Trevor Punt, MD of TBG Group and author of the Disruptive Exhibitionist blog, says tech is great, so why aren’t we using it internally?
I recently had the chance of speaking to an HR director at a leading organiser who mentioned that her company had an intensive “brainstorming” away-day to discuss trends in the event industry and the adoption of technology in their trade shows.
After listening for a while, I asked a question: “You’ve talked a lot about technology and the importance of it on trade shows, but what about staff training?”
The disappointing truth is that while staff training probably should be a trend in the trade show industry, it’s not.
Recent research has shown that only 26 per cent of exhibitors conduct event training and fewer organisers are conducting training of their front-line staff. That means that your staff, and those participating in your events, are likely to be dumber than they used to be!
Far too many organisers are playing fast and loose with the way they run events
For exhibitors, there is increased scrutiny of their marketing spend. Lead acquisition is constantly given as the most important objective for exhibitors investing in a trade show and the quality and quantity of leads generated has a direct impact on revenue generation. The lack of training of trade show staff is having an adverse effect on trade show effectiveness as a sales methodology.
Similarly, for organisers, there’s a strong correlation between staff training and overall results in understanding objectives and how to implement sales, marketing and operation strategies.
Companies that train their staff are more likely to see increased returns than those who do not. But despite that common-sense correlation, far too many organisers are playing fast and loose with the way they run events entrusting them to the fate of ill-prepared personnel.
Training affects employees’ job performance positively. Training is a motivational factor which enhances the knowledge of the employee towards the job by which employees become proficient in their jobs and they become able to give better results. In addition, training is seen as a useful means of coping with changes fostered by technological innovation; market competition, organisational structuring and, most importantly, it plays a key role to enhance employee performance.
No matter how much technology is employed at a show results are not guaranteed and it will never replace human interaction of those who are well trained. Even one bad apple apathetic employee can have a detrimental effect on your event and overall company productivity.
At the moment, there’s a lot of talk in the event industry about Artificial Intelligence. Everybody is excited and the level of investment in AI is massive. The opportunities are endless. AI could speed up registration, save on temporary staff costs, untap marketing opportunities and improve security. You’re probably employing it now without knowing it. It’s estimated that 25 per cent of event apps on the market offer some level of AI.
AI has the ability to recognise faces and get data about attendees speeding up registration at large events. Many large music festivals are now using facial recognition to randomly scan attendees and identify potential terror threats, one of the most pressing issues for event professionals today.
Visitors don’t want to be bothered with wading through hundreds of screens to find out about an event. They want information now, not in two minutes. Two minutes in an event is an eternity. What people at an event want is to ask their phone about the event and get targeted information. The rise of the Chatbot is likely to be the next-big-thing.
Yes, there is the ability to save on recurring questions made to your staff by using chatbots intelligently, but human capital is the differentiator between a good company and a great company.
Effective training and development are an investment in the human resources of an organisation, with both immediate and long-range returns unlocking the potential to achieve a competitive edge not to mention acquainting employees with more advanced technology and attaining robust competencies and skills to handle the functions and basics of new technologies.
Sure, we all love asking Alexa or Siri and her AI friends ridiculous questions, but AI can be used for a lot more than telling us jokes. From a trade show perspective, AI helps streamline operations and takes care of basic processing tasks. But, events are all about face-to-face interactions. If we all start championing the role of staff training in the trade show industry and proving its incremental value over time and technology, it will become a trending topic.
If your company doesn’t have a budget for staff training, or if senior management doesn’t support the idea of a training programme, that’s not adequate justification for shirking the responsibility of developing staff competencies.
Whether you’re able to scrounge up enough to pay for a one-time session from a professional trainer or wrangle your staffers together for a 20-minute workshop that you personally lead, that’s better than no training whatsoever. Then track the results of those efforts against established benchmarks and use any upticks to make the case for why your budget should include allocations for training and why it should be mandatory for all client-facing company staff members.
What could possibly go wrong?