The title of this newsletter comes from someone’s response to a comment on one of the Facebook trade show groups. A person was asking about a process and received the reply: Ask someone who knows. Maybe the person who wrote this meant to be a bit sarcastic, but the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that so much of our business is passed down—literally—from one generation to the next by asking someone who knows. Those of us who have spent many hours on the show floor know about those folks with their lunch pails who have been collecting knowledge for years. We learn from them. They’re the ones who know.
But lately, it’s getting harder to find someone who knows. One of our recent newsletters covered the topic of The Great Resignation. We appear to be in the second phase of the phenomenon. Shows are happening worldwide, and although people are filling the jobs on the show floor and in the offices of exhibiting companies, many of those we used to ask for help have decided it was time to retire or do something else. And as the work ramps up, many questions are going unanswered and many steps are skipped or overlooked.
Let’s talk about a few of these:
Timelines. In Asia, pre-pandemic, companies would plan their exhibits two or three years in advance and lock in hotel rooms. Now that the schedule has been disrupted, timelines have become a problem. Some exhibiting companies did lock in their spaces years ago, but others want to take advantage of new opportunities to exhibit. The problem is how to do that. Who helps you schedule your work when everything is in crunch mode?
Processes. In their urgency to hire people, companies forget to explain the processes. Maybe they cover the first few steps, but they don’t extend the explanation through to the what-ifs. Our industry is process-dependent, and when there is no one a few feet away who can answer questions, when there is no one who ‘knows,’ a project tends to get derailed. Learning the processes from ‘someone who knows’ is critical to our industry’s success.
Partners. Many, if not most, exhibit builders traditionally had valued partners and preferred vendors. Unfortunately, new people don’t know who those companies are. Who will introduce the rookies to the crews that make things happen? Those not schooled in the processes have difficulty establishing new relationships with trusted partners.
Managing expectations. Not just the client’s–the exhibitor’s–expectations, but also the level and amount of work that everyone should expect to take on—and identifying the person who makes the decisions. Whose job is it to (fill in the blank)? If these issues are not sorted out early and quickly, in addition to missing pieces of the process, resentments are totally predictable, and people start taking offense at everything.
Venues also present problems to people who have never worked in a specific location before—like a city or expo hall—particularly if they work with someone who knows the venue intimately. So many people today get caught up in turf wars. Rookies are looking in from the outside, and the people in the middle between them and the experienced workers are trying to manage their frustrations. Plus, not only are there new people on the scene, but there are also new companies. Bringing the show floor back to pre-pandemic harmony is a challenge.
These are some of the challenges. So, what’s the solution?
Build new teams. The best case is to assign new employees to work with experienced people. Don’t simply replace one warm body with another; our industry depends on cooperation and respect.
Train and explain. Don’t take anything for granted. People new to the industry aren’t familiar with established practices. On the other hand, putting new and old heads together might result in a better way of doing things.
Educate everyone on the venue and what to expect. Post-Covid, convention centers and cities have instituted new protocols, and everyone on the team needs to be aware of these innovations.
Foster relationships with trusted partners. Ensure that your team members know where to go for answers and advice.
And finally, there are still experienced partners who ‘know’ and have embraced the post-Covid environment. Idea International is one of these companies. So, if your company plans to work in the APAC region, call us and “ask someone who knows.”
PS: if you need to ask someone who knows, we suggest attending ExhibitorLive, June 20 – 23, 2022, at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.
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