How to Survive a Tradeshow on a Broken Foot

The sun was shining. There was a crisp bite in the air that signaled winter was soon approaching. I rounded the corner on Heath Street (riding my beautiful mint green 2016 Genuine Buddy Scooter), on a mission to get to a couple of media meetings, when suddenly… I flipped.

After a brief five seconds on the ground, facing oncoming traffic, the adrenaline kicked in. As people started to crowd around me and help move my scooter away from the Green Line train tracks, I jumped up.

Do we need to call the ambulance?!” one guy shouted at me.

No! Please don’t. I’m fine.” I said.

Luckily, my scooter was unscathed. I hopped back on and very carefully (at 5 mph) got myself to the media meetings and gave the reporters walking tours of two large hotels.

After a weekend of limping around, two x-rays and an MRI, I learned that I fractured four bones on the top of my foot and was sentenced to six weeks in an air cast.

Six. Weeks.

Stephanie Ross sits on her scooter at RSNAWhile the boot put a damper in my wardrobe, it also put a damper in my schedule. I had a tradeshow in Chicago in two weeks, and not just any tradeshow – the largest radiology meeting in the world, drawing 58,000 attendees annually. I was worried I was going to miss it. It was an opportunity to meet face-to-face with my Sweden-based client and a first experience for me with tradeshow media interviews.

I had to go. And where there’s a will… there’s a way.

My colleagues, client and family were reluctant to see me go. Trade shows are on-your-feet, exhibit hall-giant, evening event experiences. Still, I made my way to Chicago and spent three days with my crutches and my client. Was it tiring? Yes. But was it worth it? Absolutely.

Here are 5 tips for how to survive a tradeshow with a broken foot:

 1.     Triple check with your airline about special assistance.

Call your airline ahead of time requesting wheelchair service on both legs of your trip. Make sure they will have a wheelchair waiting for you at the gate when you arrive. Then, call again to make sure everything is set – wheelchairs, pre-boarding and arrival. Sometimes, they forget to enter it or there is some sort of miscommunication that forces you to not get pre-boarding and hobble alongside the inpatient passengers (I’m looking at you, American Airlines). Pro tip: remember to carry cash to tip the employees who wheel you around – it’s not an easy task.

2.     Rent a scooter or wheelchair

Ahead of your tradeshow or conference, check the website for accessibility services. Most of the time, these large venues allow you to rent a scooter so you can zoom around. The rental was $50/day and it was extremely worth it. I was able to scoot around the tradeshow floor to meet with different reporters and exhibitors (and I was never late, since the scooter was wicked fast).

3.     Wear a comfortable shoe

That’s right. Shoe – singular. You depend so much on your healthy leg when you have a broken foot, it’s important you wear a shoe that’s comfortable. Learn from my mistake: that cute black, Italian leather heel that you thought would even out your lopsided stance doesn’t.

4.     Identify spots for you to sit during slow booth time

Similar to locating the nearest emergency exit when boarding a plane, you should locate the nearest chair, bench, table or clean floor for you to sit. Tending to a booth at a trade show is tiresome – you’re on your feet for hours at a time. If the healthiest feet need rest, you better believe your broken foot will need some too.

5.     Use the boot to network

As I stood at my client’s booth, my foot and I were met with sympathetic glances that soon turned into friendly introductions. I can’t tell you how many times I had to answer the question: “how did it happen?” However, one of the positive outcomes was how many booth visitors we engaged with because of the ugly, gray boot.

Can you wear the boot again next year?” my client asked.

“Sure,” I said, “Maybe.”

(Disclaimer: I’ve been boot-free for 46 days and counting. The boot, however, was unable to introduce me to or attract potential boyfriends. Bummer.)

From Client to Partner: Tips to Create Lasting Relationships

shutterstock_75203164Like many, I waited tables during college. I worked at a local fine dining establishment, which mostly catered to out-of-towners, but had a fair number of local regulars as well. I could have easily gone from shift to shift making good money, but I quickly realized that the job was far more enjoyable when I started establishing my own “regulars.” Getting requested wasn’t just a matter of offering quick and friendly service, it was the result of making myself an integral part of the dining experience—my diners knew that I could recommend the best wine for their palate or what the chef may be offering off menu. By adding value to their dining experience, I became a trusted consultant, a partner if you will.

Years later as an ad agency account executive, I’m still in the service industry, and the same general concept applies in terms of adding value to the customer experience. Almost any agency can turn around a specific project request, but the good agencies form long-term relationships with clients based on trust. Given shifts in the marketplace, retainer-based agency of record relationships may not be as common, but years-long relationships can be built from project-based accounts by simply following a few guidelines:

  1. Don’t just take orders: Your agency is not Kinko’s, nor should it try to operate like one. Clients hire agencies for their design or strategic acumen (or both) to achieve objectives that serve their best interests. Offer recommendations and provide your perspective for “why” rather than simply asking, “what do you want?”
  2. Look for insights: You typically won’t spend countless hours researching the competitive landscape or digging into industry jargon if you’re not getting paid to do so. But keeping an eye on your client’s marketplace and competition as part of your day-to-day does prime you to speak in an informed way about your client’s business and recommend tactics or storylines they should explore.
  3. Think critically about design: We live in an age where design isn’t something that only luxury brands are thinking about. As marketing and design experts, “because it looks good” should never be a sufficient explanation of design intentions. As a brand advocate and steward, it is up to you to ensure a consistent and meaningful experience for your client’s customers—which means always thinking about the colors, shapes and other design components that define a brand.
  4. Be a good storyteller: Just as you should demonstrate thoughtfulness about design, you should be thinking about the story you’re telling. Whether B2C or B2B, marketing is all human-to-human and we all love a good story. Are you ensuring the stories you’re telling align to the brand? While you may not always be your client’s customer, put yourself in the customer’s shoes to ensure the words resonate.
  5. Become invaluable: By following the above items, you’re well on your way to becoming invaluable.  Beyond these things, it’s the details that matter and have impact. Pick up the phone instead of emailing or, better yet, schedule time for coffee with your clients. Be grateful. Be genuine. Be unexpected.

Becoming a reliable partner helps create an enjoyable and productive working relationship for both you and your clients. Not only can those relationships be long-lasting, but your “regulars” are more likely to refer you to others, resulting in even more happy clients.