Welcome to the third installment in this series on how to choose a spokesperson for your company trade show, user conference, video or promotion. And now we get down to the nitty-gritty: price. Budget is always a concern, of course; you don't want your manager breathing down your neck about overspending. But neither do you want to go with the cheapest option, in which case your manager might breathe down your neck for ruining the entire event.
How do you choose based on price?
First, your primary concern is always, ALWAYS choosing a spokesperson who can
effectively be the face and voice of your company and deliver your
company message. As we've talked about in Choosing a spokesperson: looks and Choosing a spokesperson: qualifications, price shouldn't be your biggest concern. If you choose based on the image your company's needs, then your image, sales leads and bottom line will ultimately be enhanced and enriched--in short, you'll get a value return on your investment.
Second, create a budget. Many first-time clients don't do this and end up with an underbudgeted, underqualified spokesperson, thereby minimizing their trade show experience. Don't fall into this trap! If you simply choose a number out of the sky, you might end up with an underqualified spokesperson who can sap time, money and effectiveness from your budget. For example, if you budget $1,000 a day for a spkesperson but the going rate is $1,750, what kind of spokesperson do you think you'll get in comparison to other exhibitors?
Third, do a little market research. Ask around to determine what to expect. I'm always happy to put people in contact with my agent, who can give the run-down of all rates from the simplest to the most involved presentations. She has her finger on the pulse of the industry and will even make calls for you to determine what other talent and agencies are offering. And she won't even lean on you too heavily to engage me. :-)
Last, be honest about your budget. Most of us are willing to work within your budget to make sure you have the best experience possible, so be up front with concerns and limitations. A good spokesperson will be creative and flexible and work with you so that you have a profitable trade show and get a good return on your investment.
In short, the best way to get the most out of your spokesperson is to first choose one that can best represent your company and then create a realistic budget with a little wiggle room.
After placing my request for a non-flammable replacement battery from Apple, I received this email response:
Dear Apple Customer,
Thank you for ordering a replacement battery. Your request (Order number XXXXXX) is currently being processed.
It will take approximately 4 to 6 weeks for your replacement battery to arrive. Please note that shipping time may vary due to availability of your battery model.
Battery Exchange Program details and an FAQ may be found at:
We appreciate your cooperation with this exchange program.
Gee, four to six weeks? So if my battery bursts into flame before then... ? Apple doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to rectify their mistakes, do they? I'm glad they did institute this program, but their approach seems awfully.... lazy and corporate. Disappointing.
OK, you've looked at a few headshots and have narrowed down your spokesperson search to a handful of appropriate candidates. Now we get to the substance: what qualifications do you look for to make your final choice?
First, keep in mind once again that this person will be the face and voice of your company for the duration of the trade show. Ideally, she should be indistinguishable from one of your own sales reps. In fact, if attendees come up after her presentation and ask technical questions about the products, then you know you made the right choice!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. What should you look for in a resume/website/video of a potential spokesperson? Here are a few things to consider:
Length of experience. She must have done at least ten trade shows, preferably more than fifteen. There is an ease that comes with having done hundreds of presentations; an experienced spokesperson will find it easier to go with the flow when technical difficulties or other obstacles occur. You don't want a newbie, who will be more likely to panic when conditions change.
Diversity of experience. Has she worked in just one industry or across a variety of fields? If the one industry is yours, that specialized experience might be a plus. But a diverse resume showing adeptness across industries indicates a level of adaptability and flexibility, two qualities that separate the great presenters from the just-OK ones. My clients often worry that their scripts and products will be too technical and too specialized for a spokesperson to learn quickly and present credibly. That is exactly why diversity of experience is so important--if a spokesperson can learn everything there is to know about cranberries one week and laser neurosurgery the next, then she can undoubtedly handle your product confidently as well!
Testimonials. If she doesn't have testimonials, you might ask yourself why. Clients who are willing to endorse a spokesperson indicate that they have a stake in her success. Check out her testimonials--what characteristics are they stressing? Reliability? Increased revenue? Flexibility? Energy? And which criteria are most important to you?
Video. It still amazes me that many spokespeople try to get work without a video. Now, having gone through this process myself, I realize that it's a bit of a catch-22--you need a video of yourself presenting for clients to get work, but you can't get work without a video of you presenting for clients! Still, this goes under the "you don't want a newbie" rule. While I'm quite thrilled that some clients took a chance on me before I had my video, there is no excuse for a spokesperson who has done at least three trade shows not to have a video. So, what do you look for in a demo video?
First, what not to look for: expert video production. Worry less about
the quality of the video--most spokespeople aren't video experts, so
the tape may be low quality. Focus instead on the presenter's presence,
presentation style and capacity to engage an audience.
Presence. When you see her on stage, how does she come across? Authoritative? Warm? Engaging? Confident? Which of these characteristics is most important to you and will best represent your company message?
Presentation style. Is her talk formal and perfect, like a commercial, or down-to-earth and personal, like a one-on-one talk? Or can she do both? Which style is most appropriate for you and your company?
Audience engagement. Does her video show how she interacts with an audience? Does she talk, laugh and hand out prizes or deliver the message straight? Is she comfortable interacting personally with an audience?
So a good general rule is as you skim over a resume and watch a demo video, know what kind of characteristics you need in a sales rep to deliver your message effectively. Consider what kind of presence your customers would respond to best, and narrow down your search with those criteria in mind.
This weekend, I had a real treat: Amy Gahran was in town for a conference, and I finally got to meet, in the flesh, one of my favorite online writers!
For those who say that online buddies and communication isn't "real" or that it is a poor substitute for face-to-face meetings, I'll heartily disagree. From the moment she arrived, we chatted as if we were old friends; anyone listening might suspect that we were high school friends reconnecting after a few years. And truly, I do believe that this is a function of social media: reading someone's blog over time and getting a feel for her passions and her voice can be a much better way to get to know someone than a face-to-face meeting or two.
The hardest part of the weekend was actually shutting up long enough to find a new topic of conversation (other than relationships and blogging/podcasting/social media, of course!) :-) And yes, Amy, now that I've secured a space, we need to do that Wonder Woman and Dyna-Girl blogging-podcasting seminar soon!
1:20 Announcement Heidi had a blast sitting in on FIR #166; online networking through social media
3:00 Listener mail Chris Brogan comments that we need a new model/title,
“professional conversationalists” and how important it is to get other people’s
business cards; Heidi comments that she now needs to promote herself as “Heidi
Miller—Trade Shows 2.0”
5:35 Topic: Geek Marketing Should Be Like a Good Lover Comments on Kathy Sierra’s fabulous post about marketing being sleazy because of the premise
that self-marketing and self-promotion is fake, shameful and “selling out”—she maintains that good
marketing is like being a good, caring, attentive lover
10:50 Topic: Bartering as networking Barbara Sher's Success Team model and the idea of goals and obstacles; money as an obstacle and
using barter to build a network
14:25 Request: Spread the word Do you like DSSP? Why not tell a friend and share the RSS love?
14:55 Wrap-up Email Heidi at email@example.com, call the listener comment line at 206-309-SELF, and don't forget to visit the show blog, Talk It Up! during the week, for articles and updates. Thanks for listening!
How did you learn how to condense your work, product or new project into twenty seconds?
Guy Kawasaki wrote a fascinating post on all the things we had to unlearn or learn anew from our academic experiences. He has a point--most of us were taught to write five- to ten-page papers, not three bullet points or a twenty-second elevator speech (or my own favorite Two-Second Teaser Statement).
His post got me to wondering--is the college ten-page paper really responsible for all those bad PowerPoint presentations we've seen, with too much extraneous information crammed into them to make them look more informative than they actually are? Do most presenters write their talks the night before, like a college student, and hope that no one notices that it's really just one core idea that they are expounding on? Are we really taught to favor length over brevity in the academic world and then brevity over substance in the work world?
I'm not sure that I do agree. For one, college is first place many people begin to apply critical thinking skills and are actually encouraged to look at ideas/concepts/issues/questions in depth. I actually believe that many high school students could give a twenty-second statement but would be lost if they had to expound on that idea or (heaven forbid!) write ten pages about it, with proper documentation and information based on sources other than their own heads. I think that the purpose of the five- to ten-page paper is to teach people how to do more extensive research, explore an idea more thoroughly and compile information in an organized format.
But I'm digressing a bit, because my favorite bit of Guy's post is here, under the "things most of us didn't learn in college" category:
How to explain something in thirty seconds. Unfortunately, many
schools don’t have elevators or else students would know how to explain
things in a thirty-second elevator pitch. Think mantra (three words), not mission statements (sixty words). Think time, not
money, is the most important commodity. Think ahead, not on your feet.
At the end of your thirty-second spiel, there should be an obvious
answer to the question, “ So what?” If you can’t explain enough in
thirty seconds to incite interest, you’re going to have a long, boring
Ah, yes! The merits of ten-page papers aside, this is definitely true. There is an art to the twenty-second statement, and it's vitally important that the statement not receive a shrug and a "so what?" after its delivery.
I've said it over and over--your twenty-second statement (following your two-second teaser, of course!) needs to be fun and engaging. The point is not to encapsulate your business; the point is to show who you are and to get the listener engaged and asking questions. When I was an actor, agents always recommended putting something fun at the end of the resume--something that would raise and eyebrow or garner a smile from a client sifting through dozens of photos and resumes. In my case, I added "hula-hoop champion" and "blood-curdling screams" to my CV, both of which I'm quite good at.
And it never fails--if there is ever a client holding my resume in his hand who says with a smile, "Now, I have a question... ," my immediate response is, "Well, yes, I can give your presentation while hula-hooping. But it'll cost you extra." :-)
And--zing!--there we have a connection. Now, what if the client doesn't appreciate your humor, you ask? Well, I don't tend to end up working with those clients. I believe strongly that one can be professional and still be authentic. My personality is ultimately professional but also perky and engaging; that's who I am. And if a prospect thinks that hula-hooping is too unseemly, then I probably am not the best fit to be a spokesperson for their organization, anyway. I don't have, as Guy says, "a long, boring career."
So have fun with your twenty-second. Be yourself. Be authentic. Have fun. Practice on a colleage and see if she starts asking you more questions or shrugs a "so what" back at you.
So... what have you done to craft a more engaging elevator speech?
I am up way too early for a trade show spokesperson who is used to the floor opening at 10:00 a.m.! [yawn] Still, considering Neville's grueling travel schedule, I guess I can't complain.
But I'm incredibly excited about co-hosting today's FIR: the Hobson and Holtz Report with Neville Hobson. FIR is one of my must-listen shows as soon as it comes out (and I've never had any issue with the length--what would you cut?), and I'm just tickled pick to be part of it this week. And since I've still got a bee in my bonnet about last year's Wired article that mentions that women podcasters are so few in number because women are slow to adopt new technology, I'm more than a little excited about being the show's first female guest co-host.
The idea? Marketing is a seduction scene, as sleazy and fake as a stripper in a dark club. Therefore, real idealists don't "sell out" their products. In this fan-frakkin'-tastic article in her Creating Passionate Users blog, she compares being a good marketer to being an attentive lover--and her analogy is just genius! With this simple advice, she explains putting a good face on one's product/service:
A good lover takes a shower and puts on a clean shirt.
She continues: "In other words, maybe we should stop assuming that marketing means
lying, and start treating our customers/users as people we value and
care about enough to make their life a bit more enjoyable."
What? Caring? In marketing? Is she insane?
Oh, wait. Right. That's why we're here in the first place--because we think our product/service will make someone else's life better. When did we go from genuinely believing in our products to believing that marketing them had to involve lying?
Now, this article really resonated with me for a few reasons. First, the analogy of marketing as a caring lover/spouse was spot-on. Second, she's speaking specifically of marketing to geeks, which comprise much of my client base. Third, what she's really speaking about is shameless self-promotion and the obstacle of inauthenticity that many timid self-promoters stumble on. To carry on Kathy's analogy, they think that marketing their product requires bleaching their hair blond and faking being "in the mood" in order to please the customer.
But check out her list of "Characteristics of a good lover/marketer." Having blond hair or pretending to be ready for action isn't on the list. But being thoughtful, brave, playful, caring and flexible is. I'm reminded of what so many of my girlfriends complain of in frustration: My man doesn't LISTEN to me!
How many of our customers have the same frustration with us? Shameless self-promotion should be truly without shame--it involves listening intently to your clients (and those who chose not to be your clients), caring and giving thoughtful attention to how we can make their experiences with our products better. Just like a good lover would do.
Check out Donna Pappacosta's latest Trafcom Newspodcast #35, in which she discusses how to best begin your own podcast. Her advice? Make sure you have a clear message and sturdy notes before you go worrying about technology or which microphone might be best. That is, have something to say before you worry about your tech!
From Georgia Dudley’s Empowering Women Network meeting last night, Jane Pigot, a professional speaker and Managing Director of R3 Group, shared not just how to self-promote but gave an excellent tip: start by bragging about someone else.
7:55 Topic: Networking Heidi comments (well, rants) on the old-fashioned, totally off-base ideas of "networking" promoted in Barbara Ehrenreich's 2005 book, Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream. Did no one tell her that "networking" is just talking and making friends with interesting people?
17:30 Podcast Pick: The Great Big Small Business Show Check out Becky McCray's new podcast, the Great Big Small Business Show, to which I am a proud new contributor!
19:10 Topic: Choosing the Right Spokesperson How to choose the right spokesperson for your trade show based on (what else?) looks. What to look for in terms of hairstyle, eye contact, smile and stature.
22:30 Wrap-up Email Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org, call the listener comment line at 206-309-SELF, and don't forget to visit the show blog, Talk It Up! during the week, for articles and updates. Thanks for listening!
I am honored to be a part of one of Chris Brogan and Becky McCray's new projects, the Great Big Small Business Show podcast! It's a weekly podcast of short segments on various aspects of the small biz/consulting life.
The feed is here; check it out! This week's first episode includes five short segments on:
This is the kickoff to a series of posts about vital facts you need to know about choosing a spokesperson for your trade show booth. There might be three posts; might be seven--I'm not sure yet! But to kick it all off:
First vital fact you need to know about choosing a spokesperson:
Hair color, eye color and height don't matter.
Since many clients hiring a presenter for the first time have the "booth babe" [cringe!] model still in mind, when asked what they want, they might automatically respond, "Blond, tall, attractive."
WRONG! (and I'm not saying that just because I'm not tall or blond!) :-) I know many tall, blond, attractive woman, and they are wonderful people. Are they the best to represent your product? Maybe, but you don't really know, do you?
But I'm not so naive as to tell you that appearance doesn't matter. Of course it does! This spokesperson is going to be your chief sales and marketing rep for the duration of the trade show, the face that everyone walking past the booth will see and associate with you and your brand. Of course appearance matters. I'm quite sure that my slim build and dimples were factors in many of my clients' hiring decisions!
So what do you need to consider in terms of appearance? What is most valuable to consider when hiring a spokesperson to represent your company? A few things to consider in comparison to your own company's image and message:
Hair style. Is her hair style young and hip or tidy and conservative?
Eyes. In her photos and video, are her eyes reserved and authoritative like a news reporter's, or warm and engaging, like your marketing manager's? Do you feel that she is delivering a story or having a personal conversation with you--or something in between the two?
Smile. Is her smile friendly, professional, inviting or a bit distant?
Stature. While stature usually doesn't matter, you might consider it in comparison to your products. Do you have large industrial machines that call for a more substantial, blue-collar look? Or would your clients respond better to someone who is petite and aristocratic?
Gender. What would appeal more to your clients--a woman who is seen as welcoming and approachable or a man who is perceived as more authoritative? (I'm not saying that men or women are one or the other; this is about perception and reception.)
Feedback is welcome, from those who have hired spokespeople and those who haven't!
Before blogs What the new media space is; MySpace; what we did before blogs and the downfalls of real-life networking groups
9:15 Chris brings up the idea of networking through blogging; he mentions Brian Person of NewComm Road and that Mitch Joel of TwistImage would prefer to hire somone whose blog he could read beforehand; Chris met someone who knew him from his Fat Guy Gets Fit podcast; the human face that blogging gives to larger companies
Chris brings up his meeting Michael Sampson, WOM marketer for Foldera, and all that he knew about him before meeting him; connections online vs. in person; Chris shares how John Furrier of PodTech.net gave him info that was useful as he was sitting across the table from a company rep
16:40 podcasting as a tool to build the voice of a brand (Steve Hardemann's idea, to give credit); Chris shares Michael Gohagen's story of how a California car detailer built a brand by creating a podcast; Heidi shares a story about direct marketing;
20:30Common fears and engagement Chris and Heidi discuss control and other common fears with respect to blogging and podcasting; Chris comments that a wise company will address negative comments; Heidi adds that negative comments are engagement and opportunities for differentiation
22:00 Blogs and customer service Chris shares a story involving his writing about Jake Olefski of Toodledo software's addressing an issue within two hours of a blog entry, and we discuss the immediacy of service due to blogging
26:00 Podcasting vs. dead trees We discuss the freshness of information from podcasts vs. books and audio books
26:45 What's in it for me: monetizing vs. audio newsletter Chris mentions Frank Barnaco believing that podcasts will take off and refers to an article in Market Watch magazine 30:00 Parting thoughts Get involved, use social media to look big, 'I' is the new black; being yourself matters now
31:00 Wrap-up Email Heidi at email@example.com, call the listener comment line at 206-309-SELF, and don't forget to visit the show blog, Talk It Up! during the week, for articles and updates. Thanks for listening!