Best of Show
Techniques: Off the Shelf: Software
Powerful software tracks and coordinates the minutiae of your trade-show outings so you can focus on strategy
The Product: TRAQ-IT Tradeshow Software, from TRAQ-IT Software, in Overland Park, Kans. (888-461-1221; $995)
Requirements: Microsoft Windows 95 or NT 4.0; Pentium 90MHz or higher processor; 16MB of memory; 8MB of hard-disk space; CD-ROM (for installation)
Reviewer: Jim Sterne, president of Target Marketing, an Internet consulting company, in Santa Barbara, Calif.
If you're the person who coordinates your company's trade-show efforts, do yourself a favor and click over to www.traqit.com. The Web site for TRAQ-IT Tradeshow Software introduces you to a tool for planning, managing, and overseeing the four gazillion details--the cost-controlled, minute-by-minute logistical orchestration of everything from people to presentations--that nobody would even imagine you track.
TRAQ-IT is data hungry, which may cause you to spend some time with it up front. Still, the program is ready to manage the details for you--and fortunately, you don't have to enter absolutely every bit of data that it can handle before it becomes useful. Start with a straightforward task like booth scheduling. You need only enter information about personnel and individual availability, and right away you'll find the package paying for itself. Later, when you're ready to schedule flights and assign hotel rooms, you can add those details to your database.
Once you've entered the size and weight of everything you ship, you'll reap the benefits of drayage management. Not only does TRAQ-IT create lading documents that facilitate the solicitation of shipping bids; it also develops checklists and makes equipment-quantity-to-booth-size assessments. And when you have time to prepare for insurance coverage, you can add data about original cost, depreciation, and replacement value.
TRAQ-IT does make life easier. Just click on the Reminders buttons, and TRAQ-IT will alert you to deposit-due and shipping dates, service orders, and other time-sensitive items that require your attention. Should you alter a team member's flight schedule, the software will prompt you to change hotel and car reservations, too. Anticipating your needs, TRAQ-IT provides pull-down lists of toll-free numbers of hotels and car-rental agencies, and it always retains information that you've entered about other vendors.
Beyond remembering everything, TRAQ-IT produces reports. Who should be where and when? How much did hotels really cost? How do this year's expenditures compare with last year's? Because with TRAQ-IT it's so simple to recount and compare the costs of each item, determining next year's trade-show strategy and budget should be a snap.
My one misgiving about TRAQ-IT is that it seems a tad callow. For example, rather than trusting you to modify your data, TRAQ-IT relentlessly requires you to confirm your intentions. Every time you want to alter an entry, you must click a button as if to say, "Yes, I really do want to make a change." And then there are the navigational quirks. Don't lean on your Backspace key too long: you'll delete data in a preceding field. And you can't move from one data screen to another--say, from scheduling to equipment maintenance--without closing the original window. With time, though, such inappropriate behavior will disappear; in the meantime it's worth enduring the software's growing pains.