Trade Show Chronicles – My first floor plan (chapter 6)
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.
We have two hours to prepare before the weekly meeting with the boss. Karen and I are both very excited about it and arrived quite early to the office this morning. When she sees me, Karen run to my desk.
– “I found the perfect tool! I know how we can collect data on the exhibition! There’s a tool call ‘myf'”
– “‘airtool’. I know. I’ve just finished checking out their website.” She looks a little disappointed for a second that I’ve wasted her initial enthusiasm but quickly smiles again.
– “So how does it look? Can we use myfairtool* for our fair?”
– “Yes, seems pretty great. But we need to set it up first.”
– “Set it up? How do you mean?”
– “Upload our logo, complete our profile and so on…”
– “I can take care of that!”
– “And we can set up tags to categorize visitors and prepare emails templates… I’ll handle that part.”
– “Per-fect! Now it’s time to discuss floor plan!”
– “Floor plan? What do you mean?”
For over an hour, Karen walks me through drawings and pictures of tons of booths she takes as reference. I can’t help yawning. It seems she has noticed it from the corner of her eyes: she stops immediately and says:
– “Ok, enough references for the time being. Now we need to prepare our own!”
– “What do you mean?”
– “We know the booth location and size, right?”
– “Right” I say. “And then?”
– “Now is time to define what we put where! Did you expect things would magically appear there?”
– “I guess not… I didn’t think about it actually.”
– “It’s about time! We have a list of products we want to display. First, we need to see how to regroup them, then we will have to see what furniture we need to display them. Afterwards, we will study how to arrange the furniture so that everything fits on the stall and we will start talking about posters and wall decoration!” She seems incredibly excited about it. I can’t say the same for myself.
– “Hey Karen… you seem to be quite an expert in this field. What about you handle that part and we discuss it again once you’ve decided the details?”
– “Alright!” she says with a big smile before running out of the meeting room, her hands full of documents and papers.
– “Andrew, how is the project going? The Electronics Show is getting closer and closer, is everything on track?”
– “Sure is!” I say, pretty confident.
– “Glad to hear that. So, how many promoters did you hire?”
– “Promoters…? What promoters?”
He puts his head in his hands. The whole room gets awfully silent for a few seconds. Karen and I exchange a worried look.
– “Karen! Your job is to help Andrew leading this project, right?”
– “Right” she says with a very low voice. She is obviously very uncomfortable and expects a storm to start anytime.
– “Then WHY have you guys not started to take care of promoters?!”
My boss is in his late forties, early fifties. 1.8m high, maybe 1.85. He has large shoulders and looks like he could destroy the room with his bare hands. I’ve never seen him angry but I’ve heard stories about it. I’m not sure I would ever want to experience this myself. He now has a red vein on his forehead. It seems pretty obvious he is about to explode. If I do nothing, Karen is going to have a very hard time in the coming seconds.
– “We will arrange promoters right after this meeting” I say. I see he is about to reply, so I continue to avoid whatever’s coming. “And we have found a new method to improve our results on the booth!”
It seems I managed to trigger his interest. He looks at me for a second, judging me, then says calmly:
– “Good. What is it?”
While looking at him I can see Karen in a corner having a long sight of relief. I think she might owe me one now!
– “That’s an online system. It’s called myfairtool and it will help us collect data digitally.”
He looks very suspicious. He is obviously not convinced but he seems willing to give me a chance to explain. He asks:
– “We have always used pen & paper and it has worked pretty well for us. How is your solution any better?”
– “First we will reduce the risk of human errors by recording it all once only instead of twice.” He doesn’t buy it. “Also, it will enable us to take photos and add tags to make the whole report more useful”.
My boss obviously isn’t tech savvy. He has used the same techniques for the past 20 years and isn’t keen to change them. Before he has a chance to reply, I add:
– “Most of all, it will save us lots of money!” I see his eyebrows move and I know I now have his full attention. “With this system, we no longer need to hire part timers to transfer the data from paper to excel. Also, we will reduce considerably the gaps between the event and the follow-up, increasing our chances to convert leads into customers!”
He considers my suggestion for a few seconds then approves it. Karen presents the rest of the details we’ve discussed and the rest of the meeting goes smoothly.
3pm: I need to call Charles to let him know I got my boss to approve the use of digital solutions!
– “Glad you could convince him, it’s not always that easy.”
– “And I also managed to free myself a lot of extra time to focus on this project. I’ve passed the whole ‘floor-plan-thingy’ to my colleague” I say, quite proud of myself.
– “You WHAT?” says Charles, panicked. “You CANNOT outsource this part!”
– “Why? This is just marketing. I focus on sales, remember? I leave to her the marketing and I get the sales strategy. Isn’t it what you said?”
– “Yes, but the floor plan isn’t exclusively for marketing! You have lots of details to manage there!”
It feels like my energy is being drained out of my body. All the motivation I have built today has suddenly vanished. Empty, ashamed, I slowly ask with a small voice:
– “What exactly do you have in mind?”
– “Well, the flow to start with! Your marketing team will try to put multiple messages, lots of products and furniture… They will end up obstructing the way and disturbing the flow of visitors. You also need to choose the place you need to have TVs for demonstrations. You must consider having a welcome desk to distribute flyers and business cards while driving visitors in your stall. You should also construct a small cabin to help storing your water and cleaning items. You have lots to prepare and you can’t trust someone else with this!”
Charles and I keep talking for a while. I take lots of notes like a good student, I carefully listen to all details. After an hour, Charles finally manages to hang up and leave me with a million other questions.
It had been such a great day, too bad it has to end that way. Tonight I can’t seem to fall asleep. I keep thinking about blueprints, cleaning products and other elements mentioned by Charles. I will need to have a long discussion with Karen tomorrow…
Next Chapter – All the small details