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.

1 comment:

  1. My dear Jen,

    It has been such a long, long time. I've wondered what became of you since...was it '98? I see that you eventually did make it out to San Francisco from New Jersey.

    No, I'm no stranger. You know me. But if my Google name isn't familiar to you, let me try to ring a few bells: Cherry Hill...Voorhees...Kaminski's.."Who's got juice? WE got juice!"...Premier Promotions...

    You haven't post to your blog in a while, I see, so I don't know how frequently you check your comments, but if you get this one please e-mail me at: