I had decided to attend the recent NY Business Expo held at the Jacob Javits Center here in NYC. This was my first time at this event, so I was eager to see the exhibitors and hear some of the speakers. I picked an aisle and started walking into the frenzy.
Suddenly, a man I recognized leapt out at me – he happens to be my neighbor, and asked if I wanted to meet the president of his sales training company – someone for whom he clearly would stand on the firing line. I said, “Sure!”
My neighbor’s job was to recruit walkers-by and reel them into the exhibit. The promise was, MEET THE MAN and find out how he can help you increase your business. This is a smart tactic, but…as I reached over with a smile, said, “Hello,” and gave him a firm handshake, THE MAN took my hand and without ever looking at me, started speaking with the woman behind me. I stared into his face waiting for him. But he never even looked or acknowledged my presence. I felt like I needed a shower.
I let go of his hand seconds later while he continued talking to someone behind me. I told my neighbor that I pity his clients. I walked away.
Egregious error #1 – AVOIDING EYE CONTACT AND UNGRACIOUSLY DISENGAGING FROM YOUR VISITORS
Egregious error #2 – MAKING PEOPLE FEEL THAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE BETTER OR MORE VALUABLE
So, after that, I decided that my mission was to look for other mistakes exhibitors were making, because I hadn’t considered it going into the ordeal. I continued walking around to find them. They were everywhere!
You get hungry walking around a space like the Jacob Javits Center, and I soon noticed huge bowls of candy placed on tables at the front of many vendors’ booths to lure in sugar addicts. I watched people walk by, grab fistfuls of swirly, little things in plastic, Tootsie Pops, and bite-sized Mary Janes. Chewing, they continued on their journeys without ever stopping to chat with the vendors themselves. Of course, the vendors were busy standing at the back of their booths chatting with one another.
Egregious error #3 – THINKING THAT CANDY INSPIRES VISITORS TO STOP AND ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
I moved onward without any candy. Why couldn’t they have bowls of Lindt Truffles anyway? Next up: a young man in a t-shirt and worn jeans enthusiastically jumps from behind a table as I walk by, to stop me and say hello. He got my attention! Then I shook his hand. Limp and damp. I needed another shower.
I looked over to find the name of the company he was representing. It had a high-tech logo with no distinctive name. There was no tag line, no explanation of the product or service either visually or in writing. Just a meaningless logo. (I soon found out, and only because I had asked — it’s an IT service firm, designed to support small business owners who don’t have their own IT departments. Hum, I thought. Could be good for me. Here’s how the conversation went:
“Hi, I’m Jim.”
“Hi, Jim, I’m Jackie.”
“Um, like, pretty groovy space we’re in, right?”
Suddenly a young woman appeared in my periphery. She had a name card with a title on it that said, “Director of Marketing and Sales.” She stood back and listened.
“What do you do for your company, Jim?”
“Oh, I work in the operations department.”
The sales and marketing maven stayed back there while I asked, “ So, Jim, what’s good about your company?”
“You know, like, we …” and he explained the company’s mission.
“Well, Jim, thanks for saying hello – maybe I’ll look on the web and see if your company can meet my needs.” At that very moment, the Director of Sales and Marketing actually walked behind a desk and picked up her cell phone.
Egregious error #4 – TALKING TO YOUR PROSPECTS LIKE IT’S 1969 AND YOU’RE ALL HANGING OUT AT THE MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL WAITING FOR A FREE PORT-A-POTTY.
Egregious error #5 – HAVING A LIMP HANDSHAKE; NO HANKIE TO DRY YOUR SWEATY PALM
Egregious error #6 – NOT HAVING A BRAND AS RECOGNIZABLE AS COCA-COLA WITHOUT A PROMINENT UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION OR TAG LINE THAT CATCHES THE ATTENTION OF PASSERS-BY
Egregious error #7 – LETTING YOUR OPERATIONS GUY MISRESPRESENT YOUR COMPANY WHILE THE DIRECTOR OF SALES AND MARKETING WATCHES THE DISASTER UNFOLD
By this point, I’d had enough. As I was walking out, a very friendly man came up to me and with a firm handshake and great eye-contact asked how I enjoyed the expo. I thought this was refreshing and told him it was a great experience and asked what he did. He said, “I’m a real estate broker but I also sell a nutritional product that can guarantee weight loss of up to 10 pounds in the first month. It can also be a great source of income if you sell the product.”
I said, well good for you, why don’t you give me your card?” He did. It was for the real estate business. He said, “It’s the only one I brought today.” I took it and told him I help people become effective communicators, networkers, business pitchers and presenters and handed him my card. We said goodbye.
In thinking that he could be a potential prospect for me, I went to his website, as listed on the card. There was no such company and he was not anywhere to be found in a Google search.
Egregious error #8 –MAKING A STRANGER FEEL FAT WHILE ATTEMPTING TO ENGAGE HER IN A NETWORK MARKETING SCHEME
Egregious error #9 – GIVING AWAY A BUSINESS CARD OF THE THING YOU AREN’T PROMOTING THAT IS ALSO UNTRACEABLE AND UNVERIFIABLE.
Trade shows are great places to showcase your brand and business, and increase your network of prospects. Being innovative and standing out from the others seems to be a huge challenge, but slacking on things that are so easily fixable can do a lot of damage. I’d rather not generate business at all than create a negative first impression.
At trade shows, even bad press isn’t good press.
© Copyright, PointMaker Communications, Inc., 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, Inc., with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.