This shouldn’t surprise you. You know your staff needs help. They don’t know the products. They look like hell after Day 1. And, worst of all, they don’t have a clue why they’re there. Yet, you tolerate it show after show. Why? There shouldn’t be any reason why your staff isn’t spectacular. It’s time to put on your adult pants and do it right.
Who Should Be There
That’s easy. Bring employees who know the products or services, who have charismatic people skills, who are personally invested in results, and who participate in pre-show planning or post-show implementation. Two out of four doesn’t cut it. A trade show isn’t a vacation. It’s a strategic investment.
You’ll often hear that 80% of trade show leads are wasted. Personally, I don’t trust that statistic, but I do know that bringing the right employees to the show solves that problem. They won’t let a lead sit on someone’s desk or be forgotten on a jump drive. They’re relentless about post-show follow-up because they understand how much time, effort, and money went into planning and participating in the trade show.
What Do They Know
What they know is important. What they do with that knowledge is critical. You want the Information Dream Team in your booth. Whatever the question, there’s someone there who has an answer, can get an answer, and lives to share that information.
Just knowing stuff isn’t enough. Each staffer must capture every sweet, savory nugget of information the attendee shares. Everyone thinks they’ll remember that game-changing conversation from Day 1. By Day 3, they couldn’t tell you their own spouse’s middle name even if you gave them the first three letters.
Trade shows are exhausting physically and mentally. There is zero chance you’ll remember the details even if you have an eidetic memory. Honestly, the lead retrieval system doesn’t matter. What matters is having a system your group understands and follows. You can’t be a namby-pamby about this. There should be consequences for not adhering to the information capture process.
Boot Camp Mentality
Trade shows are a battlefield with winners and losers. On that battlefield, strategy and implementation trumps raw brute strength every time. What are the goals? Is everyone clear about them? At a minimum, there should be a strategy and planning “booth camp” meeting before the show. Then, there should be an alignment meetings every day before the show opens. Some companies even have meetings after the show hall closes to review leads, answer questions, and prepare for the next day.
More than anything, you have to be flexible. What you thought would be the “go-to” product or service at the show may take a backseat based on attendee feedback. Then there’s going to be a wild card. Often, it’s an evolutionary or transformational new product or service introduced by a competitor. At that point, you have to decide if your show strategy changes.
In any pack, there are always the stragglers, the injured, and the just plain stupid. You can ignore them and allow them to be food for your competitors, or you can deal with the problem. The staffer who arrives late sweating tequila and lime, reeking of three cups of espresso, better have a good reason, like entertaining your key client until 4 am. Same with Susie Smartphone or Standing-on-the-Sidelines Sam. This isn’t a soccer tournament for 8-year-olds where everyone gets participation ribbons. It’s a competition where sales, money, and jobs are on the line. Everyone has to pull their share. At tough love companies, the Susies and the Sams get sent home via Greyhound with loose change for vending machine sandwiches.
When it comes to trade show staffs, you get what you tolerate. When you expect more, your team will rise to the challenge. Set clear expectations, communicate your goals, plan your strategy, and manage the environment, the days, and your post-show communication. It’s not easy, but your team (and your boss) will sing your praises when it’s “Go Time!”
Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.