Extraordinary Events Podcast

Ep 51: All Things Tradeshows with Jim Cermak

February 11, 2021
Extraordinary Events Podcast
Ep 51: All Things Tradeshows with Jim Cermak
Chapters
Extraordinary Events Podcast
Ep 51: All Things Tradeshows with Jim Cermak
Feb 11, 2021

In this amazingly passionate episode, I talk with Jim about ALL THINGS TRADESHOWS!  Tradeshows are often overlooked as a viable career option but there is a wide variety of options in this extremely successful industry!  Jim is an industry veteran with 30 years of marketing experience and is the host of an extremely successful podcast called Trade Show University!  I hope you have as much fun listening to this podcast as we had creating it!

To connect with Jim Cermak, listen to his podcast, and see all the things he has to offer, check out his website here:  https://tradeshowu.biz/  In addition to his linked social channels from his website, you can email him directly at [email protected]

Want to know more about tradeshows?  The industry organization where Jim and I met that represents the tradeshow industry is IAEE.  Check them out here - https://www.iaee.com/

Show Notes Transcript

In this amazingly passionate episode, I talk with Jim about ALL THINGS TRADESHOWS!  Tradeshows are often overlooked as a viable career option but there is a wide variety of options in this extremely successful industry!  Jim is an industry veteran with 30 years of marketing experience and is the host of an extremely successful podcast called Trade Show University!  I hope you have as much fun listening to this podcast as we had creating it!

To connect with Jim Cermak, listen to his podcast, and see all the things he has to offer, check out his website here:  https://tradeshowu.biz/  In addition to his linked social channels from his website, you can email him directly at [email protected]

Want to know more about tradeshows?  The industry organization where Jim and I met that represents the tradeshow industry is IAEE.  Check them out here - https://www.iaee.com/

Dr. K: Today we are here with Jim Cermak and what I love so much about Jim is, if you think that I am passionate, Jim is equally as passionate about the industry. He has his own podcast which he's going to talk about and you can feel his passion for our industry through his podcast. We actually met at the IAEE conference that was virtual in the fall. So the International Association of Events and Exhibitions, and when I was talking to Jim and I asked him what he does, just give me your 30 second bio background, the very first thing that he did was talk about how he was a husband of 31 years, super proud dad of two kids, and just went on and on and on about them. He is just such a great person, individual, 360 all the way around, corporate trainer by day, podcast host, trade show consulting and coaching and all the things. So thank you so much, Jim, for being on the podcast today. I'm just gonna turn it over to you. Tell all of our listeners all the amazing things about yourself now that I've already done it for you. Tell us what we should know! 

Jim: Oh my gosh, I am just, I’m really excited and honored to be here. This is so much fun and I love your passion, your energy, like you said, they feed off each other. And I'm one of those rare people that when people find out I do a podcast about trade shows, the first thing they think is that it's gonna be stuffy. And it's not because I, for some reason, I really geek out about trade shows and events and, and I just love it. But the reason I'm doing the podcast is, I've been in the industry for and when I say industry, I've been in marketing for over 30 years. And in every job I've ever had, we've always done trade shows, I've been in a lot of manufacturing companies, we've always done trade shows and conferences and things like that. From the very first one I went to, I absolutely fell in love with it. And at the time I was in the candy industry. So I worked for Fanny Farmer candies for anyone who remembers when Fannie Farmer started, they had stores all over the country. So I worked for their corporate headquarters, and we went to the Philadelphia candy show. And this is my first time at a big trade show, industry trade show. And I got to eat candy for, oh my gosh. I was just like, so excited going around. And oh my gosh, I know the candy. And of course by lunch, you want a burger or something to offset all the sugar you just ate. But it was just the excitement of everyone in that room. And I'm like, “Oh my gosh, when can we go to another one of these things?” And then a few years later, I got into manufacturing, I got into an industrial manufacturing company. And I went to our first show. And it was the same excitement about metalworking. And it's like, wait a minute, this is not candy. It's oh, you people, you know, on paper, this should not be near as exciting. You should not be as excited but people were and I understood why. Because there's just, in my world and or in my brain a trade show is the ultimate marketing tool. It is the one place where in a matter of a few hours or a few days, you can learn all about the industry. You can be speaking one on one with your target audience. You could do competitive research because your competitors are usually there. But the more I do these shows over the years, I've seen so many exhibitors leave money on the table. But that's why I started the podcast because I'm like, I want to be able to help. I want to be able to help these companies, these exhibitors know how to work shows better. And so that's that's where it all started!

Dr. K: So what inspired you to actually take the plunge and do a podcast? Not just you know, maybe one day trainings or doing a book or something, what inspired you in the podcast modality? 

Jim: It all started, I was in California, and I had a very long drive. I had to drive from Los Angeles to Sacramento, which is about six hours and through that area is a lot of nothing. No disrespect to the people in that area. But it's a lot of farmland, there's not a lot of cities or anything that you pass through. So I knew I'm going to have dead silence on my radio between LA and Sacramento. So I said, well, I've never listened to a podcast, but let me dig into one. Let me let me open my phone open this podcast player that's on my phone already. And I just did a search. And the one podcast that came up was called Entrepreneurs on Fire. And it's a daily podcast, at least that time was a daily podcast where the host interviewed a different entrepreneur every day, successful entrepreneur, and you learn lessons. And it was just very, it was fascinating. So I listened to one I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I listen, the next one and the next one I and I listened to as many as I could during that time. And then I just got hooked. And I found that, oh, my gosh, this is a way that I could number one, establish credibility and get good information out there, that's not going to just go away, it's going to be researchable. And people don't have to buy it, they don't have to go and purchase it. Plus, I always had ideas and, and the inkling to become a coach or a consultant in the tradeshow space. So I'm like well, this is a great way for people to get to know who I am, hear quality information that I can get out there. So that's kind of why I chose podcasting. I really like the modality, it's it's so much fun. 

Dr. K: So you are in the trade show you see 1000’s 10s of 1000s of exhibitors and different marketing tactics. So you mentioned earlier that exhibitors leave money on the table, so I'm going to kind of ask you two perspectives on this. I'm going to say like, what's the best exhibitor, exhibition booth that you've ever seen? And why? And then I'm gonna ask you something that could have been like, truly tremendous and fantastic. And you're looking at it, and you're like, “Wow, they missed the mark!” Without mentioning company names, of course. 

Jim: Okay, well, I'll take the first one, I'll take the first one first, and then remind me if I forget what the second one was. But the first one, the best booth. And obviously, there's a lot of flashy booths, a lot of ones that have a lot of excitement going on, that really kind of just draw you to them, that doesn't make it the best booth. Here's my example of one of the best booths I've ever been to. And it really sets up what I call the booth flow. Okay. And so what it was, was a company that brought in an outside company to print t-shirts right there. And you had your choice of different designs. And they were all about the industry that this show was around and it was fun designs and you had your choice of four. So there was a big long line. That was the first thing that drew me. It was like what was going on at that booth that there's a big long line of people waiting to get to the booth? I thought maybe there's a celebrity or something but it wasn't it. They were giving away t-shirts, So I'm like, “Okay, I'll stand in line for a T-shirt. Why not? You know, I've got some time?” So as you were coming up in line, when you came to the near the front of the line, they had someone meeting you, and they were taking your information. Maybe they were scanning the badge, but they were asking you some basic questions. And then they asked, “Well, what design do you want in your T-shirt?” And then when they were done getting their information, “Okay, okay, I need to move over there, and you need to meet Bob.” Okay, so I'm gonna go over there. And now I'm talking to Bob and Bob is asking some qualifying questions. He was qualifying me as a potential customer. And then I went to go meet the next person. I'm standing next to this really cool machine that's making t-shirts. And there's people running these silk screen machines. And then so I'm enjoying this whole process. I don't mind standing in line number one, I know I'm getting a cool t-shirt. But they're making it fun as I go along, and I meet the third person, and then they're trying to schedule an appointment with me. So as I'm waiting, they had me captive, but they're doing it very, very smart. By the end, right before they handed me a t-shirt. I had my next follow up scheduled to go to that next step. So there's a lesson there. For everybody who has a booth, it doesn't mean you have to have a big t-shirt machine or anything like that. You could be just you at a booth and you can still have a booth flow. So that is the best booth. 

Dr. K: Absolutely! So then, the next follow up question is missed opportunities so now youRe gonna talk to us about boredom. Right? 

Jim: Okay, here are missed opportunities. And this. This was a catalyst for me wanting to do the podcast. Okay? I went to a brand new show. It wasn't a new show was a new show to me. And it was a huge show. So it was like 450 exhibitors, it was in San Diego, massive exhibition hall. But I had never been to the show. And I was brand new to the industry. So I was there to learn. And I didn't know a whole lot about it when I arrived. And so they open the doors and how trade shows go, all the people are going and are just flooding down this main aisle. So I'm doing what I always do. And I just walk and I scan. So I turn my head to the left. And I'm kind of I'm not looking at anybody. I'm looking at the booth. And I'm trying to read what it says on the walls or the banners. And do I want to talk to them? Am I interested enough to find out more information? Yes or no? And if it's no then okay, and I swivel my head to the other side. And I do the same thing. And I keep walking down the aisle. And as I'm walking down the aisle, there're many well meaning people at these booths, and they're smiling, and they're exchanging pleasantries. And how are you doing? Oh, my gosh, welcome to San Diego and, and all these things that I am nodding and I'm saying, “Hi!”. And I'm being pleasant back and I get to the end of the aisle, I went walk past probably 30-40 booths. Get to the end of the aisle, and I just stopped and I said nobody helped me. I don't know any more than when I started down that aisle. Because I'm brand new to the industry. I don't know all the acronyms that are on these booths and banners and everything. So here's the lesson learned. Okay? Here's what I want everyone to take away. When someone's walking by, have a question ready to ask them. And it should be a question that stops someone in their tracks. Okay? It could be a yes, no question, but it's got to stop someone and make them think just for a split second. It can't be anything that's going to make them keep walking. You want them to stop, and then you could follow it up with something that's going to qualify them. And I'll give you a quick example and then I'll shut up. At the same show. I was walking past a booth doing my little scan, and someone asked me the question, they said, “Hey, do you use PowerPoint in your business?” And I stopped and I’m like, “Yeah, I do!” Then they said, “Do you want to see something cool?” Like, “Yeah!” So it was so simple. And they had me, it was a PowerPoint training company. And I did not become a customer. But that's okay. Because they got my attention like that so fast by just asking a quick question. “Do you use PowerPoint?” Yes or no. But I had to stop and think for a second. Yeah, I use PowerPoint. “Do I see something cool?” Who doesn't want to see something cool? But they qualified me with that very first question, quick qualification. So that's, that's the lesson. And that's why I see so many, so many companies leaving money on the table, because they don't know how to engage the attendees at the  trade shows. 

Dr. K: Oh, absolutely. I am 100% proponent of engagement, I'll share and then I'll be quiet, I will share one thing that I use at trade shows. I'm a faculty member, and I bring students but I also consult in the industry, I also run events in the industry, my role at the University of Nebraska, I work in extension. So I do have a hand in a lot of events. And for anyone that's listening to the podcast, student faculty, meeting professional, I would say, don't let the name tag immediately disqualify someone. Because there are hosted buyers, which you focus on if that show is like that. But the amount of times that I have been overlooked or a student who works in the industry, but is also taking classes, or a student who's in the industry and is continuing their education, who has chosen to enroll as a student for the lower registration are immediately overlooked. I take my students to IMEX in Las Vegas every single year. And I will tell students, I say start your blacklist now. Because if they treat you bad now, just because you're a student, when you become somebody, when you become someone who controls millions of dollars, hundreds of 1000’s of dollars, that's a true sign of who they are, and a sign of their company because their company has hired them and the company is using them to represent their company. So don't just overlook people. 

You know, don't just assume that because someone's wearing a student name tag or wearing a faculty name tag that they have no experience! And I always tell the students, remember why they're there. Remember why the businesses are there, and keep that into consideration. So I never bring students to the show floor until the very last day in the afternoon, because people are there to do business, and you want to be respectful of them and their mission and their time. But you do want to learn. So you go around all of the sales reps in the companies, maybe they're tired, maybe they're exhausted, they have no more set appointments by your appointments. And they're just bored. And so you can talk with them, engage them, get some insights in the industry, some of my students actually ended up on the front page of the Taiwan Magazine because we were just talking with them and they wanted us to take a picture on their double decker booth, it was so much fun. And you know, just really keeping in mind that it's we're all in this together, every single one of us, and students are future leaders, and they're in it with us, and just keeping that into perspective. 

Jim: That's so, so true. And t that goes not just for students, but that goes for anybody because you don't know who is there at the show. If I am there as a sales rep and I'm working my booth, and I see someone walk by and he's just dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and everyone else is dressed more professionally, quote unquote, professionally, okay. I've had people like that be the owner of the company, of a large company, that's just their style. But I've also had people that were there with a big group. And this guy may be head of maintenance. But the owner of the company is also there, or the person who's head of procurement is also there. So you don't want to bypass anybody. You can qualify them and you can ask them, “Hey, are you involved in the decision making process?” “No, I'm not.” “Well, who is?” I bet they know. So never bypass anybody and give respect to everybody, like I said, with the with the students, I love that you do that at the end of the show. It is a great time because typically the last day of the show the last afternoon it’s dragging okay? A lot of a lot of the business has already been done. So it's a great time to meet people. It's a great time to ask questions and really probe about their business about the industry. Whatever you need to find out. It's a great time to do it. 

Dr. K: Jim, thank you so, so, so much for being on our podcast today for sharing your wealth of knowledge, your passion, your energy. If people want to connect with you, what's the best way for them to connect with you? 

Jim: Absolutely. I can go over to my website, it's tradeshow.you.biz it’s trade show, the letter u dot biz. And right on the homepage is a place where you can sign up for our email newsletter. That's the best place. All of our episodes are there. But listen to The Trade Show University Podcast for virtual and live events. That's the official long title of it, we're on Apple Podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, all the other major podcast platforms, but also on my website, you can listen to all the podcast episodes. And each episode, as you know, Kristin, each episode has a different focus. Just scan through, see what topics really resonate. I have tons of tips, tons of industry experts on there all the time. And it's a treasure trove of information for anyone wanting to get better at trade shows. And by trade shows it could be conferences, events, expos, even if you think about a farmers market, a health fair, anywhere where you're behind a table or in a booth, and you have someone walking in front that you want to grab their attention. That's the same kind of techniques, the same principles apply to all of that. So that's a long answer to how to get in touch with me. Or you can send us an email to [email protected]  

Dr. K: Awesome. Thank you so much, Jim. And I have no doubt that me and you at some somewhere next year, IAEE whatever, we're gonna be on a stage winning an award for how amazing our two podcasts are. I'm calling it now. So anybody who's listening to this podcast that can make it happen. Me and Jim nominate us for all the awards because we're out to change the world and we're gonna do it. So thank you so much Jim, I love it! Thanks for being on the podcast today. 

Jim: Oh, it's absolutely My pleasure. Thank you so much, Kristin.