During the second week of June, NSSF held its 2017 SHOT Show® Exhibitor Academy. Now in its fourth year, the forum provides nearly three days of roundtable discussions and keynote speakers addressing topics designed to maximize every SHOT Show exhibitor’s return on investment. Attendees also got a behind-the-scenes look at the Sands Convention Center, the Venetian/Palazzo hotel complex, Freeman’s Las Vegas facility and access to many other partners that contribute to a successful show.
This year’s Academy was our most interactive to date, with exhibitors asking important questions and everyone exploring ways to improve the show. This ability to communicate with other exhibitors, NSSF staff, and representatives from the show’s many partners helps our exhibitors think beyond their booth. Indeed, the Academy is the one-stop shop for becoming educated about every aspect of the Show and connecting with the people who can personally help each exhibitor reach their goals.
One of the highest rated educational opportunities at this year’s Academy was when the exhibitors had the opportunity to participate in question-and-answer sessions with two special panels — one of buyers and one of members of the outdoor press. During these sessions, the panelists provided information on how to get buyer and media attention, as well as some harsh truths about what exhibitors could be doing better both during the show and after, especially when it comes to lead follow-up. When the panel adjourned, we had more than a few of the attending exhibitors say that they were coming away with a better understanding of how the outdoor media does their job, how important a role they can play in a manufacturer’s success after the show is over and with a commitment to taking a fresh look at how they’d engage the press in 2018.
Another highlight of the Academy was speaker Stephanie Selesnick. Selesnick is the President of International Trade Information, Inc., a Los Angeles-based boutique exhibition management and consulting firm that works with trade shows around the world. Her presentation to the Academy was dedicated to the critical importance of focused social media roadmaps and how they can produce tangible results in the booth during SHOT Show and in the months after. She worked with the audience to get rid of the tired “Come see us at Booth #####!” and design more engaging social media content that creates excitement about new products and drives the buyers exhibitors truly need to their booths. Just a few of the takeaways, several revealed in an important trade show study Selesnick discussed, included:
- Twitter is considered to be the most useful platform for tradeshows by a margin of 93 percent.
- When it comes to engagement that grabs the user’s attention, clever content is desired by 86 percent, while the use of pictures — puppies and kittens really do the trick — came in at a full 100 percent.
- People share what touches them — as an exhibitor, your social media campaign has to be engaging enough for them to share it and give you credit for it.
- Your social media campaign has to be about your audience, not you. Exhibitors know what they want to push out, but you have to know what your audience is interested in taking in.
- It’s essential for exhibitors to find the platforms their audiences are engaging in and go to them — they won’t come to you. Most popular: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
In addition to the special outdoor press and social media discussions, our exhibiting attendees really gave their attention to the one-on-one sessions and networking opportunities that let them sit down with SHOT Show team members and ask, “What can I do better?” Exhibitors can get stuck in a rut, neglecting to change up their booth, press conferences, media kits and other things from year to year. Many often think they just have to put up with certain things, because “that’s how you do SHOT Show.” We told them, in reply, things like “You don’t need that much power,” “You don’t need to go hungry for four days,” and “You don’t need that much furniture in your booth.” And then they heard, “Let us help you save money, save time and have a better show.” We were gratified by how receptive everyone was to the information — when our exhibitors want to make the show better, it will be better.
NSSF’s Exhibitor Academy only happens once a year, in June. That’s about seven months before the next SHOT Show and the time when most exhibitors are beginning their planning for that show. Thus, the Academy allows those exhibitors taking part ample time to take their new bank of knowledge home and make the changes and updates they feel would be beneficial. For exhibitors who haven’t attended an Exhibitor Academy before, we encourage you to mark your calendars for next June and make the trip to Vegas. Remember, everything but your flights to and from Vegas are taken care of by NSSF, so your out-of-pocket expenses are minimal.