Thursday, December 27, 2012

How to Plan your Trade Show

If you want to achieve your exhibiting goals and maximize your return on investment (including both time and money) with your trade show, planning strategically is necessary. The first step in the planning process is to find conferences and events that reach your target audience of prospects.

You can begin the research process by speaking with current customers and learn about the events they attend. Also, reach out to professional organizations and colleagues in your industry for more suggestions. A few more great resources are online trade show planning directories, your local chamber of commerce and area business associations. When you find an event that looks like a great opportunity, ask to review lists of past vendors and attendees if they're available.

Be sure that the show you choose attracts the type and number of prospects you want. Other things to consider include timing, location, cost and sponsor reputation. To promote sales, think about your needs in regards to audio visual rental rental equipment and sound systems, banners, promotional items, literature, special displays and other marketing tools.

Finally, create a detailed plan and trade show checklist that includes the following steps:

Develop specific event objectives, like the number of product sales, leads generated, publicity acquired, image and awareness initiatives, etc.
Create a realistic budget that includes a projected R.O.I. (Return On Investment)
Establish a compelling sales message that can be used in all trade show marketing and sales initiatives; this includes booth graphics, banners, brochures, sales presentations and advertisements.
Create a "WOW" exhibit that interests people and quickly conveys your brand and product message. The overall design and graphics need to deliver your marketing message with a "powerful punch," whether you choose custom-designed booths, tabletop displays or pop-up stands.

To see more checklist items, visit our source Trade Show Planning: Your Roadmap To Success.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

3 Last-Minute, Simple DIY Christmas Decor

Place not decked out for the holidays yet? Don't worry! There are several last-minute projects that you can take on in just a few hours: 

  1. Create festive jars. Use stickers or paint letters onto milk or mason jars to spell out one of your favorite festive saying. It's a simple and effective way to spread the holiday message; also, a few votive candles will make it more elegant.
  2. Pine cones. Want a project that'll save you both time and money? Gather some pinecones, and spray pain them in one or more holiday colors. And if you want a more festive feel, finish them off with glitter.
  3. Snow globe candleholders. Fill a wine glass with little Christmas trinkets and white garland, then turn it upside down. Top the glass off with a candle and that way, its purpose can be twofold.

For even more ideas, check out our source, Last-Minute, DIY Christmas Decor.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to Increase Attendance at Your Events

8 Tips to have a Sell-out Crowd Every Time!

By Heidi Richards Mooney

Have you noticed a decrease in event attendance over the years? If so, you are not alone. Every day, more and more groups and organizations are popping up, vying for the attention of specific targeted groups of people. Increasing event attendance is generally the biggest challenge facing meeting and event planners. Many people think that if they plan a fantastic event, people will just show up. Of course, today, with all the competition for people's time, this does not happen.

Event planners and hosts can sometimes find themselves in a quandary about just how to promote the event to get maximum exposure and participants. Some will hire a public relations firm to get them much needed publicity in the hopes that it leads to more attendees. Others buy "lists," which can be very costly and there are really no guarantees that the list will draw the type of attendees that will add to the overall success of the event. Keep in mind, a PR firm's responsibility is to garner publicity for the event, not necessarily bring attendees. It will, of course, raise awareness of what you are trying to accomplish, but may not result in adding to your bottom line or database. That is partly because in most cases, the media covers events "after the fact." There are exceptions, like a slow news day, a celebrity involvement or a totally unique concept that has never been done before; these would greatly raise the chances of the event being covered on the spot.

Advertising, on the other hand, is totally different. It can cost money that results in zero return on investment because it too may not be seen by your target audience.

So then you may be asking yourself, what can I do to create a successful well-attended event? One thing you can do is what some groups I have volunteered for is to cross promote. By that I mean either share your mailing lists with them and vice versa or promote one another's events to your stakeholders.

If you do this, make sure your "list" is always kept up to date. And ask any partnering organizations how often they update their lists. That is because people move away, lose interest and basically get "tapped out." Or their interests change and they go on to other groups. The same holds true of events themselves. Organizations today have to keep reinventing themselves and their parties, galas, fundraisers and other events so they can continue to draw the people they can count on. If not, you've lost them before the date for the next event has even been set. That is why it is important to have a plan and a specific targeted list of supporters, those with the highest probability of attending and becoming life-long supporters.

Here are eight strategies you can use to see immediate results:

  1. Research other available mailing lists. Look for associations and organizations who present events to similar audiences. Offer to trade sponsor recognition in exchange for their mailing lists. The sponsorship could include a table at your event for them to distribute promotional literature. It could include their name and logo in your brochures, programs and other printed materials. It could include an exchange of your mailing list as mentioned above. Be sure to spell out the terms of using your mailing lists. For instance, can the list be used multiple times or only once?
  2. Negotiate what they would accept or develop sponsorship guidelines to include what they would receive. This will cost you nothing, and your mailing list could go from 1,000 to 10,000 (or more). Of course, it will cost more to mail to more people. When my church decided to host an auction, we looked at our community, asked volunteers for their input and found several other organizations that had hosted auctions in the past. We were able to trade lists with some of them, which tripled our original list. Since our events were at different times of the year, we agreed to trade our list for theirs, which resulted in almost half of our tickets coming from those lists.
  3. Since printing and mailing to a larger list will increase costs of promotion, use other strategies to save money. Print expensive self-mailing brochures to save on envelopes, which can be costly. If two color will get the message across effectively, opt for that instead of a four-color process. Use eye-catching graphics and good copywriting to "sell the event." If you must hire someone, I recommend a copywriter, a good investment. She or he will know the words that "sell" and can come up with copy that is both appealing to the target audience, and it can be used again in multiple ways to spread the word such as postcards, email invitations and more. Be sure you bid on the print job. Unless you are getting it donated or sponsored, printing costs can vary greatly from company to company. I also recommend using bulk mail instead of first class, which will save you considerable investment and you can increase your reach by sending to more of your target audience.
  4. Brainstorm lists with your in-house "staff" and volunteers. It is said each person has at least 200 in their circle of influence. Tap into those circles if and when possible.
  5. Create a publicity "stunt" to increase pre-exposure for the event. When a women's organization that I am involved in (American Business Women's Association) wanted publicity for a regional conference we were hosting, we brainstormed ideas that would get the media's attention. We were hosting a cocktail reception, open to the public the night before the conference was to start. The event had two goals to meet: One was to increase local awareness of the organization. The other was to increase event attendance. Our theme for the event was Hot, Hot, Hot in South Florida. We invited the South Florida Calendar Firefighters to the event to "mingle" with attendees and sell their calendars. The calendars were a fundraiser for the Jackson Memorial Burn Center in Miami. So we created a "pre-event" to promote the reception. We called the Cooper City Fire Department (two of the calendar guys worked there). We asked if we could take publicity pictures with the firefighters on their fire truck. They said "yes." We asked a member who was a professional photographer to take the pictures. The results were great,  full color photo on the cover of the Society page, prior to the event and mentions in other local papers! We had a sell-out attendance. In fact, the firefighters sold all the calendars they had brought that they had to take orders to fulfill the rest. And the "pre-event" was FUN. This may not work for every event, especially if it is for members only.
  6. If your event is open to the public, check out other local papers and journals to see what other organizations would be likely partners with your organization. Of course, if you have it in your budget you can also offer to purchase their mailing lists, which then removes any partnering responsibility on either part. Always, always be on the lookout for new lists. Chamber of Commerce and other business leagues and organizations make it a practice of selling their lists to earn extra income.
  7. You can also promote the event with broadcast faxes and emails. Be cautious when doing so. Unsolicited advertising is not only intrusive, it can give the event a bad reputation and may even cost you money in fines, etc. I do send emails; however, it is to lists I have created through the several associations I am involved in. If the event is for a nonprofit or service organization, you can create your list using volunteers. 
  8. Check out local high schools and colleges for students who need service hours. Offer them service hours in exchange for inputing information into your database.

Follow these eight tips and see how many more people attend! 

[Photo Credit]

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Plan an Amazing New Year's Eve Party

New Year's Eve will be here before you know it! If you're planning to throw a party this year, planning ahead is key so you can have some fun, too. Here are some tips to help:

  • Send out your invitations early. This is a popular party night, and people often make plans weeks in advance. So, get the invite out early so your friends will know your house is the place to be. Instead of using paper invitations, consider using a website like Evite where invitees can respond online. One other benefit of using Evite: You can post items you need people to bring, and they can let you know when they respond. Additionally, you can track who has viewed your invitation and when.
  • Delegate. You don't have to do everything yourself. Let your friends know what they can do to help you out with the party. It'll make your job easier, and you'll feel a lot calmer when it's time to party!
  • Food. The food for a New Year's Eve Party should be simple. Serve a variety of finger foods and other items you can make ahead of time. Also, set up a buffet-style table so your guests can serve themselves during the evening. Suggestions include vegetables and dip, a gourmet cheese and cracker tray, pigs in a blanket and mini quiches. You can also include a cold cut platter or put your crock pot to use for more options.
  • Decoration. If your house is already decorated for Christmas, keep them up for your party, which will add a more festive feel. Additionally, you can add gold and silver streams or balloons. And get some fun things like noisemakers or New Year's party hats to add to the theme. 

For more tips, check out our source, How To Plan a New Year's Party.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to Get Started With Planning a Bachelorette Party

Have you found yourself in charge of planning a bachelorette party and not knowing what to do? Bridal party brain freeze: It's common and it's easy to get past. Here are a few things to get your party planning off on the right foot.

There's a little bit of etiquette involved in planning a bachelorette party. Typically, the tradition is for the maid of honor and the bridesmaids to throw the bride a bachelorette party. Nothing is written in stone, but it is pretty customary for all the bridesmaids to chip in on the night of fun. The bulk of the responsibility usually rests on the maid of honor's shoulders, but often times, there is a born party planner in the group and it can often be better for everyone to let that person take the lead.

When it comes to budgeting, I recommend setting a limit that is comfortable and reasonable for all the bridesmaids and then collect the money up front. This enables you to plan within your budget right from the start and eliminate hard feelings that will put a damper on the fun evening.

Another thing that you will really want to take into consideration is remembering who the night is really for. This means thinking about what the bride will enjoy. Is the bride mild or wild? This will help determine what bachelorette gifts, games, apparel and decor will be right.

Once you've got a theme, it's a good idea to start planning ahead. I know this sounds silly, but it's amazing how quickly time slips away. Believe me, you don't want to find yourself empty-handed when the big night comes around. You're going to want to start shopping a few weeks out and ordering any gifts a minimum of two weeks prior to when you need them. Most bachelorette gifts are ordered online nowadays. The Internet has certainly made it easy to get great gifts at reasonable prices. You will want to take shipping into consideration when making your purchases. Ground shipping is often going to give you the best rate, but again, planning ahead is going to be a big help with this.

As with many things, the Internet is a great place to get started with not only shopping but planning as well. Bachelorette parties have become big business, so just type in "bachelorette party" or "bachelorette party ideas" into Google, and the first page results should give you plenty of information to kick-start your brainstorming.

Personalized or custom gifts have become very popular over the past few years. This is another area that online shopping has really made getting great personalized gifts like custom t-shirts at a fairly cheap price. Custom bridal t-shirts have proven to be a big hit. Match your theme or make 'em bling. Sexy, funny or whatever you decide, you bridal party will look great.

Here is quick checklist to help you get prepared:
1. Pick a date and send out invitations ASAP.
2. Collect the money from the bridesmaids.
3. Pick your party's flavor: mild, hot or super spicy?
4. Order your gifts and accessories with enough time to spare.
5. Are you going to need an ice breaker? If so, here are some game ideas designed to get the party warmed up:
  • A scavenger hunt
  • How well do you know the bachelorette?
  • Bride and Groom Trivia
6. If you're going out, be prepared and take a little extra cash because coming up short sucks!

Lastly, enjoy your time together. You are the bridal party, the bride's closest friends and family. Have fun!

Paul is the creator of The Funky T-shack which is all about custom t-shirts and custom t-shirt printing, providing top-notch shirt customization services such as screen printing, digital printing and custom tagging, using the latest and most advanced technologies at the best prices in the industry. 

[Photo Credit]

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to Plan a Successful Boudoir Shoot

Have you decided to do a boudoir photo session for yourself or your fiance? Here are a few tips to have the best experience you can:

  • Gather as many photo inspirations as you can. Some good places to look include photographer's websites, wedding boards, men's magazines (like Maxim) and websites such as Email them to your photographer so he or she can work with you in recreating the shots you love.
  • Find a photographer you feel comfortable with. Many times, brides will feel more comfortable with a female photographer. Meet with potential photographers prior to booking them to be sure the one you choose has a good personality and seems fun and engaging. Also, ask to see boudoir shots they've previously done (if they have them) so you can see if his/her style suits you.
  • Email around if you live in a place that doesn't offer many boudoir photography options. Contact photographers who don't advertise boudoir services; a lot of times, they'll offer less expensive options for just as good of a product. You might even be fortunate to come across a photographer who's just starting out with boudoir photography who may be willing to do your shoot for free if you allow him or her to use your photos in their portfolio.
  • Bring lots of outfits. And don't forget to bring accessories, stockings, shoes and props. Bring more than you think you'll need. It's better to have too many items than to wish you had brought something you left at home.

For more tips, check out our source, 10 Tips for a Successful Boudoir Shoot.

[Photo Credit]

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Christmas Ornament Tradition

by Rachel Paxton

When my husband and I got married, my mother-in-law introduced me to one of her favorite Christmas traditions. She has five children, and for years, she has been collecting ornaments for each of her children so that they can take their collection of ornaments with them when they have their own families.

I decided to start this tradition in our own family. Every year, my daughter picks out a new ornament for her own collection. It's fun to look through all of the old ornaments and see how her collection has grown. The variety of ornaments shows how her tastes and interests have changed throughout the years.

You would think only girls would be interested in collecting Christmas ornaments. Actually, my husband has a lot of Christmas ornaments he enjoys. He has several ornaments representing his favorite college and NFL football teams. He also treasures many of the keepsake ornaments his mother has made for him throughout the years.

There are a variety of ornaments you and your children can choose from to collect. If you have the time and desire to make them, you can purchase many types of ornament kits at craft stores. You can find beaded ornaments, ornaments made from felt, ornaments made from plastic canvas and many others. This year, I found a Nemo felt ornament kit at Walmart. My boys love Nemo and I thought they would be fun to make. They are turning out beautifully, but are taking much longer to make than I expected. I'll maybe have them done by next year! You might choose to make ornaments with your children. Clay ornaments are easy and fun to make.

If you don't want to make ornaments, buying them can be fun, too. This year, I purchased my boys' ornaments at a Christmas craft show. They had clay ornaments made to look like Thomas the Tank Engine that were absolutely adorable. They personalized the ornaments with their names and the year for free. Christmas bazaars are a great place to look for unique ornaments. Look for ornaments while you are travelling. Many gift shops have ornaments you can purchase to remind you of your favorite vacation spots. Ebay is also a good place to find ornaments. Last year, I purchased an ornament on Ebay that had my husband's favorite football team on it. I'd never seen another one like it, and he loved it.

As you can see, collecting Christmas ornaments can be fun for the whole family. Every year, your kids will look forward to picking out their new ornament to put on the tree. Make sure to write their names and the year on the back or bottom of the ornament with a permanent marker so you can keep track of everyone's ornaments!

Visit to find out how to decoupage a beautiful box to store your keepsake ornaments in.

Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of What's for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For more recipes, gardening, organizing, home decorating, holiday hints and more, visit Creative Homemaking at