Keeping Your Staff Motivated Throughout the Show
By Susan A. Friedmann

Working a show is hard work and is often a case of survival of the fittest. Frequently you and your team need to be "ON" for 12 to 18 hours a day for, typically, three or more days at a stretch. Staying motivated can often be a real challenge, especially at the end of a day, or during the final hours of the show when traffic is slow, time seems to stand still and your feet hurt.

Energy, motivation and stamina to keep individuals revved up for the duration comes in three different forms: personal motivation, manager inspiration, and team spirit. Let's look at each of these different areas in more detail to better understand how to use them more effectively.

1. Personal motivation
The key ingredient for anyone to be motivated to work a show is simple. They need to want to be there. All too often employees are told by management to "just show up" to work a particular show. However, given a choice, they would often refer not to. Sales people frequently feel it interferes with their normal selling routine. When employees have a negative attitude about being at a show, their body language lets everyone around know how they feel, that this is a futile and unimportant exercise.

It is important to remember that everyone representing your company is an ambassador. By being helpful, courteous and having a professional demeanor, they can strengthen the company's image and gain new customers. Because of this, they should be chosen carefully based on their excellent knowledge of the company's products/services and the many customers and prospects that you expect to visit the exhibit.

In addition to wanting to be at the show, each staff member should have at least one personal goal they want to achieve. This not only increases accountability, changes unproductive habits, increases productivity, it also builds motivation. At pre-show meetings staff should be encouraged to share their goals with other staffers. Then at post-show or debriefing meetings they should report on their achievements.

2. Manager inspiration
One of the major reasons booth staff have a negative attitude about being at a show is because of management. Upper management's negative feelings filter down. The reverse also applies. When top management are supportive of the company's tradeshow activities and demonstrate their feelings by attending the show, helping in the booth, taking part in training programs and pre and post-show activities, their enthusiasm is contagious.

A critical element of motivational success is letting the team know what is expected of them at the show and then providing any training necessary for them to do their job effectively. Then when opportunity meets preparation, managers can expect remarkable results. Successful people aren't born…they're trained.

It is management's responsibility to create a positive, fun and reinforcing environment and to realize that it takes more than an incentive to succeed. Rewards and personal recognition provide an effective way of encouraging higher levels of performance. A range of tools from personal "thank yous" to a variety of rewards are useful ways to recognize accomplishments - company exhibiting goals achieved, new orders, quality qualified leads, etc. One company I recently worked with gave away three Mont Blanc pens every day of the show to the best booth staffers. Competition was high and many staff members started making recommendations for winners based on their own observation.

Managers need to know their individual staff members and what motivates them. Studies show that more people are motivated by personal recognition than by money. The power of recognition and appreciation can create a more positive, productive and enjoyable environment while working a show.

3. Team spirit
Everyone in the booth should be working together as a team, helping each other out whenever and wherever necessary. If there are a large number of staffers, split them up into teams with technical people working alongside sales people. Encourage them to establish plans of action for working the show and promote a certain amount of autonomy within the groups. Managers need to create an environment of camaraderie where the staff, as a team, will want to pull out all the stops to succeed and set themselves apart from the competition.

As a team they need to have time prior to the show to get acquainted, develop a level of trust and get to know and understand each other's strengths. There needs to be a group consciousness of the company's exhibiting goals. The team members need to be able to express themselves and feel as if they are an integral part of the overall success of the program.

Team members should be persuaded to coach their colleagues, for example, by pointing out negative non-verbal behavior. Managers can also create games to foster competitiveness amongst the teams.

At review sessions after each day, team members should be encouraged to give and receive feedback from their colleagues. The purpose is to look for ways to improve past performance and make each day better than the previous one. Managers need to remember that individual achievement is worth group recognition.

Often hiring an outside consultant to act as a catalyst helps bring a new and refreshing approach to the team spirit to get desired results.

As you think about how best to inspire boundless enthusiasm and encourage your staff to have a winning attitude on the show floor, remember the winning combination - motivation moves people and the power of recognition can fire up your productivity. Whatever you do, make it fun, make it effective, and success will surely follow.

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About The Author

Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training. Go to http://www.thetradeshowcoach.com to sign up for a free copy of ExhibitSmart Tips of the Week. info@thetradeshowcoach.com