Trade Show Chronicles – My first Exhibition (chapter 1)
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.
I have recently joined Global Tech Ltd. as Sales Executive. Every day I follow a contact list provided by my marketing team and give calls to these people, trying to arrange meetings. Each afternoon, I go out and meet with existing and potential new customers. I use a CRM that we’ve developed in-house to record information from my customers.
Last month, my boss informed the whole team we were about to join the HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair later this year. He seemed very excited about it and said that was an incredible opportunity for us to present our new products to the world and reach new customers. I did not pay too much attention to it: another marketing event. Not really my concern.
A few days later, he called me in for a one-to-one meeting.
– “Andrew, what do you know about the Electronics Fair?” I did not expect we would discuss this topic.
– “I don’t know much about it… It is a marketing event made to present new products, right?”
– “Yes and no. Trade shows are not ‘marketing’ events. There are marketing & sales events. There are a great opportunity to meet with new suppliers, customers, investors or even competitors. There are especially good for you to generate leads and attack new unexplored markets.”
– “Well… I didn’t know that”, I say a bit puzzled, wondering how that concerns me. “I have never joined such event before.”
– “Andrew, I want you to be the lead and organize our participation to the HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair.”
I think my heart stopped beating for a second. I have only one year of experience and all I have ever worked on so far was sales focused. That’s what I know and what I do. I have no knowledge whatsoever about “exhibitions” or “trade shows”. Why ME? Why should I organize a marketing event?
– “Well… Wouldn’t the marketing team be more…”
He does not let me finish:
– “As I told you, this isn’t a marketing event. Our marketing team has organized it for the past 4 years with a clear marketing objective: brand awareness. This year, I want to articulate it around a real business objective: collecting valuable leads that could then be followed-up by yourself and transformed into customers. Don’t worry, the marketing folks will guide you and provide all possible help when it comes to design and promotion.”
Design? Promotion? I did not even think about that! Why does he seem so excited about me organizing it? I’ve never done such thing before, that will for sure end badly!
– “So, Andrew, what’s your answer? Can I count on you?” he asks with a large smile.
– “Absolutely!” I hear myself say, without the beginning of clue of what that implies.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I thought my job was difficult enough without having to add responsibilities on my shoulders.
I spent most of the next day making research to find out what a trade show really is and where I should start. The opening was only 6 months away and I had absolutely no idea about what was expected of me.
I read article after article, blog after blog, looking for the perfect recipe I could simply apply to succeed. I started to have a better idea about the concept: a giant hall, hundreds of companies having decorated stalls and presenting their products, tons of visitors from the same industry coming to see the new trends and buy some products, some media looking for the innovation that could make a buzz, competitors searching for ideas to copy or improve, investors analyzing opportunities and a lot a flyers, business cards, luggage and samples running around. And me.
Without any knowledge of this overwhelming industry that is event, I am in charge of organizing a portion of it. Quite despaired, I look at my phone: 23:02. I have spent an entire day researching for this project, neglecting my usual tasks, and it doesn’t feel like I have made any progress.
Suddenly, I remember that one of my old schoolmate from high school mentioned something interesting last time, during our annual dinner. It seems he has become specialist in exhibitions: event planner or something of that sort. I start dialing his number but I cut the line before the first ring: kind of late to bother people you don’t really talk to that often. I decide to call back on the next day and head to bed.
A minute later, my phone rings:
– “Hey Andrew, you called me? What’s up?”