Event Expert Spotlight : Colleen McLaughlin

by atEvent | Event industry expert Q&As

We want you to come to the atEvent “In the Lead” blog to meet different influencers and trendsetters who are shaping the face of the event industry. So each month our team will be interviewing a different expert from all walks of the event industry — event agency owners, brand marketers, lead gen and tech event experts, etc. — to learn about their background, as well as what they’re seeing out there in event land.

This month’s featured guest was expert even planner Colleen McLaughlin, Event Manager for Protective Industrial Products, who participates in over one hundred tradeshows each year.  

Here’s what Colleen had to say!

Tell us about your role in at your company?

I am the Event Manager for a large safety equipment manufacturing company. I plan and organize all tradeshows, domestic sales meetings and events, as well as manage our coop program.

How many events a year do you handle?

We attend approximately 110 tradeshows a year (all domestic with the exception of one in Germany every fall). We hold two sales meetings a year: one with 70 attendees, the other with 50, for which I organize and plan everything from hotel room reservations to catering needs, A/V setup, transportation and group events (ex. Trip to Saratoga Race Track). I also arrange five regional training meetings which usually require hotel reservations and meeting space, catering and transportation.

What are your top priorities at events?  How does lead generation play a role in defining the success of your events?

My top priority at any event is to communicate as much as possible with everyone attending. With all of the planning and details that make up tradeshows and events you must make sure that those representing your company are well-informed and trained properly. There is nothing worse than getting a phone call from a rep who got to a show and does not know the booth number, products sent or how to set up the display.

Every show we attend is another opportunity to find a new customer. Since we do not sell at our Industrial tradeshows we can only assume the value of a show by the leads we gather. We use the “quality over quantity” approach to lead generation. If we get even one great lead from a show it was worth our while. There are so many players in the safety industry so you have to make sure your name is always out there. We tend to find that a lot of people know our name but do not realize we are a “one-stop-shop” for safety products.

What are some key tactics and strategies you are utilizing to ensure successful outcomes at your events?

Once the goals and desired results of the show are established, it is easier to figure out the way we want to appear to our customers and distributing partners. Since the company I work for is growing tremendously and establishing itself as one of the largest in the industry, our strategy at shows is to “go big” but maintain our humble, personable attitude.

We start by selecting advertising in show guides and programs to get our name out there to show members and registrants. We collect leads and names of potential customers at the show then follow-up by sending out free product samples and catalogs to ensure they remember who we are and what we have to offer. At the same time we meet with current customers to maintain a solid, loyal relationship. We look at and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors to highlight ways in which we stand out and find areas that need improvement.

Tradeshows are a huge investment for any company. For the amount of money you spend, you have to make it interesting for your staff (you want them to WANT to be there!) and your customers. This involves having a great booth display, knowledgeable staff and entertainment or a giveaway of some sort.  People are always attracted to pretty things- you do not want potential customers walking by your booth without stopping because you failed to catch their eye.  Sometimes a freebie is all it takes to get someone into your booth- it is the staff that keeps them there. Your staff has to engage the customer and find out how your company can help serve their needs.

How has technology changed the event experience for prospects?  What are the top technology must haves for your events?

We’ve just started using technology at our tradeshows. We run selling videos about specific products in our booth that are set to music and attract the attention of those walking in the adjoining aisle.

How do you use mobile technology to enhance your prospects’ experience at your events?

We are exploring our options with mobile technology. We plan to start creating apps to make it easy for people to come into our booth, download spec sheets of products on the spot using QR codes, find safety requirements for every industry and discover the extent of our product offering since we cannot bring a sample of everything to a tradeshow.