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Transforming Your Team Into Confident Exhibitors

Role playing is among the valuable tools for new travelers

Mary Margaret Hogan
Mary Margaret Hogan
Confident Exhibitors

Thriving in trade show settings may not come as naturally for some as it does for others. In fact, more often than not, it is the most daunting ask of most employees. Hitting the phones all day long? No problem. Crafting up elaborate drip campaigns? Easy. However, when it comes to breaking the fourth wall of customer interaction and meeting new potential customers (most known as ‘strangers’) at an accelerated rate? Now, that’s terrifying.

With the mortgage industry running on such a tightly packed trade show schedule, it is of utmost importance to ensure that all your available team members are ready and able to step up to the plate and tackle the scary trade show floor. Too often, you have your pros — the sales and marketing folks who find ease and comfort being thrown into middle of a jam-packed conference and take pride in adding more and more trade shows to their belt — but it can’t just be left to the regulars alone.

Attending trade shows is a crucial tool for gathering up new leads and/or rounding out one’s pipeline. It cannot be solely carried by four or five all-stars within a company. But how can one ensure the ease and success of newer traveling team members?

It all begins with training. Prior to even assigning shows, all potential participants should attend educational sessions led by sales leads, business development, or marketing team members who feel most comfortable around trade shows. In this workshop environment, seasoned exhibitors can facilitate group discussions surrounding navigating challenges one may experience at the booth, hiccups that can occur on the floor, or conversations that need to be steered away from turning sour. These conversations will normalize any nerves and eradicate any fear newcomers may hold. The wealth of experience and knowledge from veteran exhibitors, while sharing the highs and lows of the trade show lifestyle, is invaluable to those who haven’t yet had the opportunity on the exhibition floor.

This hands-on-training method also provides a unique space to run scenario-based training, where team members are given the opportunity to role-play as both trade show attendees and exhibitors. Enactments could include challenging the exhibitor role to get the attention of passersby, answering a series of difficult questions, and balancing the attention of multiple conference attendee characters, and more. In some cases, hesitancy to volunteer for trade shows derives merely from a case of stage fright. Your team knows the products like the back of their hand; however, when put on the spot in a sea of new faces, they fear they could freeze up.

Scenario-based training, though painful at times, could be just the solution for nerves. At first, an improvised scene may feel a little unnatural in a business setting, but the lessons learned being pushed outside your comfort zone in this safe setting will translate to future trade show travels.

Get There And Back

Once trade shows have been assigned to a newly trained exhibitor, it is imperative to ensure they are amply educated about the requirements of the show. This can begin with something as simple as the audience attending the show: Which products will they find interesting? How are they going to use them? Is this a broker-heavy show or more investor-driven? Are they well-versed in the mortgage industry, or will they need more basic explanations of what we do as an exhibitor? The answers to these questions will provide new traveling team members with a preview of what potential conversations they may have and will assist them in preparing more thoroughly.

With travel logistics, naturally, it’s necessary to provide their transportation schedule, but never assume that everyone knows the basics of getting to and from places. From the check-in policy for airlines to the requirements for picking up a rental car, it’s best to cover all facets of travel so the team member isn’t caught in a dire travel situation.

As you move into the show schedule rundown, emphasize the expectations of timeliness, as well as the importance of each occasion. No networking stone should be left unturned, as the motto is: “If it is on the itinerary, you’re going to it.” Once these team members are given their itinerary, they should recognize it is their responsibility to transform this show into a valuable trip.

The final step of the training process involves sending the novice traveler onto the road. However, it doesn’t have to be jarring. When sending a first-time trade show traveler, one should do everything in their power to staff the show with a veteran for coaching purposes. Adding a team member who feels extremely comfortable traveling and speaking at the booth will not only help the novice exhibitor feel far more at ease but will grant them opportunities to observe a professional in the field. The veteran exhibitor should be knowledgeable of the beginner’s strengths and weaknesses throughout their training and act as a guide and resource throughout the exhibition’s run. As the show progresses, ideally, the novice adjusts as needed in their approach, while the veteran takes a step back from the coaching role, allowing the novice to transform into a confident exhibitor.

Measure Performance

Upon returning from the show, it is best to have some key performance indicators (KPIs) already instilled to evaluate the performance of the newest trade show traveler. While they do not have to be metrically driven, these KPIs should include analyzing the team member’s preparedness, knowledge, and presentation of the product, willingness to network, and overall improvement from the start of their training process to the end of the trade show.

Once more, the skill of being an exhibitor at a trade show and tackling all the networking hurdles that come with it varies for each individual and may take longer for some employees to get accustomed to. That being said, checking in on their performance post-trade show will assist in deciding if they need some more time getting comfortable or if they’re ready to tackle the conference on their own as a trade show pro.

While many may think it’s just as easy and instructive to throw a new team member into the wild of a trade show floor, demystifying the exhibitor experience well before a new traveling team member’s journey provides comfort and confidence that will carry with them for the rest of their professional endeavors. Constructing a training routine that emphasizes education and personal preparedness for all who set out on the trade show tour will not only maximize individual lead generation, but eventually, foster a well-versed travel team that can conquer the scary trade show floor together. 

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine September 2023 issue.
Mary Margaret Hogan
Mary Margaret Hogan,
Event Marketing Specialist

Mary Margaret Hogan is an event marketing specialist at RCN Capital.

Published on
Sep 18, 2023
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