Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
"The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge
and the dissemination of truth."

John F. Kennedy

Marc Goldberg's Articles

Your Exhibit Staff is the “Guardian of Your Brand”

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Branding is getting a lot of attention today. Everyone is talking about branding.   It might be the “blurrr” factor. It might be that buyers have more choices than ever before. It might be that more information is available to buyers so that they can evaluate their choices. Whatever the phenomenon, marketers are committing their resources to position their products and services in the mind of their prospects and customers so that they have a special place, resulting in competitive advantage.  The management of brand recognition is no longer focused in the print media or the electronic media.   It has moved to trade show medium in a big way.  This is principally due to the primary focus power of trade shows - face-to-face interaction.   

Sales and Marketing professionals are using the exhibit medium to position their brands in the minds of buyers.  They are also using shows in the traditional ways of prospecting and closing sales, generating qualified leads for sales, increasing name awareness, positioning and repositioning the organization’s image, meeting with current customers and introducing new products.  In every one of the customer focused objectives, the exhibit staff play a variety of roles.

 These roles range from exhibit staffer, competitive intelligence gatherer, hospitality event participant, demonstrator to problem solver.  The roll that is most often overlooked is that of guardian of the brand.  

Lee Knight, publisher of Exhibitor Magazine, once commented at a preshow exhibitor seminar that exhibiting is a 24 hour a day selling environment.  It is selling while working the exhibit, walking in the halls, participating in seminars, eating in restaurants, walking down halls, riding elevators.   No matter what you are doing, when working a show, “you are on”.  You represent your organization.  Now, more so than in the more conservative business era, your company name is emblazoned on every shirt, jacket, briefcases and hats.   

An organization’s brand exists in the mind of the buyer.  The position in which it resides is dependent on how prospects and customers perceive the organization.  When exhibiting, visitors see the organization, its values and culture through the staff.  They might receive an indication of the brand through the exhibit design and booth activities, but they receive the strongest indications of what type of organization they will be dealing with through the staff.  The staff are the “guardians of the brand”.  

When dissecting the dynamics of an exhibit’s performance, the staff plays a significant role. 

  • Product Knowledge - the number one ingredient that creates a positive image in the mind of the show attendees is to have staffers that are knowledgeable about the company, its products and services.  How well the staffer conducts a demonstration – how they involve the attendees to understand their needs and customize the demonstration to those needs communicate a powerful message about the organization and thus the brand.

  • Attitude - having staffers who display they want to be at the show, working the event. They show it by the smile on their face, by using an engaging opening statement and having the appearance of being open, warm, friendly and confident.

  • NonVerbal Communications - being aware that 55-60% of a staffers’ communications is nonverbal is absolutely critical.  Show attendees make a decision about whether they will even stop at an exhibit by observing the staff’s nonverbal communications.  Holding a coffee clache, sitting down at the back of the exhibit, talking on a cellular phone all demonstrate disinterest in communicating with visitors.

  • Creating an “experience” – memorabilty is reinforced through the creation of an experience. The bulk of that which we call experience is that which the staff creates in generating rapport, establishing a dialog that is customer focused, listening  and responding with stories that create images.  The drama of the exhibit, the live presentations, the interactive demonstrations are all important in the formula of creating an experience, but without a staff that understands and executes their role, there is nothing to provide lasting memory.

Guardian of the brand - as a visitor sees the staffer, they see the organization. The staff is the organization in the eye of the show’s visitor.

So what do we need to do?

  •  Select staff that are customer focused and like working the trade show events – establish a criteria for selection – get management buy-in so that availability is not the sole selection criteria.
  • Once selected – value the staff – make them feel important – communicate with them regularly and not just do’s and don’ts.  Make them part of the strategic equation.
  • Train the staff – they don’t work trade shows frequently enough to keep the tools sharp – use all intranet, internet (e-mail, websites) preshow briefingdocuments, preshow meetings or briefings, post show evaluations (meetings and surveys) .Make sure the staff understands the organization’s brand strategy – what is the organization doing to position the brand in the mind of show visitors? What vehicles are being used?  Show them examples of how the strategy is being executed.
  • Make sure they understand the process of exhibiting – reaching out, reacting to, relating and responding and recording visitor information.
  • Create a customer focused exhibit – one whose design is focused on visitor needs
  • Provide the staff the tools they need to communicate the branding message(s) – graphics, collateral, demonstrations.

© 2012 by Marc Goldberg