Trade Show Chronicles – Preparing the basics (chapter 4)
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.
It has now been a month since I was assigned this project. I have already decided which booth to book and I have started to go through the checklist. My boss is getting impatient and during today’s meeting I will need to walk him through my progress.
Task after task I start to enjoy this new challenge. Unfortunately, my daily routine has suffered quite a bit and I don’t have enough time each day to handle everything. I will have to finish planning the exhibition soon if I want to have a chance to hit my monthly targets.
I am lost in my thoughts when Karen calls me to join them in the meeting room.
– “So, Andrew, where are we?”
-” The booth’s location has been defined and Karen and I started to discuss booth design and…”
– “Walk me through it, don’t go in every direction. Have you finalized the announcement?”
– “The announcement? What do you mean by that?”
– “The announcement! We are paying a lot of money to attend this event, you don’t plan on announcing it?! The event is only a few months away, you need to announce it now!” he clearly lost his calm this time. I try to keep mine, breath deeply and reply.
– “Al…right… I will prepare this with Karen right away.”
– “Think about your organization as a flow. You have plenty of time to discuss carpet color and intensity of light. You must work on what is most urgent first! Divide your work into sections!”
Suddenly, it strikes me: Charles had mentioned it several times. Before, during, after. I am already planning the “during” part even though I haven’t prepared the “before” one!
I present the rest of my progress to our boss and run out to call Charles immediately after.
– “Charles, I need your help!”
– “Hello Andrew, how are you doing?”
– “I think I now understand what you meant. I first need to focus on what happens BEFORE the fair. Once finalized, I will arrange what goes on during the trade show and… what happens afterwards?”
– “Well done! Ignore the “after” for the time being. Have you started to work on ‘before’ yet? It should be finished by now.”
– “That is exactly what my boss told me today! What do you mean by that? What am I supposed to do?”
– “Traffic drives traffic. Try to get as many people as you can on your stall to increase your chances of leads collection and increase brand awareness.”
– “I thought brand awareness wasn’t my goal?”
– “It isn’t. But it doesn’t mean you should not facilitate it when you have the opportunity! Everything is connected: a larger brand awareness makes your job as sales much easier. People have heard of you already, they are in the second section of your sales funnel. While you should focus on obtaining more leads, do not ignore any other positive aspect if you can enforce it.”
– “Understood. So what should I be doing now?”
– “Andrew, stop expecting answers to come from the sky and start thinking on your own! You want to drive traffic, so what should you be doing right now?”
I try to hide my frustration and keep my voice steady.
– “Figure it out and call me back once you have the answer.”
Seriously? How am I supposed to get this right without any help? Does Charles really understand how critical is my situation?
I spend the rest of the afternoon thinking about how I could drive more traffic and how that would relate to me making an announcement.
Using the meeting room’s whiteboard, I start to draw the different pools of people that might come to the event and those I could potentially reach outside the event.
After a while, I end up with an interesting list: customers, partners, suppliers, investors, media, fans and followers and people on our marketing lists. All of them could be reached through one of the following channels: email, Social Media and EDMs.
That’s it! I am going to announce our participation so that as many people as possible could come and visit us.
I sit down with Karen and start telling her about my idea. Quickly, she explains me the best way to inform people is to have a uniform cross-channel message. When she realizes she already lost me, she explains:
– “You want to inform as many people as possible about your event but you do not want to spend your budget on a PR announcement. Here is what you should do: start by changing everyone’s signature. Have a banner in our team’s email signature that announces our participation and booth number. Each time our staff sends an email the recipient is informed of our participation. Do the same with our website and Social Media channels. Soon enough, everyone will know.” It seems pretty easy and logical. What didn’t I think of it myself?
– “Alright. That sounds like a good idea. What of the rest? What else should I organize before the event?”
– “There are quite a few important items to plan. Have you thought of internet?”
– “Internet? Why should we need internet?”
She rolls her eyes, obviously annoyed to be training a newbie.
– “You might want to read your emails. You may need to show our website, download a brochure, access a video. You should also use it to record your data online. Internet will be very important, don’t forget to arrange it!”
– “I’ve read that the organizer provides free WiFi for all. That should be enough.”
She rolls her eyes again.
– “That’s a mistake. The free WiFi will be so weak you couldn’t do anything. You can either pay the organizer for a private network or arrange your own, using a prepaid 3G SIM card for example.”
Karen shows me an article* explaining in details why internet could become really helpful on the fair. After reading it, I can’t argue anymore and start looking for internet solutions while a large smile shines on Karen’s face. No doubt, I will have to learn from scratch.