Of all the responsibilities a trade show organizer must attend to, finding the right way to offer lead-retrieval systems for their exhibitors can be the most challenging. While many vendors bundle lead-retrieval offerings with registration or other related services, not everyone needs the whole package. Associations that organize their shows and manage their registration processes using proprietary software or industry standard software such as TIMSS or IMIS may need lead retrieval-only, or LRO, services.

Dispelling the Myths

Some organizers are leery of offering lead retrieval because they think it will be too expensive. But the math says otherwise: The average price is about $300 per exhibitor per event, and most exhibitors average about 150 leads. This means the average cost is about $2 per lead. Because LRO features are used by more than 60 percent of exhibitors, some show organizers include the lead-retrieval unit in a show package, which, because it results in a guaranteed volume of rentals, usually lowers the price per unit. Organizers also often include the lead-retrieval unit in booth packages, for similar reasons.

Fear of creating more forms and paperwork is another reason some show organizers hesitate to use LRO providers. They also may fear that they will need to take lead-retrieval-related phone calls or create materials for service kits. These are all things high-quality LRO providers should be willing to take care of for the organizer.

Finally, some organizers may be a little technophobic. However, all they need is a computer platform and the ability to produce a bar code; good vendors can do the rest. A paper printout can be provided for exhibitors who are fearful of having just an electronic record.

What to Look for in LRO

By choosing a competent provider, you can circumnavigate many potential downfalls. After many years in the lead-retrieval game, I believe that some of the most important qualities a show organizer must look for in an LRO provider are size, service level, reputation, and equipment standards. The LRO provider should be able to use USB ports on hardware, which reduces the wait times for exhibitors at the end of the event. They also should offer the option of paper-printer solutions and/or computer-based lists. Also, LRO services should be computer-based to allow for follow-up, such as sending out post-event letters or e-mails to attendees.

A good provider can help an organizer create a bar-coded badge, and if organizers don't want to pay for software to create bar codes on badges or don't know how, some providers offer free software and instruction. Other ancillary services some companies offer include an online?list-rental program, which can help promote the show on all levels.

A few high-level contractors are now providing full LRO services. Full service involves sending technicians on site to work directly with exhibitors and adding temp staff for speedy servicing. The provider also should be able to set the system up in different ways. This allows them to offer an array of solutions to common problems.

Partnering with a good provider of lead-retrieval services should be a pleasant and profitable experience. By entrusting all responsibilities to a provider partner, an organizer should be able to begin an event with true peace of mind. Technology can be somewhat frightening to someone who is forced to delve into it without any support. But with the right LRO as your partner, there's no reason to fear that lead-retrieval systems can be anything but beneficial.

Kahle Williams, director of marketing with CompuSystems Inc., may be reached at: kahle.williams@compusystems.com or (708) 344-9070.