Trade Show Chronicles – Finding the right Goal (chapter 2)
This article belongs to the “Trade Show Chronicles” series. It tells the story of Andrew, young sales executive newly employed by a Hong Kong company that will attend his first trade show in a few months time. From understanding what exhibitions are all about to organizing the booth, recruiting promoters and following-up on leads, Andrew will live a complete adventure unique to the world of exhibitions.
– “Hi Charles! Sorry to bother you that late. It’s just… Look, I have been dragged into a new project recently. I’m now in charge of the organization of my company’s booth for the HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair and I seem to remember you’re specialized in that.”
– “Congratulations! You must be very excited! That’s quite a project you got yourself in!”
– “Well… I wouldn’t say I’m ‘excited’. More like worried really. I have never done this before and I just don’t know where to start. I thought… you know, maybe you could give me a hand on that.”
– “Look buddy, I’d love to help you out, but event organization can’t be taught in the blink of an eye. It took me years to get where I am and I happen to have a plane early tomorrow morning. I’m flying to Singapore for another event.”
– “Ok… I understand, no worries.”
– “Look, I don’t have time to give you full overview of how to plan an event properly, but I can definitely help you out a little. Organizing a trade show isn’t complicated: it very much like a puzzle. First you have to get all the pieces right then you assemble them to get the full picture.”
– “Right…” I say, half convinced, “so what are these pieces you’re talking about?”
– “Your event is very much divided into three periods: before, during, after. Your first challenge will be to define your ultimate goal: why are your organizing that event? Once you get this right, you will need to find out what you should do at each stage (before, during, after) in order to reach that target.”
What is he talking about? I am looking for practical advice, not riddles.
– “Well, that pretty obvious, right? My objective is to organize the event because my boss asked me so.” I say impatient.
– “Is that right? Would your boss ask you to organize an event for the sake of organizing an event? Why did he ask you, a sales person, to do it instead of your marketing team? Look Andrew, it was real nice talking to you, but I need to sleep now. Give me a call when you find your answers!”
Back to square one. What just happened? Charles might be an expert in his field but I still don’t have much of a clue about what I should be doing now. Before, during, after?
Before I must organize the show, during I must be there and after I can just sit back and relax. Isn’t it?
And what did Charles mean about “the goal”?
If the event in itself isn’t the goal, then why organizing it? It seems my boss mentioned something about it… “brand awareness”. That could be the goal! I must call back Charles and tell him about it!
Hold on… He also asked why I was suddenly in charge of the project. Could that have something to do with a change of purpose…?
As a sales person, my goal is to sell. Right, sounds easy enough! The goal of this trade show is for me to sign a lot of contracts. So I should prepare the contracts and products before the event, sell on the spot and… well… there isn’t really anything to do after the fair. Prepare for the next one maybe?
On the next day my boss calls me and Karen, the girl in charge of marketing, for a meeting.
– “Ok Andrew, how are things going with the Electronics Fair? Have you chosen the booth yet?”
Chosen the booth? I was supposed to choose the booth myself?
A complete week has passed since he put me in charge and I must say not much has been done since. I have defined my goal – selling – and started to draft contracts but that’s about it. What did he expect me to do?
– “Huh. No, I haven’t chosen the booth yet, but I was about to do it.” I lie, not really convincing. “I got the contracts ready though”, I say enthusiastically.
– “Contracts? What contracts?”
– “For the fair! To sell right on the spot!”
– “Andrew, I know you haven’t had a chance to attend any exhibition before, but you won’t have much chance to sign contracts there. People go there to see new products, make connections, evaluate the market and get some prices… They are not yet at this stage of the sales funnel. You’d be very lucky to sign a single contract!”
Wow. It seems I got it all wrong! Charles just put me on the wrong path here… I should have had my booth ready by now, instead I’ve spent a week preparing a contract that no-one will use. How am I supposed to guess the next steps if no-one tells me?
– “So what’s your next step then? Did you discuss the checklist with Karen yet?”
Karen looks at me, surprised to hear her name mentioned. I can feel her glaring at me and get less and less comfortable.
– “Well… no, I haven’t. I’ve been quite busy to be honest.”
– “Andrew, I put you in charge of this project. Do you have any idea how much the event is going to cost us? We cannot afford to fail. Make it happen!”
He is trying to remain calm, that bit is obvious. I can feel the pressure increasing on my shoulders – I did not even consider the budget! I need to look into this as soon as possible.
After the meeting ends, I talk with Karen to get her in the loop. She sounds very reassuring: she will provide me with a full checklist. She has organized plenty of events in the past few years and seem happy to help me out. She is a little surprised the project wasn’t given to her but she seems relieved: organizing such large scale event is very time consuming. I decide to ask her what is the ultimate goal of the event.
She looks back at me with a look of absolute disbelief, shakes her head and replies “Brand awareness, obviously” as she turns back and walks away.