Meet the Experts - The Exhibitor

Meet the Experts – Trade Show employees engagement with Katarina Lindén

Hello Katarina, welcome to The Exhibitor! Tell us a little about you and your professional journey.

The first time I set up a 20m² trade fair stand was at the Entsorga Waste handling and Sustainable development fair in Cologne in 2003. Since then I have been involved with organizing events and trade fair stands in many different locations such as Munich, Malaga, Paris, Gothenburg, Shanghai and Moscow. I have had the opportunity to organize several quite large stands from 4,000 and up to 12,000m².

Why is employee engagement an essential part of trade show success?

There is a quote by Sir Richard Branson that says

“If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers”

I think there is a lot of truth in that statement.
A trade fair stand is often quite an investment. It is therefore important to look at it from a ‘holistic’ point of view, in order to maximize the return on investment (ROI) as much as possible. Don’t miss the opportunity to give an internal boost.
A well executed show can be an enormous source of pride and grow the teamwork across an organization.

How do you engage booth staff?

As so often, communication is key!
In best cases it will be a two-way communication. For big shows there are many departments of a company involved, and it is important that they each feel part of the process as experts in their area. Provide regular status updates about the stand and opportunities for suggestions. Also provide practical information and support for management and stand workers in advance.

Stand worker training before the show opens is very important. The booth staff will feel ready to meet customers if (s)he is confident.
Daily stand information meetings before opening the booth are important.
Being a stand worker is quite strenuous: long days, sometimes in uncomfortable conditions, and always engaging in a positive manner with potentially important customers. When budget permits, life should be made easy. Avoid long commutes to/from the stand. Remember to provide water in the stand. If it’s a long show (more than 4 days), have a dedicated stall worker lounge area with fresh fruit and hot food.

What kind of targets should you give booth staff, and how to measure achievement?

Good lead generation is one of the most important measurable target for any show.
Learning about competition is also important – the goal would be to identify in advance which companies should be visited and to compile a report after the show.
Every show should have a marketing campaign to drive attendance to the booth. By offering a small compensation (i.e. cup of coffee) on presentation of a voucher the success of the campaign can also be measured.
Remember to put a process in place for after the show also! Measure the number of leads contacted or visited, new deals in the pipeline or closed deals 3 months after the show.

What do you recommend in terms of employee rewards?

The simple act of giving visible recognition to an employee who has provided great work is already valuable for boosting engagement.
The daily morning briefings in the booth can be used to celebrate stand workers who have closed an important deal, the person who has gathered the most customer leads, or simply congratulate someone who’s birthday it is.
The type of reward depends very much on the circumstances: give a plaque to put on the desk, a bottle of champagne, a vacation trip for the most successful sales person, etc. The reward must be up to each company, depending on the company, the country and possibilities.

Tell us more about what makes a good employee engagement strategy.

Daily morning pep talks should be mandatory for management, all sales staff and stand workers. Motivation comes from top and goes downwards.
As mentioned above, employees need to proper training in advance. They need to be fully familiar with the stand and the products: where can they pick up a company tie or where can they find the latest price list for products, for example.
For a majority of shows I would produce a stand worker handbook that contains most important information. This document has each employees name on the cover, and each person is responsible for their copy.
Employee and customer surveys are always very useful tools to gather constructive feedback during or after a show. I recommend digital survey tools.

Should employees participate in the Trade Show Social Media strategy?

No, I would not encourage all employees to participate in social media outside of their own circle. Social media should be part of the corporate communication strategy, and therefore should be handled by a trained team to make sure that the important messages are communicated in the right manner to the targeted audience. I often recommend to create a schedule in advance to determine which messages and on which platform to post– who, when, what and where.
That said, it’s a great opportunity to do short videos of product experts presenting their star products and to create a company profile on YouTube.

myfairtool is a platform that provides multiple tools for exhibitors to manage every aspect of their trade show, including team efforts management and tracking. What is your opinion on such tool?

Digital tools are more and more part of every show or event organization. I am always in favor of gathering data over a digital system rather than by hand – it saves time, effort and can avoid the ‘human error’ aspects.
The number of digital tools are growing exponentially and used all types of events, to measure attendance, gather leads, set up meetings, do surveys etc.

Do you have any key recommendation to achieve ROI through employee engagement?

Start the campaign planning well in advance – good trade fair stands need sufficient planning. Remember to communicate both externally and internally.

Any additional tips for our readers?

Replicate good processes, and save time and effort by using the same suppliers and agencies as much as possible. The suppliers will know how to work with your brand, your image and your customers.

Katarina Linden With 12+ years of experience as project manager of events, international trade fair stands, brand promotion and marketing communication development, Katarina Lindén is specialized in the organization and logistics of trade fair stands. She has worked on numerous projects throughout Europe, as well as other global locations. She has experience of handling complex projects involving multicultural teams, stakeholders, and managing suppliers.
Meet the Experts – Trade Show employees engagement with Katarina Lindén
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