Trade Show Chronicles – All the small details (chapter 7)
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.
– “Look, this is not about trust. It has NOTHING to do with trust. I trust you a hundred percent!”
– “Then what is it all about?!” replies Karen, outrageous.
– “I just want to get involved to make sure we are on the same page, that’s it.” I try to temper. “Could you just show me your floor plan so that we could discuss it?”
– “Alright” she says unconvinced. “Here you go. So that is the top view, here you have the entrance and there…” I am horrified by what I see and I don’t do a great job hiding it. “WHAT?!” she asks impatiently.
If she would have shown me her floor plan yesterday, I would certainly have found it perfect. But after so much time with Charles over the phone my perspective has shifted.
– “Just… I am surprised to see that you closed the second entrance…”
– “That is to maximize the available display space and add more visuals and messages.”
– “And this table here in the entrance?” I ask calmly.
– “A reception desk, can’t you see it?” she replies impatiently.
– “Look Karen, don’t take it the wrong way, but that’s not at all what I envisioned.” She opens her mouth to replicate but I continue without letting her a chance to stop me. “That LOOKS fabulous. Really! Design-wise, it is great and attractive. But I think our objectives are just not aligned. Can we take one step back to discuss the purpose of this booth?”
My request must have been somehow reasonable because she complies, breath deeply and get ready to discuss.
– “We agreed on the fact that the objective of our presence at this trade show is to increase our business volume. Right?”, she nods. “Ok. Now, to achieve that, we have also agreed on the fact that we need to follow-up on exhibitions leads coming from proper prospects details capture at the booth. Correct?”, she nods again.
I use a technique suggested by Charles that appears to be very efficient: when facing a disagreement with a person, go back to the root of the problem and escalate point by point, reconfirming basics that both parties agreed on. If you follow this process well enough, in the worst case you will be able to identify where your visions start to divert, in the best case you will just erase the problem and get the other to agree with you.
– “Now, if I continue with the same logic, in order for us to maximize the leads collection, we need to maximize the traffic on our booth as well, right?”
– “Yes! And that is exactly why I want to install very large advertising panels all around the booth to increase visibility!” she says offensively. I remain calm.
– “The problem is that your system blocks most of the flow.” She wants to reply but I keep going. “We need to balance our efforts. An empty booth would be great to walk around but wouldn’t attract anyone. An over branded booth might be appealing but this appeal would be wasted if no-one could come visit it, isn’t it?” she nods slightly. “Do you remember why we picked this booth location in the first place?”
– “Because it was in the right section, on a large alley.”
– “And also…?”
– “Because it was at the end of the line… and it has two open sides.” she admits unwillingly, starting to see where I am heading.
– “Exactly! With a booth that has two open sides you multiply your accessibility and increase your potential traffic! But if you close one side with a banner and the other with a large reception desk, you waste this initial benefit.”
I can see she agrees but hates it. Since she doesn’t object, I continue.
– ” I suggest that we remove this panel and open the booth on that side. As for the reception desk, that’s a brilliant idea: great location for a large logo, to hold some flyers and business cards and direct visitors to the right product. But we need to reduce its size by at least 50%”.
Karen does not reply anymore. It seems I have been able to convince her. I’m a pretty good sales after all!
I can feel Karen needs to take a break. She has been leading the organization of all events for a few years already and having to negotiate status quo with a newbie like me isn’t exactly her cup of tea. We decide to continue this discussion later today.
At 5 pm, when Karen and I sit down again, I have had time to go through my notes from last night’s conversation with Charles. There are a couple more points I want to touch and I am sure that will not be easy.
Karen is already in the room, waiting for me, looking at a few plans left on the table. When she sees me approaching she greets me with a large smile:
– “Hello Andrew! Glad we can continue this discussion!”
She obviously had time to recharge her battery – she’s now full of energy and ready to battle.
– “I have revised all the plans based on our discussion this morning and I think you will love the new design!”
While I am quite happy to see her motivated and positive again, I was not planning for a new floor plan so soon. I have a few more changes I want to bring up and I feel like it will contradict her strategy.
I don’t even have time to properly sit on my chair that she already starts explaining her concept.
Fifteen minutes later, she has presented – almost – all the new elements. There is only one thing I don’t understand. A rectangle in the booth’ corner is placed exactly where I would need some extra space for my idea.
– “And this one here, in the corner… what is it?”
She must have been waiting for me to ask this question for a long time. She looks absolutely delighted when she answers me.
– “This is my best idea!” she says. ” That is a sofa!” seeing me surprised, she explains: “We want people to stay longer on our booth, right? A sofa will achieve that! Take a comfortable seat and have a long conversation with visitors… then transform them into customers!”
Karen seems so excited and proud of her idea. I don’t know how to bring up the fact that it might not be that great after all. Hesitantly, I say:
– “This sounds great, really!”
– “But?” she asks, expecting my reaction.
– “But… while I think having a sofa is really a good idea, there might be some better use of that space.”
– “Like what?” she replies, a bit aggressive.
– “Like a cabin.”
– “A cabin? What do you need it for? Planning on playing hide and seek?”
– “Haha” I laugh nervously, “no, actually, a small cabin could be a real asset. Think about it: a place to rest, to store our products, some water, cleaning products…”
I expect a negative reaction from Karen. She thinks for a while and replies:
– “Not a bad idea!” with a smile. “You’re getting better and better at this!”
– “Well… Actually… that’s more like Charles’ suggestion”
– “I guessed. That’s too smart to be your idea!” she teases me.
We both laugh and continue the meeting positively, fine-tuning the last few details needed for the event organization.
Next Chapter – Let’s talk statistics