Life is a Trade show

I’ve been to two huge trade shows recently so I have them on the brain. And what works on the trade show floor works in life, like it or not.

1.) You will be judged by your appearance. Cheesy, ugly booths did not attract the crowds that colorful well designed booths did. I’m not talking money—creativity works too. But if you want to play in the big leagues, you have to look like the big leagues.

This means, like it or not, you have to dress appropriately. And the better you look, often the greater your success will be. Know the number one reason for rejecting a job applicant? Poor personal appearance. You can lounge around all day in your sweats at home, but if people are going to see you, think about what image you want to convey. Think twice before wearing the baggiest jeans you own or the lowest cut top. You are judged by your appearance constantly – use this to your advantage.

2.) Your body language will speak more loudly than your words. Some of the people manning the booths apparently believed all the attendees had swine flu. They talked only to each other, avoided eye contact, and looked generally put out. If you are going to spend the day at a trade show, work it, baby! Be nice to everyone, have fun! You may think you’re wasting time with a little fish, but a big fish may be watching. This is something that surprisingly few people seem to get. I can often pick out problem employees in a training session after just a few minutes. Their body language is so negative it screams. Guess who will be the first to get laid off?

You can say you love someone but if you’re checking out the hottie at the next table, it’s meaningless. Actions are everything – your facial expression, your gestures, even the movement of your eyes conveys a ton of information to anyone who sees you. Be more aware of what you’re communicating. And as long as another human can see you – you’re communicating.

3.) People love chocolate. Put out a bowl of miniature candy bars and people will not be able to stay away. Tote bags? Eh—not so much. The candy is easy—people like it enough to take the risk of approaching you. You are welcoming them. What is your chocolate? A warm smile and a compliment? A great discount? Give them a reason to come closer.

4.) Love the one you’re with. If there are 500 people at a show but only one in your booth—hello! Treat them well! I was so surprised at the number of people who would ignore me while there was no other customer in site. You don’t know who someone might know or how much money they might have. Treat everyone you interact with well—too often our judgments are dead wrong and we hurt only ourselves. Be open to everyone. You never know who might place the next big order or introduce you to the love of your life.

The biggest mistake I think we make nowadays is ignoring all the live people around us to check our PDAs. We’re losing the excitement of a chance encounter – the opportunity to meet someone new. We shut off the world around us. We also do this when we are with people we love. We text, check voicemail and/or e-mail. This is utterly rude and clearly says to the other – “This is more important to me than you are.” Ouch.

5.) Have fun! Some of the people manning booths looked as though they were serving a sentence in hell. Who would want to stop and talk with them, much less do business with them? But some people were up and laughing and attendees were drawn to them. Fun has taken a serious beating with the recession—it’s as if anyone who has fun while others are being laid off should be ashamed. I say people want to spend time, do business with, and hang around those who are having fun. The guys who change my oil are always having fun and I love to go in there. I’ll never go anywhere else in fact. I’ve never equated misery with quality and you shouldn’t either. Happy people usually get sick less and do better work.

6.) It’s really not about you. The best booths were manned by people who actually engaged me. They asked what I did or where I was from. (These are also good screening questions, by the way.) The worst booths had someone who went on and on about themselves, shoved a business card in my hand, and moved me out of the booth. They didn’t even have any good giveaways. This is true in life—if you want to connect with someone, you have to realize it’s about them. We like those who are interested in us. And if you’re in business and you aren’t interested in your customers…well, you may not be in business for long.

Success in relationships is about thinking about the other person. Clearly not at the exclusion of your own needs, but we like people who like us. Most people are far more interesting than you can imagine. Pay more attention to them, ask them some deeper questions. You may be surprised at what you learn. You may also find they are paying more attention to you and asking more about you. And isn’t that what we all want – to be known?

It’s simple—look good, be friendly, give chocolate, have fun and focus on others. Life IS a trade show!



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