Trade Shows Are Hot Spots for Talent: How to Recruit Candidates at a Business Exhibition

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Exhibitions and trade shows are vital marketing and commerce opportunities  for small businesses and large organizations alike. But these events offer another benefit that often goes overlooked: a powerful platform to recruit new talent. An exhibition not only brings together a vast range of professionals based in and around your industry, but it also provides you with a venue to show off your company’s potential and employer brand.

Today, I’d like to highlight how you can attract attention from top talents in the job market at your next exhibition. Make your company an appealing career choice for exhibition attendees by doing these three things:

Plan Several Months in Advance

Whether you’re looking to market products, expand your customer base, recruit new employees, or a combination of all three, preparation is essential to meeting your goals at an exhibition.

Planning should begin several months in advance. During that time, you’ll need to design a custom exhibition stand, prep your team, carry out in-depth research on the event, and create a booth that will appeal to attendees. Here’s a broad outline you can use to guide preparation for your next exhibition:

1. Research the Event

Rather than simply showing up at the event and hoping for the best, you and your merry bunch of recruiters will need to have a firm understanding of the exhibition, including the schedule and the type of attendees you can expect to encounter. With this information in hand, you’ll know when and where you need to be to find candidates who might be a good fit for your needs.

A simple and efficient way to carry out initial research is by monitoring social media updates related to the exhibition. Most events will have dedicated pages or accounts on various social media platforms, but you can also check out live updates on Twitter by following the event’s dedicated hashtag. You can also use this hashtag to interact with people who are attending the exhibition, giving you a direct line of communication to begin the recruitment process before the event gets started.

2. Establish Your Goals

It’s essential to narrow down your key goals before the event, as this will give you a set of clear targets to keep in mind throughout the exhibition.

Regarding recruitment specifically, while you may be looking to hire new talent as soon as possible, you won’t necessarily be able to do so on the day of the exhibition. Consider the event your opportunity to make an all-important first impression and find warm leads who can formally become candidates in the weeks after the event.

3. Exhibitioners, Assemble!

Put together a team of confident and capable employees to man your exhibition booth and execute your recruitment strategy. (More on this below.)

4. Hold Multiple Mission Briefings

By giving yourself lots of time to plan, you allow yourself to schedule several in-house meetings where you and your team can discuss what everyone needs to be doing, the schedule for the event, and the overall approach you’re looking to implement.

5. Everything Must Be on Brand

From designs and logos to fonts and colors, every aspect of your exhibition stand — and recruitment strategy — should be an accurate representation of your brand. Use some of your planning time to hash out the cohesive brand image you want to portray.

6. Do Some Pre-Exhibition Promotion

You are undoubtedly already using social media to market your business, so why not use it to market your presence at this upcoming event? Post regular updates on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other social sites you use to keep your followers in the loop about the event. Mention that you’re in the market for new employees to motivate candidates to seek you out at the exhibition.

Get Creative With Your Exhibition Stand

With the sheer volume of businesses attending exhibitions, you’ll need to be unique to attract the attention of potential customers and new talent. Your exhibition stand needs to have a bespoke, on-brand design and a layout that suits your needs.

As part of your preparation for the exhibition, you may want to connect with an expert who can help brainstorm ideas for your stand. An expert can also provide some insight into best design practices with respect to recruiting. For example, you may not realize you’ll need to consider your furniture needs, but forcing prospects to stand for extended periods of time while they discuss your employment opportunities may send talent a message that you are not very considerate of your employees’ needs.

Aside from speaking to an expert, you can also learn a lot from your fellow exhibitors. Think about previous events you’ve attended. What aspects of stands have you seen attendees positively react to? Would these work for your business?

For more expert recruiting advice, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

Additionally, here are a few general best practices to consider:

  1. No clutter! That means no half-drunk cups of coffee or half-eaten sandwiches left on display. It also means no bored support staff with nothing to do — send them around the exhibition to report back with highlights, or direct them to the exhibition entrance with an engaging leaflet to drive interested visitors to your stand.
  2. It can be tempting to go for all the bells and whistles, but be careful not to overdo it. Meaningless noise will make you stand out for all the wrong reasons. On the flip side, however, a bare-bones display can convey that your attendance was an afterthought. Try to strike the right balance.
  3. Don’t forget that an exhibition can be long and tedious. Your employees can expect to spend a lot of time on their feet and talking to excited prospects, so a constant supply of coffee is always vital!
  4. Opt for a visually appealing and well-lit display. Don’t forget, you are trying to catch the eyes of visitors.
  5. An interactive display, no matter how subtle, is sure to increase attendee engagement. Is there something for attendees to taste, smell, hear, watch, or feel?
  6. Clearly label your display. If visitors can’t immediately tell what your business is about, they likely won’t come up to ask you.
  7. Use an underlying theme to tie your product displays together. Remember your branding here! A mishmash of odd assortments thrown together is unlikely to get the reception you want.
  8. Offer something for both engaged prospects and general visitors to take away with them. This helps you stay top of mind. Be sure to include contact details with your giveaways, as this will give people a way to get in touch.

Take the Right People

Much of our personal and professional communication may occur via digital platforms these days, but the art of face-to-face conversation is vital when it comes to recruiting at exhibitions. No matter how exciting a brand is, your employees are the real beating heart and personality of your company. Your stand needs to be staffed by a team of individuals who possess brilliant interpersonal skills and a confident command of recruitment tactics.

Your chosen team members will be the face of the company at the event, so brief them on how they should present your brand. If you’re unsure whom to take with you, you’ll need to determine which of your workers are the best fits for the task at hand. Keep the following in mind when choosing your exhibition team:

  1. Put out the Bat-Signal and see who volunteers. The people who volunteer will do so because they are eager to take on the challenge and confident they can succeed. This will also help you avoid taking employees who don’t want to be there, which could prove devastating for your brand image.
  2. Take your sales team. Members of your sales team will often prove highly effective at business events, as they possess both an in-depth knowledge of your products or services and the gift of the gab necessary to achieve your goal of recruiting new talent.
  3. Mix it up. You’re likely recruiting for several roles across multiple departments, so you should try to represent those departments by bringing along an employee from each.
  4. Look for people who exemplify your values. You’ll want your booth staffed by people who are well-versed in your brand and what it stands for. If your company prides itself on developing confident and happy employees who get plenty of autonomy, you don’t want your brand represented by employees who are bored and irritable.

If you’re on the lookout for new talent, an exhibition or trade show can prove to be a powerful recruiting platform, but making the most of the event will require plenty of planning, coordination, and hard work. You should never walk blindly into an exhibition. Instead, efficient preparation combined with confident and charismatic execution will attract attention, increase your business’s exposure, and spread the word that your company is hiring.

Tom Bristow is the managing director of The Plus Group.

By Tom Bristow