Trade Show Attitudes—Beyond the “Power of Positive” Platitudes


During the recent 2015 Exhibitors Academy in Las Vegas, we were treated to one of the most engaging keynote addresses one could hope to have. Presented by Jefferson Davis—better known as the “Tradeshow Turnaround Artist”—his hour-long address had the nearly 100 Academy attendees furiously taking notes and competing for attention during the Q&A session.

There were more than a few highlights to Davis’ talk, and we’ll cover those as time and space allow here, but the core of his presentation, and the concept that everyone talked about continually throughout the Academy’s two-and-half days of learning sessions and roundtables, was that of how exhibitors perceive their time at a trade show—and how those perceptions can either swing your profits and growth in the aftermath to the black or sink your time and investment in just being at a show firmly into the red.

Without a doubt, attending a tradeshow as big as SHOT Show entails a tremendous amount of work, especially for exhibitors who have to deal with the logistics of getting their display to the show, staffing their booth during the event and then getting it all packed up and moving on to the home warehouse or the next show on the calendar. This causes many to feel trade shows are something that have to be merely endured. But, according to Davis, it’s just that attitude, that a show is something you have to get through and nothing more, that will absolutely prevent you from profiting all those days, weeks and months after the show. Why? Because working a trade show as an exhibitor is an investment—both in time and money—and investments are something from which you should expect a return.

Davis presented a very simple model for focusing on the investment and return, rather than the logistics. It looks like this:


Correct Perspective
+ Execution of Strategic Practices
= Maximum Tradeshow Results

I’m going to break down this formula over several news posts to, so let’s start with the first part of this equation, the CP, or Correct Perspective.

Lest you think this is going to be a speech about putting on your “happy face,” CP is anything but those so easily issued platitudes of “If you just think positive, it will be positive.”

CP, according to Davis, actually has a number of tangible components. The first is that you, as an exhibitor, must be clear with yourself (and likely your accountant) about just what it is you think you’re buying when you invest in exhibiting at SHOT.

Too many think they have to be at SHOT because not being there means they’ll be forgotten; in other words, the show becomes nothing more than making an appearance. Others think they’re buying floor space or opportunity or chance. While any of these could be considered the reason you write that check each year, if that’s what you limit your thinking to, there’s not much for you to focus on in the way of returns and increased profitability over the rest of the year.

I bet “profitability” caught your attention. Good thing, because that’s what you should be thinking of when you think about the investment you make in attending SHOT each year. In that light, according to Davis, what you’re really buying, then, is face-to-face contact that results in:

  • Placement and building of your company, staff and product identity. This is your brand and reputation, and there’s no better or easier way to establish and then remind everyone else of both than when you have the captive, trade-dedicated audience that is SHOT Show.
  • Face-to-face contact with the right.  Getting your product to the consumer is a team effort between you and dozens of people within our industry—from manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer and, yes, the members of the press who will be telling your story through hundreds of magazines, blogs, You-Tube channels and other media platforms throughout the year. Uninhibited by consumer relations, SHOT Show is your primary opportunity to fine-tune your network of inter-industry relations, something you won’t have the opportunity to do throughout the rest of the year without racking up thousands of frequent flier miles.
  • An exchange of information relevant and timely to all those in your supply chain, a direct result of the face-to-face time afforded by your show attendance. This, in turn, drives …
  • A commitment to action. In other words, because of your decision to exhibit at SHOT, you have better established your company brand and identity, which leads to improved interaction with the people most likely to help your business grow. With those “right” people and the ability to arrange face-to-face time with them, you have exchanged all the right and necessary information regarding your company and products, and it is that exchange of information that will prompt all those “right” people to commit to action—buy your product and move it along to the consumer.

All of this is really no more than a way to see the forest despite the trees. If you can see the forest—the building of a network that commits to your product and helps you sell it all year ‘round—then setting up shop at SHOT quickly becomes the thing you most look forward to each year. And isn’t that always a much better attitude to have?


Chris Dolnack is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisDolnack.

Business Growth Expert to Lead SHOT Show University Sessions

Adding to the growing list of expert business leaders lecturing at the 2015 SHOT Show University is professional consultant Larry Mersereau. Mersereau is an engaging and highly respected speaker with more than 20 years experience providing keynote and general session addresses and specialized training in breakout and workshop settings to corporations and associations. Through his consulting enterprise PromoPower, Mersereau has worked with companies such as American Express, Inc. Magazine and Yamaha Motorsports, with a focus on business growth through sale expansion, customer retention, branding and positioning, maximization of marketing returns and leadership growth.

Mersereau will guide two sessions of the 2015 SSU. The first, “Content Marketing in Cyberspace,” will teach attendees how to connect with your “virtual” customers, the ones who are shopping with retailers without actually going to brick-and-mortar establishments. This course will discuss marketing content, execution plans, budgeting, and metrics that allow you to assess your results once your cyberspace marketing plan has been implemented.

In Mersereau’s second session, “Stand Out, Differentiate or Disappear,” retailers will learn how to position their businesses to stand out in a crowd of similar entities as the go-to place in every customer’s mind. Attendees of this session will hear about Mersereau’s “Brand Ladder” that teaches business leaders how to move potential customers into their stores and turn them from one-time shoppers to repeat, loyal customers who, in turn, continue to help spreading the word about your business through social media personal recommendations to friends and family.

SHOT Show University is the premier event for firearms retailers. Seats are limited and this event will sell out, so retailers are urged to sign up now. NSSF Premium Retailers are offered a complimentary ticket to SSU. Additional tickets for both Premium Retail members and all other NSSF members who wish to attend is $250; non-members may attend for $500. To learn more about SSU and its many sessions, click here. To upgrade your membership to the Premium Retail level or to join at NSSF at the level that best serves your business needs, visit or e-mail

Business Expert Gene Marks Highlights SHOT Show University Classes

GeneMarks_SSUThe NSSF is pleased to announce that columnist, book author and small business owner and expert Gene Marks will be hosting two segments of the 2015 SHOT Show University. Marks writes daily for The New York Times and weekly for Forbes, The Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine,, FOX Business and Philadelphia Magazine. He’s authored five books on business management specifically geared toward small and medium-sized companies, the most recent being The Manufacturer’s Book of Lists (Create Space, 2013). A dynamic speaker, Marks has appeared on FOX News, FOX Business, Bloomberg and CNBC discussing matters affecting the business community.

Through his keynotes and breakout sessions, Marks helps business owners, executives and managers understand the political, economic and technological trends that will affect their companies, so they can make profitable decisions. He owns and operates the Marks Group PC, a highly successful 10-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium-sized businesses.

In his first segment at SSU, “How to Leverage the Power of Digital Marketing for Your Small Business,” Marks will discuss the many technological changes ahead everyone in the world of business faces. The next few years will bring big changes to how all businesses drive revenues, and Marks will address the decisions retailers should be making now so that they can increase revenues in the future.

In talking about these changes, Marks will tell you that it’s not just Google, Microsoft and Apple that are leading the wave. It’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platforms, as well as the right kind of e-mail marketing, using video to connect to your prospects, taking advantage of new voice, chat and text tools to generate leads and using mobile tools for search, payment and relationship building. Marks’ questions to retailers: How are you touching your customers, your prospects? How are you making sure nothing falls through the cracks? What workflows have you created to make sure customers never leave? How are smart business owners leveraging the latest services, applications, devices and processes to maximize their revenues?

Marks’ second seminar is entitled “The Latest Ideas to Better Manage Your Cash Flow.” This presentation is for the owner and manager working in an established business and looking at the future—not next week or next month, but rather planning for the next few years. Marks explains that if you’re not thinking all the time about ways to manage your cash and grow your business, then there probably won’t be a business in the future. He emphasizes that if you think that your employees are as happy and productive as they’ll ever be, then this is where you’ll always be, and if you’re not always wondering about ways to reduce overhead and lower your costs, then someday someone is going to come along and out-think you.

During this fast-paced session, Marks will keep you on your toes with dozens of the latest methods and ideas for reducing expenses and building profits, i.e., generating more cash for your business. You’ll learn cost-effective ways for squeezing out more profits, boosting your bottom line and keeping more customers happy.

SHOT Show University is the premier event for firearms retailers. Seats are limited and this event will sell out, so retailers are urged to sign up now. NSSF Premium Retailers are offered a complimentary ticket to SSU. Additional tickets for both Premium Retail members and all other NSSF members who wish to attend is $250; non-members may attend for $500. To learn more about SSU and its many sessions, click here. To upgrade your membership to the Premium Retail level or to join at NSSF at the level that best serves your business needs, visit or e-mail

Special Featured Speaker Announced for 2015 SHOT Show University

Patrick Houlahan, Senior Consultant

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is pleased to announce that renowned former U.S. Marine fighter pilot instructor Patrick “Lips” Houlahan will be the featured speaker for the closing session of this year’s SHOT Show University (SSU). Now working as a senior consultant with strategic business training organization Afterburner, Inc., Houlahan brings a wealth of leadership and management expertise to the table, and his dynamic presentations keep audiences captivated.

“Plan, brief, execute, debrief. That’s the recipe for success for high-performing teams around the world. It works in the business of combat and it works in the shooting, hunting and outdoor business,” explained Houlahan. “The Afterburner team of consultants will teach you how to harness the power of Flawless Execution℠, starting with planning. You’ll learn the Six Steps to Mission Planning and apply them to all facets of your business. You’ll also learn about the power of STEALTH Debriefing℠. How many times have you heard a person admit they made a mistake? Let’s face facts: It takes a strong ego to succeed in business, and strong egos don’t like to admit mistakes. When that happens, your team never has a chance to learn from experience. Performance stays flat, and you never have a chance to address the root causes of lost business. In this keynote, my team and I will teach you how to use the STEALTH Debrief module to glean lessons learned and accelerate the experience of your entire team, while learning how to boost performance.

“Keeping jets in the air takes a staff of hundreds, coordinating, communicating and executing flawlessly. It takes a mindset to make this happen that many businesses don’t have,” Houlahan explained. “We help your team understand and begin to develop that mindset. Walking away from an Afterburner program, your team will be completely aligned behind your goals, ready to take action and improve business performance and management.”

“We are very grateful to have a speaker like Patrick ‘Lips’ Houlahan bringing his extensive management expertise to our retailers at SSU,” said Patrick Shay, NSSF Director, Retail Development. “This is a rare opportunity for our front-line industry retail leaders to learn what highly successful business planning looks like and how the principles Afterburner developed—and as they’re used by companies like PepsiCo, NFL teams, J.W. Marriott and more—will work for every firearms seller, from the small-town mom-and-pop shop to the big-box giant. This is must-see, must-hear material for every retailer in our industry.”

SHOT Show University is open to all retailers, but seating is limited, and this event is always an early sell-out. Tickets to the 2015 event are $250 for NSSF members and $500 for non-members. To show our appreciation to all our Premium Retailer Members, those members are eligible to receive one complimentary ticket. For more information on SHOT Show University, go to To upgrade your membership to a Premium Retailer level or to join the NSSF at whatever level that best suits your business needs, go to membership section of