For the millennial generation and others who are so electronically connected, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of nonverbal communication. It is also easy to lose sight of the importance of building relationships with those you are working with or for, and the effort and sincerity required to achieve a lasting relationship with them. In a client services position it is vital to commit to providing the best customer service possible for your clients and their members.
This past spring I attended my first trade show, NAFA’s Institute & Expo in Atlantic City, N.J. This was an exciting opportunity to see the “big picture” come together on-site. While my team members prepared me the best that they could for this show, I was not prepared for the impact that meeting exhibitors in person would have on my understanding of the role of a client services coordinator. NAFA executive director, Phil Russo, shares more about the successful turnaround of this show in Hank Berkowitz’s story in today’s issue.
Move-in days at this April trade show in New Jersey were bone-chilling thanks to the open loading dock doors where exhibitors unloaded their display and booth construction materials. To alleviate the cold in those early morning hours, our team delivered hot coffee, water and soda to exhibitors. It also gave our sales representatives a chance to meet with friends who came back to the show yearly, and to put faces to the names of new exhibitors we had not met before. It’s no surprise that the coffee soon ran out. Passing out these beverages showed the exhibitors that the Naylor team cared sincerely about their show experience and understood the importance of physically meeting those they have been working with for the past year. Seeing the look on exhibitor’s faces when receiving hot coffee and then acknowledging the name and face of the Naylor representative they had been corresponding with all this time was the most rewarding part of the trip. Moments like this while working with associations are the best way to build and keep members coming back.
Communication is the primary responsibility of my position, and I feel comfortable communicating electronically because it is how my generation grew up. I was raised on AOL Instant Messaging and Google Chat (“gchat”), social networking and the importance of staying “connected.” However, electronic communication lacks the nonverbal cues that allow for better relationships. We need face-to-face communication to make a connection and recognize that person as “familiar” instead of just a Gmail address. This all changes once you meet someone in person. On-site you don’t have the computer screen or telephone wire to filter a connection with someone. With this unfiltered connection, I believe a level of trust is developed, and with trust comes security.
Being new to my position, I knew it would be challenging to form relationships with exhibitors that I had only communicated with via email so far. In a live event setting, you can make the face-to-name connection with an exhibitor, and it doesn’t matter how much online correspondence you had in the past. Those conversations vanish and are replaced by a sense memory. The appearance of the person you meet, the body language, facial expressions and tone of voice are all senses that contribute to our memory. We use these senses to create a memory of an individual, which leads to familiarity in further correspondence.
All I had hoped for at the conclusion of the show was that I would leave with a greater understanding of every piece of work and influence that goes into a successful show. I now understand that the work really begins when you meet the people you’ve been emailing, invoicing and phoning for the past year. You have to make quick, substantial changes and adjustments to meet individual show floor needs. Plans that have been carefully mapped out in advance can change at a moment’s notice. This type of work environment allows for creativity and problem solving while staying true to the core values of the company.
The integrity of a successful event management team will always surpass what resources may allow. Money, time management and an experienced staff will give you the ability to execute a successful show, but personality and sincere commitment to exceptional customer service is how you create a lasting impression. If an exhibitor leaves a trade show feeling supported, understood and respected, that individual is more likely to return because you established a firm foundation. You need to go above and beyond general expectations so your clients and exhibitors at the show are not only satisfied with the outcome of the show, but also want to return and continue developing a relationship with you and the show’s attendees.
Ultimately, I want the clients we work with to feel secure. We have everything we need in our office and among our team members to create a unique, memorable and successful show, all we need is our client’s trust. Client satisfaction is how we measure our success.
Evan Brown is a client services coordinator with NaylorCMG.