A Guide to Exhibiting at a Genealogy Conference – Part 2: Running the Show

Jennifer Alford, owner of the genealogy business Jenealogy, provides advice on setting up an exhibitors booth at a genealogy conference

A Guide to Exhibiting at a Genealogy Conference – Part 2: Running the Show

[Editor’s Note: Jennifer Alford is the owner of Jenealogy and a partner in The In-Depth Genealogist.

In the last blog post in this series, I discussed the many decisions necessary in developing your plan to have a booth at a trade show. Not only do you need to decide if you can afford to exhibit, but you need to decide what your goal at the trade show will be! Once you have decided to make that leap, you then have the actual event to run.

Promoting the Conference

Before you even get to the event, it is important that you promote the conference! After all, if there is not a strong showing at the event, you may not get the exposure you are hoping for your company or organization. Let your current customers, blog readers, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers know that you are going to be having a booth and that you would love to see them “in person.” Many exhibitors plan to have a sale through their website that coincides with the events at the conference. Sales offered for a limited time can be advertised at the conference and allow conference attendees to buy after the event is over. Offering discounts on subscriptions, books, memberships, and giveaways can entice people to visit your booth in the exhibit hall.

Plan Your Booth Layout

Make a plan for your booth layout next. Determine where you will place your table (or tables) and what you will put on your table. You do not want the booth to be too crammed with stuff so that visitors will feel self-conscious about looking at your offerings and interacting with you. A cluttered table can make it hard for a visitor to understand what you are selling. Take advantage of the vertical space as much as possible. Use clear signing to accentuate what you are selling.

Just because you see other groups with their table across the front of the booth does not mean you must do the same. In fact having that table across the front of the booth basically tells visitors that you don’t want them to come in. Having a more open set-up with the table off to the side or at the back of the booth space will draw people in. After all, you want to have the opportunity to talk with visitors and get to know them.

Make a sketch of the layout before you get to the exhibit hall to see what additional items you might need to purchase to supplement your layout. Brochure or book stands may make it more manageable and uncluttered. Figure out if there is a simple way to transport these items or if you could buy them the day before you set up where the conference is located. Sometimes it is more economical to purchase the shelving or stands at a local store near the conference and then ship it back home after the fact.

Staffing Your Booth

The next important task is selecting who will help with the booth. Sometimes we only have a few people who will be attending the conference who can assist with the booth. Or you may have a limited budget and cannot hire someone to work the booth. Your booth workers need to have a positive attitude, know your product, and project the image that you want for your business.

Whatever the situation, I recommend that you develop a checklist or guidelines for those who will help at the booth. The act of writing out the rules of helping at the booth will help you focus on your goals. Detail the methods of interacting with visitors and handling transactions. I would also suggest that you provide name tags or badges that make it clear who is helping at the booth. Having a professional appearance is important as each person will be representing your business or organization while in your booth. Be sure to have your booth workers dress nicely, but comfortably. Shoes make a big difference as you will probably be on your feet for most of the time.

Conference Check-In and Booth Setup

When you arrive at the venue it is important to check in with the organizers. Sometimes they have to rearrange the booth layout at the last minute and believe me, you do not want to have to move all your stuff more than once! If you can, pick up your temporary sales tax license while you are there.

Confirm with the organizers that all of the extras that you purchased are delivered to your booth. If you ordered carpet, electricity, or extra tables you will want those in the booth before you start setting up. You don’t want to move things around more than necessary. If you have a dolly it will make “move-in” much easier. Sometimes the venue will have wheeled carts that you can use, but occasionally they will charge you for their use. So be prepared if you have a lot of heavy items to move to your booth. I have even taken advantage of my suitcase on wheels in the past!

Use your booth layout design as a starting point for your setup. You may find that you need to rearrange or flip the layout depending on how your neighboring booths are setup. If there is going to be heavy traffic along where you had planned to put your table; you may want to put the table on the opposite side to make it less likely that someone could reach over without interacting with you first. Once your booth is set up, you will want to cover everything with a sheet to prevent items from walking away while you are not there.  I do not recommend leaving anything valuable at your booth when you are not there. You may think hiding things under your table is enough, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Laptops, tablets, and money are far too easy to lose.

Booth Orientation for Staff

A brief orientation with your booth workers before the exhibit hall opens can be helpful. Step through the guidelines you had developed and how to approach visitors. Have a short compelling message that you’d like them to use and have each person rehearse it. Whether it is just a question to draw people in or a quick description of your business or organization doesn’t matter. You want to be consistent with the message you use.  Be sure to discuss the importance of reading body language with your booth workers. While it’s good to encourage others to come and talk with you at your booth, you don’t want to alienate people by accosting them in the aisle. It can be considered rude or antagonistic and you don’t want to upset your fellow exhibitors by making people rush through the aisle to avoid you. Instead, teach your booth workers how to read the body language of those walking by. If someone turns toward your booth that means they are open to speaking with you. If they avoid making eye contact when you say, “Hello” it may just mean they are in a rush to get somewhere. Try not to take it personally.

Take a Break!

Hopefully you will have a number of workers at your booth to allow for frequent breaks. If not, have a “Be right back” sign with an estimated time of return. Try not to take one of these breaks during the gap between conference sessions, lunch time, or at the beginning or closing hours of the exhibit hall. Those are going to be your highest traffic times in the hall and you want someone at the booth then.

Drawings and Giveaways

Offering a drawing for a giveaway may be a simple way to entice visitors.  Many people love the chance to win a prize. Do what makes the most sense for your group. If you are going to offer a contest you probably want to have an entry require sharing their email address and agreeing to be on a mailing list. Be clear about this and people will appreciate your honesty. If you bought promotional items like a pen, highlighter, or name tag ribbon to hand out you might want to make sure the recipient has at least taken a moment to hear your spiel. Remind them that you are providing the item in the hopes that they will visit your website when they get home after the conference. People appreciate that you are trying to get your name out and that these items are not given away without a reason.

Network with Other Exhibitors

While you are primarily exhibiting at the conference in order to get to know the attendees, you should make a point to get to know your fellow exhibitors. Before going to the conference you might want to check the exhibitor list and reach out to a few that you’d like to get to know. Invite them to stop by your booth or schedule a meeting for coffee or drinks. Ask about their business and consider how you might be able to help them with your own expertise, business, or personal connections. Partnerships with other organizations can be invaluable. Introduce yourself to your neighboring booths and offer to keep an eye on their booth if they need a break. They will likely return the favor.

Don’t Forget the “After Conference” Follow-up!

Many people want to visit your website after they meet you. Make sure it’s up to date and running properly. After the conference you want to be sure and quickly follow up with those you met. Thank those who took the time to meet with you from other organizations. Thank your booth workers and other supporters who might have helped you along the way. You will also want to sit down and analyze how it went for your organization and make plans for your next trade show experience. If you can, provide feedback to the organizers of the event so that they can understand how your business or organization did during the conference. The great thing about exhibiting at trade shows is that you can try new things and perfect your approach each time. Learning to adapt your approach helps you to become better at promoting your organization and build relationships with others. It is a win-win!

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About Jennifer Alford

Jennifer Alford, PE, PTOE, is a Traffic Engineer by day and a genealogy professional and lecturer by night. Her business, Jenealogy, creates engaging family history treasures to enhance the bond between generations. Jen serves as newsletter editor for the Indiana Genealogical Society and has served in the position of associate editor of the Federation of Genealogical Society’s FORUM magazine. As a partner with The In-Depth Genealogist she is publisher of The In-Depth Genealogist’s magazine, Going In-Depth, and several books written by their contributing writers. She can be contacted at jen@jenalford.com or visit her website at http://www.jenealogy.biz or http://www.theindepthgenealogist.com

Jennifer Alford, PE, PTOE, is a Traffic Engineer by day and a genealogy professional and lecturer by night. Her business, Jenealogy, creates engaging family history treasures to enhance the bond between generations. Jen serves as newsletter editor for the Indiana Genealogical Society and has served in the position of associate editor of the Federation of Genealogical Society’s FORUM magazine. As a partner with The In-Depth Genealogist she is publisher of The In-Depth Genealogist’s magazine, Going In-Depth, and several books written by their contributing writers. She can be contacted at jen@jenalford.com or visit her website at http://www.jenealogy.biz or http://www.theindepthgenealogist.com

Market Analysis for Your Genealogy Business

Market Analysis for Your Genealogy Business

Market Analysis for Your Genealogy Business

[Editor’s Note: Bob Rettammel is a professional genealogist and owner of Rettammel Genealogy Service.]

Recently, I have been spending time thinking about how to market my genealogy service better. As a small business owner or sole proprietor we all face times of market flexibility or business life cycles. We also have times where our plate is full of client projects which also limits our availability to manage and organize for the future. As a small business owner we have to continually work and evaluate our marketing strategy. Where are those customers?

As a business owner I sell a service. This service has a product, but not in the typical business sense, i.e. a computer or widget, but a report or documents that are useable by a specific family or individual. Usually this product is definable, produced only once and never used again except as a reference in the future. So under these conditions the key for revenue and use of service is marketing yourself the best and potentially broadest way.

In the rest of this article I will discuss three parts of marketing that I have recently begun to re-evaluate and amend in my own personal business plan-advertising, market planning and customer engagement.

Advertising You and Your Services

One of the challenges when starting out is how to develop a marketing plan that will reach the people who will use your service. As I started the first step to become a genealogist for business, I contacted a genealogy reference librarian and did an interview to learn more about the daily activity of a working genealogist. I also wanted to learn what areas or niches might be under-developed in my home area that I might turn my interest in genealogy into a business. My goal was to learn more about being a professional genealogist and also to see if I could play a role and also earn income. This person provided an honest description of what they offered and how clients are always interested to learn about another person’s family history and the records that a researcher (genealogists) used to discover hidden treasures that lead to new knowledge or opened a brick wall in the research.  I also learned that giving talks and doing a webinar are wonderful to do and allows you to reach a wider audience who might contact you or be interested in using your research skills.

One way of starting is to give talks about your own genealogy story. At the time I started to outline my search for learning more about my paternal grandfather and where my surname originated in Europe. Once I had developed an outline and had other people review it, I started to develop a PowerPoint presentation that would include the various genealogical records I used to learn more about my grandfather and his family (going from what I had and moving back in time collecting all the vital records, etc). Along the way I learned more about genealogical standards, records and what methods to use to verify that my family was in Chicago in the year of the Great Chicago Fire (1871). All this information was included in my PowerPoint presentation for future talks I was hoping to give.

So once you have a presentation plan to reach future clients/customers where do you give a talk? Who would be interested? I was fortunate in this endeavor at first since I looked for a genealogy mentor who gave me encouragement and also was willing to talk with genealogy societies in the area who would be interested in my talk which I called Finding the Old Country – the German-American connection. A local genealogy society soon contacted me about a future availability to speak. This speaking engagement ultimately led to another county society reaching out to me about giving a similar talk. This also provided a platform for potential clients who wanted me to do research for them.

So one of the ways to advertise yourself is by getting out there and doing what you love, talking with other people, networking, building those relationships and having a basic plan prior to taking the leap. You will need to at least define who your target audience will be for your services.

The core of this article is to talk to you about my re-evaluation of the market plan that I originally did in my Business Plan. I recently pulled out my Business Plan to see how I was doing in the last year and also where in the future I wanted to be (Projection). It is late summer and now is a good time for me to do an assessment of my genealogy business. There were many questions I asked myself: Did I achieve what I wanted in the last year? Did I reach potential clients, and did they use my service?, and; importantly were they paying clients?

Market Plan is Key

In my original market plan, I said that I would locate clients through three areas: as a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), my WordPress website (www.rettammelhistory.com) and through local interactions, like my local coffee shops I go to. This last item pertains to building relationships in the community.

I noted that my service will offer timeliness, integrity, reliability for my clients and strive for validation of findings with organized results (a report, genealogy log, etc.).

I said I would promote my service at first in my local area (which I defined as a region in my state), and later assess this promotion/engagement area (why I am doing this article).

Customer Engagement

In the last year I was able to engage with potential clients or users of my service through giving talks about genealogy, being an active member at professional meetings, and being a board member of my local county genealogy society. I met or exceeded my personal goals by giving talks to interest groups, gathered a couple clients from these talks and found that being a member of an association or professional group really pays off. Being a member of APG provides contacts and allows for a new business to gain legitimacy and potential clients you may never reach except through this platform or relationship.

My link to the national APG also lead to me joining a regional chapter in the Chicago area. Though it is of distance from my market I find that expanding your network is so rewarding through gaining knowledge as well as contacts.

My three biggest ways I found clients is through professional associations, reference librarians, and local historic societies. I recently learned about other ways and so am re-evaluating my outreach giving talks to senior centers, social or religious groups, rotary and service clubs, having my business featured in a local/community business magazine, developing a local genealogical interest group and developing a plan to be involved in nearby community festivals, with cultural and ethnic interest (i.e., German festivals).

Conclusion – Takeaway

The takeaway from this article is that having a plan for your business that includes how you will reach your market is important. Also using this plan in the future, once your business has been established is also important for learning and adjusting to market changes that naturally occur for genealogists or any small business owner. How will you sustain your business and also change or grow to meet your clients’ needs?

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About Bob Rettammel

About Bob Rettammel

Hello my name is Bob Rettammel, I have been interested in genealogy since I was a teenager, while working with my uncle, who brought out boxes of old pictures that were in upstairs rooms of the family house. Those days 40 years ago brought to life family members on my paternal side that I never met, especially my grandfather.  That summer I put together a photo album of old pictures and that was the start of my interest in the past.

I am a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and Dane County Area Genealogical Society (DCAGS), in Madison, WI. I recently became President of DCAGS.

I have visited Europe a number of times and Germany in 1990 (Austria, Bavaria and southern Germany) and spring 2014 to Berlin and Hamburg, where I visited some German genealogists that continue to help with my own family search.

I have a Masters Degree in Sociology from Marquette University.

Creating Multiple Income Streams

Professional genealogist Claire V. Brisson-Banks discusses how to create various income streams to supplement the research side of your genealogy business.

Creating Multiple Income Streams

[Editor’s Note: Claire V. Brisson-Banks, BS,  MLIS,  AG® is a professional genealogist and owner of Timeless Genealogies.]

As a professional genealogist, there are times when there are too many clients and times when there aren’t enough clients. So what does one do to keep the income coming in? We need to link up with other businesses, be affiliates, support one another and help each other out by supporting other products connected with our business, etc. Use social media to the max and I believe in giving back to the community you work in; often this opens up opportunities to get work that is paid.

Genealogists love to research; they enjoy the “hunt” for those elusive family members of their clients as well as their own. One of the biggest hurdles is “knowing when to stop” and being honest with a client. If they hire you to do 10 hours of work, you need to do 10 hours and that includes your research, report, documents, etc. When you do more time than what you are being paid for you are (1) reducing your own income, (2) increasing the expectations of the client and (3) creating false expectations for genealogists in general. Learning to structure your time properly with your clients will be beneficial to both you and your clients.

Here are some ways that you can develop other income streams as part of your genealogy business

  • Consider conducting classes online either through “Google Hang-outs,” using Adobe Connect or You Tube or checking out other groups that provide online instruction and seeing what is needed to get involved.
  • Consider being an in person instructor at a conference, a school that offers genealogical subjects either in person or online, your local library, a 50+ community, a local community center and/or a local community college. Each of these groups pays their instructors for the class or classes use your research skills to locate these kinds of facilities in your area. Make sure your business cards and your expertise is known at your local library, someone is always catching the genealogy bug and often they go to the local library to get started after they get lost online, it is very easy for the newbie to be overwhelmed with all that is available for them to try and do this on their own.
  • Check with other genealogical/family history publications to see if there is a need for an article for their publication. Often local societies are looking for articles to fill their quarterly subscriptions, most provide some sort of payment for that article; be sure to check all the fine print before you write the article to make sure you follow all their requirements and monetary payment is worth your time to do the article.
  • Partner with another company that provides services connected with your services. By checking out how to be an affiliate, you can usually sign up and add their logo to your own site. Depending on the terms and the affiliate agreement, the money you earn through this links can vary. However, a variety of different things usually bring in something which all adds up in the end. Sometimes you can exchange logos and help each other. With all the resources available it should be easy to locate companies you can work with in this field. Using Google.com as your search engine, type in “Genealogy Affiliate Programs” and don’t forget to also do “Family History Affiliate Programs”. You’ll be surprised at what comes up, pick and choose wisely, and always read the affiliate materials; each affiliate pays a different percentage of sales made through your site and your links.
  • Consider adding other genealogical/family history products on your own website. When you least expect it, those items do sell and add much needed funds to your income. In 2004 I teamed up with Quintin Publications selling their out of print Family History and Genealogy books on CD. It is amazing how much is sold in a year bringing in something with each sale.

This blog article is barely scratching the surface of this topic. I highly recommend the e-book by Thomas MacEntee entitled: Genealogy Opportunities 2015: How to Make Money in the Genealogy Business available on Amazon.com.

Regardless of all the above, you must keep your skills up, attend conferences, get your name out there, keep an eye on social media, keep up a blog and let others know about your talents. This author has multiple blogs; you can see my contributions here.

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Claire V. Brisson-Banks, B.S., AG® is an Educator, Leader, Librarian, Genealogist, Forensics, Family Historian, Writer, Avid Blogger, Technology Expert, Marketing, Mentor, Lecturer, and Business Owner.

About Claire V. Brisson-Banks

Claire V. Brisson-Banks, B.S., AG® is an Educator, Leader, Librarian, Genealogist, Forensics, Family Historian, Writer, Avid Blogger, Technology Expert, Marketing, Mentor, Lecturer, and Business Owner.

She is the owner of Timeless Genealogies, a provider of ancestral research services. Her personal areas of expertise in connection with genealogy and family history are Technology Advances, Social Media, US, Canadian, England, Scotland, Brick Walls and Working with and Involving Youth in Family History and Genealogy.