‘SEX’ would have been a good word to start this months’ article with but alas I could not think of any plausible excuse that wasn’t even mildly tentative.  Instead I thought I would recount an experience gathered at the last Motor Show at ExCel London.  Determined as I was to combine some business with pleasure, I managed to attain some tickets to the event. Having dragged my lovely though somewhat reluctant wife round as many of the stands as I could manage without having to face the inevitable demand for new shoes (or worse a better child-taxi) I decided to take a break and make an offer, which in the harsh thrust of high business finance is known as a sweetener – or more accurately, dinner at a local al fresco restaurant.

Whilst enjoying the company in the early evening sunshine together with great food and palatable wine, we were greeted by a friend of mine out with her male companion.  It turns out that this friend had acquired a pair of tickets to the Motor Show (and hence invited the lady in question) with the express purpose of looking at and hopefully purchasing a new Teutonic sports car.  Whilst she was smiling and apparently enjoying the experience, her mystery man was not appearing to enjoy the experience so much and spent much of his time glued to the end of his mobile telephone.  The problem it emerged was that this particular Germanic purveyor of fine sports cars, had decided not to exhibit at the event.  “I can’t believe they’re not here! If the likes of Mercedes and BMW are here, why are they not here as well?” he bemoaned.  “Still,” he added more perkily than he had been his demeanour for some while, “ I said I would go back and see if I can get my paws on one of those BMW roadsters instead.”  Nice work if you can get it, I thought to myself.  I also thought how foolish that particular manufacturer had been in not having a presence at the show, or even from having their agents / dealers or distributors having some sort of presence.

I am sure that somewhere in the worthy corridors of their corporate marketing department string and balanced debate resulted in their decision, but I couldn’t help wondering about the naivety of some organisations – or at worst, their arrogance. I do have to give them the benefit of the doubt, as I wasn’t directly or indirectly involved in the marketing decision not to participate in the show, however, I suspect the decision was made along the following lines.  We attend top class prestige events because we attract top flight prestige buyers.  The Motor show has a more mass market appeal and accordingly we don’t want to waste our time dealing with tyre kickers who like to drool over our vehicles and not buy one.  Well I am sorry Mr Marketing Person, but the decision to pull out from the event was probably not the right one, because in amongst the tyre kickers there are genuine droolers who do want to buy and have the wherewithal to do so. Moreover, this particular decision is further compounded by the fact that the drooler in question behaved as could be predicted by anyone whose marketing buttocks were not irreparably confabulated with their marketing elbow. Why do some people believe that if they are not at the event the prospective buyer will say, “Oh they’re not here – I had better go home again!” Au contraire, the more common reaction is “Oh they’re not here, (shame) but their competitor, (who I may not have previously considered) is here – let me go and talk to them!” Moral to the story – if you benefit from exhibitions, you need to keep a regular presence, just like a series of adverts in an advertising campaign. Duuuh!

How many people does it take to man a stand?

This month I thought I would go for a more direct approach and answer a question that I have been asked several times at the last few exhibitor workshops that we have run.  The question is “How many people should I have on my stand?”  It conjures up two images in my mind – either some parallel for ‘How long is a piece of string’ or else some rather dreary joke with an equally uninspiring punch line.  Well the answer is dependent upon a large number of factors; including what you are selling, your objectives for being there, whether you are going for a targeted spend more time with each visitor or scattergun approach to ensnare and capture as much data as possible.  It also depends upon your stand size.  Oh and the number of prospects and the duration of the show. And a few more variables besides.  However in the interests of trying to establish some benchmark or guideline there are a few factors we need to consider.  Firstly we must assume that your stand is of average size – say a four by three (metres square). The following guidelines should therefore be increased pro-rata dependent upon stand size.  Logically one person is incapable of doing the job as it prohibits any chances of having a break without abandoning the stand or worse still, eating and drinking on the stand.  Two people therefore would be better as it makes provision for cover during breaks but is still leaving you short in the event of the stand being busy – one of the key objectives of a successful event.  Three therefore seems to be a suitable number.  My personal preference is to have up to five, three on the stand and a couple ‘hovering’ in the aisles or not too far away from the stand.  They can monitor how busy the stand is and can approach or drift off as needs dictate.

With this sort of number of stand staff it is now possible to identify the skill sets required and assign specific roles to the team.  If your products or services are ‘technical’ or complex then it makes sense to have at least one ‘guru’ or expert who can answer most if not all questions that may be asked.  It is also typical that this ‘technical expert’ may not be the most gregarious or outgoing person on the staff, and so you will also need introducers who can trawl the aisles for prospects and connect them with the guru.  Remember that sales people may not be the best people to man the stand but they may be good at qualifying or generating initial interest.  Depending upon whether you plan any hospitality you may need a receptionist or hostess to look after your guests whilst the guru becomes free.  If you can match your skill sets to the roles required it helps.  If you have gaps, you can consider external agencies that can help with some of the roles or good old fashioned training – it really does make a difference!