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The world is suffering from a severe dose of Pottermania. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s impossible not to have heard about Harry Potter. In a relatively short time, he has cast his magical spell and become a veritable household name. His creator, J.K. Rowling has managed to pull off a feat that hasn’t been seen in decades — motivating kids to read because they want to and not because they have to.

In the wonderful world of exhibiting don’t you yearn for that magic wand to give a quick magical fix to your tradeshow trials and tribulations. Wouldn’t it be nice to have attendees motivated to flock to our booths because they wanted to and not because they had to? So what lessons can exhibitors learn from Harry Potter and his creator’s miraculous success? I’ve come up with the following thirteen (auspicious for some) for starters:

Use boundless imagination

Without a shadow of a doubt, imagination and creativity need to permeate from every pore of your exhibit marketing program. How can you tap into the creativity and imagination that exists in your organization to cast prizewinning spells to enhance your exhibiting program?

Stop being an adult – be childlike

At the core of every attendee is a little child yearning to escape. What can you do to help them do that? What can you do that incorporates what we all loved as children — fairy tales, story-telling and make-believe games? Disney managed it very successfully, and now, so did J.K. Rowling. What would a five-year old do to add some magical power to your exhibit marketing program?

Break and bend the rules

To get what you want, you often have to break and bend the rules, especially when it suits your purpose. Most advances in science, medicine, music, art and design came as a result of someone being prepared to challenge the norm and try a different approach. What scary rules could you secretly break?

Do what you know

Take something you know and do well and add a little something else to it, and then add something else. Very soon you will take on the mark of a wizard and transform what you have into something new. What creative things can you do with what you know, and what resources and solutions are right in front of you?

Think outside the box

It’s easy to only look at exhibiting from one perspective especially when you exhibit within one particular industry. Often, the best ideas come from cutting across different boundaries, for example, how could you integrate weird and wonderful potions, charms, giants, dragons, cauldrons, crystal balls and the like into a scientific or machine tool setting? Make a point of looking outside your particular situation for enchanting ideas.

Plot out what you want to do before you begin

What’s your exhibiting objective, what are you trying to achieve, and what planning do you need to do? Draw a picture and make a map of where you need to go and the things you need to do. Using pictures instead of words can add bewitching power and put a very different perspective on your planning process. It also helps make it fun!

Expect the unexpected

Many of history’s greatest discoverers and inventers happened across their major discovery quite unexpectedly. Often, they were looking for something else. Remember Christopher Columbus set out looking for India, and lo and behold, look what he found! What are the two most unexpected things that might mysteriously happen during your next exhibiting experience?

Put magic into your thinking

When you ask yourself “what if” questions you stretch your thinking and plant the seeds for creative new ideas. What if ghosts and goblins were to roam the show floor? What if exhibit booths could fly around the show hall positioning themselves right in front of your major prospects? What if people wearing special glasses were the only attendees able to see your exhibit display? What if you tried this exercise?

Slay a dragon

Dragons elicit fears and fears often stand in the way of you doing new and creative things. So many exhibitors fear uncharted territory. You fear the unknown and you fear failure. Take time to look at those fiendish creatures that hold you back from being and doing all you can before, during and after the show. What dragons can you slay?

Learn from others

There are countless people and situations you can learn from. The key is being open and receptive, and in essence, being prepared to be a lifelong learner. Look to the past and learn from historical figures, borrow ideas from innovators, learn from others’ mistakes, use ideas from the patterns and cycles in nature. Where can you look for some magical theory?

Transport people to another place

J.K. Rowling performed incredible magic transporting people around the world to the enchanted magical world of wizards, spells and mythical beasts. In fact there is a wealth of folklore, mythology and history that shimmers beneath the surface of her stories.

How can magic you dream up transport your exhibiting program to another level?

Go where others fear to tread

When you exercise the courage to do something different, you take a risk. You have a risk muscle that you keep in shape through regular exercise. It takes courage, a pioneering spirit and a sense of adventure to overcome the scary stuff and seek out unknown opportunities. How can you exercise your risk muscle?

Believe in your success

Thomas Edison once said, “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” Believe that the creative ideas you conjure up will bring you untold successes. Now all you need do is wave your magic wand to put them into action. Which ideas will you start with?

The moral of the article is to never get caught without your wand, as you never know when you might need it!

This Marketing article was written by Susan Friedmann on 4/7/2005

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. Go to to sign up for a free copy of ExhibitSmart Tips of the Week.