StudyWorld Commercial Director and long-time StudyWorld delegate, Tim Barker, has been reflecting on his experience of what to bring to business-to-business events to wow agents and make the most of your table.
With over 90 tables at StudyWorld, how can you make the most of your table and ensure that agents leave thinking about how they can send you more students?
From broken bags and technological glitches to missed deadlines, Tim has experienced it all. Here is what he’s learned along the way so you can make the most of your StudyWorld table.
1. Give yourself time for creativity (and delivery)
In advance of every marketing season, just before the summer kicked off, we would sit down and talk about all the whizz-bang marketing materials that would dazzle agents at the autumn fairs. There were going to be videos, virtual tours, slick infographics, branded stationery, mugs, caps, shoehorns…
These meetings are great. An open space for ideas can lead to some thoughtful and innovative marketing materials. But make sure you meet early. Putting these ideas into motion will be time consuming and will demand a lot from your staff.
2. Stick to one bright idea and make it shine
After you have had all your bright ideas, make sure you are realistic about what you can achieve. Remember all the operational issues you and your teams are going to be dealing with every summer; can you really take the time out to brand those shoehorns?
Pick the one thing that you think will make the biggest impact at your autumn events and make sure it gets done well and produced on time. One brilliantly executed idea will always trump five half-baked or incomplete ones.
3. Make it easy for agents to sell your products
One of the most compelling reasons that you can give agents to work with you is that it will be easy to sell your products.
Big agents are going to have a large and varied portfolio of schools to sell across the UK and the rest of the world. Show them that your products have clear, unique benefits; that the right information is at their finger-tips; and that it is easy to share with their team.
At StudyWorld, you’ll have the opportunity to show them that you understand their needs. Use materials that they can easily use to sell to prospective students. Then show them how easy these are to get hold of, possibly with a downloadable link on your website or on a branded USB.
Good photos, shareable videos (without your contact details all over them!) and easy to digest price lists tailored to the market are great places to start.
4. “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”
There will be over 90 tables at StudyWorld, and on average an agent will sit down at 20 different tables. Think about how you can standout from the crowd and make the experience of sitting at your table memorable.
This doesn’t mean you have to have the loudest tablecloth or the biggest teddy-bear, but is there anything that says something about you that can make you memorable? The key is to spark a conversation and prompt a personal connection.
It can even be something about the way you choose to present yourself. People always remember the meeting they had with the guy in the kilt!
5. Brochure or digital? Put user experience first
There is a real debate to be had about the enduring value of printed brochures and I’m not going to settle it here.
It’s clear that they are still valued by some and waved away by others.
What really matters is to think about what you need in your meeting and what impression you want to give. Do you want to rummage through sheets of price lists? Do you show off how just a couple of clicks on your website leads exactly to what they are after? Or is the thick embossed paper of your brochure the key to communicating the exclusivity of your offer?
Digital brochures, presentations or just a well-structured website can give you a lot of flexibility in your meetings and allow you to communicate with ease to your agents.
Yes, have something meaningful they can take away, but also consider where digital could improve the customer experience. Environmental impact is also growing in importance for many students who value and choose green companies. What statement is your company making by being environmentally conscious?
6. Tidy table, tidy mind
There can be an element of chaos in your mind as you have 20-minute meeting after 20-minute meeting. “Did I say that to this agent, or the last one?” is a common refrain.
One thing that will help this is to maintain order on your table. Don’t sit back and daydream in the moments before meetings, use that time to get your papers in order and make sure that your table top is tidy.
This will not only help you to be as effective as possible in your next meeting, it will also give off the right impression to the agent you are meeting. Nothing says unprofessional like dirty coffee cups and papers strewn across a desk.
I highly recommend you to invest in a business card holder, it helps with the tidiness and the respect you need to extend to certain cultures.
7. “The attention span of a computer is only as long as its power cord.”
I really like this anonymous quote for two reasons; firstly it serves as a reminder to make sure that you don’t forget your power cord. Secondly, it reminds me of one agent describing their worst ever event meetings.
The person they were meeting was determined to show a video of their school, only the internet wasn’t working and the room was too loud to hear the volume – it wasn’t at StudyWorld, the QEII Centre is an amazing venue and the acoustics mean you never have to shout!
The agent was forced to sit through five minutes of buffering with his headphones in while the educator sat back and waited.
Needless to say, the agent was unimpressed!
Expect your technology to fail, and as soon as it does, move on to reminding agents what is special about you and your business. You don’t need an iPad to tell a story of how flexible you are, how you work with agents to make their lives easier, or how your courses change students lives.
8. Learn from your mistakes… and mine
Don’t just learn from my mistakes or the educator with the buffering video, learn from yours!
Make an effort to record what was most popular, what pages were most useful, what types of agents wanted them. Your marketing team will appreciate the feedback and it will help them produce the materials you need.
And remember to take brochures you don’t use back to the office and count how many you needed. This may help hone your fair packing skills over time. My broken bag story is a testament to the fact that my packing skills were quite poor early on. I remember thinking “I can probably get another 10 in” and then cursing this decision when the bottom literally fell out of the bag.
You can test out all these tips or even think of your own to make the most of your StudyWorld table. It is not too late to book one of our last remaining tables or one of our innovative meeting passes.