On the eve of the spring exhibition season, we decided to investigate one of the key parameters of work efficiency at the stand - team coherence, which becomes the face of the company during the exhibition. Svyatoslav Kurzner, General Director of CJSC Mobile Exhibition Technologies, Head of the Exhibition Business Department at MBI, talks about the mistakes made by the stand attendants' team and the possibilities for their elimination. It revises traditional approaches and provides practical recommendations for improving efficiency.
“A standman is an employee of a company, seconded to an exhibition, serving a certain area with exhibits and fulfilling the duties associated with the goals of organizing his workplace at the exhibition,” Vladimir Petelin gave this definition in his book, Fundamentals of Exhibition Management. However, the active development of the exhibition business in Russia and the growth of competition have changed the functions of stand-makers and increased the requirements for the work of the exhibition team.
The basis for ineffective participation in the exhibition is several factors.
1. Lack of education for exhibition managers or those people who are considered as such.
2. Weak exhibition policy of the company.
3. Design of the exhibition stand, disposition of the exhibition team and exhibits.
4. “Team management” is still an alien science for the bulk of exhibiting enterprises.
5. Unconscious psychological motives of the standmen, often not taken into account at all.
Knowledge of the fundamentals of exhibition management is still not considered by many exhibitors as mandatory. The management of the exhibition project is either left to the “full cycle” advertising agencies or the company “by themselves”, without any training, grow their own exhibition personnel with all the ensuing consequences. As a rule, after the manager holds a more or less successful exhibition or even two, he immediately begins to look for work with a higher salary. His place is occupied by the following, and everything is repeated. The rotation of personnel is probably a positive process, but its consequences are far from always unambiguous.
Possible solution to the problem
Introduction of the position of “exhibition business manager” at the enterprise, the use of educational programs for training in exhibition management that already exist in Russia, such as the programs of the Academy of National Economy, IPKIR, CCI of the Russian Federation (Moscow), the program of the Department of Exhibition Business, MBI (St. Petersburg) and the Institute exhibition business (Ekaterinburg).
Yes, these educational programs are not perfect in everything and require some refinement and modification. But you can certainly find the right one for advanced training. In addition, self-education should not be ruled out: www.exhibitoronline.com, www.ceir.org and www.edpa.com, where you can find dozens of articles on the exhibition business.
Organization of the exhibition space
The design of the stand, its functional areas, placement of exhibits should work in conjunction with the stand team. How to achieve this?
Possible way to achieve:
- the use of “brainstorming” to create the theme of the exhibition with the involvement of specialists from the marketing department, company management and a team of stand-men. The proposed Lorraine Denham, Creating an Exhibit Theme, Exhibitor Magazine, 2003 The 8 step-by-step formula for creating a «killer’ exposition theme for competitors can be the cornerstone of an exhibition project;
- the team of stand specialists for the first time does not get to the exhibition stand after the installers leave, but connects to the development of the stand and the exposure plan at the initial stage of the project;
- the choice of designers and builders of the exhibition stand is not made three weeks before the exhibition, but involves a long relationship;
- Mandatory inclusion of merchandising specialists in the composition of the participants of the project.
Management of stand team
Employees of most companies, accustomed to working with customers in the office according to a certain algorithm, at the exhibition find themselves in the position of sales assistant of a universal retail store with a constant flow of potential buyers. Psychologically, an even more complicated situation arises when the flow suddenly stops and it is necessary to leave the stand and invite a single visitor. Not everyone can worthily get out of such a psychological "trap".
What to do? How to build a job?
Western team management specialists traditionally, based on Western values, emphasize the individualism of each team member and its development in the process of joint work, which should ultimately bear fruit. However, if we talk about domestic experience, then, unfortunately, many years of observation of the work of poster teams at exhibitions lead to sad conclusions. Post-Soviet individualism is more likely to lead to "collective irresponsibility" for the final result. Here again, it should be noted that it is necessary to understand that exhibitions of different directions require completely different teams and a different approach to their management. If the goal of the exhibition is to attract a large number of new customers, then the team is selected from the employees of the sales department and even from sales representatives. In the latter case, the exhibition management has specific problems, discussed in detail in the article by Sherree R. Curry, “Booth Staff”. It describes seven reasons why sales representatives feel rather uncomfortable at the exhibition, while the author provides a list of reasonable advice for resolving conflict situations.
Possible solution to the problem:
- the formation of a permanent poster team;
- careful selection among the employees of the enterprise of the leader of the poster team with an exceptional set of personal and professional qualities and endowed with certain powers;
- Regular trainings of the poster team with the involvement of a wide range of specialists and psychologists;
- development of a special reward system for members of the poster team;
- development of standards describing goals, objectives, responsibilities, speech modules and reporting methodology for the results of the exhibition;
- Modern authors of motivation theories focus on the emotional component of work and believe that not only organizations should pay attention to the motives of employees, but in turn, each employee must consciously manage their motivation, control and maintain their emotional mood. The exhibition itself is so short that the maximum effect can be achieved only with the highest emotional recovery, increased concentration of attention and a heightened sense of responsibility.
Unconscious motives of behavior
Doug MacLean, president of MacLean Marketing (Columbia, South Carolina), a consultancy and training company in trade shows, calls insignificant and barely noticeable misconducts by staff as an exposition. He is convinced that "the worst lies in the hidden and unconscious behavior of the staff, because they can harm you so that you do not even know what the reason is." Surveys conducted by the Chicago Center for the Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) show that 60% of visitors attach great importance to personal communication with the booth staff. Charles Pappas (Seven Sneaky Ways Exhibit Staff Sabotages Your Booth) in his article "Seven Tricky Ways Exposition Staff Sabotages Your Booth" analyzed the opinions of experts on the behavioral problems of the stand team on a wealth of material from many exhibitions.
Consider these behavioral problems in relation to Russian exhibition reality.
Pairing. When visitors see the booth employees at a distance of about 50 cm from each other, they automatically avoid coming up, assuming that there is some kind of private conversation. A similar picture can often be observed at domestic exhibitions.
Congestion. Workers who are too shy or not too interested in communicating with visitors gather in a group to make it look like a meeting, for example. Quite often, this is, unfortunately, a completely natural process, for example, when someone from the company’s management appears on the stand. In domestic practice, this situation has a shade of understandable mentality: “we are all here, we all work!”
Zoning. Each employee of the poster team has its own comfortable communication zone. As long as you do not get into it, it seems that you do not exist. Matt Hill, a Hill Group employee, calls the phenomenon "Harry Porter's Invisible Cloak." The reverse side of this coin: too zealous, but poorly trained employees of your booth with forced smiles rush towards each visitor walking along the aisle with the duty phrase: “Could I help you?” As a rule, the average visitor is frightened and dissolves in the aisle.
Demonstration of the back. Wrong choice of exhibits, oversaturation of the stand and stupid location create additional opportunities for staff to “ignore” visitors.
Security. This is an option of psychological protection, designed to not work with visitors. Try to break through a dense chain of standmen standing with one foot (just in case!) In the aisle. In part, this can be justified by the presence of fairly small and expensive exhibits at the stand, as well as the absence of a utility room. At the same time, the organizers of the exhibition, with enviable constancy, make announcements on the radio every half an hour: "Watch your things." However, these excuses do not increase the efficiency of the exhibition!
The effect of "inguinal attack" in the style of Elvis Presley. Two-three of tall guys, stand employees, with their hands behind their backs, stand and sway from heels to toes. Have you watched? Obviously, this behavior is not neglect, but a manifestation of fatigue, but it makes an extremely negative impression on visitors!
And, finally, personal observations, I admit, are often specially provoked.
An attempt to obtain information about the presented product usually is downloaded quite successfully. True, if you need serious consultation on the spot, the qualifications of stand-up staff are often not enough. I ask a simple question about the comparative characteristics of this product and a similar one at the stand of a competitor opposite. Instant and inexplicable vicious reaction: “Here you go, man !!! And ask! ”Comments are unnecessary.
Possible solution to the problem:
- psychological testing of the poster team in preparation for the exhibition, business games;
- video filming during the exhibition by outsiders and post-exhibition analysis. It is advisable to demonstrate to the staff his behavior after the first exhibition day. However, this can cause negative consequences in the form of even more unnatural behavior;
- constant monitoring of personnel by the head of the stand and soft adjustment;
- during the exhibition, almost without violating the exposure, you can adjust the arrangement of exhibits, personnel and work schedules. Given the expected large flow of visitors, it is necessary to increase the number of personnel and provide for a work shift schedule;
- for various reasons there are inexpressibly boring exhibitions. In this case, it is possible to recommend various competitions between standmen, for example, for the best contact with a prospective client with a prize.
Nevertheless, I would like to finish on an optimistic note. The time is not far off when the "seconded" specialists will have sufficient knowledge and experience to perform complex work efficiently, and exhibitions will turn from high-cost events into highly effective ones.
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