We all have done it – gone to a trade show.   Most of us have been to several if not dozens.

In a sense you’re not a true American business professional until you’ve had more than a few experiences of the modern trade show:

  • putting up booths;
  • tearing down booths;
  • walking a seemingly endless show floor filled with a seemingly endless number of booths;
  • watching the same endless parade from within a booth for seemingly endless hours;
  • repeating the very same script over and over and trying to make it sound original;
  • handing out “me-too” tchotchkes while praising their uniqueness;
  • chasing after the best tchotchkes you happen to see and acting if they’re not such a big deal;
  • attending a sequential series of lectures and panel discussions in a hotel conference hall that’s either too hot, or too cold and always too bright;
  • eating too much rubber chicken;
  • going a little overboard on the free beverages;
  • blaming how tired you feel on jet lag, even if the show is in the same time zone from which you traveled;
  • yearning for “get-away-day”…

One interesting thing about trade shows is while the show brings together people from all walks and places to focus on a single agenda or theme the people attending the shows are anything but singular in their purpose and style.  In fact, like the colors of the rainbow, there is a wide spectrum of possible attendees.

See if you can find yourself among the following cast of characters we’ve seen at recent shows:

Business Types:

These people attend the show in the spirit of getting work accomplished as their priority.  They generally are early to sessions, readily found on the show floor and their conversations center on the business of the show.

The Expert                          The Expert is just that – someone who is at the show either presenting or attending and possesses a sizable body of knowledge and experience  relating to the theme of the show.  The expert is tough to access as their time is highly scheduled and they have their own “must see” attendees with whom they expect to spend time.  You will know a true expert because they typically are very curious and want to know as much about you and your business should you get the opportunity to chat with them.

The All Business            The All Business either refuses to or just doesn’t know how to socialize.  They talk business at breakfast.  They talk business during the coffee breaks.  They talk business at dinners and during events.  The Stalker[1] NEVER follows after an All Business.

The Whale                         The Whale is a sought-after contact typically a customer and sometimes a vendor or Expert with whom everyone seems to want to connect.  You can see the whale coming and going by the throng of other attendees hanging off of them and tracking their every step.  To preserve their collective sanities, Whales develop a relative indifference whereby they stop noticing the throngs they generate.  Whales tend to like All Business and Social Butterfly types.

The Never Happen        NH’s seem like Whales and by all rights they should be Whales.  However while Whales make relationships and do business as a result of shows, NH’s represent they will do business yet fail to respond to follow-up emails and calls once they return home from shows.  NH’s and All Business types attract each other however anyone interested in doing business is better off avoiding NH’s altogether.

The Brush Off                  This is the attendee who, when engaged, is curt, quiet, non-engaging and looks to leave the conversation as soon as possible.  They behave as if they ended up in the conversation by mistake and there are clearly more important people than you with whom to connect.

The Jekyll and Hyde    The Jekyll/Hyde is the person who functions like an All Business during the day yet magically transforms into a Party Animal at night.  They are the one in the morning who’s asking the most interesting and intelligent questions to the speaker involved in an explanation of the Flux Capacitor and ends up with their tie around their head while doing “the worm” at the social event that night.

The Big Wig                       The Big Wig is a Whale who attends the show for a restricted amount of time.  The other members of the Big Wig’s company utter phrases such as “Come by the booth Tuesday because that’s when Ms. Big Wig will be here and you should meet her.”  Big Wigs show up to a show just to see how many five-minute meet-and-greets their employees and coworkers have arranged.

The Good Soldier           While the Good Soldier manages to have fun at a show, their first priority lies with their duties with respect to the show.  Good Soldiers help set up and tear down the booth.  They attend the sessions of importance to his/her work.  They work the booth and are excellent with customers.  Every company hopes to have Good Soldiers representing them at a show.

The Rookie                       The Rookie looks more lost than Bambi in Times Square.  They are new to attending shows and have never seen such a mass of people, booths, companies, speakers, events, and things to keep track outside of Disney World.  Rookies are on time, impeccably dressed, sitting up front and taking notes.  Rookies read the entire event information guide BEFORE the first session and they always butcher their booth script.

The Veteran                     Veterans have attended too many shows to keep track.  They are a watered-down combination of Jekyll/Hyde and Social Butterfly.  Veterans know which sessions and which social events matter and manage to put their share of time in at the booth.  They are also the ones most likely to use the exercise facilities at the event destination.

The Borg                            The Borg are a group of people from the same company which seems to be operating on a collective consciousness.  They typically come and go at the same time, practically arm in arm, and they always dress in the same theme if not the same clothes.  The Borgs are totally enamored with Whales, Experts and Big Wigs and they protect their Rookies demonstrably.

The Booth Babe            The Booth Babe (sometimes a Booth Boy) is the very attractive, often younger woman who’s from the company but not really involved with the business of the show.  Sometimes she’s a model from a local talent agency.  Either way, her instructions are to smile invitingly to attract people into the booth and then turn them over to an account exec ASAP and move on.  The Booth Babe is very effective in industries dominated by one gender – think software and engineering

The Event Staff              The Event Staff have to be at the show.  Plus, they have to be personable, energetic, informative and helpful.  In truth, the Event Staff are totally tired of having to deal with all the other types.  If they are lucky, the event itself is in a great destination and they will get one or two days after the show to calm their nerves in a lovely setting.

The Show Warrior        Show Warriors also have to be at the show.  Nothing bothers a Show Warrior.  They have seen it all, have done it all, and don’t get too rattled from one show to the next.  The Show Warrior sets up the show, tears down the show, staffs the booth, eats the rubber chicken, and hands out the tchotchkes.  On get-away day they head home and the following Saturday or Sunday they will end up in another town.  Each show is Groundhog’s Day for them.

[1] There are references herein to Trade Show “types” which will be presented in Part II of this blog.


Enabling Business Energy Efficiency

Energy costs have steadily risen over the last decade and are expected to carry on doing so as consumption grows worldwide.

Especially for businesses, the cost of energy is an increasingly significant issue. Indeed, a new analysis by Siemens Financial Services has found that companies have picked up the pace of their investment activities in energy-efficient technology in an effort to cut energy usage and cost. A survey conducted in 2010 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on business energy consumption in its member countries (e.g. France, Spain, India, USA, Russia, Poland, UK, Germany) confirms this trend: 96% of participating (large) businesses indicated that they had started implementing energy-saving measures. Moreover, when asked about their motivations to reduce energy consumption, respondents cited “reduce energy costs” as their most important driver.

Energy-saving potential in the industrial realm

To actually save energy and costs, businesses need an awareness of which key areas of their infrastructure are most susceptible to and have the greatest payback on energy-efficiency initiatives. The SFS-study has identified several areas where major energy-reduction can be achieved.

Saving energy with renewables

Businesses can save energy when relying on renewable energy. One efficient way is to install biomass production of space or process heating. In fact, biomass heating is becoming increasingly popular amongst manufacturing, processing and agricultural organizations. Organic materials, including virgin wood, energy crops and uncontaminated industrial residues are put through a combustion process to heat water or air. The system will consist of a biomass boiler plant, a heat transfer network and a method of receiving, storing and feeding fuel to the boiler. Biomass boilers work best when they run continuously. Broadly speaking, the longer the annual run hours, the more cost effective the system will be. Typical payback periods are three to nine years. Nevertheless, fuel costs are effectively zero if the business produces a combustible by-product.

Major savings can also be realized when businesses start relying on onsite solar and wind power. In fact, the business case for installing renewable energy technologies, such as solar panels or small scale wind turbines, is getting steadily stronger. Research by the Carbon Trust, a non-profit company set up by the UK government, suggests that annual return of over 10% can be gained from the installation of such onsite renewable energy systems. The increasing demand for smaller solar and wind power generation units is now beginning to industrialize their scale of production. As a result, we are starting to see a reduction in price per unit and improvement in manufacturing consistency.

Energy-efficient buildings and equipment

Building control plays an important role in industrial energy-efficiency. In fact, of all energy consumed, around 40% is used by buildings, whether offices, retail premises, warehouse operations or industrial factories. By deploying effective building controls, consumption can typically be reduced by up to 30%. Substantial savings also often result from an expert review of existing building controls.

What’s more, introducing better technology in heating, ventilation or air condition can be a very effective way to save energy, as HVAC is one of the chief consumers of power in the industrial context.

Power management solutions support energy-efficiency 

Using intelligent power management solutions can be another way towards industrial energy-efficiency: by using such systems businesses can take advantage of lower tariff structures and incentive payments. As well as delivering substantial savings, power management solutions also tend to reduce maintenance and enhance the lifetime of equipment. Intelligent load management and utilizing of on-site generation can be used to provide a dynamic, real-time response to energy demand.

Another aspect is supply voltage optimization: Reaching an optimum supply voltage level can save between 5% and 15% in electricity consumption! In fact, most modern equipment is designed to operate at the standard European voltages of 400V/230V. However, facilities in some countries suffer from persistent over-voltages resulting in reduced efficiency, equipment failure and increased maintenance.

Finally, businesses should be aware that up to 80% of potential energy savings in an industrial plant can come from improved automation. If implemented correctly, automation can increase productivity, reduce downtime and minimize maintenance requirements – whilst simultaneously cutting energy consumption and reducing carbon emissions.

Innovative financing methods in need

Having identified the most important areas of energy-saving potential is a first step towards greener and more energy-efficient businesses. However, the turn towards energy-efficiency still is a challenge, as it involves vast investment sums.

Businesses must therefore seek alternatives to standard bank credit: Innovative financing methods which offset the energy-efficient investment costs against energy savings across the financing term are new ways to finance such investments. Equipment financing arrangements or ‘performance contracting’ are two related methods which effectively provide a zero-net-cost investment technique.

After all, with an awareness of key areas for energy-reduction and innovative financing methods coming to the fore, business energy-efficiency now finally seems to be feasible.

Post by Roland W. Chalons-Browne


“What does Measurement & Verification mean?

M&V protocols vary from each utility to the next. What’s required in TX may not be necessarily required in Massachusetts. M&V plans are customized to each project, based on the scope work of the project, the technology, and the confidence level established by the utility with respect to the anticipated savings for the installation of the proposed ECM(s) for the project.

The more involved M&V protocols may have a cost associated with them for the implementation of the M&V, specifically, the cost of the equipment required to capture the data required by the utility, and the accompanying labor cost to provide the installation of the meters.

M&V plans are not “one size fits all.” Every energy efficiency project has its own unique scope of work. The right M&V protocol can be crafted based on early discussions with utilities as all parties try to frame out what potential savings can be achieved through the project. Providing that type of feedback very early in the application process allows all parties involved in the project to establish responsibilities based on their own capabilities and areas of expertise.

Not every project will require M&V if the utility believes that there is enough data to support estimated savings through energy modeling or perhaps an engineering analysis with detailed calculations that assigns savings to the scope of work. Establishing a high confidence level in the estimated energy savings can help mitigate the severity of M&V, if not avoid it all together. Establishing estimated savings becomes a “negotiation” between the customer and the utility.

Upstream vs. Downstream Rebate Programs

Let’s assume you manage a facility which is littered with T-12 fixtures which you want to replace with T-8 fixtures (and if you’re not swapping them out, you should be!).  Typically, you would purchase equipment, have it installed, apply for a rebate, and have a check mailed to you.

This is a classic example of a downstream program.  This type of program helps a consumer offset the first cost of the equipment and reduces the payback period to a manageable timeframe.  The additional money helps the consumer purchase a higher end, more energy-efficient product which they might not otherwise afford, increasing their energy savings.

There are incentive programs however which don’t provide incentives “downstream”, programs like Southern California Edison’s HVAC rebate program or Florida Power & Light’s lighting rebate program.  In those programs, the consumer purchases equipment and the installing contractor, distributor, or equipment manufacturer receives the rebate.  The check is mailed directly to the contractor who may or may not reflect the incentive as a credit on the cost of the new equipment.

This is the structure of an upstream incentive program.  Upstream programs are designed to encourage distributors to stock the most energy efficient equipment.  Upstream programs generally are more effective with HVAC systems retrofits than with lighting systems retrofits since many HVAC replacements are done on an emergency basis, a situation which essentially forces the consumer to purchase whatever product is most readily available.

Downstream programs encourage John Q. Consumer to make better buying choices.  The customer purchases a more efficient product; the utility gives them a little “pat on the back” (monetarily, of course); everyone wins.  Upstream programs encourage manufacturers to develop more efficient products and encourage distributors to keep high efficiency products in stock, to assist the consumer in making smarter purchasing decisions.

It may be a little easier to understand how the two different incentive program methodologies work using a different context.

  • Since the 1970’s governments at the state, local, and Federal level have been adopting legislature to encourage the recycling of plastics, metals, paper, etc. in order to free up space in landfills and manage our nation’s natural resources.  In order to encourage recycling we’ve created local recyclable pick-up mandates.  We’ve provided incentives to switch to paperless billing and notification options.  These are downstream solutions which essentially provide a “patch” to fix the underlying problem of consumer waste management.
  • But let’s say we want to attack the problems at the source, and stop the inefficiencies within the system before they are even created.  Maybe we develop new materials which are made to decompose over a given time period.  Maybe we find a way to create paper from something other than trees.  These are upstream solutions, eliminating the need for a patch in the first place.

In summary, while both upstream and downstream incentive programs can be useful towards attaining our ongoing energy consumption reduction goals they each have their own unique pro’s and con’s.

Upstream programs have the ability to influence consumer choices on a much broader scale and in turn more quickly change the market standards of energy efficient technologies.   However, incentives paid on upstream programs don’t always find their way into the consumers’ pockets to help offset energy efficient equipment costs.  Most upstream programs do not require the distributor to expose the full amount of the rebate or incentive to the consumer/end user; therefore, the distributor has an opportunity to “pocket” a portion of the incentive as profit margin against the cost of the project.

Downstream programs present the largest opportunity for consumers to receive incentives, but at a National level, may take longer to influence consumers’ decision making and provide a slower, more temporary fix to our energy consumption goals.

For Best Results at a Tradeshow – Consider…

Tradeshows are considered a “necessary evil” by some but with effective planning and thorough follow-through they pay huge dividends for organizations which are prepared.  Trade shows present powerful sales and marketing opportunities which allow companies of any size to compete and successfully win clients.

So how does a company go about taking advantage of the shows they attend?

1.       Choose the right shows to attend by doing your homework:

  • Description of the event — why would we attend?
  • What networking events are available other than just “booth time”?
  • Demographic information from previous shows
  • Get the opinion of the show from other companies – both vendors and customers — which have attended in the past
  • Evaluate how well the show is promoted and received?

2.       Set objectives for your event:

  • Pre-show – conduct research on who is attending – know your target audience
  • Collect qualified leads from prospects – get as much information as possible
  • Find partners to target
  • Meet with current clients – continue the goodwill and determine follow-on opportunities
  • Use the show to introduce new products and services – WOW THEM!!!

3.       Pre-show Checklist / rules:

  • Is the booth ready / are graphics sharp?
  • Pick a Booth Captain – draw straws if you have to
  • Schedule shifts – do not have overload at booth – people might think you are busy and move on
  • No cell phones – your targets are in front of you
  • No sitting in booth – EVER
  • Keep accurate records of all leads / contacts

4.       Follow-up:

  • Database all qualified leads
  • Plan proper follow up – who, when and why
  • Cost analysis – show cost outlay vs. new business
  • Comments from staff – positive / negative
  • Are we going back? If so, look into early booking for next year – cost savings

Remember tradeshows are a significant investment.   Proper attention and follow-through will yield sizable return on your expense and effort.  Being prepared will enable the attending team to enjoy the show and maximize their time and effort.

On Bill Financing – Is it the Best Financing Option?

It could be.

We first bumped into this concept while working with a Jewelry retailer in California.  They were looking to implement lighting retrofits but the costs were prohibitive relative to what they were willing to finance.

However, we soon discovered San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) was not only offering lucrative rebate offsets for qualifying technologies, but also making on-bill financing available to qualified customers.   In other words, our customer was able to “finance” (pay off over time) the net project cost for 12 months at 0% … right on their electric bill.  It was a no-brainer and they implemented the retrofits in seven local stores and are now reaping the benefits of the energy savings.

According to a report by ACEEE released in December 2011, at least 20 states have implemented or are about to implement on-bill financing programs to alleviate the burden of the high upfront costs of energy efficiency upgrades for both residential and commercial customers.  Seems like a real “win-win”, eh?

So why isn’t this standard practice?  Well, it doesn’t come without its costs to the provider… modified billing systems, risks of non-payment and the obvious cost of capital.  That said, it appears there is an upswing in interest.  According to the ACEEE report, more states are exploring the feasibility of on-bill financing options and others have legislation pending which supports or requires adoption.

I know one thing, if my local utility offered on-bill financing for residential retrofits … I would have installed a higher efficiency A/C unit last fall!


Bill Gates told an audience of energy entrepreneurs, scientists and investors at the ARPA-E energy conference on Tuesday that “It’s crazy how little we’re funding energy.” Energy research is underfunded by a factor of two, Gates said, referring to the amount of current U.S. government investment in energy research.

Underfunding energy research means there is a higher risk that we won’t be able to deliver the needed energy breakthroughs, said Gates. Gates pointed out that funding basic research naturally has a high failure rate: Potentially 90 percent of the projects in ARPA-E won’t make a dent in the future of energy technology, he said. “Look at the battery companies [at ARPA-E], and if you can find the one out of ten that will breakthrough, then great, go invest in it,” said Gates.

But the high failure rate is why we “literally need thousands of these companies to try this,” in…

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