During a business event, getting a return on your investment is likely to be your top priority. But when you’re attending the event alongside your staff members then your leadership skills will be put to the test. Here’s some advice on how to prepare for an event with your staff and make sure they you get the most from the day (or weekend).
Some businesses make event and exhibition attendance a necessity for their staff. I consider this to be a mistake for two reasons:
If you give staff the opportunity to make more money over a weekend by assisting with an event then several staff members are likely to step up. If you’re short of people then asking and requesting the support of individuals can make other members feel valued enough to give you their time. Mandatory attendance changes the nature of this relationship, which in turn changes how effectively your stand will function.
Once you have a team in place then get them up-to-speed on the details of the event as early as possible. This could include the different roles people will have (who’s helping to set up, the time rota for attendants) and potentially important information for on the day (where will your stand be?). Find out important details about the venue such as what food and drinks will be available and what you and your team will be doing outside of the event itself. How early will you have to leave? What responsibilities are there to share around with prepping for the event? Will you be hosting a competition or event at the stall and – if so – who will oversee that? There are many questions that should be answered as early as possible to give your staff greater confidence. It’s also fair to set out a range of ground rules for your attendants, like having no mobile phones on the stand or no high heels. Make these kinds of rules very clear before you leave.
Give your staff something to aim for and create a few personally goals for yourself as well. Make these structured and manageable, as well as potentially versatile. If you’re at an event that takes multiple days and you seriously miss your first target after the first then assess what went wrong. Encourage your team to be part of this discussion; it’s likely they noticed something you didn’t. At the end of this analysis, decide for yourself if these goals are possible or if you’re forcing the team to overreach. Causing them to panic under impossible goals isn’t going to represent your company well.
During exhibitions and events you’re likely to be on your feet all day. A recent event I attended was so busy that the entire team were only able to indulge in some biscuits for a snack. There was simply no time for lunch or proper breaks. If your team are going the extra mile then you should really let them know how much it’s appreciated. The business is your baby but to them it’s a job, they deserve ample reward for going above and beyond during an event. Making sure that your staff don’t overstretch themselves is also an important facet of leadership. If an attendant is looking stressed or on edge then encourage them to take a five minute break to go for a walk. They will most likely return feeling less overwhelmed.
A potential reward for your staff for their work doesn’t need to be expensive. After a particularly busy day at an event in the middle of summer, a manager I knew surprised the team by getting them all ice creams. A cheap gesture that nonetheless made everyone feel valued and appreciated for all the work they put in. Give some consideration if there’s something you could do for your team once the event is over, perhaps something extra if your goals were met?
During an event you can tweak your goals and aims but after an event you can work to create an event better stand next year. Once again, your team can have a very important role in identifying areas for improvement, supported by your guidance. Help attendance acknowledge areas of improvement (this could either be through one-on-one sessions or as a group meeting) and learn how you can support their development. Is there any further training that would be relevant? Was anything missing? Were you understaffed? Overstaffed?
This is an important learning curve for your business and bringing together input from your team, whilst overseeing it all, can dramatically increase your abilities at future events.
Through all these phases it’s important to be consistent, set rules at the very beginning and stick to them. If you see behaviour that breaks these rules then you have the option of penalising someone at the event or waiting until you’re back in the office. How you opt to deal with this is down to your judgement and can also depend on how many people you’ve brought to the event.
Stay calm no matter how badly things are going as your team will be turning to you for support. Adjust goals accordingly if you need to, just make sure that the face you’re putting on is open and confident. A change in mood at your stand is likely to make potential clients feel disconcerted or even uncomfortable.
Getting through events like this whilst maintaining confidence and supporting your team is likely to bring everyone together. It can be a great trust exercise and many attendants at exhibitions feel closer to their brand, having just spent a whole weekend talking about it’s strong points! Survive this and you’re likely to have a better team under your management, and you’ll have passed a big test within your leadership role.
Kayleigh Herbertson works with Vufold, who are currently attending more than 10 exhibitions and trade shows every year. That’s a lot of promotion and it takes a tight-knit team!