I just got back from ISA’s International Sign Expo and while there, one of my main responsibilities was to gather testimonials from attendees and exhibitors about their reactions to the show.

Based on my experience there, I have four tips you may want to consider when getting ready to embark on your own testimonial-gathering expedition.

1) Do What the Boy Scouts Do — Be Prepared!

There is nothing more important than being prepared. For me, this meant:

Bring a tape recorder.
When interviewing people for testimonials, you can try to write everything down, but it’s likely that you’re going to miss something. Having a tape recorder in hand will eliminate that problem. Here’s a link to the one I used (it was fantastic). My favorite feature: each recording has a different number associated with it, so I could easily keep track of each person giving a testimonial and how many I had collected.

Have questions in mind to ask people as you interview them.
While I don’t recommend reading a list of questions to the person you’re speaking with, it really helps to have a list of potential questions in the back of your mind to ask during your conversation. Some questions that worked well for me:

  • What keeps you coming back year after year? (If the person was a returning exhibitor or attendee.)
  • What made you decide that this was your year to attend the show? (If the person is a first timer.)
  • If you had to describe the show to someone who had never been before, what words or phrases would you use?

2) Be Direct

At the start of the show, I wasn’t great at getting testimonials from people. I would approach them, go in to a long explanation of who I was and what I was doing and 4 out of 5 times they would tell me “No, thanks.” I got discouraged, so I asked my colleague Carrie to show me what has worked for her — and WOW did she get results! What was her strategy? She simply walked right up to people with tape recorder already rolling and said, “Hi, can you tell me about your experience at the show so far?” I would say that 99% of the time people would start talking, allowing Carrie to ask questions that led right into great testimonial.

3) Flattery Works Too!

Once I got a handle on Carrie’s direct approach, I was fearless. I could walk up to big groups or single exhibitors — I even ventured into capturing testimonials via a Flip Camera! However, there were a couple of situations where I could tell the “direct” approach wouldn’t work — so I resorted to flattery. There was one particular exhibitor who I was dying to talk to, but his booth was packed! When I finally grabbed him early in the morning before the show opened, my opening line was “I have wanted to talk to you all week, but you’re always so busy! What a great show you must be having!” I was in and I got one of the BEST testimonials of the show.

4) When All Else Fails, A Little Bribe Never Hurt Anyone

Towards the end of the show, people are tired. Worn out. Ready to go home. The last thing they wanted to do was talk to me…until I offered a little bribe! I tempted people over Twitter to come to meet me at the association booth. For their time, they would receive a $5 gift card to Starbucks. Before I knew it I had five more testimonials in my pocket!

This was my game plan. Are there any strategies that you’ve used to gather testimonials that have worked well? Feel free to share. I’d love to hear from you!

CSG Creative staff get testimonials at ISA's International Sign Expo
CSG Creative staff Megan Hall, Heidi Aulakh, Paige Cardwell, and Carrie Jolly at ISA’s International Sign Expo