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Hosting a showcase during the slow season

Management | December 1, 2016 | By:

Everyone appreciates the time of year when things start to slow down. But after a recuperation stage, tent rental companies may find themselves twiddling their thumbs, waiting for clients to call. What do you do to drive business at these times? Many facilities host a showcase or an open house. This one event can offer a multitude of benefits for your company:

  • bring in all the loyal vendors and companies you partner with for some face-to-face time
  • show off the variety of your products and services, as well as those of your partners
  • demonstrate the behind-the-scenes work many clients may be unaware of celebrate everything the company and community is capable of doing tell clients you value them enough to set aside this time for them

These are some of the general benefits of hosting a showcase. However, every company is going to have different goals, budgets and ideas as to the best way to pull that off. There are endless possibilities with planning. Do you want to host a big annual showcase? Or would you prefer a smaller, more focused one (wedding, corporate, etc.)? Perhaps one every few years sounds more reasonable. What you decide will be determined by your company’s specific needs and resources. Following are some examples of how different companies approach hosting a showcase.

The Ultimate

Kevin Moore, COO of Ultimate Events in Plymouth, Minn., has several years of showcase planning under his belt and knows what works for the company. Planning typically begins one month ahead of time, and he’s found that hosting the event mid-week and from noon to 8 p.m. provides the best turnout. The company hosts an open house every couple of years instead of annually.

Ultimate Events markets the event through social media, the company’s own signage and invitations. At the event, guests enter their business cards in a prize raffle, which doubles as a way to make sure their information is in the company’s database. Tent and staging products are set up outside, the showroom is dedicated to new products, and the warehouse displays even more. “It’s surprising that even long-time customers who attend comment, ‘We did not know you carried this,’” Moore says.

The company also demonstrates how it maintains products and equipment, which gives guests a more holistic view of the company.

Ultimate Events wants to show clients more than its own inventory, so it includes florists, caterers, wedding planners and other business partners in the event. Moore reports that after the event, there is a noticeable rise in the rental of featured products. He advises that showcases are essentially a very costly form of advertising, so budget wisely.

New York, New York

New York: where grandeur itself must be topped in order to make a statement. David Tannenbaum, CEO of New York Tent, claims his motto is “Go BIG or go home!” What goes into a showcase event in the big city? “A lot of blood, sweat and tears,” he says. “It can’t be any other way when you’re trying to wow people in the event planning industry in the city that never sleeps.”

Tannenbaum says they begin planning four to six months ahead of time. “Normally, we aren’t responsible for producing every aspect of an event we are part of. When it’s your own event, you are.”

Open houses and showcases require tent rental companies to go above and beyond typical event responsibilities; you’re in charge of invites, catering, decor, music, marketing—the list goes on. “We couldn’t afford to overlook any small detail while taking care of everything from invite lists and registration to the entertainment,” Tannenbaum says.

Why sign up for so much stress? Because this event could be the exclamation point on the company name. A showcase brings together the enormous potential of your entire staff, products and resources. You also call in your most celebrated vendors to multiply that. In the moments when clients and partners notice something new, it’s worth it.

Tannenbaum says they market the event to all of the best event professionals around them including venues, designers, planners and production companies. Instead of using social media, because the event isn’t for the general public, they send personalized invitations. “At the end of the day, producing an epic open house concert doesn’t do us any good if nobody is in attendance,” he says.

Producing and attending an event is going to lend valuable lessons on what to do differently next time. Was there enough food? Did everyone freak out about the juke box in the bathroom but ignore the yard games outside? Humans are odd creatures and what ends up being popular is simply a matter of trial and error. Each showcase your company holds will give positive feedback for not only the subsequent year’s event, but perhaps for your endeavors at large. Tannenbaum says their Concert & Cocktails event in 2015 was so loved, people inquire about their 2016 showcase every week.

Able, willing and ready

Ramsey Duqum, CEO and owner of AAble Rents in Cleveland, Ohio, has been putting on annual showcases since 2012. Planning starts in the fourth quarter when they start brainstorming a theme. One year they invited their favorite partners to host a high-end event. Instead of having booths, the event was built on a beach with eight styles of tents.

Duqum favors soft impressions: “We didn’t talk about the acacia dance floor; we didn’t talk about our products. I just got up with the DJ and asked everyone to have a hell of a time,” he says.

Duqum says they do market the showcase on social media, and they’re very strategic about it. “We let it simmer,” he says. “We have set schedules of highest peak times and prescheduled launches. Put a teaser out there, and you want that impression to be out there four times before they remember it.”

And because he wants to make sure even the people who never show up come, he calls them personally. “It’s really fun to see people talk about it before it happens,” he says. “They’re all asking, ‘What are you going to wear to the AAble party?’”

Duqum thinks that a good impression is more meaningful than a thank-you card or any other kind of follow up—except, perhaps, an even better party the next year. “The greatest thing we can hear after an event is that they had an amazing time,” he says. “Event professionals usually don’t say that and actually mean it.”
The bottom line? What you need to do is assess company goals for a showcase and also look at how much down time in the season you actually have. What have previous open house efforts gifted your company? What proved to be worth the extra work? Any event in entirety—no matter how extravagant or simple—isn’t going to be a breeze to host, but it’s definitely an opportunity to show existing and potential clients your capabilities in a way no other event can.

Amber Newman is a Minneapolis, Minn.-based writer and editor.

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