition marketing, but I also consult with corporations about convention and exposition exhibiting. Companies like Proctor & Gamble, Starbucks, Boeing Commercial Airplane, Volvo Construction Equipment, Coca-Cola, Daewoo, Phillips Electronics, US Bank, Formica, Powerbilt Golf and many more. And I can tell you: they are holding you up to a "value microscope" like never before and critically asking "where's the beef?" And you DESPERATELY NEED NEW AND BETTER ANSWERS.
Second: WHO IS YOUR CUSTOMER? Most associations focus entirely on the members. I hear, "Our (exhibitors/attendees/sponsors) aren't our members." No, I guess they're not, But they ARE vitally important customers. Without the entire stakeholder network/ ecosystem, not only does your convention or exposition go to the graveyard - your whole organization may follow.
You must focus equal efforts in helping each and every stakeholder group generate maximum ROI from your events.
Organizations too slow in making this paradigm shift in customer orientation are going to get creamed.
Third, it does no good to take money from people if you do not take steps to ENSURE that they get real AND PERCEIVED value for those dollars.
THE CURE: STRATEGIC VISIONING AND CREATING THE FUTURE YOU WANT
A new focus that goes far beyond just "building the road," all the way to "managing the journey."
In an industry that actively seems to discourage change, Millers voice is one that shouts for change and relevance. His comments make me and should make others uncomfortable...that is the essence of change!
Peter Eelman - International Manufacturing Technology Show
Disease #4: All we need to do is learn how to sell
It's interesting to me how so many associations who no longer have the long waiting lists now think the answer to their problems is simply learning how to sell.
Granted sales skills should be a given in any organization that has something to sell, but too many people forget the first rule of selling:
You have to have something to sell.
If all you're doing is getting in the face of your customers and prospects with the same-old, same-old product they haven't liked in the past, how is that going to change things? The PRODUCT, first and foremost, must be great. It must be different and better than EVERY other potential alternative vying for your customer's hard-earned time and money.
THE CURE: THE EXPERIENCE IS THE MARKETING
New, implementable innovation strategies for creating a memorable and high-valued "Branding Experience;" one that causes everybody in your industry to see as the Annual Pilgrimage.
Steve Miller is the absolute best on strategic thinking and problem solving for the trade show industry. His expertise in every phase of conducting a trade show -- strategy, tactics and operations -- should be tapped by all trade show owners, managers, and exhibitors. He is extremely adept at getting beyond just operational thinking and planning. "Borrowing brilliance" is a byword for Steve as he urges clients to think outside the trade show industry. Steve's expertise and unwavering commitment to value for all participants can help any show avoid committing "unintentional suicide.
Bill Harley - Alexandria, VA, USA
Disease #5: The High-Tech, High Touch Myth
In John Naisbitt's book, Megatrends, he wrote about how the high-tech world would create the need for more high-touch, personal encounters. And for years, the convention and exposition industry has hung its hat on this philosophy: "We provide the opportunity for that oh so important face-to-face encounter."
Except there's one big problem with that philosophy. TIME is our #1 enemy. It's your enemy. It's my enemy. And it's YOUR CUSTOMER'S ENEMY -- both exhibitors and attendees.
The idea that people will automatically set aside 2, 3, or more days each year to exhibit at or attend your convention and exposition doesn't cut it anymore. People measure the risk versus reward of being there or not being there on their own perception of value. And as I am always saying, WHERE VALUE IS CLEAR, THE DECISION IS EASY. If your exhibitors or your attendees deem the time spent in their office as more valuable, they will stay home. Period.
Unfortunately, technology is presenting more and more options for how your exhibitors and attendees communicate with each other. Technology SAVES them time.
THE CURE: WHERE VALUE IS CLEAR, THE DECISION IS EASY
Creating a high perception of value for your event through multiple, new methods of value enhancement for both your exhibitor/customer and your attendee/customer.
PMMI has retained Steve many times over the past ten years to help us attain our business objectives for our Pack Expo Shows.
Steve is an excellent facilitator who has helped our Board and Staff think though some tough strategic decisions.
Chuck Yuska - PACK EXPO
Disease #6: Necessary Evil-Itis
You ought to know this. But let me reinforce it from direct, very current experience with exhibitors: most PERCEIVE the convention and expositions they exhibit in as NECESSARY EVILS. Their salespeople grumble about being there and pretty much ignore the leads that may be collected - which, incidentally, attendees (members) complain about constantly. Corporate executives say they go because their competitors go, but if they could avoid it, they would.
This is a very, very, very unhealthy attitude (for you).
If your customer does business with you GRUDGINGLY, invests with you believing she will LOSE EVERY TIME, and views every cost increase - space, LABOR, travel, whatever - as ADDED SALT IN THE WOUND, can you really believe she will still be your customer five years from today, if she doesn't have to?
If you do, you are
Let me give you a great analogy. Yellow Pages Advertising. For years, most advertisers viewed it as a necessary evil, as defensive; they were there because their competitors were there - but they hated paying the bill every month. And for years, the Yellow Pages folks lazily let this necessary-evil-itis sustain their business.
But one day, the Yellow Pages folks woke up and realized advertisers were reducing the size of their ads rather than increasing, and the ad dollars were being "stolen" by new media, like Val-Pak and MoneyMailer, radio, TV, etc. that were perceived as positive, profitable, measurable investments.
The Yellow Pages folks got very busy, very fast.
Today, the Yellow Pages rep is a much better educated, trained, persuasive, consultative spokesperson, backed up by extensive proof of the return-on-investment facts about Yellow Pages, able to attract new types of advertisers who never used the media ten years ago and able to enjoy positive relationships with existing advertisers.
Now the Yellow Pages face new challenges (like you do), from the Internet, and malls, networks, and "electronic Yellow Pages" on the Net. The Yellow Pages folks must move quickly to effectively manage the perceptions and value-measurements of its advertisers. The average convention and exposition has an exhibitor and attendee turnover rate of 30% per year. This is ridiculous. For an event with 400 exhibitors and 5000 attendees, that's 120 NEW exhibitors and 1500 NEW attendees you have to attract just to stay even - before you can grow at all.
If you can cut turnover from 30% to 20%, you now only need 80 newbie exhibitors and 1000 newbie attendees to stay even.
It IS possible.
Even while other shows are being destroyed by the diseases of misdirection, customer defection and same-old, same-old, you can put YOURS on track to new, vibrant, and better-than-ever health. But not by doing what you've done before.
You MUST ACT NOW to eradicate necessary-evil-itis from YOUR exhibitors and attendees. They canNOT be left viewing your Event as an expense. They must see it and value it as a positive, profitable investment.
THE CURE: FACT-BASED, FUTURE FORECASTING
Predict the future from a practical, pragmatic, and fact-based viewpoint. Create dramatic and valued change in YOUR business so that the attendees and exhibitors view it differently from any other convention and exposition, or alternative tool. Win the expense vs. investment battle by becoming a "strategic PARTNER" with each stakeholder.
How Do We Work with a New Consulting Client?
Despite the fact that you may suffer from the same disease as other events, not every event is the same. Since each consulting plan must be customized to fit the client's unique needs and objectives, I wanted to explain how we typically start with a client and give you examples of work we've done or are doing.
Current Situation Analysis
First, we send an extensive questionnaire that details for us information about your organization, your show, history, industry trends, competition, etc. In addition we ask for as much collateral information as you can provide, including examples of trade magazines and editor contacts. We will study this information and then discuss with you perceptions of what we have learned. From there he'll also discuss a preliminary direction for his work.
Initial Two-Part Meeting
I come into your office and spend a day with you, your staff, and any others also involved. For the first half of the day, I present a seminar on findings uncovered in the preliminary work, an overview of a new and different perspective of trade shows, and a walk through the mind of your exhibitors. I include recommendations on how to reinforce and enhance your long-term relationships with exhibitors, how you can create manageable growth in your event(s), and other pertinent information. For the second half of the day, I will facilitate a meeting on how to take this new perspective and implement it into your long-term strategies and tactics. Together we'll create a laundry list of specific objectives, responsibilities, and timelines for implementation and tracking.
After this initial meeting, you'll receive a summary of the day along with a specific Action Plan for moving forward. If we might have a role in that future, we will include any necessary proposal for future participation.
For some organizations, this meeting is as far as my participation goes. For others, involvement may get deep and lengthy. Since every organization is different, we won't know until after the initial meeting.
If you're serious about your organization's future, contact us!
You can phone Kay at 253-874-9665, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where Value is Clear,
the Decision is Easy!
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