Get FREE Trade Show Marketing Tips in Your Inbox! Click Here

How to Use Incentives to Get Things Done

Making changes in your life to be more productive is a commitment.  Just like going to a trade show, there is a lot of time, effort and money involved.  They are both ongoing processes that involve a lot of continual work.  For example, it is still difficult for me to not revert back to some of my old habits, like checking email all the time.  It’s great that you’ve made the upfront commitment to getting more done or exhibiting at a top industry show, but now you have to make sure that either of these efforts are a success.  Let’s take a look at how we can help design a process that can ensure success with whatever we are doing.

Using Positive and Negative Incentives

I read a book by Ian Ayers called Carrots and Sticks: Unlocking the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done.  This is a great book that talks about how we can use incentives, disincentives and commitment contracts to help us get things done and stick with an activity.

To explain more about this and how we can utilize the principals, Ayers says to start by looking at how we are motivated.  We are motivated to do things because of a positive or negative incentive.  A positive incentive would be selling widgets because the more we sell the more money we get.  A negative incentive would be putting our hand on a hot stove; it hurts so we stop doing it.  It would be great if everything was this cut and dry and we could simply say, “I do this because of this positive reason or I do not do that because that negative reason.” Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy.  Often times the apparent incentives are not significant enough to motivate us to accomplish, and continue to follow through with, certain commitments.  New Year’s resolutions anyone?

Set Up A Commitment Contract

Ayers’ book shows us how to set up a system that provides positive and negative incentives through commitment contracts that will help us accomplish our goals.  He discusses a system that not only outlines a result of what will happen if you accomplish the task, but breaks down the various measures that will monitor and ensure you stay accountable for completing or not completing the given task.

For example, you can set up a commitment contract with three friends to workout three times a week together, and if anyone doesn’t show up they have to buy lunch for the ones that do.

This simple example provides:

1. Goal – meeting three times a week.

2. Stakes or Parameters – show up three times a week or pay for lunches.

3. Accountability – other friends will monitor attendance.

4. Support – by making the goal known by others they can provide support.

Once you have these parameters in place your likelihood of success greatly improves compared to going it alone.  I find that companies often have the same issues when going to trade shows.  They get all fired up and book a space, get a great looking trade show booth and even get a ton of leads, but then they just dump them on the sales staff and hope for the best.  The actual show is only the start of the process and should be a part of your company’s marketing efforts as a whole.  You need to continue your work at what you have established during the show and continue to follow up and cultivate the relationships and opportunities that you’ve made there.

Using Incentives For Trade Show Booth Staffers

When coordinating your next show think about what incentives your booth staffers have to get good leads with proper information.  When they are handing off the leads to whoever is following up they know what information that contact needs.  Then, they need to work with the follow up person to make sure they are cultivating the relationship that you have established.  You can provide a prize or award for the staffer that gets the most leads.  Better yet, reward the staffer that has the highest amount of sales generated from their leads.  This will help staffers focus on attendees that will turn into customers and provide incentive to do a good job throughout the process.

Whether you are tackling a new task or your company is making a commitment to exhibiting at a show, make sure you have the proper incentives in place so that you can follow through with what you want to accomplish.  Ayers has set up a website that allows you to create a commitment contract where you can create parameters, incentives and accountability to help you accomplish your goals.  Check it out, it is free to do at

What's Working In Exhibiting White PaperFind out more ways to help you achieve your goals with the best tips, strategies and tactics for exhibiting today.  Request your free copy of the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper by clicking here.

About the Author

Jordan Hanlon was a New Business Development Analyst at Skyline Exhibits, located in St. Paul, Minnesota.

2 responses to “How to Use Incentives to Get Things Done

  1. Great Article! I really like the concept Ayers has about positive incentives and truthfully, they work very well in the workplace and out..I actually use the same general concept in my daily life.

    It’s crazy that most companies do not utilize incentives to increase results, instead they pressure and penalize their employees. In short term, this may lead to better results, but the employees are not happy and this will effect things in the long term. You want to empower employee’s and instill a sense of pride. Who works better, someone who works for a paycheck or someone who works because they love or enjoy what they are doing? The answer is obvious!

    Anyway, you should check out “The Success Principles,” it was and is a fantastic book to read!

    1. Glad to hear you liked the article. Ayers book does a great job at breaking down the various incentives that motive people. I completely agree that these concepts can be used in a number of different situations and using positive incentives is the almost always the way to go. I’ll have to add “The Success Principles” to my read list, thanks for the recommendation and comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Stay Up To Date