Networking Tips & Trade Show Training With Robert Strong

I was recently a guest with Tom Crowl on The Savvy Event Planner Podcast.

Robert Strong the trade show magician.

Robert Strong is a trade show trainer, networking expert, speaker and magician. He travels the world helping companies train their employees to improve their networking skills.

On the trade show floor, Robert uses magic & his talent as a presenter. Working with companies, he helps isolate and eliminate problem areas that can reduce their trade show ROI.

In this episode, he shares tips for event planners and trade show booth managers. From networking ice breakers to planning a trade show to generating more leads, we’ll cover it all.

Robert Strong the trade show magician

By the end of this interview you will learn:

  • How to use simple misdirection to gain people’s attention.
  • The power of yes.
  • A method to get people on their feet and interacting.
  • Ways to overcome bad networking habits.
  • Tips to improve your elevator pitch.
  • Trade show organizing tips for event planners.
  • Booth design tips that increase lead generation.
  • Methods to improve booth staff attitude.
  • Mistakes many trade show staffers make that reduce ROI.
  • Easy engagement techniques to stop and qualify leads.
  • Giveaway tips to increase trade show buzz.
Robert Strong the trade show magician

Download and/or listen to this episode here:

Robert Strong the trade show magician

Here is the Transcript of the Interview:

Tom: Folks I’m on the line today with Robert Strong. Robert, you’re based in San Francisco area?

Robert: I am.

Tom: How long you been there?

Robert: I’ve been here for 15 years but I’ve been a performer for 30 years.

Tom: Well let’s start by giving our listeners an idea of your background in events.

Robert: Sure. When I was 12 years old, I got into magic and I started performing at children’s birthday parties. And then as I went through high school, it was a lot of fairs and festivals. In college, I performed at other colleges, comedy clubs. And then after college I did some international touring. I did three years on cruise ships and then I spent the past 15, 20 years focused on corporate events.

Tom: Okay. So what type of corporate events have you been working?

Robert: So I live in the Bay Area and my niche has become tech events. So it’s everything from being an auctioneer to an MC, master of ceremonies, host, being after-dinner entertainment or being a product spokesperson.

Tom: Now recently, you did an event for… was it Smart Meetings?

Robert: Yes. Smart Meetings is a magazine that sends out event planners and corporate HR and corporate VP of marketing, those type of people that plan the events, and they give them lots and lots of great content in the written form of how to plan and organize meetings. So I’ve done about 10 of their events and I started off as a performer then a spokesperson for them and MC and host for a lot of their events. And recently, they’re having me kick off the events with team building workshops, icebreakers. But we don’t call it that.

We call it how to be more effective in networking. And I guess it’s kind of like misdirection in magic a bit. If we say we’re going to do icebreakers or we’re going to do team building, people kind of freeze up or become disinterested. But if we give them a topic like ‘how to be more effective at networking’, they focus. We squeeze in the icebreaker, the team building, and we do a little bit of improv, which they normally wouldn’t want to do. And by the end of it, they’re all laughing, having a great time, bonded and learned a lot of valuable messages. So the misdirection is, it’s a networking workshop.

Tom: Okay. So we were going to talk today about networking for event professionals and now we’re going to morph this into team building. Is that correct?

Robert: Well it is networking skill topped with improv spell lessons. So in other words, for example, we can bring out a Power Point presentation. We put up some of the slides. We talk about the benefits of more effective networking or we can get up on our feet and we can try it, and get into muscle memory and physicalize it. And people are able to do it more effectively because they’re on their feet and they’re actually doing it as opposed to just learning the concepts.

Tom: Give us an example of something that you would do from the stage that maybe they could incorporate into their events to liven the crowd up or get them loosened up so that they are connecting.

Robert: Okay. So the first thing you do is you want to show that you have value. And so you give an introduction that says, “This is why this person is good at this.” And then because I’m a magician, I have the benefit of doing something really kind of eye-catching and amazing, something that will be jaw dropping and they go, “Wow. I’ve got to really pay attention. This guy is going to be interesting.” And you create kind of a yes sequence. You ask everybody to do small little tasks. If you say “Hey everybody, take out a 100$ bill and pass it forward,” no one’s going to do that. But if you ask them to do small little things, “Can everybody uncross their legs, uncross arms put their feet flat on the ground, point their toes towards the stage, put their hands on their knees, take a deep breath” and you start asking for little things, they say, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.”

So you have their full focus and attention. Because we all know, meetings are really, really difficult now because everybody’s ADD with smartphones and just being flooded with constant information and it’s really hard to really have people’s undivided attention. So we ask for little things at the beginning until we have their full focus. And then we can say, “Somebody take out a $100 bill, walk it forward and then I could do an amazing magic trick with that.” Or just kind of a demonstration that this is how you get people to buy in. It’s a little bit of social engineering.

Tom: Give us some other ideas of team building exercises that these event planners could incorporate. We’ve got the people sitting down, we’ve got them facing the stage. But how do we break the ice between them?

Robert: Oh that’s great. What I like to do is I like to get everybody up on their feet. If it’s a group of 50 people or under, I like to get them to circle up. And if it’s a larger group, we find different ways and sometimes they bring other people to come and help me, other people in the workshop. And we circle up and we start with things that they can do. People have a fear of failing so I’ve created a whole bunch of exercises where there is no way anybody can fail. For example, we play a game that just kind of gets everybody to get to know each other. Even if they’ve been working at it for years, a lot of times they don’t know what people really like or love or what they’re passionate about.

So the first game I play is called ‘I like’ or ‘I love’ depending on the group. I’m in the Bay Area, sometimes it’s easier to do ‘I love.’ And each person in the group says something that they really love, not sarcastically. They wouldn’t necessarily say porcupines or skunks unless they really did love those things. So if someone said “I love dark chocolate,” everybody in the room stands as close to that person as much as they love dark chocolate. So if they love dark chocolate also, they’re almost touching the person. If they can’t stand dark chocolate, they’re at the perimeter of the room. And then when that all settles, somebody else might say ‘I love skiing’ or ‘I love Italian food’ or ‘I love cooking’ or ‘I love traveling.’

And what happens is, the room keeps moving and you can see who likes running and who likes sports and who likes, you know, who’s religious and who likes certain politics and who likes different kinds of foods or different locations in the world or different activities or hobbies. And people will sit across from somebody in a cubicle for years and never know that they have a hobby in common until we play this game. The game’s over when everybody’s gone three or four times. And that gets them laughing and moving and getting the adrenaline going. And there’s no way to fail because people only say things that the actually really like. They find commonalities.

Tom: You had a video that you shared with me and would it be okay if we share that with the listeners?

Robert: Of course. Yes, that’s a great video.

Tom: Yeah, it was incredible. And when you were doing the thing about the dogs, was this an example of what you were doing? People who like dogs, and they were moving around or was that something totally different?

Robert: That was exactly it. People were saying things that they liked and people were moving as close to them. And that is just a pure icebreaker. And then later, if it’s a networking event, people can initiate a conversation based on, “Oh you like dogs also. I like dogs. What kind of dog do you have?” And it’s just a great opener. So this facilitates in a lot of ways. We’re playing games. We’re getting everyone laughing, getting everyone bonding and opening up doors for conversation for networking later.

Tom: That’s some great stuff there, Robert. I appreciate that. How long do these team building exercises and workshops that you hold run?

Robert: It’s really fun. I sometimes get five minutes when it’s a very high-powered meeting and that’s all they have and they just need to get everyone woken up and get their focus. And sometimes I do a whole day event. I try not to go over six hours. So three, two hour chunks I think is all that a person handle in a new topic. What I’d like to do is I’d like to have two hours with the group once a week for three or four weeks to kind of get the concepts really the muscle memory. So it can be done everywhere from five minutes to a continued course.

Tom: Excellent. If we are doing networking, are there any other networking tips that you could share that people could consider as they’re planning their networking events?

Robert: Well what I like to do is I like to start by getting everyone bonding and then I get people to identify bad networking behaviors. Everybody knows what they are. But when you actually say them out loud, then you catch yourself. So checking your cellphone, checking your watch, not making eye contact, not smiling, not nodding, all the things that are ineffective, we kind of identify and then we just throw those behaviors away. And if most people get rid of the negative behaviors, they’re doing better than most people out there in networking.

And then we start to identify very, very specific positive behaviors. And then we identify specific goals. Because a lot of people go to a networking event without a specific goal and then meander through to collect a couple of business cards and they won’t achieve anything specific. So we identify the goals of the event and then what we do is we identify what a perfect networking experience would be. We identify from beginning to end how it would unfold. And for different groups it’s different. If we’re doing high pressure sales, which is very different than just kind of meeting the team, that’s on another part of the planet, different goals. So we identify what it looks like when it unfolds. We practice those and usually, most of the groups I do, the people don’t know the future customers. So we practice really, really strong openings. And then we practice doing the elevator pitch in either one sentence, 30 seconds or two minutes. And we also identify how to really, really connect.

So there’s some concepts in charisma, how to be charismatic. So we help people find their own personal charisma so that they connect and are memorable.

Tom: Now for somebody, and I’m just going to play devil’s advocate here, let’s say somebody doesn’t understand what you meant by elevator pitch. How would you describe the elevator pitch?

Robert: The elevator pitch traditionally is, you’re in an elevator with someone for 30 seconds and that’s how much you have time to tell them about your product at your company and you have to get it all out there in a really compelling way. So the one-line version, I do a lot of high tech, so one-line version might be, “We secure networks” or “We virtualize your network.” So they can say in one sentence exactly what the company does. But when they have 30 seconds they can start to hit upon some of the features of what their company or product does, the benefits of it. And then when you have two minutes, you can talk about the emotional effect of it. And when we start going down the emotional ladder of what people want out of products and companies, the end of the ladder is always happiness.

It doesn’t matter where you start, what your product does, if it makes the kitchen… helps you in the kitchen or if it secures your network or if it helps you be more productive or keep costs down at the end of the day everybody wants to be a little bit happier. And so that happiness kind of gets put into the two-minute version of the elevator pitch and you also customize it for who you’re talking to. Because if you’re talking to someone in marketing, it’s very different if you’re talking to someone on sales which is very different and if you’re talking to someone who is a C-level person.

Tom: Okay. So it’s important that in these networking events we’re not selling per se but you’re doing a benefit-driven elevator pitch?

Robert: Benefit to emotion. So it’s easy to list the features if it’s a car that we’re selling. It has air conditioning, it has radio, it has tires, it has wheels. That’s the features. The benefits, it gets where you’re going and you’re comfortable. And then the emotional fact is you have confidence because you’re going to be on time and you’re going to show up in style and you’re going to feel good about yourself and people are going to respect you and you are not going to have to worry about repairs and all that. So at the end of the day, you feel secure and safe.

Tom: Okay that’s great advice there because one of the big things we’ve been dealing with on the podcast, we had done an interview with Disney facilitator/trainer who talked about the Disney experience. And the Disney experience is an emotional experience. So I appreciate you bringing that out and we can be able to tie that in, and if someone hasn’t listened to that episode, they’ll be able to get that link as well in the show notes.

Robert: There’s lots of good studies about the emotional side of selling products because if you sell the features and benefits, people are going to shop cost. They’re going to shop for cost. And either you’ll get the contract because you’re the best price or you’re not the best price. But if you make an emotional connection, they’re going to stay with you for as long as they can. And if they ever have to leave because of cost or another reason, they’re going to feel bad, apologize and they’re going to do everything they can to fight to continue to give you the business because they have an emotional connection. And so they’re going to stay with you much longer even if you’re not the perfect match, when there’s emotional connection. When you sell features and benefits, they’re going to only give you business because of cost and if it actually delivers, what you say it delivers. So it’s so, so important to have a long relationship with the client. We get that through an emotional connection with the person and with the company and with the product itself.

Tom: Great. Now Robert, we’ve been talking about the emotional product or the emotional benefits. You also deal with a lot of trade shows, is that right?

Robert: I do. And that’s kind of become my specialty. It wasn’t actually intended but I was doing a good job as a magician, integrating messaging into my presentation. But then I was having to reverse engineer every time we go to a trade show. I gave out 20 a year. Every biz and every show has its own personality. It’s very different. So I had to start to reverse engineer why some dudes were very, very successful and some weren’t. And sometimes it was obvious overt reasons. Sometimes it was not so obvious. So I had to start to pick it apart.

For example, people love to put all their rewards and all their products and all the giveaways and all the literature and all that right on the perimeter with the booths so that people can have access to that. It seems like a good idea but in reality what’s happening is they’re making a gate or a wall that is impenetrable so people don’t come into your booth. And what ends up happening is you don’t have booth traffic and people don’t stay in the booth if they get through that little area.

So what I’ve done is I’ve created a long, long checklist of what makes a booth successful. And when people do trade shows, especially … it might be industries I’m focused on which is high tech. Easily a company like HP, Dell, Oracle, Cisco will spend a million dollars to have a trade show booth and they may get 200 scans. If you do the math, for a lead, that’s a lot of money per lead. So I’m trying to get them closer to 2,000 scans just by booth design and how the staff interacts with customers. They get much better return on investment for the million dollars they spend and hopefully everybody has a lot better attitude and has a lot more fun in the booth after the training. So again, I use the ice breaking, the improv kind of exercises to get everybody to be more effective. But I don’t call it that. It’s kind of again, misdirection. That workshop is on how to better staff your booths or how to be more effective in your booth.

Tom: Now an event planner wouldn’t maybe possibly be in charge of the trade show, which is an event. So if somebody was looking at staffing their booth, and a lot of times I know they’re pooling employees out of their company, can you give us some tips that would help them maybe raise their ROI on the trade show?

Robert: Absolutely. I can go on forever on this and I’ll just arbitrarily start in a few places and you can kind of let me know when you’ve had enough. So let’s start with booth design. You again don’t want to have it… you want the booth to be very welcoming. You want to feel very comfortable and feel very open. You want the staff to not be in group huddles. You want them to be in different positions in the booth. You want them to approach every person who walks by because a company often, for the life cycle the customer might make anywhere from $100,000 to a million dollars to five million dollars. So every person on the trade show floor, I say you look at them with a price tag in their forehead of whatever that life cycle is of a future customer. And when you think of it that way, you engage with every single person.

As soon as a staffer makes eye contact with somebody, 99% of the people don’t do anything or say ‘hi’ or ‘how are you doing?’ or ‘can I help you?’ Well the answer is, no. It’s a very hectic situation in trade shows. There’s so much stimulants coming at us from all directions. Everybody can’t help but to be overwhelmed. So my advice is, the moment you get eye contact, you don’t have…you get much better return rate when you do it immediately. The moment you get eye contact, you ask either a qualifying question or an open ended opinion question. And then you very quickly get to qualify. So something that might be, “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen in the trade show floor?” Or if the the trade show is in Las Vegas, “what’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen in Las Vegas?” And then you open them up and they start talking.

You say, “Hi. How are you doing? Can I help you?” The answer is, “Oh I’m good. Thank you.” And they keep walking. Or “Can you tell me where the bathroom is? or “where the HP booth is?” You end up not engaging them in a meaningful way. So as soon as they start opening up with an opinion, you make them the most popular and important person in the booth. Other staffers should come over and want to meet that person because they’re very excited that they’re in the booth. It’s kind of like walking somebody into your living room. And so once you got one or two staffers engaging them with an opinion question, very quickly get to qualify them and the qualifying question might be, “Are you in charge of virtualizing your network?” “Are you in charge of securing your network?” Or something along those lines. And immediately you know if this person makes a buying decision or not because in a trade show, maybe 10% of the people there are potential, real, actual customers and 90% of the people just aren’t.

So if they’re not qualified, they’re part of the 90% that potentially are not. They might also be influencers, brand influencers. You want to give them a very positive short elevator pitch, capture their lead because who knows, in a couple months or couple years they will be maybe at another company or another job position but you certainly want to stay in contact with them because they will influence somebody in the company that does make the buying decision. But you also want to get rid of them very quickly because opportunity costs for every moment you’re spending with somebody in the trade show booth who’s not qualified, there’s tens or hundreds of people walking by who may be a potential customer and you don’t want to lose very many of them. So if they’re not qualified, they’re part of the potential 90% you thank them, send them on their merry way. But if they’re part of the 10% who might be a buyer, you introduce some random people in the company because people buy based on personal connections, not based on the booth design or the demonstration station or necessarily even the features and benefits of the product or the cost.

So you introduce them around. They meet everyone. They feel like they’ve met the whole family. You give them a quick product demonstration. You put the demo in their hands. You don’t do the demo. You want them to feel attached to it. It’s kind of like why when you go to car dealerships, they put you in the driver’s seat and let you test drive it. They don’t drive the car and have you seat in the passenger’s seat and they tell you how great it is to drive. So whatever the product is, if it’s a new kitchen appliance, whatever, you put in their hands and people build up connection, an emotional connection, with something that’s in their hands for, I think the number’s more than 30 seconds.

So you let them experience the product and then what you do is you make a specific plan of how to keep in touch with them and then you follow through and you do that specific plan. And again, you send them out quickly because even if they’re qualified, these trade shows often have 5,000 or 50,000 people. You don’t want to spend all your time with one potential lead. You want to get lots and lots of people to follow up with and fill the pipeline. So there’s lots more but there’s a potential flow of what the experience might be like for a future customer.

Tom: I appreciate that you gave us some openings for this. So the event planners can now see exactly how important it is to have a staff that has these networking skills that you were talking about earlier. Are there other tips that you can recommend for the trade show floor?

Robert: Absolutely. The things that are obvious, we’ll start with there then we’ll go maybe to some things that are a little less obvious. You practice mirroring the person that is across from you, making eye contact, reading the other person’s cues, changing your body language to be more positive to try to bring up their body language to be more positive. Those are kind of the obvious ones. But maybe some of the more subtle ones is introducing rounds to all the different team members so that they feel a real connection. Things like practicing openings. I went to a trade show for trade shows. So everybody in the whole trade show, what they do is they target other people who buy in the trade show industry. So I did a survey. I was on video and I’ll send you a link to the video also. I asked every person there if they have an opening line. And only one or two booths out of the whole trade show said, “Yeah we have an opening line. We printed it out. We passed it around. We practiced it.”

And we say that most people just stand there and wait for people to talk to them and that’s not the best use of time. It’s a city that’s built for two or four days and the only purpose of that city is to get people to connect to do future business. And when you just stand on the side and wait for people to come up to you, you’re not getting the best use of your company’s people’s time and the money. So other maybe not so obvious ones is you practice the openings, the elevator pitch, practice qualifying leads, practice making introductions and practice being interrupted because you may be halfway through a demonstration with a future customer and then another customer walks up and a lot of people don’t know how to do it. And if there’s one person doing demonstrations for one person, that’s not the best use of your time. Best use of time is to scale.

So for example, if I’m working a booth and I’m starting a demonstration, all my coworkers are now going to go out and recruit other people to watch the demonstration because I can do a demonstration with how great a software or a hardware or a kitchen appliance is for one person, ten people or fifty. And the best use of the time is to have a group of 50 people there. Something else that I really highly recommend is you get professional staffers because then the sales people can do the selling but a professional staff person come and become brand ambassadors, what they do is they recruit people to see the demonstrations and to qualify them and to meet the sales people. So if there’s somebody else doing that for you, it keeps your pipeline full so you’re always talking with someone as opposed to waiting or recruiting.

Another thing I highly suggest is having very interesting giveaways. They don’t have to be expensive. But what it does is it makes it a topic of conversation. I’m a magician. I recommend having a magician in the booth because what a magician can do is stop people. They can entertain them. They can educate them about the product and the company and the brand. And then they can qualify leads. They can capture all the leads of the people in the audience. They can repeat that over and over and over again. What that does, it makes your booth the one with the buzz, the one that’s most interesting and exciting. And I highly recommend having a professional entertainer who can stop traffic.

Tom: Now when you do these shows, are you demonstrating the product as well or you’re just drawing the crowd in?

Robert: It depends. Sometimes products are ideas and concepts. Sometimes they’re lines of software and code. Sometimes they’re physical hardware and sometimes it’s something that can only be demonstrated in Power Point because you can’t physically bring it into the booth. I like to put my hands on and demonstrate it and create magic tricks that are metaphors for what the product does. So if it saves you money, I will turn ones to hundreds. If it saves you time, possibly I’ll do something with a barbed watch or steal someone’s watch and talk about, you know, we don’t have time to waste. And I give the watch back and say time is the most valuable thing we have in our company. And if the product… whatever the messaging is for the products I create a script around the magic trick.

Occasionally, I don’t do any magic at all and I’m just doing the Power Point or I am doing the… being the brand ambassador. And occasionally, I come and I train the staff. And I’m kind of the booth manager and make sure that the staff is being very, very effective. A lot of times staff start off gung-ho. Staff often see going to trade shows as a punishment because they’re not in their office. They’re not in their home. They’re not with their family and the kids, they’re not following up with all the emails that they’re supposed to be following up. So when they get to the trade show, they spend a lot of time on their cellphone or on their laptop and they’re not actually in the booth doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

So I try to reverse it so that the staff feels like this is a reward. So I change the process to we audition people. And they got a lot of great perks for going to a trade show. And then we do the training and when they’re in the booth, we have lots and lots of reminders so that from the very first moment to the last moment, they’re energized and engaging. Because let’s face it, most normal people start gung-ho and by the second hour, they’re pooped out and they’re looking at their cellphones. And if there’s $20 on a trade show, that’s not very effective. So by training them how to be energized from the very first moment the show opens to the very last moment it closes, that kind of gets the best value out of the people that you’re flying there and are not in the office doing sales or marketing or maintaining their client.

Tom: As a trade show performer and trainer, are there any tips? If somebody’s putting together a conference and they’re going to have a trade show that is connected with this, are there suggestions for trade show hours or are there… what are ways that you’ve seen that they brought people into the trade shows?

Robert: Okay. Something that is very effective is having food, snacks, drinks, water on the trade show floor because you go to another city, people may or may not have a power bar on them. It gets to a point where they just need calories, they need liquids and most people don’t like the quality of the food that’s right at the trade show. Meaning like, if you step out of the trade show hall or the event hall and you go the vendors, the hot dogs and coffee and things that are not particularly ideal for a healthy lifestyle, then what they’ll do is they’ll leave the building. And when they leave the building, often around trade shows or event spaces, it’s very downtown, so it’s a lot like Subways, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bells and things like that which again is not going to be the best fuel for working in events.

So then they’ll start going further away until they get to someplace where the quality is good. They can sit down and when they do that, they’re taking themselves away from your event or the trade show for hours, potentially. And you’ve just spent a lot of money to keep them there and engage with them and now they’re going offsite. So the first thing is you keep them on-site. So you have very good, healthy food choices, preferably free for them because as soon as they have to pay they may decide if they want to leave the building or not.

For hours, people are often jet-lagged so you do not want to start these shows at nine in the morning because if you start at nine in the morning, the people who work the trade show floor need to be there at 8 a.m. which means they have to get up at seven and sometimes when it’s a very big trade show, they’re halfway across town so they’ve got to take public transportation or a taxi or walk with lots of stuff. So when people are already jet-lagged, that’s not the best use of the time, is to start first thing in the morning, you want people to be able to have a healthy breakfast and get there. I think you start with the longest hours and as each day goes on, you reduce the hours. I just did a show recently where each day in the four-day trade show, they increased it by an hour to two hours. So the last day was this very long day and it felt like a punishment. And they were providing night time entertainment where there was alcohol and concerts and stuff like that. So people were getting worn down and you could see it in their body language.

But I would say the hours, give people their mornings because people are coming from different time zones and it’s hard to get everybody there at 9 a.m. or 8 a.m. to start. I think not having too many conflicting events going against your own event, the people know where they’re supposed to be because people always have a fear of missing out. So have a schedule that is very clear that you know you’re in the right place. If you’re supposed to be in the exhibit hall or where the speakers or the keynotes are based on the schedule you know you’re in the right place and you’re not missing out. I think people get overwhelmed with the schedules that are too many options.

Tom: One more question that I do have for you before we conclude here. You’ve done a lot of trade shows. What would you say was one of the coolest giveaways that you’ve ever seen or maybe a couple of them?

Robert: Sure. I think it’s really, really great to spend approaching $200 for a give-away they give away either at the end of a specific time. If the trade show ends at four o’clock on the last day, so at three o’clock you will give away a Samsung tablet, the little mini tablet. Those cost about $200. Now if your company can afford it, and what happens you must be present to win. You create a little buzz around your product, your company has one more chance, opportunity to give everybody the messaging and your presentation. If you can give away one at the end of each day, that’s great. If you can give away one every hour, that’s even better. If your company has a bigger budget and you want to give away like a Segway or something that’s very exciting, very big, you’ll have a big market share of the people at your booth when it’s time to give that away.

I like those kind of technological giveaways and really follow what’s trending. Right now, everybody’s giving away Apple watches because that’s the new thing. And I think it really makes it easier to get people to stop and give you a scan of their badge or take their business card or capture their information. Now, giveaways do not have to be big and expensive like that. Oh another thing that people are giving out are drones with cameras. That’s been a very trendy one for the raffle giveaway. To get people to stop, it doesn’t need to be an expensive giveaway. For years, I really like the thumb drives because thumb drives are very useful. They’re small but now everybody’s keeping all their storage online and packing things through Dropbox and Google Drive.

Right now, one of my favorite things to do is there’s a magic trick called the Three-card Monte. Three tiny little cards, it fits in your wallet. The whole trick takes up less room than a single credit card. It has really great branding on it so you can customize them, put your own logo on it. And what you do is you tell them they can be entertaining for nephews and nieces or they can win free drinks for the rest of their life. And it’s such a small inexpensive giveaway and the idea is you try to find the red card. There’s two black cards and one red card. And no matter what they guess, they’re never going to find the red card. And at the end, you make it really simple by showing them the two black cards and saying, “Where’s the red card?” You ask what they want to bet. And you say, “Well it’s something far better than money. It’s actually and then insert your product and company name here. It’s actually the ACME card. It saves you lots of time, energy, and money because they’re number one and you list the benefits and all that.

And then you get to give it to them and it’s something they can re-gift to their nephews and nieces or kids or it’s something they can entertain their nephews and nieces and kids with or it’s something they keep in their wallet as kind of an icebreaker or kind of a way to open up a networking conversation. “Let me show you something really cool.” So to me, that’s one of my favorite little giveaway.

Tom: Is that something that your company produces?

Robert: Yeah, it’s something I provide. I take care of all the printing and delivery of it and what’s really nice is if they don’t give them all away, it’s a tiny little thing that they have to bring back and they can pass around the office or bring to the next trade show. So a lot of times when you’re shipping giveaways to the trade show floor and then shipping them back, the cost of shipping is more than the value of the product itself. And so when you have something that… it packs so flat and so small that it’s a negligible cost for shipping. And again, they’re very inexpensive just to print in the first place.

Tom: Fantastic. Robert, if somebody wanted to get a hold of you for more information on team building, either your workshops or ideas for team building, or in the trade show industry or the trade show information, how do they reach out to you?

Robert: So I have a website. It’s It’s all one word, strongentertainment. My last name is Strong and just add the word entertainment after it. And there should be videos there. I’ll be launching some new videos too, I’ve just got some high profile TV coverage and I’m editing that now and that should be up shortly.

Tom: Great. Well I certainly appreciate all your information today. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with my audience. And I’m looking forward to sharing this with our listeners and I hope that we’ll be able to sit down and talk again soon.

Robert: Sure, thank you. Anytime, and if anybody ever wants to contact me or just has any questions or ideas, I’m happy to make referrals even for those who give me business. I think it’s really great to build a long-term relationship and I usually do that through just opening up my my Rolodex and saying, if you just want the giveaways, you don’t want the [inaudible 00:33:10] here’s where you go. Or if you want someone who does group staffing and you don’t need me to do the training, this is who you go to. So I’m happy to make referrals. I’ve got 30 years in the business and a ton of great relationships and nothing makes me happier than keeping my friends in the industry busy.

Tom: Thank you again Robert. I appreciate it.

Robert: Sure. Thank you.

Robert Strong the trade show magician

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