On the road again

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Expect more than 10,000 delegates and 500-plus exhibitors this week at DMA•06 in San Francisco, the world's largest gathering of direct marketers. How do you stand out other than wearing a chicken suit or walking on stilts? How do you benefit from the experience?

Direct marketers spend prodigious sums to attend trade shows - to speak, exhibit, prospect, network, reconnect with clients or simply listen in on the sessions. And like any other marketing activity, there's always a postmortem. What was the return on investment? How many cards did you exchange? Whom did you wine and dine? Who wined and dined you? What was your competitor pitching? Talk to any reporters? What was the audience reaction to your speech? Hear any new ideas on the show floor or in the sessions? Where are your notes?

That last question on notes should be asked more rigorously. There's not enough note taking, despite the flourishing log-and-blog culture. No matter what your level of experience, it always helps to jot key points down and then circulate them back in the office for others to share in the knowledge.

Let's talk about the booth. Don't stand in a cluster. It intimidates. You know that from the bar experience. Dress smartly. Don't eat there. What does your background display say? Is it the same tired booth traveling from show to show? Is it addressing the pain points pertinent to that show's focus? Is it saying or showing something that will draw the show floor visitor to your side of the aisle? Are you making eye contact with a slight nod and a smile? Do you have a flier or a four-page brochure on stands at both ends of your booth? Is the unique selling proposition clearly spelled out?

Switch to that prized cow: the marketer with the budget. Of course, they're going to flip their name badge or not make eye contact. Who wants to be pitched from sunup to sundown? But that is no excuse for them to walk around with that know-it-all look. They should explore the new technologies, formats and tactics available. Sit through sessions and learn something new. Been there, done that no longer works. Walk the show floor. Meet with vendors even if your current needs are met. You never know. Be prepared to be overwhelmed. That's reality. And don't wait to be courted. Only one class deserves that privilege: the consumer.

Now about speakers and panels. Too many, don't you think? What to tell them? Yield to Voltaire. Le secret d'ennuyer est celui de tout dire - the secret of being a bore is to tell everything.

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