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Intensive planning spells success at Mississippi Business EXPO 2000

Behind the scenes

Before Linda Jacobs completes the 16-hour task of setting up Mississippi Business EXPO 2000, she will already be thinking ahead to 2001.

“As soon as one EXPO is over, it’s time to start on the next one,” Jacobs, Mississippi Business Journal’s special events director, said, with a

laugh. “We have to have sponsors in place, and it takes time to gather information for all the different programs. The Trademart has to be

reserved, meals must be planned and caterers lined up well in advance. It’s never-ending.”

It takes time to seek businesses that would benefit from the EXPO, and then to make sure exhibitors understand the art of exhibiting, Jacobs said.

“If your booth is not set up properly, potential customers may pass you by,” she said. “Even if all of that is in place, there’s a lot more to consider.

We want to help exhibitors have a successful trade show.”

For instance, 73% of trade show attendees say that most sales presentations take too long, according to Dr. Allen Konopacki, a trade show

consultant.

“An effective presentation should be five to seven minutes,” he said. “After that, you should consider setting up a meeting later in the day.”

Group selling skills are imperative, particularly since research shows that 58% of visitors who are not acknowledged within one minute walk away.

“Salespeople should use a smile and make eye contact with others observing to hold their interest and attention,” he said.

More than half of 1,000 business executives polled said trade shows are becoming increasingly more valuable because of time poverty, access to

instant answers and networking and forming partnerships, Konopacki said.

“Visiting a trade show condenses the evaluation process by providing access to multiple resources in as little as three days or less,” he said.

“Trade shows provide a ‘real-time’ environment for obtaining business solutions and the convenience of expediting the evaluation process.

Multiple vendors are needed to solve more complex issues and problems. Trade shows provide an assembly of resources in one arena and

increase the ability to network or partnership.”

When Jacobs, former director of Jubilee Jam, took the job of MBJ’s special events coordinator in 1998, she only had two months to get

everything in place.

“Last year was a test run,” she said. “It was the make-or-break stage. Either you love it or you don’t. After it came off so well in those two

months, I was excited about doing one from scratch, putting my own thoughts and creativity into the project.”

For example, a twist has been added to the 7th annual Top 40 Under 40 luncheon, she said.

“Every year, it’s been the same thing,” she said. “This year, we’re doing a video presentation of the 40 recipients rather than just having their

names called and they walk up and get a handclap. If you have to handclap for 40 people, by the time you get to the 25th person, that handclap is

a bit shallow. This way, it will be upbeat the entire time. None of the recipients know what we’re going to do. It will come as a complete

surprise.”

The most ambitious undertaking for EXPO 2000 was reuniting Mississippi’s leading businesswomen for the first time, Jacobs said.

“We will be awarding one person Mississippi’s Leading Businesswoman of the Year that will be announced at the luncheon,” she said.

In addition to tending details of the various programs, there’s the tedious task of booth setup. Of the almost 200 exhibitors signed up for this

year’s EXPO, each has slightly different requirements.

Several need one table, others need two or three. A few exhibitors need phone lines or electricity; others need both. Getting it lined up has been a

picnic this year, Jacobs said.

“Everything fell into place because everyone was so cooperative,” she said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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