Thursday, January 28, 2016

How To Get To Work at Super Bowl City On Time...

Those of us who live in San Francisco are already experiencing the traffic jams and construction delays created to accommodate Super Bowl City.  We're used to huge conventions and events clogging the streets and we know how to adjust our commutes accordingly.  The Super Bowl is expecting well over a million people to come to town, and most of them will want to visit the few square blocks where you will be working.

Unless you have a client paying $1000/night for you to stay close or have a good friend's couch to crash on, you will be commuting to work using something other than your feet.  For those of you traveling in for SB50 and staying more than three miles from your footprint, you might want to take some notes.

Getting There:

--Traffic will be at a standstill from early in the morning to well after dark.  Downtown is already gridlocked all day, and it's only January.

--Your commute time will quadruple.  It doesn't matter what says, a 15 minute bus ride is going to take an hour when the event opens.  MUNI, BART and Caltrain are notorious for being late and I expect them to live up to their reputations over the next two weeks.

---MUNI will be jammed. It might take several buses passing you that are full before one stops to let you on.  Have correct change ready for the bus as the driver does not carry any money.  Consider purchasing a week pass if you plan to use MUNI exclusively.

--MUNI does not go into the event itself, all lines down Market Street have been rerouted.  You will have to get out and walk the last few blocks.  

--BART is extending service and train length, but the cars will still be packed.  Check to see if the trains are even running when you are working.  They do NOT run 24-hours.  You don't want to miss the last train home, or have call time an hour before the first train runs.

--Caltrain is wonderful to get up and down The Peninsula, but if one train goes down, you're stuck.  This happens weekly.  They only run once an hour during non-peak times.

-- Fare police will be at all major stops to check for proof of purchase.  The City just spent $5M on this event, I'm sure they will want recoup some of this money issuing tickets to fare jumpers $75 at a time.

--Planning to drive in? Don't. All the lots will be full by 8 AM, and if you do find a lot, it's going to be at triple the rate. Parking for the World Series was $100 a day, eight blocks away from the ballpark. BART parking lots are full by 7 AM, so if you plan to drive to BART, get there before dawn or take an Uber to the station.

--Speaking of Uber...Thinking of taking an Uber into work?  Nope. You will be stuck in a traffic jam for hours, and Uber will be surge pricing. Your Agency isn't going to accept a $117 Uber ride. 

Once you actually get TO Super Bowl City, you aren't in the clear...

--There will be security screening EVERYWHERE. This will add time to get to your footprint. Metal detectors, bag searches, dogs sniffing, etc. will be checking everyone who comes in the area. 

--Know what you can and cannot bring into secure areas.  Unless you have specific credentials, leave everything possible at home.  Check here to see what cannot be brought into Super Bowl City.

--There will be lines. Long lines. Lines for everything.  The lines for the bathroom will be legendary.  Plan ahead.

-- You might want to bring a lunch because I don't really see you wanting to spend 35 minutes of your 30 minute lunch break standing in line for a $10 piece of pizza. Find somewhere to sit down so you can enjoy every minute of your breaks and get back on time. Your Agency and coworkers will thank you. So will your feet and back.

Think you have it all figured out?  Good.

BUT WAIT!!  There's MORE!!

Along with the absolute nightmare that will be your commute to work the Super Bowl events, there are huge protests scheduled over the entire ten days.  

We protest here in San Francisco.  It's what we do.  

The City is furious at its officials about certain issues and tens of thousands of people will be taking to the streets, right outside Super Bowl City and surrounding areas.  


Bring the camera.  

Watch the First Amendment in action.

And when the protests start, they will likely shut down any road you think you can get on to get to work via your own car, bus, or train. The last protest shut down the Bay Bridge for hours during Rush Hour. I wouldn't be surprised if they did it again.  Most are organized and announced well in advance, but others pop up unexpectedly.  

Local legend Broke-Ass Stuart and the Coalition On Homelessness are organizing their protest to be right outside Super Bowl City.  Find out more here.  And you might as well follow BAS for more announcements about other events--including free or cheap things to do while you are in town!

I'm not trying to be negative and discourage anyone, but it would certainly suck if you were released from your job because you couldn't get to work on time and your backup was there and took your place. That would be really horrible if you are from out of town and couldn't pick up something for the 10 days you are here.  Plan ahead.  Make tons of money.  Be safe.

Above all, have FUN!

Life Is Good.  Life is better when you get paid to work an amazing event in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Hit a Home Run at Every Event

Baseball Season is in full swing across the country, so it's time to revisit of one of my favorite movies, "Bull Durham," and apply its wisdom to Fall Trade Show Season.

Often a client will ask a Brand Ambassador, Trade Show Model, or other hired staff how she is doing and how the event is going.  Too often the employee makes the fatal mistake of telling the truth and giving an honest answer.

Don't fall into that trap!  It's a set up!!!

The Client does not care that the hours are long, that you are hungry, that your feet hurt, that you are cold, that you have to pee, or that you haven't slept for three days because you have been onsite 20+ hours a day.  The Client wants to hear that you are thrilled to be there, that everything is running smoothly with your team and that you couldn't be more pleased with this opportunity.  Really.  That's the correct answer.

The movie quote goes:

I'm just happy to be here.  Hope I can help the ballclub.  I just want to give it my best shot, and the good Lord willing, things will work out.

Watch the movie and learn what this means.

Be happy.  Be part of the team.  Be optimistic that this will be a great event.  And by no means complain to the client about anything.  EVER.

You have channels to go through if there is something wrong, or you feel something could be improved.  Never, ever tell your client that you haven't had a break or ask when you will get one.  If you need a break, talk to your Team Lead.  If you feel that your Team Lead is being unfair, then power through the day and call your Agency Representative or Account Manager after your shift and explain the situation.

The client does not really care that you are cold and your feet hurt.  You are supposed to be experienced in your position, you should be prepared for long days in less than perfect weather conditions.  If you are cold, everyone is cold, and telling the client this really does not create sympathy for you, it only makes you sound like one more person complaining about the event. 

Here's the tricky one:  If the client asks you how you would improve or change the current execution of the event, be very, VERY careful of your answer.  Hopefully, you can defer to your Team Lead or Account Manager for suggestions.   But, if you are put on the spot, respond with a positive answer and small tip.  Sure, it was probably a dumb idea to have five girls stand outdoors for 14 hours in the freezing cold in nothing but a tank top and shorts, but telling your client how stupid it was will not earn you any points. 

Instead, suggest something positive.  For example, "Well, I noticed that there are large groups of people over there by the heat lamps.  Perhaps a few of us could take turns approaching the crowd and telling them about our product ."  You have proposed a solution that compliments what the client already has in place, and doesn't make you sound like a whiner. 

So …when asked,  “And how are you doing?”  The answer is:

 "I am thrilled to be working for you, love that I am part of the Team, and hope I am making a positive contribution to your event."

Now … Play Ball!

Life Is Good.  Life is better when you hit home runs every time you step up to the plate.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Importance of Being Loyal to Your Agencies...

Let's say that I own an Agency.

I have two clients who need one girl each to work a Trade Show.  I hire Mary for one booth and Susan for the other.

Both girls are fantastic and get rave reviews for their work.  Both girls are approached by other, separate, Booth Managers on the Show Floor and asked if they are available for their own upcoming shows. 

Mary takes the business card of the respective Booth Manager, and hands her one for my Agency, with her name written on the back.

Susan also takes a business card, but instead of handing her one of mine, she gives her one of her own and says she would like to work direct.

Susan has just violated her contract with my Agency...more on that later.

Mary scans the business card and emails the lead to me.  I follow up with the client, and find that they do several shows a year, but only one in Mary's location.  Because of my Agency's generous commission for lead referrals, I book those shows in different locations, giving Mary First Right of Refusal to work the shows if she is available, along with a cash bonus for her referral.

Mary is now in excellent standing with my Agency and is at the top of my list for any upcoming shows.  As she continues to work together with my Agency and our clients, including those she has brought in on her own, I begin to push our clients to have her flight and hotel covered for their other shows across the country, as she has proven herself to be a loyal asset to all of us.  Mary is now working regularly, making thousands of dollars a month.

Susan pursues her lead on her own.  She secures a show and works it.  Because Susan has many friends in the Trade Show Industry, she talks about how she got this position and it gets back to me.  I then take her to court to recover my financial losses, as is written in the contract that she originally signed. 

But it doesn't stop there.  

For some reason, Susan is having problems getting paid from her client.  Because she doesn't have a legal contract from my Agency to protect her, even if she has drafted one of her own, she now must take the client to court--while at the same time she is in court with me--to collect her payment.  The costs associated with these legal actions are more than what Susan would have made at the show if she had passed the lead to me.  Actually, she made "negative money" by the time her attorneys take their fees.  And while she is in court, she isn't working shows, so she is losing even more money.

If you think it stops there, I'm afraid I have more bad news for Susan.

I know just as many people in the Industry as Susan, and have a close relationship with many other Agency Owners.  I contact those owners and tell them the whole story, and now they don't want to hire her either as she is a risk to their profits too.

It's a year later, the same show is in town, and my original two clients are hiring.  I book Mary again for her original position.  My other client asks if Susan is available and I say no.  Instead, I staff someone else who has proven trust and loyalty to me.  Both clients are happy, and the show goes on.

Susan cannot find work with any of the other Agencies who hire for that show either, as they know of her reputation and will not book her.  So while Mary is working inside comfortably for a repeat client at $250 min./day, paid within 30 days, the only work Susan can find is distributing flyers outside the Convention Center for $20/hr. with a no-name Agency where she has to fight for 90+ days to get her check.

Mary can now plan her schedule in advance for the next full year with shows, as she knows that I will book her for every show that she has worked for me as well as all of her other Agencies. 

Susan is applying every day for anything that comes her way, her work schedule is not secure, and she can't plan anything more than a month or two in advance.

And to put the icing on the proverbial cake, let's flash forward 10 years...

Mary is ready to make a career change.  Because she has been such a good employee, I offer her a full-time position as an Account Manager with my Agency--benefits, 401K, generous commission, and the choice to work whatever shows she wants.  She works from home, travels when she wants on my dime, has a family, and is financially secure.  She has earned it.

And where is Susan?  Still handing out flyers, maybe managing a few teams here and there, and complaining that no one will hire her.  She is struggling to pay her bills, has to buy her own insurance and wonders how she is going to feed her kids.  Yes, she has earned that, too.

You have a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to the Agencies who book you to take the High Road and honor the relationship you have built with each other.  Do this, and you will succeed.  Don't, and you will find yourself outside in the cold, looking in at those who are successful and wishing you were there too.

Life is Good.  Life is better when we all remain professional.

Monday, September 16, 2013

So You Want to be A Trade Show Model Part III...The Team Lead...

Oracle Open World is coming in a week.  Oracle is the second-largest Convention in San Francisco, and one of the largest Trade Shows of the year.  Thousands of Support Staff will be hired for this show, and chances are, you will have an opportunity to be a Team Lead or Booth Manager.  Whether you are new to Management or a seasoned pro, below is a general description of how I view being the Lead, and how I have managed some of the most successful teams at this, and other Trade Shows.

Main Job Responsibility:

Juggler and Mom.

Job Description:

At a Trade Show Booth, you can be responsible for 2-20 Team Members.  Many people I have worked for just view a Manager spot as someone who checks people in and out each shift, sends people on breaks, and sits behind the scenes or at the desk, delegating duties and jobs that they don’t want to do to someone else lower on the Totem Pole.  The common misconception is that the staff is working at the show for you.  Nope.  Once those doors open, you must realize that you are working for THEM.

Being a Team Lead is like being a Juggler.  You have to keep all the balls in the air and going.  If you have ever watched a really good juggler work, it is fascinating.  Watch his eyes.  He never looks at one individual ball, it is a synchronized system...everything is seen at once.  If he spends too much time concentrating on one ball, he loses sight of the others and the whole set comes crashing down.  It's all about making sure every ball gets equal attention, and about seeing the whole picture and system.  Now imagine a Juggler who can keep a bowling ball, tennis ball, golf ball and a few other sized objects going successfully while walking up stairs.  Now you have an idea of what management is like on a Trade Show Floor.

You must do absolutely everything in your power to give your Team the opportunity for THEM look good.  If they don't look good, guess who's fault it is?  YOURS.  Don't let that happen.

How to be a Good Team Lead:

Just like the Juggler who has different sized objects to juggle, each of your staff is different and needs to be treated differently.  It is your job to figure out what the individual personalities and skill sets of your Team are and make sure only the strongest qualities are displayed.

And how do you do that?

1.  Become a Mom.

Your Team Members become part of your family.  You teach them how to do their tasks better.  You reassure them that they are doing great.  You comfort them when they are upset.  You correct them when they err.  And sometimes you have to discipline them when they misbehave.  Because, just like kids, your staff will try and get away with anything they can until you put your foot down.

You have to be fair to each one of your Team Members equally.  No favorites.  No one gets special privileges.  A good Mom does not love one of her kids more than the rest and neither should you.  This is especially difficult when you have friendships with some of your Team Members outside of work, as I do.  When a new person joins your team, that person needs to know that just because you were the Maid-of-Honor in Ashley's wedding, that Ashley won't get an extra break and a pass on her turn at emptying the wastebasket.  Favoritism can cause morale to crash quickly and you will have a Mutiny on your hands in no time.

2.  Encourage Individual Personalities and Strengths.

Each one of us has a Gift.  It is your job to figure out what this Gift is in each of your Team Members and essentially, exploit the heck out of it.

Just like the Juggler, you are keeping different objects in play.  One person on your team might be a better Crowd Gatherer than the others, while another might be a better Product Specialist.  One person might have the energy level of an A.D.D. Third-Grader on a sugar high, and another might be more reserved.  A good Team Lead, just like a Mom, will let the staff express these skills naturally and then reward them for shining through.  Use those strengths to the Team's advantage.  Put the high-energy person out front to greet everyone en masse and herd the Attendees towards the booth.  Station the Crowd Gatherer at the entrance of the Theater area to make people sit down for the Presentation and scan badges.  Have the Product Specialist qualify Leads and introduce Attendees to the Sales Staff.  And have the mellower person in charge of premium distribution and the overall cleanliness of the booth.

Most importantly, make sure you take part in doing each of these jobs yourself.  Never ask a Team Member to do something that you aren't seen doing regularly.  It is good to delegate, but make sure you participate.  Your Team needs to know that you are in the trenches with them too, not just in the back of the booth drinking coffee and chatting with the Client.

3.  Designate a Right-Hand.

The Juggler is not perfect.  Every now and then a ball comes out of play and rolls off.  Instead of stopping all the rest of the balls to retrieve the one that got away, a Juggler will ask someone to retrieve the ball and gently toss it back into play.  The person you can trust to toss that ball back in is your Right-Hand.

If you have more than four people on your staff, you are going to need a Right-Hand.  This is the person who will be your go-to when you are unavailable, and someone you implicitly trust.  If you are tied up with the Client or Show Management and a Team Member needs an emergency trip to the bathroom, your Right-Hand will be the person to check in and out with.  That way when you become available and notice Sally is nowhere to be seen, your Right-Hand knows where she is.  This person will also cover your duties when you leave the booth for your break, or will retrieve lunch or coffee for you if you can't get away.

The Client

Now that our Juggler has all the balls going in the air and everything is running smoothly,  The Client will inevitably come in and change things around.  You didn't think I forgot about the Juggler walking up the stairs, did you?

The Trade Show Floor is a dynamic and fluid environment.  It matters not how well you prepare sometimes.  When those doors open, everything can change in a moment, and you had better be able to adapt.

Most of the time, it isn't the Client's fault that things have to change.  Show Management regularly visits my booth to throw the proverbial wrench in the well-oiled machine we have running.  Neighboring booths complain that the staff is too far in the aisles gathering crowds and scanning badges and that no one is visiting their own booths.  As if it's my fault that I have such a strong and talented team and they don't?  No.  Can't say that.  So you pull the Team back into the booth and regularly patrol the area making sure that no one goes out of bounds and gets a $20,000 fine slapped on the bill.

Sometimes your Client will come by during the busiest part of the show and "borrow" one of your staff to assist her in another area of the booth for a few hours.  Yup, she just snatched a ball out of the Juggler's hand, and he had better keep the flow going.  Shorthanded now?  Tough.  Deal with it and remember to keep your Team looking good.

And sometimes, the Client will need you to do something on top of everything else that is going on.  Coordinate a 1500 person meeting that is taking place in 10 minutes on the other side of the Convention Center?  Absolutely!  Throw a chain saw into the mass of different sized balls, our Juggler won't blink. You catch the eye of your Right-Hand from 30 feet away, and after a five second Pitcher-Catcher type exchange of hand signals, you are out the door on the heels of your Client.

You have given your staff encouragement, preparation, and a healthy dose self-esteem to make them know that they can be the best for the next three days.  And when those doors open and the Attendees rush in, you hold your breath and watch them go, just like a Mom watching her child climb the stairs of the school bus.  All you can do now is support, support, support.

Management can be fun and rewarding...but the thing to remember is that you are nothing, NOTHING without your Team.  Build a good one, and you will advance as they do.  Together.  And that's really what being part of a Team is all about, isn't it?  

Life is Good.  Life is better when you are a part of something greater than yourself.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Evolution and the Booth Babe...

I just finished Presenting at DAC for one of my favorite Clients.  Great show, well attended, my booth was packed, and my Client was thrilled.

As someone who is used to the usual Trade Show routine and sights—iPad giveaways, boring PowerPoint Presentations, Attendees stuffing their bags full of useless swag—one thing was noticeably absent…

Where were the Booth Babes?

It never fails that one attends any Trade Show without seeing groups of women dressed—by their CLIENT—in an outfit that I would never, ever, wear in public unless I was being handsomely paid.  Some Clients still think that to get the most number of people in their booth, they have to have women show as much skin as possible.  OK, sex sells.  They are right…somewhat.

As the show prepared to open, I watched the Usual Suspects—women I work shows with regularly—take their positions dressed in a company polo and black slacks, or a business suit, or business casual clothes in the Client’s colors.  No skin showing?  Really?  No micro-mini tank dress wearing woman in 7” stilettos teetering down the aisle with her butt hanging out of her dress and her breasts bursting out of the front?  Nowhere.  Hmmm…  Could I be working in a Booth Babe-Free Zone? 

And then there she was…

In true Booth Babe style, a pretty young lady stepped into the front of her booth, dressed in a halter top and “skirt” that was animal print fabric and tied together to give her a Cavewoman appearance.

The Token Booth Babe.

The show started and I didn’t get a chance to see what kind of crowd was gathering around her booth, as mine was constantly packed with Attendees and Speakers, and all I was wearing was a Black Power Suit and green blouse.  Hmmm….

As the day progressed, many Attendees made comments about the BB, asking if I saw her, what did I think, etc.  They made jokes about her outfit and commented that she, unlike me, was obviously not a real part of the company, that she was hired just for this show. 

Really?  I was hired just for this show.  And yet, everyone thinks I’m part of the company.  Hmmm…

I was in the ladies’ room on the second day when the young BB came in to fix her costume and I struck up a conversation with her.  She was exhausted and frowning, and we talked for about 10 minutes about various Trade Shows we have worked, favorite Clients, etc., and her current gig as a Cavewoman.

She was absolutely mortified about her outfit.  Apparently, she was hired by her Agency to do the usual gig—smile, greet Attendees, scan badges.  It wasn’t until the evening before the show that she found out that she was wearing the costume.  Since she had already signed the contract and it was less than 24 hours to the show open, she couldn’t refuse without damaging her reputation.  So she did what most of us do and showed up with a smile on her face and did her job.

One particular thing that she said really stood out:

I am being treated so poorly by the Attendees.  I approach them and try to pitch the product and they say to me, “Oh, honey, you are too pretty to be an Engineer, what would you be able to tell me about the product dressed like THAT.  Where’s your boss?  I have some questions that he can answer.”


She continued to vent to me that she is in her last semester of college, graduating with Honors from a 4-year University.  She works part time as a Trade Show Model to pay her tuition and get some experience within her field of study.  She was mortified that she not only was wearing this cheap costume, but that she was the ONLY woman at the show dressed inappropriately.

I gave her a hug and told her that it was only another day and to just think of the paycheck and of graduation on the horizon.

The rest of the show, many Attendees and Exhibitors continued to make snarky remarks about her.  I reminded each of them that she is a student putting herself through college and that the CLIENT dressed her like that, it was not her choice.  I also suggested that they go over to the booth and voice their opinion to the company employees themselves that the choice of clothing for their Trade Show Support Staff was inappropriate.  And they did!!

Ironically, my Client sits on the Board of Directors for DAC.  It seems that when this woman arrived at her booth, it caused an even bigger stir than we had heard.  The company was strongly reprimanded for their choice of wardrobe for their Support Staff, and was almost kicked out of the show.  It took some serious negotiating on their part to not be thrown out, and they now have it in their contract to NOT provide attire like this for next year’s show.

And there you have it.  No Booth Babes at DAC next year.

Is this a good thing?  Are we women finally getting some respect for what we do week after week in the Trade Show Industry?

Maybe…depends who you are asking and what kind of Trade Show it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem with young women making money by dressing in a costume and parading around a Client’s booth—when it is an appropriate show to do so.  NACS is a show that is known for having more skin showing than a Vegas nightclub.  The Gaming Conventions have women dressed up as characters from the latest video games.  No problem here!  Thigh-high boots and glitter to sell RockStar Energy Drinks at a consumer retail show?  Sure.  Make that money, girl! 

I have even been known to dress up in a Cigarette Girl costume and hand out samples at a show or two, and had a great time doing it.  But certainly not at a Tech Show for a Power Client.

As we are learning, there are certain shows where this type of marketing is just not welcomed, and severely frowned upon.  The Technology Industry is very conservative, and it just isn’t necessary to have a girl in a bikini trying to sell you the latest in Big Data Storage.  Think of all the attention the booth would get with that combination, and all the inappropriate jokes that can be made.  Yet, the Big Names in the Tech Industry simply won’t take that kind of approach to their Trade Show Marketing.  You aren’t going to see Power Clients such as EMC, HP, Cisco, Intel and Brocade pushing a sexy agenda.  They just don’t need to.

There is a time and place for everything, and for every type of marketing.  I’m happy to see women making money on the Trade Show Floor in all types of  environments.  And I am particularly thrilled that women are beginning to be taken seriously for what we are:  Presenters, Lead Generators, Product Specialists, and Trade Show Support Staff.

Woo Hoo!!

Now if we can just do something about that Size XL men’s polo shirt I have to wear next week…  Sigh…

Life is Good.  Life is better when your Industry evolves.

Monday, April 22, 2013

So You Want to be a Trade Show Model? Part II...The Crowd Gatherer...

Over the next few blogs I will break down the job responsibilities and expectations of each Trade Show Model position from my point of view and experience.  I'll try to give tips and tricks to help you become successful in each.  

Keep in mind that you might also be wearing multiple hats at one show, which is completely normal.

The Crowd Gatherer:

Being a Crowd Gatherer is perhaps the hardest of all the Trade Show Model positions.  Not everyone is cut out to be a TS Model, and of that small number, only about 10% can be a good Crowd Gatherer.

It also happens to be my favorite of all the positions.

Main Job Responsibility:

We call it, “Butts in Seats.”

Job Description:

The most important part of your job is to fill a theater for your Presenter so that when he or she steps up on stage to Present, there is a full crowd.  Not a half-filled theater, not people milling about and stopping for a few moments to watch, but FULL. 

It’s a particular mindset that you have to get yourself into to be able to check your ego at the door and not take it personally when 95% of the crowd says no.  You need to be able to convince them that yes, indeed, they do want to hear what your Presenter has to say.  With a smile.

You typically have less than five minutes every half hour or hour to take an empty theater (5-30 seats) and fill it. 

Butts in seats.  Butts in seats.  Butts in seats. 

And when the Presenter starts, your job doesn’t stop, you keep going, having people join in and watch the show in progress. 

Scan badge, sit them down, next.  Scan badge, sit them down, next.  Seats are full, keep gathering, have them stand and watch. Your goal is a Standing Room Only crowd, every show, every day.

And don’t forget to smile.  Always.  Attendees don’t respond well to frumpy faces.

The Presenter:

The Presenter is hired for one purpose—to deliver the Client’s Message. 

I’ve worked for some of the best, from magicians and jugglers and other Specialty Entertainers to straight verbal Presenters.  And I’ve worked for some pretty awful ones too. 

The good ones will help you gather when they can, making small talk once you get the first few Attendees to sit down to help hold the crowd, or do little magic tricks on the side before starting the official show.  Some will even go out into the aisles with you and help call Attendees into the booth.  They are in effect doing double duty and deserve all of your respect.

The Presenter is the reason you have a job, and once you get comfortable with that idea, the rest is easy.  Coordinate your lunch with the Presenter.  If there are two CG’s you can actually take a full lunch, separately, of course.  If not, you go to lunch five minutes after your Presenter is done with the show, and get back five minutes before the next one starts.  Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to leave your Presenter to gather a crowd or Present a show alone.  Sometimes this means you only get a couple of twenty minute breaks on a nine hour show day.  That’s the way it goes.  Don’t like it?  Well….tough.  Maybe Crowd Gathering isn’t for you.  It’s rare that this happens, but it can, so be prepared for it if it does.

How to be a good Crowd Gatherer:

Getting the First Attendee to sit down is always the hardest.  An experienced CG will learn how to spot the Easy Marks—the ones who will probably say yes because you are giving them swag, and focus on them first.  It’s almost an animal-like instinct you have to develop…Hunter and Prey.  Pick the weakest ones off first, work on the harder ones later.

A good CG can learn how to pick off three or four Attendees at a time, making the job a little easier and the theater fuller faster. 

You will probably have some sort of bribe to get them into the booth:  Swag such as t-shirts or other trinkets, prizes at the end of the show or day, free drink tickets, whatever.  Your swag is your weapon.  Use it wisely.  Don’t run out of swag halfway through Day Two or you will be screwed trying to get a crowd on Day Three.  A good CG can monitor the swag levels to make sure it never runs out until she wants it to.

Never ask Attendees if they would like to watch a presentation.  Tell them to watch it:

"Hi!  Come watch our Five Minute Presentation!  Have a seat.  Here’s a shirt."

Keep it simple and they will do what you tell them.

Learn to walk backwards in heels as you guide them into the booth.  A good CG never stands in place—she is out in the aisles, herding Attendees into the booth with open, waving arms and a huge, welcoming smile. 

Do what you have to do to get them to sit down.  Stand in front of them and block their path down the aisle.  There are no rules here, do whatever it takes short of promising them a million dollars and dinner with you.  I never consider a show a success unless Show Management pops into my booth to tell me that I’m being too loud or going too far into the aisle to get Butts in Seats.  Push the limits as far as you can without getting in serious trouble.  Smile at Show Management when they scold you and apologize.  Then go back to what you were doing.

Five Minute Presentation:

The Presentation is always Five Minutes.  Always.  I don’t care if the Presenter is going to talk for twenty, NEVER tell them anything other than it is Five Minutes.  They won’t sit down for twenty minutes, but everyone has five minutes to spare.

Yes, LIE!  They will forgive you once you give them their swag.  Just make sure you smile when you do it.

Want proof of the Five Minute rule?  Watch Leslie Chambers crowd gather for one of her presentations.  She is the Best in the business, and I learned from her.  One of the biggest compliments I have received was from a different Presenter who knew I was exhausted and on my last show of the day.  I knew I couldn’t let this theater only fill up half-way, so I reached into my Bingo Fuel Tank and kept going.  My Presenter said, “Wow.  You sound just like Leslie right now.”  Now THAT means you are doing it right.

Down Time:

There is no Down Time.  Once the theater empties and everyone has their prizes and their badges are all scanned, you have other duties.  Set the chairs straight.  Pick up the leaflets and any trash on the floor.  Check in with your Presenter to see if everything is OK.  Bring the Attendees deeper into the booth and introduce them to the Sales Staff.  Stock swag for the next show.  Make sure your client is happy and has water, coffee, a drink, or whatever else might be needed.  Go and get what is needed.  Make sure your shirt is still tucked in and your hair is still straight.

Take a swig of water and fix your lipgloss.  Pop a breath mint in.

Breathe.  Smile.

Go do everything again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you aren’t completely exhausted at the end of the day, you haven’t worked hard enough.

If the shows are only once an hour or so, you will fill your time between Presentations assisting the Booth Manager with whatever is needed, typically filling a Booth Hostess role.  That description is next time…

Life is Good.  Life is better when you have Butts in Seats!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

So You Want to be a Trade Show Model? (Part I)

Part I:  Getting In…

So you want to be a Trade Show Model, do you?

Are you sure?

Many of my female friends have been asking what I do and how to cross over from the Promo/Brand Ambassador side of the Events Industry and into the Wonderful World of Trade Shows.

They think this job is all about standing in a booth, looking pretty and scanning badges.   Many think that making $300/day is way over what we should be getting paid and that anyone can do it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

This job is not all about looking cute and giggling, though that does help.  This job is WORK, and hard work at that.  And after some shows I do, $300/day doesn't even begin to cover what we go through on the Show Floor.

So, how do you start?

1.  Resume

Landing that first job is like a Catch-22.  You have to have a resume to get the good jobs, but how do you get the resume without getting the jobs?  Simple.  Invest.

You have all seen my blogs about not working for less than you are worth.  I still stand by my thoughts on this.  You have to start at the bottom in the Trade Show Industry, just like any other career--unless you have someone willing to put her reputation on the line and refer you in, which many established TS Models won't do.  Staffing agencies like CSS and a slew of others regularly staff Conventions, especially the big ones in San Francisco and Las Vegas.  While the pay is low—generally $11/hr, it’s a great place to start.  The job is easy:  Stand in one place, hold a sign, smile, and direct traffic.  You won’t be on the Trade Show Floor itself, but it still technically counts as working a Convention.  The hours are long, so in the end you can clear several hundred dollars and you get to put a big name on your resume.  This also usually gets you a badge onto the Trade Show Floor so you can see if you really want to enter this World.  Do it.  Look.  Listen.  Observe.  Take notes.   Hang out with us after the show closes and hear us “Empty our Laundry Baskets…”  And then decide if you really want to make the leap.

Work a few Conventions and you start building some big name shows on your resume.  Work hard, and eventually, the bigger agencies will take notice.

If you want to start right away on the Show Floor, again, you are going to have to take a bit of a pay cut.  I started at the Winter Fancy Food Show several years ago making $20/hr and so can you.  Work a few Expos, Gift Fairs and Car Shows and you can get even more experience on your resume quickly.  A few agencies will staff Trade Shows for $17-$20/hr, but you are really going to piss off the experienced TS Models if you agree to work those rates.  Don’t.  You are worth more.  Once you get your feet wet and have proven that you CAN move up the ladder, then do so and don’t look back.

Once you build a resume, keep it simple.  One page.  Everyone knows the responsibilities of a Crowd Gatherer, Product Specialist, etc. so don’t waste room writing the description.  Just list the show, position, and Client.  KISS principle here.

2.  Pictures

Invest in a good head shot and full length, business style.  Smile, look pretty (or handsome) and keep the picture simple.  No one wants to see anything high-fashion with crazy hair, purple eye shadow, or that model pout that is popular.  If you are going to be hired to smile and get people in the booth, then present yourself to your prospective clients in that manner. 

Absolutely NO cheesecake, nude, implied nude or overly sexy shots!!  EVER!!  Unless you are applying to be a bikini model at a car show, then don’t send bikini pics!  True, you may have a rockin' body, but there are many conservative clients out there, especially in the tech and medical field, and they all have stereotypes about what “Booth Babes” are like.  Don’t present yourself as one.

Some agencies ask for a candid shot.  This does not mean you and your four closest promo friends in a picture handing out soda samples.  This means you posed by your booth with a warm and inviting smile on your face.  It would really suck if you sent a candid picture in with a whole bunch of people, and the Client hired your friend, wouldn't it?

3.  Wardrobe

You have a standard wardrobe for Trade Shows just like Promos.  Black pencil skirt with matching blazer.  White blouses.  Black dress pants.  And the most important wardrobe piece—comfortable shoes!!!  I’m NOT kidding!!  Your feet will ache from Day One, and there is no relief in sight, even on your lunch or break.  Bring a pair of black flats to change into for lunch, breaks, to and from work.  I buy my Trade Show Shoes ½ size bigger than I wear and stuff them full of shoe pads.  If your feet hurt, it will show in your face, and Attendees can smell a miserable Trade Show Model an aisle away.

Always have a manicure.  You are going to be shaking hands, scanning badges and touching iPads.  Your hands are your business.  Conservative polish or French Manicure only.  Your nail length should be just over the tips of your fingers, not glamorous!!  If you break a nail at work, put a band-aid on it, don’t just leave one naked little finger sitting there all stubbly while the others are lovely.  Learn to be ambidextrous and use the other hand until you can get to Walgreens and get a spare press-on or get to the salon.

Some companies will supply the Gawd-awful polo shirt.  Be prepared to tuck it in, and if it’s a man’s shirt and you are small, it’s going to be a challenge to cram all that material into your pants or skirt and not look four months pregnant.  I always wear pantyhose, tights, or some sort of spanx to not only give my legs and butt some support, but to tuck all the extra shirt-length in and compress it against my body so I can still try to look slim.

If you are allowed to wear your own outfit, make sure to coordinate your clothes with the colors of the booth.  Don’t show up wearing the competitor’s colors!  Bad move!

And for god’s sake—dye your roots!!  Three inches of black hair underneath platinum blonde ends just looks trashy.

4.  Market, market, market!

Apply for EVERYTHING!!  Be prepared to travel and not have your expenses covered.  Crowd Gatherers and Booth Hostesses are a dime a dozen for most Clients, and only some of the best will have their expenses covered.

You might have to take a “wash” on your first show or two just to get the Client’s name on your resume.  By wash, I mean make no money after expenses (which you write off of your income on your taxes).  Plan a vacation around it.  Have you always wanted to visit Chicago?  Well then book three-day show there, stay for five and know that you just got a huge show for a Fortune 100 Client on your resume.  That matters.  I took a few big hits in the beginning, and because I was willing to travel on my own, work my butt off, and prove myself to my Clients, some of my travel is now covered and my calendar is usually full months out.

Many people will try to make the transition into this world and fail.  It definitely is not for everyone.  The hours are long and grueling, the Clients can be unappreciative, and the Sales Staff can be annoying, demoralizing, and downright rude.  It happens. 

However, if you are able to get your foot in the door, working as a Trade Show Model can be one of the most rewarding and exciting careers anyone can have.  I feed off of the energy of the show and love the diversity of the Clients and the Product.  I know some of my Clients personally, and they are some of the warmest and caring people I have ever met.  And you just can’t beat setting your own hours and travel plans.

I can’t imagine working in any other field.

Life is Good.  Especially when you have found your calling.