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dead money

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This past week we were humbled to be asked to speak at the National Parks and Recreation Association’s annual convention in Dallas. Our session was standing room only and we spoke on the topic of how tourism and parks can partner to build “community.”

Prior to the session, I had the opportunity to walk around the trade show floor for about an hour. If you have never been to the NPRA Convention, it’s a big show. Rows and rows of booths of exhibitors trying to market their products and services to the various parks leaders in attendance.

As I walked the expo floor and stood back and watched a few of the interactions (or non interactions) between the vendors and the attendees, I thought back to the days when I played a decent amount of poker.

Prior to getting married and having our son Brock, one of my favorite things to do was to play Texas hold ‘em. Every so often I’d go to the casino for a few hours and play, which was a great analytical exercise for the mind and also a social hobby of sorts. Back then I studied the game a good bit and overall I’m usually a pretty good card player having grown up around bridge, hearts, and similar games. At the end of the day, playing hold ‘em against the level of players I was usually playing against, even as a competent player, I was usually what you would call “dead money.” Meaning that most of the time I was outmatched and was going to lose.

Looking at many of the vendors at the NRPA tradeshow, I saw a lot of dead money there. There were numerous people in their booths that were on their computers as people walked by with no engagement by the vendors. There were people standing in their booths and not greeting anyone as they passed by. There were booths that had virtually no activation within them at all.

Without any engagement or unique value proposition, a vendor is dead money. There really wasn’t any reason for a large number of these companies to exhibit at all. Without a well thought out engagement plan, they should have just stayed home and saved the time and money.

We have to be far more intentional about how we handle these types of marketing opportunities. We need to know who the attendees are and how to positively engage with them in a unique way that differentiates us from the other vendors. We can’t just show up and hope good things will happen. We can’t put introverted people (who would rather be checking emails than talking to prospective new clients) in a position to generate new leads for our businesses. We have to be better, or we will become dead money.

When thinking about the events you will attend in 2024, no matter your business, ask yourself these questions…..

Is this event a “friend raiser” or a “fund raiser”? Is it a show-your-face to existing clients (friends) type of event, or one that you plan to use as new business development (funds)?

How can we engage our current and potentially new clients in a progressive way that will set us apart from the competition?

What is our value proposition that we can carve an elevator pitch around when we get to interact with potential partners?

Who is the best person on your team to be out front to deliver that elevator pitch?

Be creative. Be interesting. Be externally focused. Avoid becoming dead money.

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