Every event linguists attend is a networking and learning opportunity. Our visit to the Chocolate Show in Toronto wasn’t great for networking, since we don’t specialise in chocolate, we just enjoy eating it 🙂 It was a delicious way of spending a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. But we didn’t like it. How can anyone not like a Chocolate Show, right?! Let’s start with the facts.
Event: The 4th Annual Luxury Chocolate Show
Sunday, November 2, 2014 from 11 am to 7 pm
Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Canada
Tickets: $25 per person, including 3 sampling tickets (you’ll see what that means below)
Now, for $25 and a product-based event, you have expectations. We were ready for tons of free samples, spectacular concoctions made of chocolate (fountains, sculptures, you name it), smiley business owners, shiny elegant brochures with enticing pictures of chocolate products and so on.
What we saw
About half of the exhibitor tables were empty and yet the event still had about three hours to go (we went at around 4pm). Only a handful offered free samples, but they weren’t actually samples, they were at best shavings or in the size of small M&Ms. For normal samples, you had to pay in the form of sampling tickets or money. For a tiny bit of chocolate or a tiny cup of hot chocolate, the price was $2 (each sampling ticket was $1). Some of them even asked for 3 tickets (or $3) for a “sample”, e.g. a cup of hot chocolate. None of the exhibitors offered free water with the samples. If you didn’t bring water with you, you had to buy a small bottle for $1.
What we thought
When you are an exhibitor at an event the least you can bring with you is a nice, big smile. The willingness and excitement to share what your company and products (services in the case of translators) are all about. If you offer services, you bring trinkets. Pens, notepads, mousepads, post-its and numerous other things with your company logo on it. Most times, you also bring local treats (often food) or anything else that will make you stand out and the event attendees to remember you long after the event is over. It’s difficult to show how good your service is after all. In the case of products, especially food, it’s so much easier.
Bring a ton of FREE samples
And be eager for potential customers to try them out. How else are you going to convince them yours are yummier, better, good value for money? How are you going to explain the work that has gone into making each bite into a delicious adventure? And you do this even for the free events where the visitors can reach high numbers, like 2,000 people. How can the exhibitors in the Chocolate Show think it’s ok to charge $2-3 for a sample to people who had already paid $25 for a ticket?
Stay the course
You know how many hours the event will be when you register to be an exhibitor. If you think you’ll get tired half-way, bring your partner, a family member, hire help. Anything to prevent you looking tired and bored, like you’re wishing all the potential customers in front of you would disappear and you would be magically transported to your La-Z-Boy in front of the TV.
Make it easy for clients to pay
Most attendees were individuals, ready to sample and buy. In Canada, you can use a debit or credit card everywhere. When we tried to buy biscotti covered in chocolate from one of the exhibitors at the Chocolate Show, we were shocked to hear “Cash only”. And we didn’t get a receipt. He didn’t even have boxes to put the biscotti in, he used a bag.
Make me look forward to coming again next year
We didn’t find one single incentive to go again next year. The organisation was plain bad. The exhibition space looked chaotic (not because there were too many people, the opposite), it was messy, there weren’t enough standing tables to eat your samples, there should have been free coffee and water. And on top of everything, one of the exhibitors was a Chinese lady going on about a theatre show with dancers, a live orchestra and interactive screen, which looked very nice indeed but had nothing to do with chocolate!
Lessons for translators
The easiest way of finding out how to make something right is to do it wrong the first few times or see others do it wrong 🙂 It doesn’t matter that this was a completely different industry than ours; basic business principles are the same in all fields. And what we saw gone wrong today doesn’t apply to events only.
The “cash only” example reminded us that we should look into offering our clients a credit card option. The organisers example reminded us how important are good communication during the project and follow-up after the project is completed. Sometimes, we focus so much in the actual translation project that we forget the rest that surround our services. The packaging, the way we “serve” it to the client, the “sample” we offer them and the thank you at the end.
What do you think? Have you been to events where you noticed mistakes that gave you a-ha! moments with regard to your business? Isn’t is nice that all kinds of events give us inspiration? The good ones give us great examples and the mediocre ones show us what to avoid.
Off to eat the yummy chocolate!
Great blog entry, Catherine. I share your pain.
Your business acumen is evident from your post. I’ve found myself in similar situations in the past (including atteding a lousy chocolate show in Sudbury that never came back for a second year), yet I don’t think I ever made connections with my own professional activities as a translator! I must not have been business-minded enough. But I digress. The only question that truly matters here is: did you get some chocolate for me?
Thank you for your comment Frédéric. You do realise all my complaining above just meant I wanted more free chocolate, right 😉 I would have been more than glad to spend lots more to buy chocolate gifts for my friends, especially with the ATA conference a few days later, but they just didn’t convince me, too bad for them. Now as for your chocolate, I’m afraid it’s all gone now but, rest assured, when you come visit me there will be plenty more! 🙂
Great post Catherine, and good advice – we can learn so much from other businesses, and from the mistakes other business owners make. Conveying enthusiasm for your service or product is so important. If we’re not enthusiastic ourselves, how can we expect our customers to be? And, as you say, making it easy for customers to buy from you is vital. By the way (shameless plug alert): for a translation+chocolate experience – with FREE tasting – check out next year’s ITI conference: http://iti-conference.org.uk/programme/brain-food-for-translators-the-language-and-flavours-of-chocolate/
How exciting, your workshop makes the upcoming ITI conference even more appealing, will be hard to stay away 🙂 Thanks for your comment Marian. It’s hard to attend an event ready to spend your hard-earned money to buy yummy chocolate and then seeing what I described below. They just didn’t convince me to spend more, it was a good lesson on what not to do with our translation clients.