The Communication #SkillsGap That Demands Your Immediate Attention

Tony Compton, Managing Director

For those trade show managers and event planners looking for the personal communication #skillsgap that demands your immediate attention, start here.

It’s time to re-examine – and possibly overhaul – your approach to trade show staffing and individual communication preparedness for your events. Simultaneously, you’ll need to work on your company’s trade show booth appearance and general exhibit environment. That’s because your exhibit has taken on additional duties as doubling as your worldwide theater, branded backdrop, global soundstage, and corporate video studio. No matter the size.

Ready or not, the on-site people, partners, and customers supporting your trade show exhibits are rapidly becoming on-camera spokespeople. They may even be impromptu spokespeople, demo presenters, slide sharers and corporate storytellers. They’re also playing the part of extras in your company videos, and the videos produced by others who are outside of your control.

Addressing the communication #skillsgap found in every member of your on-site events team may be the biggest challenge you face this year, and there’s a lot of room for improvement in this facet of your sales and marketing communication game.

The 2015 Event Tipping Point

Shooting videos at trade shows, conferences, and industry events is common, but last year’s onslaught of new streaming media platforms and live video apps has put all event planners and attendees on notice. Nowadays, most show attendees carry smartphones with built-in cameras, while many reporters carry professional-grade video equipment and smartphones. Inside of these two groups exists a growing number of social media power users who are broadcasting live from events and exhibit halls – largely without warning.

Periscope and Meerkat made their streaming media market entrances in 2015. Those apps enable anybody with a mobile Android or iOS device to broadcast live from any show floor on a moment’s notice. I’ve read that Facebook Live for business is likely to make its debut in short order. Moreover, I could make a case for using the “Brady Bunch” style Blab video platform at an event. But in this post, the platforms themselves are somewhat irrelevant. It’s the fact that live video streams from exhibit halls can happen anytime, anywhere, on any platform, and may encircle or directly involve your show presence. Yet little or nothing is being done to inform or prep event staff about these cameras trained on your booth, and your people. Moreover, it should now come as no surprise to anybody in the events industry that all of the elements of a company’s event appearance play increasingly important roles in global branding and communication efforts.

More Complicated and Much Riskier Event Situations

It won’t be long until your company is back on the beat exhibiting at its own industry gatherings, but things have changed right under your feet. The experience for your on-site staff has also permanently changed. Every single booth staffer is in the camera cross-hairs, and is at risk for being put on the spot by anybody who approaches with an active video. New viewers are now watching, and that may include your customers, prospects, analysts, and competitors. All can grab a box of popcorn and watch live video streams originating from your next event.

Overcoming the Communication #SkillsGap for Two Fronts

You’ll be able to plan for the event videos that you know are forthcoming, but you won’t be able to plan for the event videos that come as a surprise. Keep in mind that this is both an internal and external challenge. Internal because unless you have a corporate policy that tightly controls the usage of live streaming apps, inevitably somebody from your company will turn on their camera. It’s bound to happen, and without a plan to address live streaming media from events, it’s open season for wannabe broadcasters. And you can guess the quality and content of that video feed. It’s an external challenge because cameras will now be coming at you from all angles. The good news is that you can prepare your team with the communication skills they need to be able to handle any video situation which may arise on a show floor.

Do this by:

1. Closing The Personal Communication #SkillsGap

The days of booth staffers attending events and just hanging out in the exhibit have ended. Everybody inside your booth is now continuously on-call for unexpected live videos and must be on-point. Every person who occupies space in your booth must be appropriately attired, and fluent in the ability to articulate consistent messaging, communicate powerful content, and expertly navigate presentations. Yes, they must be ready to go live, on-camera, on a moment’s notice and know what to do when the situation presents itself. And if you take your event staffing and communication preparedness seriously, this comes as a natural extension to team readiness.

2. Preparing Your Exhibit and Its Environment

Answer these three questions:

  • How many times have you seen overly-wordy pop-up banners in a trade show booth?
  • Or an exhibit backdrop that so crowded with text that a magnifying glass was needed to read it?
  • Or a sloppy booth backdrop with a previously-folded fabric that was hastily erected?

Those three questions barely scratch the surface about the visual issues which could compromise the appearance of your booth, which will end up on live video for the world to see.

Then answer these three questions:

  • Can your team handle live, on-the-spot interactions with content, presentations, or demos?
  • How will your booth staffers appear in the background of broadcasts, and recorded video?
  • Does your team know what to do to control your exhibit environment for any video production?

Those three additional questions only begin to open the conversation about a comprehensive approach to managing your exhibit environment. Just think about all of the other booth elements and staff interactions which may end up on live video.

3. Planning Your Own Event Broadcasts

There’s no better way to address the communication #skillsgap and event preparedness challenges than to plan your own on-site videos and live broadcasts.

Recall the last time you had a booth at a trade show. If you had a 10×10, remember the cell block row of exhibits that allowed each pedestrian exhibit to bleed into the next. If you had a larger booth, think back to how attendees cut through some of neighboring big booths because tumbleweeds led the way through the unoccupied and wasted space.

In any case, conduct your own event broadcasts to dominate open exhibit hall hours and fill down time by creating a “showtime” booth environment with clean, crisp messaging conducive to video. While the other exhibitors are talking to each other or playing on their phones and laptops, you’ll be standing out on the show floor, attracting a crowd. And getting your events team ready for live or recorded event videos will equally ready your team to be confident and interactive with exhibit hall attendees.

For the Creative, the New Broadcasters, the Content Creators, and the Event Innovators

You, my friends, have little to fear. You saw this week’s announcement from Twitter, now embedding live Periscope videos in tweets on iOS devices. You’re already on top of your game with a sound social media policy, event strategy, and staff communication plan. You also have a robust event game plan which addresses the ability of your team to converse on and off camera with videographers, reporters, customers, prospects, partners, and general attendees. You understand what your booth image means in person, and on video. You’ve planned for event programming which enables you to frame industry issues and counter videos produced by competitors. And you’ve made your events team powerful communicators, presenters, and lead generators as part of their exceptional employee experiences.

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