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How to Attract Attendees to a Conference Exhibit Booth

How to Attract Attendees to a Conference Exhibit Booth

Hello and welcome to the 2022 SIIA AMPLIFY Conference! 🎙 We’re coming to you live from Washington, DC, where hundreds of nonprofit professionals are learning about best practices in association publishing.

This is my first time exhibiting with SIIA, although I’ve been a member of their Association Council (formerly known as Association Media & Publishing) for years. Building my booth was a bit daunting at first; I’ve attended and worked many conferences but I wasn’t sure what the right angle was for my own business. As we’ve discussed, marketing yourself is hard and I have a particular paralysis when it comes to marketing my own business.

In my previous life at the Federal Bar Association, I purchased a prize wheel and used it during events to promote upcoming conferences. We had smaller prizes that related to the locations of the upcoming conferences as well as big ticket items like a free registration. It was pretty popular—who doesn’t like free stuff?—and also very LOUD while the wheel clicked against the spinner. Good times.

So in planning my Silverbrook booth for AMPLIFY, I reminisced on the good old times with the “wheel of destiny.” I decided to ask my former work wife coworker and conference whiz Melissa Schettler about using the wheel to entice attendees to visit me.

“The great thing about the wheel is that it’s so customizable,” she said. “You can use it to give away free stuff to people in exchange for their business card—which gives you guaranteed leads. If you include some big-ticket items, it’s also a way to showcase some of your offerings and let people know what you can do.”

Sounds like a great business plan, and I also felt like it would showcase my fun personality and help people know that I don’t take myself too seriously. 🥸 I definitely wanted to include it in my booth! So I started the joyful process of buying things to give away. I structured my prizes so that I had more low-ticket items (stickers, magnets), some mid-priced (pencils and pop-its), two work-related but lower-priced items (free blog posts), and one major big ticket item that really shows the value of what I do (a marketing audit). I also made sure to put the actual cash value of the work-related items so that people understood the value of what they were winning. Here’s the final look of the wheel:

The Wheel of Destiny!

OK, so I planned to use the wheel. What about the rest of the booth? The space came equipped with a 6-ft table and a chair, but I didn’t think I wanted to just be trapped behind a table all day. Plus, how would I be able to see the wheel if it was on the table facing attendees and I was behind the table? I decided I needed more assistance from an event planning expert, and contacted Kate Koch of KFK Associates.

“The best thing you can do is either eliminate the large table or find an alternative way to use it,” she said. “You definitely don’t want that division between yourself and the attendees. You also have to remember that you’ll be moving around a lot and interacting with people, attending sessions yourself, and greeting people and shaking hands. The table just obstructs all of that good energy.”

Hmmm. I knew that I needed some sort of table to hold all my prizes and to hide my boxes and bags that I would be carrying, but I wanted to heed Kate’s advice on the booth layout. I decided to turn the table 90 degrees and have it at the side of the booth with the wheel at the front. That way, the wheel is closest to the attendees and I could stack my prizes out of the way behind it. This is how it turned out:

Don’t mind the wrinkles…

Side note: I also bought my own tablecloth in a brand color to differentiate my booth from all the black tablecloths that come with the setup (see in the background). I neglected to take it out of the package beforehand, however, so it is ultra wrinkly. This is bothering me less since it’s turned sideways, but still—ugh. Next time, I’ll steam it before folding it back up nicely!

At this point, I had the wheel and accessories figured out, but I still had no idea what to do about the background of my booth. In some cases, the conference planners will have “pipe and drape” (curtain) walls set up between booths to demarcate the exact dimensions of the booth. In this case, the tables are just out in an atrium and you kind of have to just stake out your space as best you can. Not my favorite, but I made it work. In either case, I knew that a simple banner wasn’t going to cut it.

I researched different exhibit booth branding options, and there was a massive range between $1,200ish and $10,000+. You can buy your own flooring, have multiple walls, have your own lighting, built-in screens for multimedia displays… the options go on and on. I ended up going with a company that offered an 8’x8′ backdrop that promised it could be easily put together by one person (important). The backdrop came with an awesome hard shipping case, which is key, and they have this really cool option of buying graphics that turn the case into a podium! Of course I’m bougie and had to get that option—how cool.

Once I decided on the setup, I had to design the graphics. This was by far the hardest part of the booth choices because I need this investment to take me through several conferences. It needed to be relevant to my brand but also flexible enough to speak to attendees within my target market at different events.

Another side note: This conference sponsorship came with an ad in the Association Council’s magazine, and I had spent a decent amount of time coming up with my full-page ad. I decided then to use that as inspiration for my website redesign and apply the same theme to my conference backdrop!

Because I’m a pro, it only took about 15 minutes to craft the designs once I knew the direction I was headed. I uploaded my art, and a couple of weeks later my booth was delivered! I did a trial run in my living room, which was hilariously cramped, and it really is easy to put together by myself. Here’s how the whole booth turned out:

I lurve it so much!

But, even after all this planning I still wasn’t done. The conference sponsorship also included the option to provide an insert in the bags given to all attendees. How could I pass up that opportunity?! I knew I didn’t want to provide an 8.5×11 sheet or even a postcard that would just get lost in the shuffle. I needed something unique but still cost effective that people would find value in and keep around for a while.

I started thinking about what the attendees would use. These people work in media and publishing, so they likely prepare files for printing at least occasionally. Since print is an area of expertise for me, I ran with that idea. I developed a prepress checklist and a press checklist so that people could cross all their i’s and dot their t’s before going to press. But what format should I use?

I still didn’t want it to get lost, and I wanted it to be useful on both sides of the item. I decided to put a ruler on the other side, which forced the page size to be 13″ and provided and extra bump of value. I included my business card information so people would have it on hand. AND, to add another layer of “don’t overlook or throw this away,” I had them letterpress printed on the same stock as my business cards! An extra expense, but worth it in my opinion. Here’s the front and back of the bag inserts:

If only you could feel the texture.

So I’m sure you’re wondering what the ROI is on all of this work, right? How many people have actually come by my exhibit booth? Well, I’ve collected information from around 65 attendees who spun the wheel, and most of those had conversations with me about my services and shared their pain points with me.

Honestly, when it comes to ROI, I’m not sure I can put a price on the branding element. I’m getting my name known, and who knows how long someone will remember me and my information down the line? I have a great feeling about exhibiting here, and it’s been a really fun change of pace to meet new people in person and represent my company. This is everything I’ve worked toward, and it feels like it’s all finally happening! 🤗

Adobe Is Removing Pantone Swatches From Its Products. But Is It Really a Big Deal?

Adobe Is Removing Pantone Swatches From Its Products. But Is It Really a Big Deal?

As a Graphic Communications major at Clemson, I became familiar with the Pantone Matching System (PMS) and its cult status among designers and printers alike. When I landed my first job at a printing company, I was gifted my very own PMS swatchbook. It felt like winning the lottery – probably because those swatchbooks cost hundreds of dollars! I felt validated as a “real” member of the industry.

Cut to December 2021, when Adobe announced that as of March 2022, the Pantone Color Libraries will be removed from future software updates. This includes Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Adobe Color, and Adobe Capture. To say that I (and millions of designers and printers across the world) was shocked is an understatement! I couldn’t believe that these two industry giants would part ways and leave people hanging.

For more than 30 years, Pantone has been a critical element in print workflows. Across all printing categories – from screen printing to offset to large format – Pantone has been a touchstone that connects designers and printers, keeping everyone on the same page. (See what I did there?)

Along with the announcement, Adobe stated that they were working on alternative solutions. It appears that they have some workarounds in place for users, but why is this change taking affect in the first place? And what does it mean for those of us who rely on the integration of Pantone into Adobe products?

Why is Adobe Booting Pantone?

Marcie Foster, director of brand management and marketing communication at Pantone, stated that the libraries in Adobe’s programs are outdated and missing many newer colors. There was a limited number of PMS swatches available in Adobe products to begin with. Only around 2/3 of the 15,000 PMS colors were included, and none of the fashion or home and interior colors. Foster emphasized that this move will provide a better user experience.

Yet industry experts speculate that Pantone’s exorbitant licensing fees likely have to do with the split. Pantone recently launched its own digital platform for designers called Pantone Connect. This platform aims to streamline users’ decision-making process when selecting colors for projects. It is being marketed as the singular access point for all PMS colors across all systems and is available as a mobile app as well as desktop. To use Pantone libraries with Adobe Creative Cloud, users will need the Pantone Connect plug-in.

What Are the Implications for Designers and Printers?

As outrageous as this situation seemed at first glance, the reality isn’t that bad. The Pantone Connect app and extension are free if you create an account! The free version includes all 15,000 colors, measurement tools with PMS reference numbers, and creation and storage of 10 palettes. I signed up for a free account in about 3 minutes with minimal personal information – basically just my email address. I’m sure it will be just as simple to add the extension in my Adobe Creative Cloud programs.

If the free version isn’t enough, users can upgrade to Premium for $7.99/month or $59.99/year. The Premium version includes more tools and unlimited palette creation. Most working professionals spend more than that on far more trivial purchases. If relying on PMS colors is your livelihood, it seems like a small price to pay for an optional upgrade.

Despite the ease of use and a robust free option, the average user rating is hovering at 1.86 stars out of 5 right now. People are NOT pleased, and they are letting everyone know. But what I don’t understand is why? Are they just salty because it’s going to require 10 minutes of setup? Have they not done any research of their own? Is outrage just that contagious?

How Useful Is Pantone Anymore Anyway?

I think it’s a nonissue to just get a free Pantone Connect account, but this whole discussion brings up a larger point. It might sound sacrilegious to many designers and print industry experts, but maybe it’s time to rethink our reliance on Pantone. As digital printing continues to evolve, technology is removing the need for spot inks. Sure, PMS colors are useful for viewing premixed swatches and dialing in on a specific color value, but we have the capability to build infinite colors. It’s not as though we are limited in our ability to measure and define color! CMYK, RGB, and Lab values translate just as well.

Before you come after me with pitchforks and torches, I accept that this would be a massive change. It’s not something that would happen overnight! But I’d be willing to bet that even branding giants like Coca-Cola don’t simply use PMS colors anymore – there’s just too much digital printing to rely on a single, non-scientific system. As technology advances and the printing industry evolves, we need to think outside the box – and the swatch.

What do YOU think? Is everyone overreacting, or am I delusional to think that it’s so easy to get the extension? Let me know!

Sending Direct Mail in the Era of Hybrid Workplaces

Sending Direct Mail in the Era of Hybrid Workplaces

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many workers have proven themselves as being productive when working at home. Now, they are pushing for flexible work arrangements to continue. Fortunately, most employers have no plans to completely end remote work. Recent surveys show that nearly 60% of companies are planning to adopt some form of hybrid workplace. So what does this mean for marketers who incorporate direct mail into their mix?

Plan Early and Build in Time

Hybrid work means people will be splitting their time between work and home. At the very least, this affects your direct mail timeline because you’ll have fewer chances to reach people at their offices. For example, if someone only works in the office Monday through Wednesday and your mail piece lands on a Thursday, you’ve lost that week. If you’re marketing a conference, a sale, or anything else with a deadline, be sure to start planning early! You’ll want to allow more time to develop the mail piece and more time for it to sit on desks before being seen.

Where and How to Send Direct Mail

Are people more likely to open their mail at the office or at home? Given that the average American household receives 454 pieces of marketing mail per year, it’s probably easier to reach people in the office. Most people don’t have store circulars and bills to contend with at the office. In fact, if your prospect list includes entry-level workers, you might make their day by sending mail to them!

Of course, if your main audience is filled with movers and shakers, you’ll need to make your mail piece stand out even at the office. Oversized envelopes have the highest response rate of any marketing mail (an average of 5%). There’s recently been an uptick in these types of campaigns, where a letter and catalog or large (8.5 x 11 size) brochure are mailed in a 9 x 12 envelope. Even when your prospect knows it’s direct mail, they want to open it and find out what’s inside. Remember: Up to 90% of direct mail gets opened, compared to only 20-30% of emails.

Don’t Skimp on Copywriting and Design

Once your direct mail is opened, it’s time for the copy and graphics to do their job. Talk about leaving an impression (printing pun!)—75% of people can recall a brand immediately after seeing a direct mail piece. That’s compared to only 44% who viewed a digital ad. Make sure your piece is branded well and uses copy to entice your audience to learn more.

Do you use direct mail in your marketing mix? Did you know I graduated with a degree in Graphic Communications, and learned to run presses? Let’s discuss!

Using TikTok for Business: A Young, Cool Guy Schools Me

Using TikTok for Business: A Young, Cool Guy Schools Me

Age is nothing but a number. It only matters how young you feel. The platitudes go on, but as people get older, it’s generally accepted that they lose touch with what’s cool to younger generations.

Technically, I’m a millennial. Being born at the cusp, however, means I’m in a super special subset referred to as “elder millennials” or even “geriatric millennials” (thanks, internet). As such, I am slowly losing sight of what’s cool—including social media trends—despite trying to stay informed.

TikTok is one of those things that I’ve known about for years but never got into. To me, it is all silly dances and young people being young. What relevance could it possibly have to the business world?

I recently spoke to a friend on the other end of the millennial range to help me understand. Patrick Maercklein, a marketing specialist at Employment Enterprises, is young and cool. His explanation of Tiktok and its potential for business use was enlightening, and now I’m passing those tips on to other geriatrics like me!

What Even is TikTok?

With 689 million active users worldwide, it would shock me if you’ve never heard TikTok mentioned. If you watch Instagram reels, you’ve likely even seen repurposed content from TikTok. While I’ve been out of the loop, I’ve at least been near it.

TikTok was created in China in 2016 and was originally called Douyin. The company then acquired a lip-sync app called in 2017 and started gaining traction in the United States. TikTok took off in popularity due to trendy dances that users copied and shared. Over time, and with rapid adoption, content has evolved to—as Patrick says—”anything and everything.” (If you want to go down a rabbit hole, there’s a longer history by Big 3 Media that covers the app in depth.)

“In simple terms it’s a video platform that is the inverse of Instagram.” Patrick explains. “Instead of your feed being filled with people you follow, TikTok is the opposite. Your go-to feed is other people’s videos and then the algorithm mixes in content from people you’re following.”

I already have Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts that I interact with every day. So I asked Patrick, why should I get TikTok? “Because it’s less of a social media platform with your connections and more entertainment,” he replies. In essence, it’s tailored to you but it’s not curated content by your friends.

How Do You Create a TikTok Video?

To create a TikTok, you can either upload video from your camera roll (on a smartphone) or shoot video within the app. “TikTok has a very basic video editor with lots of available effects as well as a library of sounds (music, sound clips, etc.), says Patrick. The app tells you what sounds are trending so you can capitalize on the music of the moment. You can also save sounds for later when you’re viewing a video and like what you hear. (Pro Tip: Using the right sounds has a lot to do with how well your posts perform. If you’re using a trending sound, the algorithm is more likely to put your video in front of people.)

What Type of Content Is a Good Fit for TikTok?

Patrick emphasizes the ability of TikTok to show the personality of the brand. “Behind the scenes videos perform really well because they show the faces behind the brand,” he says. In short, TikTok is a platform that is grounded in reality. There’s no need for perfect lighting and color schemes.

He also shares that TikTok is super engaging and has a wide variety of engagement tools built in. “Typical Google searches are saturated and people are recycling the same types of content. On TikTok, you can respond to a comment with a new video and engage directly with the audience.”

How Does Content Get Shared?

Patrick says, “The TikTok algorithm is unreal because it knows exactly what types of content you want. I’d argue that hashtags on TikTok are more valuable than hashtags anywhere else.” The platform shows you content not only just from hashtags you follow, but also from trending hashtags. This way, users can go viral by jumping on a hashtag bandwagon of sorts.

“Because of the way TikTok is formatted and a random person is thrown on your discover page, it is so, so easy to to blow up. You can grow TikTok faster than any other platform,” Patrick explains. He believes that this ability to go viral is a big reason why businesses are tapping into it. “At my internship, I had a video that had 500,000 views! It was as simple a topic as “top 5 highest paying jobs.”

You can’t share someone else’s content to your feed the way you can on Facebook. You can, however, send videos to a group chat with friends or email or text a video to others through your address book.

What Is Your Ultimate Advice for Businesses Looking to Use TikTok?

“My main recommendation for businesses is that you have to be sure your target audience is active on the platform.” Patrick notes that the TikTok audience is nationwide and you can’t target local audiences specifically. “I also think you have to have the right audience demographics. It’s very much geared toward younger generations so be sure that’s the audience you want before you invest time in developing the channel for your business.”

Patrick also has doubts about sponsoring content on the platform. “You can pay to sponsor content on TikTok, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. Leveraging hashtags and popular sounds gives you the opportunity to reach your audience without paying. I grew my employer’s TikTok to over 1,000 followers within a few months.” He also says that posting consistently and trying new things are the keys to getting people to catch on and follow your brand. “It takes a lot more work than you would think.”

What do you all think? Was this as helpful to you as it was for me? Thanks so much, Patrick!

8 Reasons Your Nonprofit Organization Needs a Podcast

8 Reasons Your Nonprofit Organization Needs a Podcast

Did you know that 37% of the United States population—104 million people—listened to at least one podcast in the last month? The format is more popular than ever, with more than 700,000 podcasts available online.

So what does this mean for your nonprofit organization or association? In short, it means that you could be missing out on a lot more audience to receive your message.

The term podcast, in case you didn’t know, refers to a series of on-demand audio content that users can listen to. People subscribe to podcasts they like, and either listen online or download them to their computer or smartphone.

There are tons of how-to blogs out there on creating a podcast. A great one from Podcast Insights goes through each step with detailed information. What we’re tackling today is WHY your association needs a podcast.

Establish Your Nonprofit as an Industry Thought Leader

What better authority is there in your industry than your association? By creating a podcast, you can position your brand as the literal voice of your cause. Aim to answer questions your members, constituents, or the media have about industry practices and address timely and interesting topics.

You don’t need to completely reinvent the wheel to provide thought leadership. Blogs, whitepapers, and even video content can be repurposed to provide insight for a new audience.

Bolster Relationships With Your Key Stakeholders

Your board of directors likely meets regularly to guide the mission and strategic planning of your nonprofit. Recognize them for the experts they are and ask for topic ideas that will resonate with your members. Don’t stop at the highest level, either; chapter leaders make great resources, too!

Depending on the format you decide on, you might want to interview key players on the podcast. Fortunately, you have built-in connections within your organization who you can invite on the podcast. I guarantee they will be flattered at being asked, and you’ll capitalize on their involvement with your association. The beauty of this format is that each interviewee will market the podcast to their connections, exposing you to new potential followers.

Connect With Another Segment of Your Audience

Despite the 700,000 podcasts out already out there, you’ll actually encounter less competition with this format. There are approximately 2 million blog posts published daily and 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. In comparison, the chances of reaching your audience via podcast are good.

You’ll also connect with people who are already aware of your organization but prefer to listen rather than read. Remember, we all learn and absorb information in different ways! This audience often multitasks while they listen, using your podcast to enhance what they are already doing—whether it’s their daily commute, working out at the gym, or doing house or yard work.

Develop Authentic Relationships Between Your Audience and Your Brand

You know how it’s so easy to misunderstand the tone or meaning behind a text message or email? The podcast format allows so much personality to shine through and creates familiarity with your listeners. While it’s important to maintain your brand’s voice and tone, the more casual and comfortable vibe of a podcast will resonate with your audience. You can even invite them to contribute by providing a form on your website. You can ask for topic ideas and other feedback to incorporate into future shows.

Generate Non-Dues Revenue for Your Association

It’s not always easy to raise money for a nonprofit organization, and many end up relying on membership dues to stay afloat. The problem with this comes when too much revenue is dependent on each member gained or lost. The more non-dues revenue streams an association can maintain, the easier it is to weather membership ebbs and flows.

Your association likely already has a media kit for sponsorship opportunities, so it’s easy to add your podcast. It could be difficult to sell at first without listener data, but creative pricing strategies might help a company get in at the ground level. Given the inexpensive startup cost of a podcast, even a minor sponsorship will create revenue in no time.

Boost Your SEO With Keywords and Links

According to Apple’s Podcast Best Practices, the title, author, and description tags are critical for growing your audience. (We need to listen to Apple; as much as 70% of a podcast’s listens and downloads are from iTunes.) While these tags apply to your listing within Apple itself, all roads should lead back to a landing page on your website. Make sure you have Google Analytics tied to your landing page so that you can track searches and referrals!

Creating a transcript for each podcast can help boost SEO, but in reality you don’t even have to create a full transcript. You can write a summary for each show full of long form keywords and featuring quotes from the audio. You’ll also benefit when your interviewees or other guests link back to your landing page to promote their appearance. High-quality links contribute to and raise your domain authority on Google.

Provide Growth For Your Marketing Team

Starting a podcast is simple, inexpensive, and effective. Behind the scenes, however, someone needs to organize topic ideas, edit the audio, promote each show, and track metrics. Because it’s so easy—and since 87% of millennials believe learning and development in the workplace is important—this is a perfect opportunity to help a junior-level marketing team member level up. Someone with initiative, good organization skills, and attention to detail can make the podcast their own and prove themselves.

Create Consistent Content For Other Marketing Channels

Ever wonder what you’re going to post on social media? Marketing your podcast is an easy way to continue repurposing content. Take quotes from each show, make YouTube videos with the audio, create graphics to promote the podcast. There are endless ways for your content to keep pointing back to each other. You’ll also want to submit your podcast to “podcatchers” and podcast aggregators—lists where it can be discovered by a wider audience.

Final Note: Persistence and Consistency Are Key

Launching a podcast can be an impactful strategic marketing move for your association. But like any inbound marketing tactics, it’s a long game of consistently producing quality content. You should build up at least 3-5 shows before you start marketing the launch of your podcast. Maintain promotion efforts and expect several months for your numbers to rise, even with a built-in audience of members. Trust in the engaging content you are creating and distributing, and have patience for the payoff.