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How to get the most from your trade show event staff

Trade shows are an important part of many marketing plans, and if properly planned and executed, can deliver significant ROI, whether measured in terms of brand promotion, networking or the traditional new business leads. However, when an event goes wrong, and fails to deliver, do we ever really analyse and discuss the reasons why? There are plenty of potential reasons. As a passionate advocate of using technology to facilitate a successful event I strongly believe that there is enormous scope and benefits to be had in this area. However, technology is not today’s main focus.

Over the years, like many of my fellow event professionals, I have been to many different events, across many different countries. I’ve seen great pre-event marketing, stunning stand design, innovative demonstrations and compelling content, but there’s one thing that I see regularly that undermines all of this, and that’s the quality of exhibition staff, in particular, employees at trade shows. We’ve all seen them, talking to each other instead of delegates, looking bored, playing with their phones instead of getting leads – it’s a sure fire way of guaranteeing event failure as what’s the point of spending precious budget on a trade show if when push comes to shove, the delegate is not engaged, or even worse, totally ignored.

Now, it’s easy to place the blame on the individual, and in some case this may be appropriate, but we as event professionals must plan and act in a way that helps lessen the chance of these situations occurring. Here are a few tips that I feel could help:

1 – Get the right people there: The show was booked months ago, and at the time everyone agreed that it was an excellent opportunity to meet and do business with senior decision makers with plenty of budget. Everyone was keen to go, but two days before the show, things have changed. Faced with the reality of spending two days in a hot exhibition hall, manning a stand at a busy event and being on their feet all day, the roster for stand personnel suddenly changes. Gone are the senior sales people, replaced with the most junior staff, who although may be willing, are lacking in experience and guidance – not what you need to sell to senior decision makers. If the show fails is it fair to blame them? Verdict – if you want to sell to senior decision makers, do not send your most inexperienced staff.

2 – Get everyone on the same page: Now that you’ve got the right people scheduled to attend, it’s your job to make sure they know why they are there and what they are trying to achieve. This is often neglected, but simple to do. Make sure everyone has seen any pre-show marketing, there’s nothing worse than talking to event staff at a show about a new product that they know nothing about. Help people understand which products they need to be pushing, how many leads they need to get and what sort people they need to be talking to. This won’t take long but it will make all the difference when you start to look at ROI post event. Verdict – if you have a message to deliver, make sure everyone knows what it is.

3 – Conduct some pre-show staff training: Comprehensive training is a fundamental part of doing well in a job, no skills often means a lack of results. With this in mind, why do we then send staff to trade shows, from all areas of the business, if they have no idea how to act at the aforementioned trade show? Now some may argue that it’s common sense, but maybe not so. Here’s a list of misdemeanours I’ve seen this year:

  1. Stands with no staff
  2. Stands with staff only talking to each other
  3. Stands with one person on their phone
  4. Stands with staff inappropriately dressed or clearly hung over
  5. Stands full of people eating lunch and ignoring delegates
  6. Stands being deconstructed mid afternoon because people want to go home

Sounds familiar? Verdict – You don’t have to send people on training courses, but make sure they understand the basic dos and don’ts.

4 – Designate a stand manager: Or in other words, make sure someone is responsible for your trade show presence on the day. A stand manager, preferably someone senior enough, or suitably backed by the organisation, that people will listen to, will help organise things like lunch rota’s, start and finish times, speaker schedules, demo’s, give-aways and any promotional activity. They will make sure that everyone knows what they are doing and is pulling their weight. They are able to work with suppliers, and most importantly, if anything goes wrong, someone on-stand will be there to deal with it. Verdict – Have someone take charge!

Now, these four points are not an exclusive list, nor will they guarantee you a successful trade show, but following them will make my trade show experience much more interesting, productive and enjoyable, and I’d guess I’m not the only person that feels this way.