It is Worth the Cost to Exhibit at these Shows

I don’t know if you understand what it costs to exhibit at shows like the IPI, NPA, and PIE but its a lot. Let me give you some scale:

For our booth, the real  estate, what we pay the IPI, is about $3000. I don’t begrudge them a penny. I know what putting on these events cost.  But that’s only the beginning.  Then we have $2000 for inbound shipping (from the loading dock to our booth) and two chairs, a table, and the carpet.  Then you can add about $1500 for the display. But we aren’t finished yet.  We bring 3 people at a cost of $1000 each for air fare, hotels, and perdiem. That’s $11,000 for about 11 hours of show time. Yes, $1000 and hour. And we are small potatoes.

Consider one of the big revenue control companies with the two story booths covering 1200 square feet. They bring 20 to 30 personnel, and the cost to get their booth from the loading dock exceeds the budget of some small countries. I’ve seen show budgets that exceed $200,000.

These numbers boggle the mind.  My question is whether or not they actually get value received.  If we believe my friend in the last blog post, they miss sales that simply walk by.

I”m told that the investment is often in current customers. The huge booth and after parties give companies a chance to meet existing customers and thank them for their custom. Fair enough. As long as you know that’s what you are doing. I sometimes wonder, however, if a visit, every couple of years, by a CEO accompanied by the local salesman, with a nice dinner where issues could be discussed, might do more. But then what do I know.

These are successful companies, investing their profits where they feel it will do the most good. More power to them. It does mean that the parking industry is beginning to mature. It can mount a trade event that rivals the big shows in Vegas and Europe. That means something. I guess.

It seems to me that their must be a happy medium between doing nothing, and spending upwards of a quarter of a million on a trade show. I guess I don’t know what that is.


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Do Big Exhibitors do themselves a disservice at Shows like the IPI

We all know that the numbers (attendee, exhibitor personnel, etc) at trade shows are mostly unknowable. The information we get from the organizers is sketchy, but one thing is certain, there are almost one and a half times as many exhibitor personnel at this IPI event as there are actual attendees. Yes, out of 2500 people at the IPI last year, 1500 or so were exhibitor personnel.  But so what.

There are still 1000 people in attendance that are potential customers.  Are the exhibitors reaching them?  They have spent tens if not hundreds of thousands on their booths and personnel, do they actually see new customers in any appreciable numbers. I say not.

I had a most interesting conversation with an attendee last night. She runs the parking at a medium size city and had well over a million dollars in her pocket to spend on new equipment. She came to the show specifically to learn about what’s out there.  She is an exhibitor’s dream come true.

She told me, however, that she was reluctant to enter those huge booths. She found the size off putting and the fact that the booth staff were all dressed the same.  “They seemed to be wearing armor” she told me.  They weren’t welcoming at all.

Plus, and now I’m paraphrasing, they stood in clusters, talking to themselves, and made it difficult for her, a small woman, to get their attention. She just walked on by.

Wow, a million and change just walking on by.

I had an experience at PIE this year.  An exhibitor was berating me that no one came into his booth. He was sitting reading the newspaper as he complained.  During his diatribe, at least 20 people walked by, paused, and then went on.  I told him I could get them in front of his booth, it was up to him to get them in.

In the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” the Judi Dench character was hired as a consultant at an Indian call center to train the staff how to talk to British. She described the problems she had dealing with the center and gave them hints on how to better serve their customers.  I told my friend last night that I thought she could make big bucks consulting with exhibitors  who spent so much money and got so little in return.

I”m rearranging our booth today. I’m moving the table to the back and putting the chairs in front. We are going to welcome people into our little stand and talk to them, not to ourselves.  I’m ordering a couple of more chairs so people can sit, take a load off.

We laugh at PIE that we are a boutique show with small intimate booths where you can actually talk to people and get good information. The info you need isn’t cluttered with marketing chatter and as I like to say, “elephants and dancing girls.”

These major events claim that they are for learning and networking, and then put on networking events (and vendors are guilty of this too) that are so crowded and noisy that its impossible to actually talk and network.

Make your booth welcoming. Give visitors a soft drink and a place to sit and talk. Ask about their problems, don’t deluge them with your solutions. Find out if your product is something they need. You can actually do that in the first two minutes.  If not, let them go.

Send your smarmy sales staff to school to learn social graces. Face outward. Stand in the aisles and welcome people into your huge booth. Don’t make attendees seek you out, seek them out, casually and with reality. If I hear “Hi John, how are you today” one more time I’m going to scream.

The IPI is almost over, only two sessions left to go. You spent upwards of a quarter of a million on your booth. Make it count.


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An education in parking near schools

Schools are notorious for creating parking issues. Whether it’s an elementary school, high school trade school or university, the parking situation is going to be cyclical and crowded. For the people who live near schools, this is, at the very least, an inconvenience. For others, it’s a source of constant frustration.

A Chicago-area resident is unhappy with the parking situation near his home, because, he says, students at a nearby high school fill the streets and make it difficult for emergency vehicles to reach him and his neighbors. He says, in a letter to the city council, according to

“There are times when the street is so crowded with vehicles that an ambulance and/or fire truck would not be able to enter the street,” he wrote. “Is the 6500 block of Birch Ave. zoned as a school parking lot?”

While I sympathize with the man, and have no idea whether he is a homeowner or renter, complaining about school parking when you live near a school is like celebrities griping about paparazzi. He seems to understand this fact, as well, and knows there will be no changes made to parking regulations on his street. He offers this suggestion to the city:

“I suggest the Gary Common Council pass an ordinance for prospective buyers and renters that informs them that if you live near a school, the street where you reside is the school parking lot. It is important for the potential residents to know that they will be unable to park on their street, nor will friends, relatives or medical professionals who visit,” he wrote. “And STUDENTS and employees of the school do not have to obey Indiana laws for parking around stop signs. However, if you would like to volunteer to help pick up empty pop cans, McDonald’s coffee cups and bags, candy wrappers and snack bags left by STUDENTS and employees, you are welcome to do so.”

I like this idea and think it completely fair. People who live near schools or who are considering living near a school, should be warned. And schools should participate in making sure their parking needs are met in a way that shows respect and consideration for the surrounding neighborhoods.

To read the article, click here.

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Why do people buy stuff!

We have been led to believe that “Madison Avenue” creates markets and force or entice consumers to buy stuff.  MacDonalds, Coca Cola, Proctor and Gamble, Nike, Ford, Delta Air Lines, Apple,  and thousands more all spend billions to get the great unwashed to buy their products. But there is something we need to remember:

Unless people are hungry, thirsty, dirty, barefoot, in need of transportation, communication and the like, they aren’t going to buy these products. There has to be a ‘need’, and the person must already at a minimum have thought about it, for the advertising these companies produce to work at all.

Sure, I guess you could get a person who wasn’t looking for lunch to buy a Big Mac, or someone who had no interest in style or sport to pick up the latest Nike, or someone who lived in New York City and walked and took the subway to buy a Ford, but it would be really REALLY difficult. The need must be there and frankly considered, before a sale can be made.

The problem is we can only actively think about a small number of issues at one time. If you are making a payroll, dealing with a recalcitrant employee, and taking a call from home about a broken pipe, its really difficult to consider a new revenue control system or that parking guidance system or that new bit of software you know you need.

Consider the CEO of a small company watching the Superbowl. He has is beer, popcorn, and is fully engrossed in the point spread. At half time a commercial for ATT comes on. It shows an executive calling his own company and getting put on hold. Then it notes that ATT can solve that problem.

Our hero stirs a bit, thinks “Wow, that has happened to me” and makes a note on the pad next to his chair to talk to someone in communications. He then goes back to the game.

The next day he calls Charlie in communications and says, “you know, we may have a problem with incoming phone calls. ATT seems to have a solution. Give em a call.”

ATT spent a million dollars a minute to make that happen. The problem already existed for our CEO, but ATT got it from his subconscious to his conscious just long enough for him to take action.

I looked through the ads in this month PT and out of the nearly 60 ads there, there were only a few that actually attempted to get the reader’s subconscious moving, peeking an interest so they would take action. That includes ads we put in promoting us.

We have a full page ad promoting our new web site Here it is:

ParkNewsAd_0614 lowres (4)

Its wordy, it has no call to action, it doesn’t point out a need that the reader may have (lack of current news about their industry), nor perhaps how they could use that news to their advantage. It was created by the folks who created the web site and frankly, speaks to them (read that me and my staff) and not to the consumers.

How about a graphic of a perplexed parking manager talking to his boss. The boss says : “Sure but who else has done it?” The tag line: “Be prepared with current parking info –”

That’s it.  Clean, direct. and a reminder of that conversation you had when you were asked for information that you didn’t have. The inferred call to action — log on to and get the info you need.

When we create media, we tend to talk to ourselves. We list features, engineering successes, timelines, use pretty graphics, clever phrases, but do we hit the reader where he lives, show him his ‘pain’ and then the solution to it.

When Ford sells a van, they show a happy family safely going somewhere fun. The potential buyer would love to have his family safe and the kids quiet in the back seat. The Aerostar might not do it, but he may go look at one because of the ad,. Showing that it will carry a house full of furniture might not be on his mind, but quiet during the trip certainly is. (Ford will have a different ad for the same vehicle, focusing on carrying a house full of furniture, for those with that ‘need’)

Think about it.


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That’s the number of followers I have on twitter. Its not a huge number since I’ll bet my granddaughter has more. But for a vertical industry like ours its not bad, particularly since I don’t ‘tweet’ all that much.  Yes, we put up ‘tweets’ daily, at least Joyce does. She links to articles we find on the internet, to our blog posts, but true 140 character ‘tweets’ about my surroundings are rare.

Do you really care what I had for breakfast, or how many gallons I put in my tank this morning, or whether I brush my teeth up and down or back and forth. I know I don’t.  However thinking about it, I am heading out for the IPI show on Sunday and perhaps its a good excuse to get going on twitter again.  Look for my one sentence comments on the IPI starting Sunday afternoon.

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How We Kill Capitalism

Here’s a new one, Citi Bike, a bike-sharing program in New York City, is being required to reimburse New York for revenue lost since 2013. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Such parking reimbursement requirements aren’t common, according to Paul DeMaio, a consultant in Washington, D.C. and who oversees Arlington, Va.’s portion of the area’s Capital Bikeshare, which is also operated by Alta (a Portland, Ore.-based company that runs Citi Bike through its subsidiary NYC Bike Share).

“This is highly unusual in the bike-sharing world and I’m not aware of other municipalities doing this,” Mr. DeMaio said in an email.

The reimbursement is meant to cover the loss of income from several parking spots Citi Bike uses as docking stations for its bicycles. The amount in question, $1 million, represents 10 percent of Citi Bike’s annual membership dues. Another negative aspect of the program’s contract with the city is that it cannot raise fees without permission.

While Citi Bike is growing in popularity and facing some difficulty meeting the demand for its service, it’s not allowed to increase prices to pay for additional bikes, stations, or maintenance.

Everybody loves parking, but some people want the option to rent a bike. Both options should be offered without a forced co-dependence. Over-regulation only hurts progress. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Cutting Alta a break on lost parking revenue could be construed as an effective public subsidy, and could raise political and philosophical questions about whether taxpayers should support New York City’s bike-share.

Proponents see such programs as an emerging form of mass transit and tout their public benefits: reducing automobile pollution and helping riders stay healthy through exercise.

Cutting Alta a break and letting this program thrive – or dive – according to the principles of capitalism is another idea.

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When technology turns against us

My grandmother lived to be 99 years old. She was born in a tent in the middle of nowhere and lived to see the inventions of the car, electricity, the phone, the computer and so many other technological advances. I never thought I’d live long enough to see the world change as much as she did, but I think it’s already happened.

The home computer, the internet and the smartphone have changed the world immensely during my life this far. Technology dominates so many aspects of my day-to-day activities that I have to work hard to maintain human connections. It’s my goal to make the best of technology, but not to become addicted to it or let it makes decisions for me. There are many who do not measure their actions the same way. Lately, a quote from Albert Einstein has been popping up in social media:

“I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Albert Einstein

Funny how he could put it into words before it even happened. Idiots, for sure, and criminals, too. In Orlando, a parking garage employee has admitted to using a skimmer device to steal credit card data. The woman was seen on camera stealing credit card information and later, using that data at a local Wal-Mart. Here’s a person with access to technology who chose to use that technology to commit a crime. Read the article here.

Technology is so powerful it saves us time, energy and money and connect us in ways we never thought possible. Technology makes all kinds of things possible including lots of illegal things. But the user is still in control. The user is makes the decision to be honest or dishonest; the user makes the decision to be polite or rude. Technology isn’t always used for good. That’s what people are for.


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Demand and scarcity in parking

It’s a pretty basic rule of economics: if there is a high demand for your service, you can charge more for that service. A related, but, not exactly converse theory, is: if demand is low, reduce inventory to create scarcity.

Disneyland just made a move that shows its understanding of the first rule. It has raised its prices for regular tickets, season passholders and parking. People flock to Disneyland like it’s Mecca, and Disneyland leadership knows people will pay just about any price to get into the park. They can raise prices pretty high before people give up on the fairytale. Read the article here.

The diamond industry does a good job with the second rule. I’ve read the inventory of diamonds is controlled very strictly to create an illusion of rarity which supports high prices. If all the diamonds in the world were actually on the market, we’d be throwing them away when they got a little dirty.

Parking is a little more complicated than some industries, but the principles can still be applied.


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We have a new arrival

Parking Today, Parking Technology Today, and the Parking Industry Exhibition are proud to announce a new arrival, ParkNews. ParkNewsPoweredBy

To View Parknews, click here

Its a web site devoted to the news of the parking industry. Its an aggregator and editor Astrid Ambroziak selects about 20 news stories daily in the categories of industry news, US news, and Global news.

Check it out. You can add news if we missed it, you can read the original articles, and you can search our archives.

We’ve only been on the air about a week and already hundreds of parking pros a day are checking us out.

Click on the link above and keep up to date.


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The Watergate in DC

Isiah blogs about the Watergate Buildings in DC, and their relationship to our political history. He notes that the reporters from the Washington Post who brought down the Nixon administration met with their source, Deep Throat, in a garage, but not the one at Watergate, but across the river in Rosslyn, VA.

My memories of the Watergate Garage are considerably different. A few years ago, I was invited to inspect work going on in the garage. Seems the fabled buildings were built over the garages that were deteriorating badly. They couldn’t demo and replace the garage because it was holding up some of the most expensive real estate in the country. So they removed the offending walls and floors and replaced them in situ.

I was there because the construction company doing the job was a customer and wanted to show off how their hydro cutting equipment could slice off the concrete from the rebar, leaving the rebar and supporting structure in place. They would then repour the floors and walls and all was right with the world.

Its a noisy, messy job and could only be done in pieces since the politicos who worked and lived at the Watergate needed a place to park.

Some remember this facility for the break-in that eventually destroyed a President, I remember it for finely focused water that can cut through concrete like butter.

Oh well..


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