With a big smile, the Washington, D.C. panhandler (not to be confused with a Congressman), made his pitch. “”Can you spare $25?”. I laughed. His hearty response, with a smile still on his face: “Well, how about $5?”
Later I thought about this encounter. It bore some similarity to what occurs at trade shows. An exhibitor will ask a passing attendee, “Would you like to see our new Super-Deluxe Widget?
No? Well, how about our Standard Widget?” For the panhandler and the unprepared exhibitor, it is all about what he wants. The passerby or show attendee does not get priority. It is more a case of, “Enough about you, let’s talk about me.”
There are creative panhandlers. I recall the time in Central Park in Manhattan when a somewhat bohemian-looking panhandler approached me offering to compose a poem on a subject of my choice. The cost: a mere $1.00. Clearly, this man was no Bobby Burns or Bill Shakespeare, but heck, a custom poem for a buck – why not? The resultant poem was worth maybe one-tenth the cost, but the chuckle I got then and now was easily worth a dollar. And I must say, what the “poet” lacked in talent he compensated for with speed. He rendered his poem in about 10 seconds.
An exhibitor should appeal to a trade show attendee’s needs, not his or her own. Even if the pitch fails to generate interest in the product on display, an exhibitor’s interaction with an attendee can have positive results. It might be brand recognition or a word-of-mouth referral.
I doubt that you, dear reader, are considering panhandling as a career move. If, however, you are involved with exhibiting at trade shows, focus on your visitors (aka “prospects”) and their wants and needs, not on your own. It sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget.