Under The Microscope

Should I Exhibit At Macworld?, Part 3: Decisions, Decisions

The Should I Exhibit At Macworld? Series

Part 1: Costs
Part 2: On The Show Floor
Part 3: Decisions, Decisions
Part 4: Odds & Ends

In the first part of this series, we talked about the costs of exhibiting at Macworld. Last week, we talked about expectations and experiences on the show floor, in part two. Today we’ll look at many of the decisions you’ll need to make when exhibiting. Some of this was covered in brief previously, but we’ll go into more depth here.

Should I have a booth or a kiosk?

The cheapest way to get set up on the show floor will be a kiosk of some sort. In 2007, the ADC Developer Pavilion consisted of very small kiosks. These did not provide a whole lot of space, as they were densely packed. However, they can be easily manned and they were well-placed near Apple’s booth, providing lots of traffic. For a small shop, this is a good option.

For something a bit bigger, the 1- and 2-meter developer station kiosks are worth examining. These are generally in an area of the show that’s less trafficked. However, they also provide more space than the kiosks mentioned above and are less expensive than the full booths. As a compromise between the small kiosks and a full booth, these stations are quite nice.

A full 10’x10′ (100 square feet) booth is the most expensive of the options for exhibiting at Macworld that we’re examining. A booth will provide more foot traffic than a kiosk, which means more visitors, but also more work as you speak to these visitors. Booths provide plenty of floor space for visitors, and you’ll also be able to select your location on the floor. If you’re equipped to handle the additional traffic and workload, a booth is a great way to present yourself.

The best solution, however, is likely to be the turnkey package offered for first time exhibitors. In 2004, this package was a 10×10 furnished booth, while in 2007 it was a small kiosk coupled with Macworld advertising. These packages are a great way to get started exhibiting with a minimum of hassle.

Recommendation: The turnkey package is likely to be your best bet, whether that’s a booth or a kiosk.

Where should I have my booth?

Kiosk locations are relatively set, but when you have a booth you’ll be able to select your location on the floor. This is a relatively unscientific process, as there’s no data on the most valuable spots at Macworld of which I’m aware. Most people browse the whole show, so any booth should do just fine.

The catch is that as a first timer, you’ll have last pick of booths. The sooner you get in, the more options you’ll have, but previous exhibitors get the first pick at booths. Do the best you can with the following. We recommend a booth that’s:

• On a corner -This puts you on multiple aisles and makes you easier to spot. It also provides more space, as you aren’t penned in by other booths.

• In the same hall as Apple – When big enough, Macworld has used multiple halls. Apple’s booth has always been in the larger South Hall, and provides a draw for that hall.

• Near Apple – Apple is by far the biggest booth at the show, and the biggest attraction. This is likely to help you get people as they head toward or away from Apple’s booth.

• On the same aisle as Apple – As above, this should help you get Apple’s traffic.

• Near the entrance – the closer you are to the main entrance, the more people will see you.

Recommendation: In short, grab a booth as close to Apple as possible.

Should I rent equipment or ship it?

First timers are likely to have small booths, and you won’t need a terribly large display. If you have a large enough laptop, you could use just that, particularly at the smallest kiosk. A laptop driving a larger display or an all-in-one iMac can also serve as a good setup for kiosks. For booths, you’ll want to have two or more displays set up, but you can again use simple computer setups.

We’ve considered all manner of cost saving on this, including purchasing machines just for the show and then reselling them. If you live in the area, this is actually a great way to save money, but if you need to ship the equipment back out it will just result in more work. That leaves renting equipment or shipping your own.

Renting equipment for trade shows is quite expensive (see this PDF link to 2006 prices). Renting will cost hundreds of dollars and around 50% of the cost of a new machine. That’s outlandish, at least on the face of it. This hefty price does pay for convenience though, as you’ll be able to get your equipment right at your booth, with no worries. Spend a few minutes setting up your software, and you’re all set. As well, if you’re planning to do demos, renting a large display and microphone setup is your best bet.

Shipping your own equipment has its own problems. You’ll need to pack your items well and take them to a shipping center, you’ll want to insure the items and when you ship your own equipment, you’ll lose the use of it while in transit. This option does have the benefit of costing less in raw dollars, but it’s certainly more of a hassle.

Recommendation: If possible, ship a display and drive it via a laptop. For larger setups, renting may be worth the cost, to reduce hassle.

What furniture do I need for my booth?

For your first year, you don’t need anything terribly fancy. Kiosks come equipped with a full table for you, so you just need to set up your computer on it. You may want to rent tall chairs if the kiosk doesn’t include them but other than that, you’re all set.

For a non-turnkey booth, there are several small things to be rented. This can seem confusing at first, but it’s not really too bad, you just need to figure out what you need and to whom you need to speak to get it. Unfortunately, this process could use some streamlining and clarification. Work with your Macworld contact to figure out who you need to talk to for ordering. What you’ll need is pretty simple.

First up, you need to get electricity, and the minimum should suffice for laptops (5 Amp/500 Watts: ~$120). You’ll also need carpeting (9’x10′ 16 oz. Standard Booth Carpet: ~$170) for the floor – get the cheapest possible, as you just need to cover the cement. You’ll probably want a simple skirted table, either six feet (Skirted 6′ table: ~$125) or 8 feet long (Skirted 8′ table: ~$140), and a couple tall chairs (Contemporary stool: ~$110). With these tall chairs, you can sit and demo on the computer while your visitors watch. You’ll be at near eye-level with them, and your feet will take less abuse.

As far as other accessories go, having a holder (Literature rack: ~$120) for your flyers is extremely handy and worth the high price. With this rack, visitors can get information without requiring any interaction or time. A $20 trash can (wastebasket – ~$20) seems excessive, but there won’t be any public trash cans near your booth, so you’ll want one of these as well.

Recommendation: If you have a kiosk, you’re pretty much set. If you have a booth, don’t worry about being too fancy. The essentials include carpetting, a table, and some chairs.

How many people should I have working at my booth?

Even with the smallest kiosk, one person is simply not enough to man a booth for four full days. By about halfway through Thursday, you’re likely to be falling asleep and look like the walking dead. As well, you’ll need to dash to the bathroom and back, and you won’t be able to take lunch. I can’t recommend strongly enough that you have two people even for a small kiosk.

For booths, three people is a good number, whether you’re running a demo or doing one-on-one conversations. More than three people at a time won’t really fit, but you can take shifts and actually have time for lunch. If you have any fewer, you’re likely to be busy nearly non-stop, and dashing to meals and the restroom.

Recommendation: Have 2 people to man any type of kiosk and 3 for a booth. Having more people available will enable more time off for each of you.

Should I give demos or speak to visitors one-on-one?

We discussed demos and one-on-one conversations in depth last week. For a kiosk, a full demo is likely not an option, but for a booth either can work. If you have a single main product, a demo will work well, providing a way for many visitors to view your product at once with little psychological commitment. However, for many developers, having more flexible one-on-one conversations may make sense.

There’s really no single right answer here, as each setup has its upsides and downsides. The simplest thing may be best for your first your, and that’s likely to be one-on-one conversations, which will require only that you work well on your feet.

Recommendation: For kiosks, simple one-on-one conversations are likely best. For a booth, consider demos if you have one main product, but conversations are your simplest bet.

What about handouts?

Well that’s a vague question – what about them indeed? As discussed in previous articles, we like to have CDs to distribute, as well as flyer (infosheets in our parlance) as a back up or in addition. CDs are much more expensive per piece, so order fewer of these and more flyers.

Your numbers will vary, but 2500 to 5000 CDs is a good bet. Start low your first year and try to run out, as once the show’s over the CDs are likely to be worthless. In addition, 2500-7500 flyers will be a good start. Start high here, as the flyers are much cheaper and they have a longer shelf-life. Ship all of this to your hotel (call them beforehand to make sure they’ll take shipments) then take items over each day before the show.

As far as design goes, for your CDs you should be able to create something attractive pretty easily. We use FileStorm to make a nice looking .dmg, then burn it to CD. We have artwork for the background, the CD icon, and on the disc itself. We worked with a designer to create our flyers, highlighting the major features of our products. This way visitors can try out the products later and we can also reference them at the booth.

Other swag (yo-yos, pens, magnets, and more) can be fun, but your ultimate goal should be to get your software onto a user’s computer, resulting in a purchase. These methods are far less direct, and far less cost-effective. As a first timer, these things are unlikely to be worth the money.

Recommendation: Have CDs with your software to hand out, and then use flyers when the CDs run out.

Should I get CDs pressed or duplicate them myself?

There are lots of variables with creating CDs for the show, but the most important is deciding if you want to have your CDs duplicated or if you’ll duplicate them yourself.

If you choose to have your CDs duplicated, a disc in a simple cardboard sleeve with artwork printed on the CD, this can be $0.75 – $1.25 per piece. We used DiscMakers to handle our CDs for Macworld 2004, and they were great. Once you pass artwork and a master along, the duplicator will handle everything. This can be very convenient, but it also has a longer lead time associated with it (especially around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays), and costs a bit more than handling things yourself.

Alternately, you can use a CD duplicator (or even the drive(s) on your computer(s)1) to burn CDs yourself, then place them in sleeves and ship them out. This is more arduous, as you’ll be sleeving these home-pressed discs yourself2. This can save a bit of money, and more importantly it will allow you to create the CDs closer to the show. With printing costs for on-disc artwork, you’re looking at $0.50 to $1.00 per piece here.

Both using a duplication service and duping CDs yourself will provide a quality result. For the truly cost conscious, using your own burners for a week straight can work, but may have the potential to drive you insane. If you plan to do this in the future, a CD duplicator can be a worthwhile investment, but you don’t need it for your first show. Either way, don’t get too many CDs – once the show is over, the CDs will go stale quickly as you release new versions.

Recommendation: Having a duplication company such as Discmakers is worth the small additional cost, to reduce your hassle. Either way, be aware of the short shelf-life of your discs.

Should I sell software on the show floor?

First up, it’s important to realize that selling on the floor will not pay for the costs of exhibiting. Paying off 20-40% of your costs is a decent (if broad) estimate, so don’t look to selling directly as a way to have the show “pay for itself”.

As well, I need to provide a caveat, as we’ve yet to sell software on the show floor, so I can only elaborate on our reasons for not doing this. I welcome input from anyone who has sold at the show floor. The big issue for us is that selling on the show floor is quite a hassle. There are myriad issues that must be overcome, including:

California taxes and laws – You need to have a seller’s license to sell at the show, and then charge and pay tax on the sales.

Payment processing – You need a way to process the payments in real-time. If you’re using a payment processor such as eSellerate or Kagi, they may be able to assist you. If you have your own store with a merchant account, you’ll need to set this up yourself.

Internet access – If you plan to process payments, you’ll need some sort of internet connection to verify orders. If you’ve forgotten, the fees on this are an ungodly $1095.

Providing a license key – When a visitor purchases, you need to provide him with a key. If you have keys that are customized to a user, you’ll need some sort of printer to do this.

Boxed product – What else will you give the visitor when he purchases? Ideally, he should walk away with a nice, boxed product, so you’ll need to create this.

Dedicated machine and dedicated seller – You’ll want a dedicated machine to handle sales, and possibly a dedicated person to run this machine.

All this has thus far added up to be too much work for us to bother. If some of this (merchant account setup, boxed product, etc.) is already handled for you, then selling on the floor may be worth your time. We certainly would like to convert visitors directly to sales, but we’ve been content to let that conversion occur later so far.

Recommendation: For your first year, selling on the floor is a lot of work. It may still be worth it, but weigh it cautiously3. If you choose to forgo it, be sure you simplify purchasing for your customers with your handouts.

Are we there yet?

Hopefully, I’ve answered some of the major questions surrounding exhibiting at Macworld. I’m sure I’ve missed some, but these were my major concerns when we first exhibited. If I’ve missed something important to you, fire away in the comments, and I’ll respond. As always, I welcome input from other exhibitors on anything at all.

Otherwise, tune in next week, when we close out this series with a summary and a slew of final tips that I might have fit into the first three articles if I were a better writer.

1. Create a disk image, then use this in Terminal:

for ((;;));
do hdiutil burn -noverifyburn example.dmg;

Your Mac is now a burning machine, burning the selected disk image (.dmg) to a CD, spitting it out, and waiting for another blank disc. The less space you use on the CD, the faster each burn will be. If you really need to save money, you can make a few hundred CDs this way per day.

2. This is a truly mindless task best undertaken while watching TV, with a beer by your side.

3. Have a look at the comments from Ian Lynch Smith on our first article, for more information on selling. Again, realize is that selling on the floor will not pay for your booth, or even half of it.

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