“How did it get so late so soon?”
Time. It governs our lives.
It’s a commodity that we can’t make more of.
Time wasted is one of the big regrets of many people’s lives.
“If I had that time again I wouldn’t have wasted it doing …” whatever it was they did instead of something else.
I mention this fact because trade show time is no different.
There is a limited window of time when a show is actually open.
It might be one day, two days, three or more depending on how big the event is.
Although many exhibitors think about days open, I think about hours open.
A three-day show sounds like a lot of selling time.
Actual sales or open time is usually between twenty and twenty-one and a half hours on a three-day event.
Think about that.
All of the money that has been invested. All of the time spent on planning. The extensive arrangements you’ve made in getting things right all come down to making the most of twenty hours of work.
If you spent a total of £10,000 on your “hard” event costs, the direct costs you can allocate in a budget, then each one of those hours represents £500 of investment you need to make back.
That’s just to cover your direct costs.
In fact, the true cost will be higher because it won’t include the planning and arranging time or the “soft” costs associated with exhibiting.
And that’s all before you start thinking about bringing in new sales. The reason why you’re exhibiting in the first place.
You don’t have all the time in the world
It’s tempting to put event-related tasks on the back-burner of your “To Do” list.
Especially when an event is months away.
You feel like you still have lots of time and there are more pressing things to deal with in your day job.
It’s amazing how time flies. Suddenly those deadlines that seemed so far away become rather more pressing.
Late completion of tasks is a sure road to adding stress to your life.
It also takes away from doing an excellent job during those twenty or so hours referred to earlier.
You need time to get the details of your participation right.
Make the time by allocating time slots in your diary for event-related tasks.
The most important tasks, like deciding on your stand, messaging and team should be at the top of the list and tackled first.
Working this way will keep you on schedule.
More importantly, you won’t feel regret about wasting valuable preparation time. You’ll know you did as a good a job as you were able to do.
That feeling builds confidence, not stress.
Planning what happens on the day
A while back, I interviewed Annette Tarlton.
Annette is someone who really understands how to make a trade show stand and team, work at the highest level of efficiency.
What impressed me about Annette’s approach to exhibiting was the amount of thought she gave to what was going to happen on the stand throughout the show open hours.
Every member of the stand team had a job to do. Every member of the team knew what their job was.
They knew where they were to be working on the stand and for how long. How they were expected to dress, to behave with visitors and how to report on their work.
This was why her stands were well-oiled machines.
Annette, and her stand team knew the value of VST – Valuable Sales Time, and they made the most of it.
Compare that type of stand with lacklustre examples where it’s obvious the people on the stand don’t want to be there.
As they say in the States, “they could care less” and boy, does it show.
Having people like that on your stand is like setting fire to a pile of money.
You can avoid this maddening and destructive behaviour by making the time to get your stand team right.
Team selection is obviously crucial but don’t overlook the importance of thorough briefings, team management and motivation.
If there aren’t many people in your business, consider hiring a trained stand staffer to work with you.
The number of leads they will help you attract will more than repay the expense of hiring them.
VST: Really think about it
I used to cringe a bit when salespeople I managed used to talk about making the most of VST (Valuable Sales Time).
Now I realise what they were talking about.
It was their way of expressing a fundamental truth. Sales time, like all other forms of time is limited.
You have to make the most of it.
When you exhibit, it’s no different.
In fact given the huge, positive change in fortunes a trade show can deliver, show time is extremely valuable.
You really should be making the most of every sales minute.
Stand attractions, the graphics you use, the layout of your stand all can have a bearing on the number of sales conversations that you have in that precious trade show timeframe.
These elements, like your stand team, can work for you or against you.
So when preparing for an event, do you seek the most talented suppliers to support you? People, who have experience and skills you can draw on to take your event participation up a level?
If your results aren’t moving upwards maybe it’s time to talk to some new people.
Here in the UK, ESSA is a great starting point as is, of course, Exhibitors Only.
When you consider the importance of preparation and how it can positively improve your results, you might also see the value of pre-show marketing in a different light.
Taking action to increase the number of visitors to your stand is another way to boost exhibiting time effectiveness.
Pre-show marketing can help you improve your lead count both before and during an event.
The need for speed when you give thanks
A fast and speedy follow-up with the people who expressed strong sales interest when they were on your stand cannot be stressed too heavily.
Their strong interest will wane the longer they have to wait for you to get in touch.
Worse, they may be waylaid by someone else.
When you remove yourself from the time pressure of a show, it’s tempting to relax a little. To jump back on the other tasks that have been awaiting your return.
If you do that you risk squandering sales and chunks of show investment money.
Create follow-up procedures for your events before those events take place and you can move swiftly from meeting and greeting to following-up and closing sales.
Do the sums for your events. Workout the number of hours you have to make things happen.
It will focus your mind.
Create your plan, ensure everyone knows the importance of their role.
Do that and you’ll make the very best use of that all-important VST.