The reading level for this article is All Levels

JK Rowling has done it again.  With her latest volume, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she’s got fans lining up in the bookstores, vying for the chance to be the very first to grab a copy of the 600-page tome.   That in itself is a type of magic – she’s created a product so good that children who would otherwise entertain themselves with a world of electronic media choose to curl up with a good book.
What’s the secret?  Well, Harry Potter lives in a world of magic, spells, and secrets.   It’s an addictive combination, one that keeps readers constantly coming back for more.
Trade shows have their own magical secrets as well.  Just as there are seven planned volumes to the Harry Potter series, there are seven secret spells you absolutely have to know in order to succeed at your next trade show.  Luckily, they’re all outlined right here.  You don’t even have to hop the train at station 13 ½ for a quick jaunt to Hogwarts!
Secret Spell Number One: Turn Back Time
Sadly, there’s no way to magically erase years from our life, and exchange our forty-something bodies for those we had twenty years ago. But we can free our minds from the stifling constraints of adulthood and approach trade show exhibiting with a child-like sense of wonder.  Children spend very little time thinking about what won’t work, and instead focus on what wonderful things might happen.
Remember, inside every attendee is a child who is longing to see magic.  How can you delight that child?  What can you do that incorporates what we all loved as children – the fairy tales, the epic stories, and the endless afternoons of make believe?  Spend some time with small children to reacquaint yourselves with that sense of wornder.  Then look at your show critically.  What would a five-year old do to add some magical pizzazz to the exhibit?
Secret Spell Number Two: Break Some Rules
The most boring, staid exhibits are the ones that follow all of the rules – the rules set out by design experts, sales consultants, and the like.  Do they know your product as well as you do?  Do they understand your vision?  Oftentimes, to get what you want, you have to bend and even break the rules.  Most advances in science, medicine, music, art and design came as a result of some brave person challenging the norms and breaking some rules.  The same holds true for exhibiting.  What rules can you break to improve your show experience?
Secret Spell Number Three: Practice Magical Thinking
The two magic words you really need to know aren’t "Abra Cadabra!"  They’re "What If?"  Open every planning and brainstorming session with a series of what if questions:
What if exhibit booths could fly around the show hall positioning themselves right in front of your major prospects?  What if ghosts and goblins roamed the show floor alongside the booth babes?  What if the only people who could see your exhibit were the ones wearing specially created magic glasses?  No matter how far out the questions get, they will lead to some real, tangible, useable creative ideas.
Secret Spell Number Four: Pay attention to Teacher
Harry and the other fledgling wizards know they must pay special attention to everything taught by their magical professors.  They don’t want to miss a trick, and you shouldn’t either. 
You don’t have to be in Hogwart’s – or any other school, for that matter — to be actively adding to your knowledge base.  There are countless people and situations to learn from.  Be open and receptive, and plan on being a lifelong learner.  Valuable knowledge can come from historical figures, cutting edge inventors, and even your colleagues and competitors.
Secret Spell Number Five: Make A Magic Map
Before you head for the trade show, take the time to plot what you want to do.  What is your exibiting objective, what are you trying to achieve, and what further planning is required?  Draw your answer using symbols and pictures rather than typing up a series of notes on your laptop, and you’ll find your subconcious mind stimulated to think in any number of startling directions.  As an added bonus, it adds a nice fun element to your pre-show planning.
Secret Spell Number Six: Don’t be Afraid
Opening yourself to new ideas and strategies can be scary.  What if something goes wrong?  What if the unexpected happens?
Problems will arise, and the unexpected always happens, usually when you’re the least ready for it.  But that’s not always a bad thing. Ask yourself what type of unexpected situations do you fear occuring.  Perhaps some advance planning would alleviate your worries. 
It never hurts to remember that many of history’s greatest discoveries and inventions had their genesis in completely unexpected situations.  Christopher Columbus was looking for India, not North America, but he didn’t throw up his hands in despair and abandon exploration forever.  Don’t let bumps in the trade show aisle throw you off track..
Secret Spell Number Seven: Believe
Any idea, no matter how creative, is useless until you actually use it.  Combine your analytical skills and business savvy with your personal courage, and try out some of your more magical plans.
Doing something different and unexpected at the trade show takes courage.  You are taking a risk, with your company’s image and your personal reputation.  But fortune favors the bold.  With courage, a pioneering spirit, and a sense of adventure you can overcome the scary turns along the way and take advantage of previously unseen opportunities. 
Believe that the creative ideas you conjure up will bring you untold successes. Carefully create and implement plans centered around your creative process, and you’ll find yourself enjoying trade show success in no time.  It’ll be just like magic.
Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: "Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies," working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training.  For a free copy of ExhibitSmart Tips of the Week, e-mail:; website:

This Marketing article was written by Susan Friedman on 7/27/2005

Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author:
“Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to improve their
meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training.