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How I Spent My Summer Vacation
10 things to do when the schedule winds down
by Rob Murphy, chief marketing officer, MC˛
When I was a kid, that last bell on the last day of school was the signal that summer had begun, and I'd have 10 weeks or more of precious time. But alas, like most adults, I don't get those kinds of breaks anymore. Last year, when "the bell went off in my head," it meant I had just a short time to sail, swim, relax -- and get some work done.
Here are some of the things you may want to do in your down time.
Challenges ... Solutions
Challenge: A first-time exhibitor needs to make a strong brand impression
Solution: A cutting-edge design that recreates the look and feel of 18 retail locations ...
Have a cup of java on us.
Slow down, reflect and take some time off
If your tradeshow and event schedule either slows down or stops completely for retooling during the summer months, this is your chance to start your personal retooling and get your program in a better place.
First of all, TAKE SOME TIME OFF ALREADY, especially if you haven't in a while. Personal time allows you to recharge physically and mentally. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to reflect and see things with a higher degree of clarity.
Look at everything with new eyes
When you return to work, put everything on the table -- the whole program -- and test it to see if it all makes good sense. Look at last year's plan, and challenge everything -- the people, the partners, the properties and, of course, the results. Ask yourself all the hard questions and see if the plan is worth repeating or amending, or if it should be tossed aside.
Next, poll your internal clients: you know, all those people who make your life "interesting" during the busy times. Find out what they've been thinking about. Focus on the results, and challenge their methods of delivering the best experiences possible. Imagine you're a reporter (maybe one of those folks from 60 Minutes) who listens, takes notes and asks the tough questions. Take this information and make it a part of your next plan. But remember, you may be the only person in the process with a global view of the entire program, so take all comments into consideration, but don't take them as orders.
This is also a good time for you to recap your last budget, even if it's not the end of your budget year. In fact, the middle of your budget year may be perfect, since you can take note of where you are presently and make any course corrections.
Now here are those 10 good-sense steps I promised you.
- Look at your show schedule: Does it still make sense? Are you valuing the shows properly and spending accordingly? Are there overlaps that inhibit your -- or your team's -- ability to perform? What would be a perfect schedule?
- Look at your properties: Should you take an inventory and upgrade old, poorly functioning properties? Is it time to look at storage bills and do some housecleaning? Where are all the pieces to the puzzle? Is there a logistical plan to move the pieces around and save on shipping and handling?
- Evaluate your internal team: Are all the players on your team "keepers"? Is it time for you to do some trading? Should you institute some midyear reviews to keep everyone on his or her game? Are your internal clients asking reasonable requests, or are they stretching the limits on you, your department and your budget?
- Evaluate your vendors and outside partners: If there's a good reason to change vendors, do it now. Have all of them do a midyear review on costs, performance and quality issues, and see how they respond to this inspection. Think about better ways to keep your vendors at peak performance, and find out what they think about working with you and your company. Let them know you're open to suggestions for improvements.
- Study your costs: Break open the books and look at your spending. Are you on target, or will you have to go and ask for forgiveness -- and more money? Does your spending represent all aspects of your program fairly? Are you consistently putting off an area that really needs attention?
- Measure past performance: Collect all the data you've amassed, and seek the best help in calculating program performance. Speak to some industry experts about the best metrics to employ based on the kind of program you run. Management -- and you -- will be glad you did.
- Sign up for seminars and industry enrichment: Look at the calendar and and map your openings. Then take advantage of early registration, and take some mind expansion courses. Once they're in your planner, it's easier to defend the commitment over other last-minute issues. (Of course, there are always some of these.)
- Book your travel and save: This is a no-brainer. You know the dates and show demands, so get in on the best travel packages you can find. And do the same for your staff and internal clients. You can save your company a bundle and look like a hero to boot.
- Prepare your budget: Get next year's budget out early, and ask for everything you want and need -- before anyone else gets the chance to. You'll have more time to fight for what you want and get management listening to your needs -- first.
- Deliver your plan to management: Make sure everyone in the approval process is aware of your needs and plans -- while all those other folks at your company are missing in action during the summer months. You'll grab more attention from your superiors and look like the hard-driving, value-adding, future-planning, conscientious, ROI-delivering manager you are!
Summer is a time that conjures up thoughts of relaxation, travel and outdoor fun, but it may also be the best time to take a reality check while everyone else is out playing. The truth is we work in a fast-paced, demanding industry. So if your program takes a breather in the warmer months, use it to your advantage or be prepared to be even busier when you're in the busy season!
Rob Murphy, CMO of MC˛, has more than 20 years of experience in experiential marketing, exhibit design, video production and multimedia. He was founding partner of Murphy/Rector Communications, which provided marketing and collateral materials for Fortune 500 clients and award-winning solutions in the areas of consumer electronics, office automation, telecommunications and training. Rob directs the marketing efforts for MC˛, including the Exhibitor FastTrak program and new sales initiatives.