Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - Host City of RSA Conference
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

10 Tips for Your Expo Booth at RSA

For the third time in a row, we will be at RSA Conference presenting our products Boxcryptor and Whisply from February 13-17 in San Francisco. Last year, there were more than 38 000 visitors and more than 500 exhibitors at RSA. Once again, we take the opportunity to discuss the latest developments in cryptography and cybersecurity with security specialists from all over the world and to get in touch with other companies. By now, we have gained some experience in how to approach a security expo. In this post we put together 10 tips that could help you with successfully setting up your booth, or give you inspiration for new things to try out.

How to Make the Most of a Low Budget

Secomba GmbH, with its products Boxcryptor and Whisply, is a start-up from Augsburg, Germany. Andrea Pfundmeier and Robert Freudenreich founded the company six years ago. As a start-up, you face some challenges at conferences and expos. This is because most people are not yet familiar with your product and of course you have to work with a low budget.

However, it is possible to attract attention, gather leads and make the expo a success. You just have to keep in mind that the expo doesn’t do work for you and that instead you have to do the work to profit from the expo. We saw exhibitors who spent most of their time checking their phone or talking to each other, instead of talking to the visitors. Just “showing your face” at the conference will cost you a lot of money, but won’t help your business grow. This list is for those who want to improve their results at an expo. We really hope that you can benefit from our experiences.

10 Tips for a Successful Expo Booth

1. Share a Booth With Other Companies

If it is your first time at a big expo, try to cooperate with other companies and share a booth with them. This way, you can save costs and you do not have to organize everything yourself. Last year, we exhibited at the German Pavilion, for example. Contact the organizers of the expo in advance for more information about shared booths.

It is also possible to engage a contractor, who builds you exactly the booth you want and need. If you share the booth, try to get a good spot, if possible in the front and center, and not in the back. However, last year we had our booth a bit further in the back, and we still made it work. Try to get a good spot beforehand, and if it doesn’t work, make the best of what you have.

2. Invest in a Scanner for Visitor Badges

At one point before the conference, you will have to make the decision whether you want to invest in a scanner for visitor badges ($600 at the RSA). It sounds like a lot of money and at first we actually thought that we could go without. But very soon we changed our mind.

The scanner has been one of the best investments we made, because you can easily keep track of all the leads that visited your booth, with a simple and quick scan. It especially pays off at the last day, when most people run out of business cards. If your booth is busy – what you probably hope for – you will not have enough time to write down contact details. It can also be annoying for your lead, if they have a complicated name or a long phone number, to spell it out at every booth. Invest in some convenience for you and your booth visitors, it will pay off, for sure. You just scan the badges, add notes if necessary, and you have everything ready within seconds. You may want to export the data every day and send it back home to your sales team, so they can start working on the leads right away. If you get 300 scans during the expo, one lead will cost you $2 only, which is nothing for high quality leads.

3. Be Proactive, Work in a Team

The RSA expo is very crowded with more than 500 exhibitors. Many of them represent large companies and have exciting products, booths, and specials – like raffles where you can win an iPad, a drone, or an Apple Watch. As a startup with an unknown product or company name, people will most likely not stop at your booth just like that. They do not know what you do and why they need your product.

Position yourself smartly, one team member in the front, one in the back. One catches the passers-by and leads them back to his/her colleague, who shows them a demo and answers their questions. Sure, you have your information written on the booth, but everybody has. All this information will be overwhelming for the visitors. There is so much to see, so much to do. You have to be the one who attracts their attention. It is more likely that people remember a friendly person who talked to them, than one out of 500 signs on a booth. This brings us to the next, very important point.

4. Don’t be Frustrated if People Show no Interest

Last year, we collected more than 300 leads during the 2.5 days of RSA expo, without any giveaways, just by talking to them. And we did not only talk to the 300 or 400 people that we scanned. Only every 2nd or 3rd person passing by was interested in hearing more than 3 words from us. Sometimes we had five, or even ten people in a row, shaking their heads at us and walking away. Is this frustrating? Definitely, yes. Should it keep you from being motivated? Definitely, not. Just keep going. Vary your pitch, try a different wording. We experimented with many variations until we found our perfect three word pitch. So be creative and do not give up.

5. Prepare Several Pitches

Prepare a 5 second pitch and step up to every person that passes by your booth. Be prepared for variations if the pitch does not present you straight away with the result you want. We tried several pitches from ‘German cloud security?’ to ‘Storage encryption!’ and ‘Afraid of the cloud?’ In the end, ‘Encryption for Dropbox?’ has worked best for us, because thus most people understand what our product is about. Prepare a 2-3 phrase pitch to include details (‘We offer end-to-end-encryption with “zero-knowledge” standard for Dropbox and many other clouds. Files are encrypted locally and it works on all platforms.’).

In addition, prepare a 60 second demo of your product, for visitors who show genuine interest. Keep the demo short and simple, but long enough to give them a sense of your product and its benefits. Every passer-by who stopped at our booth did also spare these 60 seconds. Another benefit of a demo: when your team follows up on the leads and sends them a link to a trial, they are more likely to remember your product and your email will not end up in the spam folder.

6. Find a Unique (and Cost-efficient) Way to Attract Attention

Boxcyptor at RSA exhibition 2016 - here is our Experience
Our founders Andrea and Robert at RSA 2016

Do you want to attract attention without spending too much money on your booth and super expensive giveaways? Find something that goes well with your brand, your product or your home country and let it work for you. For example, we put on traditional Bavarian clothes. People stopped just because they liked our outfits. After some small talk about how beautiful Bavaria is, we asked them, if they wanted a 60 second demo of the Bavarian encryption software for Dropbox. And guess what? 100% of the visitors wanted to see the demo. So find out what is unique to your company and what can attract attention in the masses of exhibitors.

7. Hold a Raffle to Gather More Leads

If you want to maximize the number of leads, hold a raffle. Participants must have their badges scanned for the chance to win a drone, an iPad, etc. This way you will get many leads, but unfortunately not necessarily high qualified ones. Many of the contacts scanned might not even be interested in your company and product, but merely in the raffle.

8. Book and Plan Early

During a conference or an expo, even a big city will be crowded. Prices for hotels and flights go up, sometimes even double. San Francisco, for example, is an expensive city anyway. During RSA, the cheapest hotels are $250-$500 per night. So be an early bird and save some travel cost.

9. Prepare Material

Materials RSA_Whisply Flyer
Basic but proved merchandize: the good old ballpen.

Prepare information sheets, flyers and small giveaways. Create small packages to hand out containing all of the three above. Give them to every visitor at your booth. When people are back at the hotel or at home, they will be reminded of your company and product. Repetition is very important for our memory. Most things stay in mind only after the second or third time that we hear or read about them.

10. Send Male and Female Colleagues

This especially applies to IT and other male-dominated industries. Do not get us wrong, we are not suggesting that you hire the classic “hostess” with a short skirt. This might attract some men’s eyes, but chances are that it will repel others. What’s more, it might not go with your brand and thus seem just too much. We suggest that you send the most charming man and woman of your company, people who are outgoing and have a friendly smile. This is probably the most important thing.

Have people there, who enjoy talking to others and pitching your product. In our experience, there is no harm in one of them being a woman. Female visitors are often more comfortable talking to another woman, instead of being addressed by yet another guy – there are usually more men than women at an IT security expo. In general, some people prefer talking to men, others to women. Offer both to make sure everyone feels comfortable at your booth.

We hope that our 10 tips prove helpful for you so that you can make a success of your next conference or expo and take home high quality leads.

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