STAFFING: Building teams of knowledge - When it comes to stand staff, clients want more than just a pretty face, they want people who know about their brands. Philip Chadwick reports

Stand staff can be an important asset for a brand. Rather than simply perch by a product and look good, they can explain services and answer queries from visitors. Exhibitors should train stand staff on the rigours of a show, but product training is best left to the clients.

"We don't train the staff,

explains The Promotions Team managing director Ann Ballinger. "The onus is on the client to train the staff as they know exactly what they want from them."

Teamworks Russell managing director Sue Petrie adds: "Training staff about specific products is something we can't do. But we do push for as much training time as possible. You have to remember that staff are representing a brand and they have to know the product."

Ballinger believes this is sometimes seen as an afterthought and is not included in the time staff spend with the client. "Clients should include training in the briefing and it should count as days on which they are hired,

she comments.

Good communication skills

"We know if our staff are experienced as we know their background. If you are going to be on a stand, you shouldn't need much training. Most people on our books have good communication skills and common sense," adds Ballinger.

Showforce promotions manager Natalie Talbot says: "When clients call us they know what they are looking for. We have found that exhibitors at trade shows are more likely to want stand staff who know a bit about the company. Clients have realised that it's not about just having a pretty face on the stand."

Most agencies have a good idea on who would be best suited for the job and make sure that they match up to the client's requirements.

"We know the background of the staff on our books and whether they are suitable for the job. We have a diverse database and can source staff for a specific brief,

says Ballinger.

"Our agency has a database of 800, which is not that big,

adds Petrie.

"When a client phones up we take time to source the right person for the right job. Everyone on our books goes through an interview process, which takes about one hour. This means we can assess them on how eloquent and articulate they are, for example."

Unique joint managing director Jo Willetts says: "We are quite selective in who represents us. We try to keep it quite personal and we don't have a long list of people on a database who we don't really know."

Staff agencies give their people basic training and in the case of exhibitions it tends to be quite general.

"We put a huge amount of effort and time into training staff,

explains Petrie. "Part of this training involves putting staff in role-playing situations."

"We train our staff in-house,

says Willetts. "We train them on how they should handle themselves and cover areas such as dealing with customer complaints. This training is ongoing."

If it is a particularly big booking then more experienced staff will be asked to act as supervisors. This helps newer staff through an exhibition.

This is certainly the case for agencies such as Showforce and Teamworks Russell.

"Where there are up to five to ten people manning a stand then we will put a supervisor with them. But this is usually for a large job,

says Talbot.

A question of time

If clients want the best then they have to get in contact with an agency quickly to give them time to source the right people, according to Willetts.

"The closer it gets to the date they want to start then they may find staff are already booked up,

he says. "Spring or summer tends to be a busy time of the year with winter a lot quieter."

The message seems clear - if brands want their stand staff to be effective at an exhibition, then training them on the product or message is the key. This could result in numerous good leads for the client and mean that stand staff don't just look as though they have been put there simply for decoration. Times have changed.

TOP TIPS

1. If stand staff need to know about products then this is best done by the exhibitors. Don't leave it to the staffing agency. However, agencies do give staff general training.

2. Make time for training - don't leave it as an afterthought. Make sure staff have enough time to understand what it is you want from them. Throwing them on to a stand and making them figure it out for themselves won't work and will give visitors a bad impression.

3. Don't book agency staff days before an event. This is a nightmare for the agency in terms of finding suitable candidates and restricts training time.

4. Have a clear idea of the type of staff you want on a stand. Don't just go for looks, particularly at trade shows. Visitors will want answers to questions and it may not look good if your stand staff struggle to find answers.


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