Getting noticed at CONEXPO

Thousands of people. Towering machines. There were a million things to look at, and seemingly a million different pathways to get there.

Ahead of me, a few people stood together, their eyes lifted upward. Their fingers pointing. I followed their gaze and smiled. There it was. A giant billboard overlay 100 feet tall, swallowing the front of the Las Vegas Marriott. The design and message for Volvo Construction Equipment that just weeks prior I was bringing to life on my computer. The concepting had begun more than six months before. Now, here it was in person.

I had a moment to feel proud that I get to work with Volvo, proud of my team for the work we’d put in. And then I moved on. I had a lot of ground to cover. My mission: to use my designer’s eye and my camera to pare down the nation’s largest construction trade show into ideas we could put to work for future shows.

I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of four different CONEXPO creations for Volvo Construction Equipment. But this was my first time on the ground — elbowing through the crowd of 128,000 people, fighting foot pain over 2.8 million square feet of show space, slathering on sunscreen, and facing the challenge of visiting as many of the 2,800 exhibitors as I could make time for.

I attended the show with the idea that I was just another contractor. Another operator. Going to see what’s new.

And to see what stood out.

Here were my marketing takeaways, in hopes you can apply them as you sit down to the drawing board for your next big show.

1) Be brave. The design I was a part of for Volvo happened because Volvo and our team have a partnership in which we’re dedicated to helping each other challenge the conventional. We had worked with the Las Vegas Marriott for three previous shows. If not done well, it could run the risk of being a large print ad. But we challenged our teams to do something different. Volvo machines break barriers down for contractors every day. How could the machines break down the barrier of the hotel in design? How realistic could we make it look? It took a strong partnership — one in which Volvo trusted that we could match the hotel color and the framing of the windows — to make it look as realistic as possible. And watching those people crane their necks, I knew it had worked.

2) Be simple. As I walked the show, one idea came through loud and clear: Everyone fights for every inch of space they can. They are shouting about their new products. There are bright lights. Loud colors. Large digital screens. Booming audio. To be remembered, it is imperative that you simplify your message. When someone leaves your booth, what do you want them to remember? They can’t remember that you launched 12 products, that you have four new services. They can’t remember those details for 2,800 exhibitors. So determine what is most important for them to remember for you, and then simplify, simplify, simplify how you tell them that. And repeat, repeat, repeat. Booths are sprawling. Messages can go on video, on booth space, via hired talent in the booth. Keep it simple. Say it a lot.

3) Be engaging. At heart, we all want to play, and we’re all human. If you have a new technology, ask yourself, how can I put the person in the booth in touch with it — literally? How can they try it? See it? Control it? And make sure your booth staff are there to help. Not in a used-car-salesman kind of way, but in a “How’s the show going and what are you looking to learn more about?” kind of way.

CONEXPO tourist takeawaysI’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to attend this enormous industry trade show. Not just because I got to experience my design jump off my tiny computer screen and live on the side of a massive hotel. And not because I got to see people gasp, point, and take pictures of something I worked so hard to create.

I’m grateful because the process has already made me better at what I do. I have an entirely new appreciation for just how expansive CONEXPO-CON/AGG is, and I have a new understanding of what a person experiences when they attend. It’s given me fresh ideas and an even greater drive to push more boundaries when CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020 rolls around.

About Lincoln Decklever

Senior art director Lincoln is a University of Northern Iowa alum who has been at Two Rivers Marketing for more than a decade. When he isn’t designing massive 100-foot billboards, he enjoys spending time with his family and rock-and-rolling. Ask him about his design process or love of decoupage at lincolnd@2rm.com