Earning a rose

Earning A Rose

The Farm Progress Show and The Bachelor have more in common than you think

As we pulled into an expansive field-turned-parking-lot, I began to wonder if I was in the right place. After all, the skies were clear and the temperature comfortable. This was in stark contrast to what I had heard to expect. But the horse-bound volunteers, banner ups, and glimpses of 10-ton tractors off in the distance quickly confirmed I was in the right place: I had arrived at my first Farm Progress Show.

I had a blast, and in the weeks following, there was certainly plenty to digest. I came home with a bag full of giveaways and product literature, a phone full of pictures and a stomach a bit too full of snacks (thanks for the free popcorn!). As I’ve reflected on my experience, upon all the booths, messages and promotions I saw, I realized my experience seemed surprisingly familiar to one I’ve seen play out on television before. Yes, Farm Progress Show was strangely similar to…The Bachelor.

The Bachelor?! Farm Progress Show?? Unless Chris Soules was someone’s keynote speaker, you probably think I’m crazy. Let me explain.

On night one of The Bachelor, the large group of contestants have one chance to make enough of an impression on the bachelor (or bachelorette) contestant to earn a rose, securing them at least one more week to find love (or stardom). With competition intense and time at a premium, contestants employ various strategies to win the eye of their potential suitor. Some opt for gimmicks or props, some tell jokes, some try to steal more time, all in hopes of leaving a lasting impression.

Is this sounding more familiar yet?

At the Farm Progress Show, every company hopes to earn the attention of each and every person who enters their booth. Many create expansive, carefully crafted exhibits with large, colorful graphics. Some showcase interactive displays with creative technology, while others offer live demonstrations and free food. At the end of my day, I was full from all of the “first impressions” offered to me, to the point that I just couldn’t process any more.

In TV dating shows and event marketing, it is easy to rely on impressions. We spend copious amounts of energy and resources on our displays, multimedia and handouts to generate the “oohs” and “aahs” and first impressions that win over customers. But if the end goal is creating connections, shouldn’t we just start there instead?

Upon entry to many of the booths, I saw a bevy of employees usually standing toward the back. Rarely was I greeted at the front or thanked when I left. Some booths had incentivized systems encouraging us to interact with each station, but these still relied on the customer doing the initiating. It didn’t seem like everyone was trained or terribly interested in leaving their comfort zone. On the other hand, some booths cultivated a “go to you” posture rather than “come to us.” I was greeted and welcomed at the front, warmly approached with a hello throughout, and casually engaged in conversation, sometimes not even about their product or service. I smiled, shook hands and left with a better idea of what that company was truly about. These experiences were the ones that I remember. Those booths are the ones that I felt like I left with something meaningful, even if my bag wasn’t any heavier.

At our events, let’s focus on connections rather than impressions. It’ll take more energy the day of, but maybe we can save some energy in the days and weeks leading up to the event. Connections are stronger and more enduring, while impressions are more difficult to control and easily forgotten.

At my next Farm Progress Show – or any tradeshow I attend – I hope I am approached with more connections than impressions. That’s the way to get the rose (but the free food doesn’t hurt either).

Chris Oakland is an Assistant Account Manager for R+K and proud alum of Michigan State University.

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