How to Make The Most Of Your Millennial Employees at a Trade Show
Chances are, there are Millennials within your company’s ranks.
For our purposes, a “Millennial” is a person born between 1982 and 2000. That means we’re talking about people who are presently in their teens to mid-thirties.
As a group, they possess particular skills and sensitivities you can use to your advantage on the trade show floor.
Like all of us, they are a combination of positive and negative traits. But if you can nurture their strengths and manage their shortcomings, you’ll end up with dedicated and knowledgeable staffers at your next trade show.
Let’s focus on some of their strengths first. On the trade show floor, your Millennials can offer:
1) Collaboration: While you may think Millennials are a bunch of loners glued to their iPhones, they actually like to work productively with people they “click” with. They can be a great part of a winning team for your booth.
They stay motivated and engaged when their work has a social element, which is a big part of trade shows.
Here’s how to get the best of them in the booth: Set specific goals (for leads or customer contacts, for example) and boundaries, and their collaborative skills will deliver amazing results.
2) Technological Expertise: Remember, this is the group that learned to type before they learned to talk.
They have interacted with technology all their lives, and are extremely comfortable learning new things.
What can they do in your trade show exhibit?
They’re excellent problem solvers and product demonstrators, and they’re able to explain technology in layman’s terms.
They’re also great at using social media apps, so let them handle your trade show Twitter feed, email blasts, texting and other online outreaches.
3) Multi-tasking: Millennials are always doing multiple things simultaneously: they’re talking on the phone while texting someone else and looking something up on the computer.
You can assign several tasks to people in this group and rest assured they’ll get it all done.
On the show floor, they’ll be writing notes about a lead while calling up product specs or a video on an iPad—and doing it well.
So how do you handle their weaknesses?
1) Challenge Them: They thrive on challenges, seeing them as puzzles to be solved. And they usually solve them quickly, and may succumb to boredom without more challenges to focus on.
In the run-up to the show, give them new problems to solve. Continue this over the course of the show itself, and they’ll stay engaged and interested.
2) Eliminate Arbitrariness: Millennials tend to think in binary ways—things are black or white; they either are or they aren’t.
And in the trade show world, where seemingly arbitrary rules and regulations abound, this can be confusing and off-putting to Millennials.
When the show is nearing, take some time to set their expectations early on.
And limit Millennials’ interactions with things that can’t be changed.
3) Succeed Despite Their Short Attention Spans: When you think about Millennials, you probably conjure up an image of someone texting and emailing all the time.
That’s true—to a point. This group thrives on documenting their lives: they even Instagram pictures of their dinner!
Make the best of this by communicating with them through several channels: talk face-to-face, send a text that restates what you talked about, or email them reminders or additional details.
A Few Communication Tips For Trade Show Managers When Working With Millennials:
1) Communicate Frequently, But Briefly: Stay on point. Be succinct. Repeat often.
2) Reach Them Their Way: They’re accustomed to video games that immerse them in fantasy environments. Your memo isn’t going to cut it. If you don’t add a little “flash” to your communication, you won’t hold a Millennial’s attention. You might also want to include this in your booth staff training.
3) Explain And Repeat: Invest time early on to explain important issues, then repeat the main message—ideally, through different channels: texting, talking, emailing, etc.
Traits To Look For In Millennials For Your Trade Show Team:
1) Extensive Knowledge: The ideal Millennial trade show newbie will have thorough knowledge of the company’s products or services, as well as the company itself.
2) Social Proactivity: Millennials can be loners and isolators, but they’re not all that way. When selecting the members of your trade show team, look for people who habitually go out of their way to interact with others.
3) Positive Attitude: Given all the time you’ve spent on the road as a trade show manager, you’re well aware there can be bumps in that road that make the job challenging. You want people on your team who can roll right over those bumps and not fly off the handle or fall apart.
4) Team Player: Of course, a team player is someone who works well as a member of a team or group, but there’s more to it than that. A team player also possesses commitment, dependability and enthusiasm. Find those qualities in your younger staffers, and you’ll strike gold.
What’s In It For The Millennials?
Don’t make it all one-sided. Here are just a few of the things Millennials may appreciate about working a trade show:
• The opportunity to get out of the office
• Travel to a new location that could be fun and exciting
• Greater interaction with their workplace friends
• Career advancement opportunities
• Reimbursement for travel-related expenses
Post Show Follow-Up With Your Millennial Staffers:
• Ask them if they enjoyed it, and would be willing to do it again
• Quiz them to see how much they’ve learned
• Always ask for one good idea, or one thing they’d change if they could
I want to thank Matt Hill of the Hill Group, who’s provided excellent booth staff training for nearly 30 years. His workshop at EXHIBITORLIVE! 2015 sparked me to write about this subject. So if you’re in need of sales training for your booth staffers, let me suggest you talk to Matt and his team.
And if you need anything related to your exhibit, from a completely custom built booth to additional exhibit modules, graphics, banner stands, lighting kits—or a whole catalog of products designed to make your display stand out on the show floor, let me suggest you talk to us.