This week we went to a trade show. We went as potential buyers/customers and were frankly appalled by what we saw. The products and the services were not the problem, it was the people on the stands.
We tried a test out on people. We went past every single exhibition stand slowly. We picked up leaflets.. We even talked to a couple of people. Here is what we found.
- Many people were working on laptops – This says ‘god I am so important. I have to keep in constant touch with the office. I have important emails from the Finance Department to respond to. Damn these people wandering about’
- Many were eating – We know the catering at these places is bloody expensive. We also know they create pretentious titles for what amounts to a boring sandwich. Here is a question. A customer is coming to see you at the office. Would you get out a cheese, bacon. salsa and anchovy baguette and dig in? I DON’T THINK SO…. Don’t eat on the stand.
- Many people were too busy talking to each other to notice us as we wandered by – We get that you need to talk to your colleagues. But really. As customers don’t you feel you could at least look up? Is that too much to ask? Why do you think we were wandering round? Well the surprising answer is that we wanted to meet some new people and to find some interesting ideas.
- People seemed keen to give us chocolates. How odd this is? You wander along minding your own business and some stranger shoves a bowl of chocolates in your face and asks if you would like one. Naturally we take one… And wander off. There is no discussion apart from this. I have a feeling we could stock up for Christmas if we wandered round long enough. In fact, looking at some people there seems to be a game going on. The game is ‘how much stuff can you collect as you go round’. The rules seem to be
- Find someone who is giving away large carrier bags and go there first
- Wander around looking for free stuff
- See if you can fill the bag with sweets, chocolates, stationery, key rings, pens, mints, small creatures on sticks, pretend goldfish, edible medals, stretchy things, people called Colin, posters, books, fake jewelry, memory sticks. (perhaps we made up the bit about people called Colin but the rest is true).
- Leave the building without talking to people
- Empty all the rubbish leaflets you are forced to collect before you go home.
5) We did talk to one or two people. The only way this was possible was to show a passing interest in their leaflets. Some people on the stand simply say ‘would you like a leaflet?’ and hand one over. We would then say thanks and take one. Others would launch into a description of their product or service. See if you can spot what is missing from this interaction. Asking questions seems to be a rare thing at a trade show. The art of discussion or exploration seems to be lost. All they had to do was to start with something like ‘What are you here for’ .. and we would be set up for a decent conversation.
6) No one scanned our visitors badge and only one person asked for a business card. Even the few who engaged with us seemed happy to wish us well without even pretending to want to stay in touch. Surely that is just plain rude.
I don’t know how many stands we walked past. There were many. They were all full of people in suits who were somewhat dehydrated and who seemed to wish they were somewhere else. Many seemed to forget why they were there. They forgot that in that moment they were the company. As customers we make a link between their behaviour and the DNA of the company culture. So the guy working on his laptop works for a company that says ‘we don’t care about customers – our internal stuff is more important’.
If any of you are off to a trade show this week. Test our theory. Oh and don’t forget to collect carrier bags full of people called Colin
In our last blog we offered the opportunity for some free coaching to trial our newly released Executive Presence 360 feedback tool. Do get in touch if that is of interest to you. Several people asked about using the tool internationally. The the offer is only available face to face in the UK but we can use Skype for other locations. We are not translating it into other languages at the moment, but will consider this once the trials are over.
Music in the office this week
The sun has come out. The birds are singing so we have been playing the sound of summer in the office this week. The new Frank Turner album does rather well on this front.