Trade Show Chronicles – Last day in the booth (chapter 14)
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.
Finally, the last day has come.
I arrive at the booth at 8am, one hour before opening. I start by cleaning up the stall but there isn’t much to do – my team has been pretty efficient last night.
I decide to have a look around and talk with other exhibitors before visitors arrive. There is a booth, not far from mine, at the corner of an aisle, that has a really great design. They have built walls for the back of their stall with exhibit windows – one product per display, good lighting, and a small foam board explaining what the product does. It really looks great and drives me to their booth to look closer.
– “Hi there!” a member of their team approaches me. “You are exhibiting also, right? It seems I have seen you guys’ booth yesterday.”
– “Right. We’re on the other side actually. So how has it been for you? Was the exhibition successful?”
– “It was not bad. Quite some traffic, a lot of inquiries and potential business. We’re quite satisfied.”
– “Well your booth looks really great, no wonder you attracted many people.”
– “Thank you. We did quite some work to make it happen but that was worth our sweat!”
– “So how many leads have you captured?”
He reaches out to the shelf behind him and grabs a large folder with sheets of paper poorly arranged.
– “Here you go!”
– “What is that…?” I ask, dubious.
– “These are our leads!” he claims with a smile. He opens the folder, a few sheets drop on the floor. Pointing at the content, he says:
– “We have been quite efficient, look! There must be at least a hundred fifty leads here!”
The leads papers come in every possible shapes and size. Some are even written on napkins from the nearby coffee shop. Some have a business card stapled in a corner, others don’t. Some are covered with text, others only have a few words.
– “Wow, that’s quite a success” I say politely. He looks very proud and does not seem to notice my doubts. “How long do you think it will take for you to follow-up all that…?”
– “Well, we are pretty organized. We have a team of three interns that will take over next week. It should take them no more than 3 days to put everything into excel and then another couple of days to send emails. All in all, it should be done within 10 days.”
10 days. He claims it with pride. Isn’t 10 days incredibly long? And looking at the pile of leads, I am wondering if they could really do any follow-up at all – some of them seem frankly unreadable. How could an intern read these notes and guess what to do with it?
– “Interesting” I say.
– “How many did you guys get?”
I reach out for my pocket and grab my phone. He frowns for a second then gets closer to look at my screen. I open my browser and show him our leads statistics:
– “We have captured 103 leads until now and I expect another 45 by the end of the day.”
His eyes widen as he looks at my screen:
– “You guys spend so much time making graphs and yet you have time to capture leads? How do you do that? You have interns as well I bet!” he says with a smirk.
– “No interns actually. And we don’t make graphs ourselves. We use a system to record the leads digitally and it helps us keeping track of our count easily.”
– “Digitally?” he asks, hesitant. “Isn’t it taking much longer to record details?”
– “It actually isn’t. We scan business cards, click a few buttons and add a few notes, that’s about it. It takes a couple minutes each time and saves us three days of data entry afterward.”
– “Smart…” he says, lost in his thoughts. “So you actually follow-up within less than 5 days I imagine?”
– “Less than that. We send instant follow-up emails through our system. We have pre-written email templates and we just customize them a little before sending out to make it more personal.”
Now he really looks surprised:
– “I have been joining fairs for the past 10 years and never heard of such system! That’s awesome! Did you guys develop it in-house?”
– “No, it is an online service actually. It is called myfairtool, you should have a look.”
– “Trust me, I will!” he replies, excited.
I keep walking the aisles and take notes of all the smart things I see in other booths. Some of these companies have a giant circular banner hanging from the ceiling. From what they told me, it is quite affordable and might be a great idea for our next event.
One of them has prepared a big wheel for some kind of game and a promoter with a lapel microphone invites attendees to come by giving it a try.
Another one has some kind of photo booth where people can take selfies and post them on Social Media.
There is one that has reproduced a shop shelf and organized products on it like if it was in a supermarket. Quite a smart idea to let buyers feel what it would look like in-store, I guess.
As I see a few visitors walking by I realize the show is already open and run back to my booth.
– “Andrew! Where were you?! I had to do the morning speech myself!” says Karen, looking angry yet relieved to see me.
– “I was walking around. I got a few smart ideas for our next expo!”
– “One thing at a time Andrew – focus on capturing leads today, we’ll think about the next expo when the time comes.”
It is now 7pm and we are all packing our samples in carton boxes. Luckily, Karen and I thought of everything and the return shipment has already been booked. That was definitely a smart move considering the huge queue in front of FedEx office.
Everyone looks exhausted but happy – it will probably take another 30 minutes to tidy up the place and it will be over.
As I put tape on a carton I receive a message from my boss: “Great job Andrew! I’ve been looking at the stats, it looks like you’ve captured more leads than we expected! Gather the team and join me downstairs, I invite you all to restaurant!”
Everyone is here, sitting around the large table, with a glass of wine in the hand.
– “I would like to thank you all for the great work. You have all been performing beyond expectation. And I would like to thank Andrew who did amazing – that was his very first trade show, yet he managed it like a pro! Right, Andrew?”
I really appreciate the compliment but am not too comfortable being pushed into the spotlight by my boss.
– “Yes, I guess.” I say, as I turn red.
– “Come on! Don’t be shy! I was expecting about a hundred leads, yet you guys captured 196! And all have been followed-up already! That is definitely the best event we’ve had so far!”
I want to intervene and remind him that we can’t consider the leads “followed-up” quite yet. Yes, we sent an email to keep the conversation going but there’s still some sales work to do to convert these people into customers. I finally decide it isn’t worth it: everyone is happy, let’s not spoil the moment.
I look at Karen but she doesn’t seem upset our boss did not congratulate her also. Quite the contrary – she looks thrilled that the event was such a success.
– “Alright guys, enjoy your meal, have a few drinks and relax this weekend – Monday there will be a lot of work waiting for you!”
Next Chapter – Back to the Office – Chapter 15