Weekly Insights: Are You Really Listening?

Photo © FreeImages.com/StillSearc

This week I’ve been dealing with a mini-meltdown of this website. You may not have noticed because it was primarily behind the scenes, but it was incredibly frustrating … in more ways than one.

You see, it wasn’t just the fact that my site was malfunctioning, but that the “experts” I counted on to help me weren’t answering the right questions. Without getting into a ton of techie details, part of the problem was that the backups I pay extra to my web host each month for weren’t working. So I contacted their tech support via live chat.

In order to be better prepared, I typed up an outline of what went wrong in what order, then copied and pasted into the chat. After quite a bit of back-and-forth, it was obvious the tech person hadn’t read what I originally sent, so I sent it again. Then as we went on and I asked questions about next steps, those would get answered with a “yes” or “check back later.” Even something like “try doing xyz again in six to eight hours” would have been much more helpful. (I understood how they didn’t control the timing of repairs.) I began to get the feeling they were simply following a script.

The final result was that the tech said my issue would be “escalated” to a supervisor, who would then follow up with me. That was two days ago, and still no response.

So you know what? My husband did some googling and came up with a possible solution, which we tried last night and it worked!

I’m sure you’ve guessed the primary lesson in this for exhibitors (especially after reading the headline of this post), but here it is: true listening isn’t easy, but it isn’t difficult either.

Basic listening is often superficial, where the listener is too busy formulating “official” answers rather than paying attention to the underlying problem. I see this all the time on the show floor when attendees ask exhibitors questions. Often the answers provided have nothing to do with the root question. Now sometimes this might be because the exhibitor doesn’t really understand the question. No problem – it’s always okay to ask clarifying questions. But I believe that most of the time it’s because the exhibitor has an answer they want to give (or are supposed to give), and completely miss the mark on what would satisfy the attendee.

And one other lesson in this example: if you say that you will pass something on to a supervisor or expert, do it. Don’t let that valuable follow-up opportunity fall through the cracks.

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Marlys Arnold

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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