I'm on yet another business trip, and as I navigate the challenges of today's travel, I'm reminded that the exhibitor or attendee experience doesn't start when they walk onto the show floor. As a frequent business traveler, I'm somewhat numb (or at least attuned) to the lines at the airport; I know how to pack my carry-on luggage to get through security relatively easily, how to dress to avoid "special attention" from a TSA agent and not to expect to be fed onboard.However, many of our customers do not travel or exhibit regularly, and by the time they reach the event hotel or convention center, they have been tested, and are possibly quite testy.

An inexperienced exhibitor now enters another foreign land, where we are speaking in “tradeshow tongues” about hundredweights, minimums, 24-hour power, substrates, surcharges and labor jurisdictions. As hosts to these visitors, our goals should include making the exhibitor experience as hassle-free and transparent as possible. That includes making information easy to understand -- not "dumbing down" the information-share, but avoiding terminology that is second nature only to those of us who make our living in this industry.

My husband, Mike, exhibits several times a year, and is what I consider a typical exhibitor. Usually someone else in the office makes the arrangements for the exhibit, and he is told when and where to show up to work the booth. He doesn't want to be an exhibition expert -- he wants to meet with his customers, make some good deals, generate new leads and not have to worry about the logistics of the booth. (Mike once called me from a show 3,000 miles away to see if I can get his wastebasket delivered. And I, ever the exhibitor enabler, had it to his booth in just a few minutes.)

So when I write materials for exhibitors, I try to think about Mike -- the amount of time he has to focus on exhibiting, his interest (or lack thereof) in knowing more about exclusive providers, cubic content, rigging points and the definition of special handling, even (or especially) after 25 years with me. While I can’t totally avoid the jargon, maybe I can make the translations clearer. Really, aren't exhibitions about connecting? And isn't connecting much easier when we speak the same language? Maybe next time you are working on an exhibitor bulletin or manual, you’ll do the “insert spouse’s name here” test like I do.