Here's the Scenario...
You're at a trade show. Out of town. It's probably an
unfamiliar city. Maybe an exotic locale. Lots of strangers.
There's a client or two. A couple of buddies. Lots of
opportunities to do business. Lots of opportunities to get
yourself in a bind.
Here's how to stay out of trouble, save your dignity and keep
Trade shows are hard work - both physically and
emotionally. It's tiring to travel. Hard to be away from home.
Boring to be pleasant and smile for hours. And, a blow to
the ego when people ignore you, don't respond to your
comments, look the other way when passing your booth, or
just say "no" to your offer.
There's pressure to produce. Talk with prospects. Entertain
clients. Look for partners. Scout out the competition. Get the
business. And, increasingly because of technology you're
never out of contact but have to keep up with your "real" job
at the same time. So, it's easy to fall into the traps of your
normal stress reducers - the inter-relationships of sex,
drugs & rock-n-roll.
The Lectures and the Tips...
I call these behaviors - Things your mother taught you not to
do, but since you're away and you think nobody knows you,
you can get away with them. Sorry, somebody does know.
And that's you.
Sex - Ah, how nice it is to be loved. Or at least enjoyed for a
short period. The temptations and availability of anonymous
sex are high when you're away plus there's the chance to
have a rendezvous with a co-worker, client or other
business acquaintance. Magic moments fizzle fast when the
sun comes up. Remember, your life is longer than the trade
Drugs - Does your company have a policy that allows you to
buy, sell, and use illegal drugs? Doubt it. You are on
company time from the moment you leave your home until
you return. Not only do you endanger your career and
industry reputation, you run the risk of breaking US and
foreign laws. Jail? Not a nice experience. Note that the U.S.
Embassy cannot bail you out if you break foreign laws.
Are you traveling with legitimate prescription drugs? Keep
them with you in the original bottles with the pharmacist's
labels, keep a written copy of the prescription details in
another location (in case you lose the vials and need refills).
And most importantly, don't double up doses because you
feel ill or uncomfortable. Check with your physician before
you leave in case you have a minor emergency. This is
especially true if you have allergies, a heart condition or use
mood levelers. For example doubling tranquilizers may
calm you to the point of stupor.
Rock-n-Roll - Hey, it's Party Time. Free beer. Free booze.
Lots of great food. Music to rock by. Business is on a roll.
You're king of the hill and queen for a day, you're
entertaining and being entertained. What a life!
With some clients and in some cultures, you're expected to
indulge in Party Time behavior. Drink a lot. It's OK to get
drunk. Cozy up to the hostesses. Let your hair down and
have a good time. Party hardy. Here's a secret - You can still
be pleasant, have a good time, and stay sober.
Why be a prude when party opportunities abound? Because
you're smart. You know alcohol loosens lips. Your hosts are
now willing to brag about their business - details on the
newest product, personnel shifts, corporate goals, and
insider gossip. If you're sloshed, you won't remember. If
you're drinking club soda with lime, you will.
Conversely, when you're drinking, you may trash your boss,
reveal company secrets, ask the wrong person for a favor
and be generally boastful and obnoxious. You'll be
memorable for all the wrong reasons.
When sober, you're smarter because you're gathering
critical market intelligence - information to get you ahead of
your competition and be a leader in industry trends.
Remember, at a trade show and all surrounding events, you
are what people perceive as Your Company. How you act is
how people view your firm.
There are ways to avoid these traps. Here are perfectly
legitimate excuses for not indulging in wayward behavior,
but you have to make the rational decision to use them.
Think first of your health. Anything you knowingly do that
endangers the health of you and your family is stupid, and
hard to explain. Keep the wedding band on. Be polite and
say no. The major VD's are still around, though treatable.
But as global travel expands, new viruses and diseases are
popping up and transmuting. Besides the emotional trauma
associated with sexual escapades, the health risks are just
not worth it.
Understand your corporate policies from using drugs to
paying bribes to accepting gifts. What's standard at the
office, applies away from the office. If you don't know your
policies, ask before you go. Better be safe than sorry.
Examine your religious beliefs and laws. Adultery is a big
sin in most religions. So are lying, cheating and stealing.
We all want to do business with people who are trustworthy.
It's your responsibility to demonstrate that.
Trust your gut. If you're uncomfortable in a situation, get out.
Whether it's physical danger or an emotional jolt, your
intuition is your best guide.
You can say "No, thanks." Because of health, corporate
policy, beliefs and intuition. But the main reason is because
you're a trustworthy person.
Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - writes
about practical aspects of trade shows. As president of
Trade Show Training, inc,, now celebrating its 10th
year, she works with companies in a variety of
industries to improve their bottom line and marketing
opportunities at trade shows.
Julia is an expert in the psychology of the trade show
environment and uses this expertise in sales training
and management seminars.