If you’re anything like me, when you’re planning a trip, you do at least a portion of your research by reading reviews on travel websites, etc. As you browse through the input others have left, you may notice a common theme: the reviewers with the most extreme expectations were usually surprised (often experiencing the opposite of what they had expected)… especially the first timers.
This is true in business too. When approaching a situation, like your next trade show, with extreme (unrealistic) expectations, you will be more likely to notice any time the opposite is true.
For example, if you are expecting your booth to be totally swamped from start to finish and to sell everything your company has in stock, you’ll probably be even more disappointed by a typical tapering off in the afternoon and painfully aware of any attendees who don’t turn out to be immediate buyers.
On the other hand, if you have convinced yourself that no one will come to your booth because of the economy (or some other excuse) and exhibiting will be a waste of your time, you may find yourself becoming ecstatic when you encounter even just a few current/potential clients and partners while you are in the convention city.
Approaching your next trade show with either set of unrealistic expectations ensures you will be surprised (just like the travel reviewers I mentioned above). Yes, there will be issues on-site (that is the nature of exhibiting) and, no, not every attendee will be a perfect fit. However, as long as you have selected an appropriate event, yes, you will meet some potentially useful contacts and, no, not every second will be painfully boring (especially because you will have properly prepared yourself).
However, the solution is not to set your sights so low that you can’t possibly be disappointed (because this brings its own unique challenges – like neglecting to recognize or implement the easiest improvement ideas and destroying your team’s morale before the event begins). Instead, a quiet confidence grounded by realistic expectations is your best starting point.
Obtain this (more appropriate) viewpoint by reviewing your exhibiting expectations and shifting your thinking away from the extremes. Consider the statements made in any “reviews” (the show management’s sales pitch, your associate’s experience when her office went last year, the internet’s summaries, etc.) and their specific meaning, after you take away the bias of the source, to determine what is truly relevant in your situation.
Another way to maintain a positive (but not unrealistic) outlook is to sit down and spend some time identifying your goals. I recommend that each of my clients determine a “needs” goal and a “wants” goal in their early event planning stages and, at this point, you should do the same. By selecting these goals, you are ensuring that your expectations are realistic because, if you have selected an appropriate event at which to exhibit and made a real effort to succeed, you can expect your results to lie somewhere in between your “needs” goal and your “wants” goal.
In other words, I am naturally competitive, as many sales professionals are, so I am always shooting for the “wants” – studying, practicing, and preparing to give myself the best possible chance to achieve as much as possible. However, I know that, even if the event goes worse than anticipated, as long as I have made a solid effort (completing pre-show marketing efforts, creating a solid booth design, distributing appropriate literature, training my team, maximizing my time on-site, planning to follow up, etc.), I will be able to meet the minimum target of my “needs” goal.
Reviewing your expectations can be an easy step to forget, but it is important to your success. So, in preparing for your next event, create the correct attitude for yourself and your team early on. Remember to keep your trade show goals in mind while shifting your expectations away from the extremes in order to make smart business decisions and maximize your exhibiting results.