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.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

On Being Nice and Feeling Special...

(Note:  I apologize for all the hyperlink ads.  I'm trying to figure out how to remove them.  Sorry!!)


Everyone is talking about “Random Acts of Kindness” and “Pay It Forward” these days.  It seems that we have forgotten how to just be nice to people and do the right thing. 

Working in the Promo and Trade Show Industry, we shouldn’t have to be reminded to be nice to people or to do something that makes someone feel special.  Being nice is our JOB.  Making each person we see at an event feel special is the most important part of our job description.  The day I have to be reminded to be nice to people is the day I need to hang up my 7” stilettos. 

Last week I worked for a fantastic client, The New York Times, at MacWorld.  Our booth was crazy busy, as we were doing free “word portraits” where we snap a picture and through the miracle of computer technology, it turns the portrait into a series of words from the headlines that The New York Times has in their massive database.  You can click A Word Cloud Portrait for the story.

It was the end of the first day and we were closing up shop.  A group of three people came up to me and asked if I would do one more print.  The two women smiled that kind of smile that says, “I know you are closed, but please, please, please, make an exception for us.”  I looked at the young man next to them and knew I had to say yes.

One look at the young man, and I could tell that he fit in the “special needs” category.  I won’t go into the details except to say that my heart opened up and I immediately made the decision to do the picture.  As soon as I motioned the three of them to get in the remainder of the line, the women said, “No, just him.  We know you are closing for the day and don’t want to get you in trouble.  Everyone else was so mean to us today in all the other booths, and it is so nice of you to let him get his picture done, we can’t ask for any more of your time than is minimally necessary.” 

Minimally necessary?  To do something so small to take one minute of my time?  No.  That won’t do.  This young man is getting every last little bit of time that I have, because making him smile is now the Number One priority for my last ten minutes on-shift.

I snapped the picture and asked the women from what sections of The New York Times I should generate the Word Cloud.  They said Sports.  I was still learning the software and hadn’t had some time to really play around with it, so I figured that now was a good as any time to dive right in. 

“What kind of sports?  Any particular team?”  I asked.

“He loves basketball, particularly professional,” they responded.

Done.  I typed it in, pushed the enter button and let the iPad do its magic.

The software generated his picture with all kinds of various NBA teams, players, and coaches, and we decided to put the words in his favorite color, blue.

Two minutes later, the portrait printed, I handed it over, thanked them again for coming by the booth and got ready to start packing up.

The ladies gave the portrait to the young man, and he lit up like the New Years Eve Ball dropping in Times Square.  He seemed to recognize himself and the names on his portrait and started clapping and grinning ear to ear.

YAY!!  That was fun!  Woo-hoo!

Thinking that I was done for the day, I packed up my things and grabbed my coat.  As I was leaving the booth, an older woman came over to me, grabbed my hand and nearly in a whisper said, “That picture you just took was for my son.  I’m sorry I couldn’t make it over here to do the picture with him.  He has Downs Syndrome and the only thing that he can really recognize and focus on is basketball.  He loves basketball!  Thank you so much for making our day!  You really made us feel special!!”

She gave me a little squeeze and went back over to her son.

Definitely worth it.

I thought about it for a few days, and wondered if I had really done anything special to deserve such a big Thank You.  No.  Not really.  I did my job.  I did what I love to do, which is smile at everyone I see and make each person who visits my client’s booth feel special.  Feeling special is not just for those I think are deserving, or who are extra polite, or who beg me with three “please, please, pleases” so that I say yes.  You don’t take the time to make some people feel special because you identify that they have a disability, need extra time, look like they had a bad day…whatever.  You try your best to make EACH person you come in contact with feel special, well, because each person IS special.

But what really got to me was me wondering why everyone else was so mean to these people?  Why is it so difficult to see that each person needs to be respected and treated like an individual, a human being, and yes—special.  After all, each of us is unique in our own little ways, and each of us likes to feel special, so why has it become so hard for us to recognize that need and act accordingly?  Do we not remember The Golden Rule?  It truly saddens me sometimes to see how far we have strayed from being truly genuine to each other and treat those around us like we would like to be treated. 

Doing the right thing or doing something nice for someone else isn’t something that you should have to be reminded to do.  It should just happen naturally.  And in my business, as the all-too-important First Impression of a company, it is your JOB.  EVERY person who walks by the booth is special.  EVERY person deserves a smile, a nod, and your respect.

Sometimes I think we have lost what it means to be human.  


Thank you to The New York Times for giving me the opportunity to not only have a blast at work making money at a really cool gig, but thank you for the opportunity to make someone’s day.  Because at the end of the day when the lights are turned off, the carpet is rolled up, the boxes are packed and shipped…at the end of the day, all that really matters is that I made someone smile.  And, boy did he ever!!  I’ll never forget that day.

Life is Good!  Life is better when being nice just happens…

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happy 2013!! Are you ready for it?

Let’s hear it for 2013!!  The year of the Trade Show!  LOL!

As always, the New Year starts with the biggest Trade Show of the year, CES.  Over 120,000 people will be descending on Las Vegas in the next day or two.  Lines will be long for shuttles, taxis, restaurants and even the bathroom!  This show will test you in ways you can’t imagine.  Be as prepared as you can.

All the vets in the business will be at CES and judging from the Facebook Groups, a lot of newbies are making their debut too.  Everyone will be there—and everyone will be watching to see how you do.  Make sure you do your absolute best and set the stage for a fantastic year.

Here are some tips and tricks to think about as you pack today:

Things to pack:

  • Every kind of pill you can think of—Advil, Motrin, Vitamins, Water Pills, Allergy and Cold Pills, Beano, Airborne, Imodium, Gas X, Rolaids and Tums.  You aren’t going to be on your normal eating and drinking schedule so keep your insides prepared for Travel Food and the Travel Bellyaches that follow.  You know your feet are going to hurt in those heels after Day Two.  Since the show itself is four days plus a few rehearsal days, bring lots of Advil.  I throw a week’s worth of pills in one little bottle and keep them in my purse.  Besides, if you can rescue your client’s hung-over body on Day Three, you’re a hero.

  • Snacks.  Forget grabbing a snack at LVCC.  I’m not paying $2.50 for a bag of chips and another $3.00 for a soda.  Both are terrible for you and your wallet.  You will spend your entire break time standing in line instead of resting and eating.  Pack a box of something healthy in your suitcase and each day throw one in your purse to nosh on while you take your break.  Dried fruits, nuts, granola bars can all be purchased in advance and kept in baggies.  Add a protein shake or a piece of turkey jerky and an apple, and you have an economical and healthy lunch.  That beats standing in line for 25 minutes for a $6.00 piece of crappy pizza. 

  • Change of shoes and socks.  Your feet will hurt.  Even the seasoned pros will have aches and pains.  NEVER wear your floor shoes to and from work.  Instead, change into sneakers or flats for the hike from your hotel room to your booth.  I guarantee that you will walk at least a mile each day to and from.  Spare your feet and bring something comfortable.  It doesn’t hurt to bring a spare pair of heels to switch in and out during the day, provided there is room to store them in the booth.  I can tuck a heel in each pocket of my coat, and the travel flats slide into the inside pocket.  Don’t forget shoe inserts too!  That extra ¼ inch of padding is well worth the $6.

Things to do—or not to do:

  • Keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum.  Yeah, right, it’s VEGAS you say!!  Well, you aren’t here for a vacation or Bachelorette party, you are here to work.  Alcohol will make your 8-hour Day Three feel like a 16-hour Day Seven.  It will show on your face if you have been drinking, as your eyes will be bloodshot, your face will be puffy and those dark circles will stand out.  Don’t do it.  A glass or two of wine with dinner or in your room is fine, but shots of tequila at the bar with the Client is an absolute no-no! 

  • Drink as much water as you can.  You are in the desert where the humidity levels are rarely over 4%.  Coffee, soda, and alcohol will dehydrate you even more.  Convention and restaurant food contain lots of salt, which will make you thirsty.  Bring your own water container and drink as much as you can throughout the day.  Keeping yourself hydrated can also help you from losing your voice.  If you are staying in a hotel and have to pay those absurd Resort Fees, then go to their Fitness Center and sit in the steam room for 15 minutes to rehydrate your eyes, sinuses and skin.  You already paid for it, so use it.

  • Leave early…for everything.  Plan ahead.  Make a schedule.  Remember, there are an extra 120,000 people in town this week.  Travel times will triple.  A fifteen minute walk from The Strip to the LVCC will now take at least 40 minutes.  Consider walking to work and then taking the shuttle home.  Know the route in advance so you can plan your travel time.  Study the maps to know where everything is—from the shuttle route to the Expo floor.  Know where the restrooms are so you can go quickly and have time to stand in line.  Change into your flats when you go on break or lunch, because it’s likely a five minute walk to anything, and you can be comfortable and quick when you are in flat shoes.

CES can be intimidating and almost overwhelming to the unprepared or inexperienced.  With a little advanced and smart planning, you can easily navigate your way through the crowds and lines.  It’s time to shine for your client and your agency—don’t forget to smile!!

Life is Good.  Be prepared and it is even better!