3 Golden Rules for Conventions

My father is an inspirational leader. Now in his late seventies, he works harder than most fifty-year-olds. Each year we go to conferences to speak and share our ministry with others. Dad is the first to arrive and the last to leave our vendor booth. Just when our feet are killing us and our will to continue is fading, Dad cheerfully encourages us and then reminds us of his three golden rules: “Don’t sag; Don’t lag; Don’t brag.” His pep and vigor always motivates the team to work hard till the end.

Here are my father’s three golden rules for conventions:

#1. Don’t Sag

You’ve seen them, the vendors who sit behind their booth scrolling aimlessly through their phone, looking like they wish the floor would open up and end their suffering. These are the breakers of rule number one. It’s possible they began well, but these rule-breakers have no stamina for long days standing on cold concrete. They seem to think that their fancy booth display should be the magnet that attracts hundreds to them, when in fact their own sag is sending the message, “Do not approach, I am not worth talking to.” Now in the sagger’s defense, it is incredibly difficult to maintain a cheerful, ready disposition when people seem to barely look at the sparkly banner that took hours to design. 

My father would say, “Your sign is nothing without you. Stand up, direct your gaze to people walking towards you, smile and say something.” 

What you say is crucial. That brings us to rule number two. 

#2. Don’t Lag

Now that you’re standing up and making eye contact with people you need to engage and be engaged. Resist the urge to “bark.” Yeah, you know those people at fairs who stand at their booth and yell, “Get yer popcorn.” I’m serious about this. I’ve seen it happen. Usually it’s a bit more savvy, but this is not what don’t lag means. Instead, make eye contact, smile and say, “Good morning. Are you enjoying the convention?” If all you receive is a cursory nod or grunt, no fear, stay standing and greet the next person. When they slow their pace and respond, ask another question such as, “What are you looking for today?” If you are selling self-help books and they say, “car parts,” respond with good humor with something like, “I don’t have car parts, but I do have (insert product name). May I share about (insert company or product) with you?” If they say yes, it’s time to share your resources in a succinct, clear way. The lag is almost behind you don’t screw it up by oversharing. Keep it short and then ask one last question, the close. The close is something different for every company, but don’t shrink away from it. Just beware the brag.

#3. Don’t Brag

This is a feisty little rule that will sneak in at the last minute if you don’t watch out for it. This is especially true if you’ve been standing all day and feel that maybe you’ve not made enough connections or accomplished your company goals. Suddenly, you find yourself sharing how your company beats the competition and nobody does it better than you. Pausing, you pant just a little and say the dreaded words, “Do you want to buy something?” All your hard work of not sagging or lagging goes up in a puff as your audience walks away empty handed. 

My father has encouraged us to avoid the brag by remembering we are not sales people. We don’t merely want to sell the stuff we came with. We want to connect in meaningful ways with people in order to give them the opportunity to use our resources to enrich their lives or the lives of others. Okay, I know, by the end of day two your feet are burning and you really do want to just sell the stuff you came with. Just wait, because day three of every convention is why you’ve been following these rules. On day three, you must diligently avoid the lag, sag, and brag. 

For us, day three is the busiest day of a convention. People have heard us speak in our breakout sessions, or made a connection with us at our booth, and now they want to go home with something that can help them do the work they need to do. One convention we were so busy the vendors around us kept asking if we were the keynote speakers. They’d been lagging and sagging all weekend and couldn’t figure out what was happening at our booth. If we’d had the time, we would have shared our golden rules with them. 

So when is your next convention? Are you ready to practice the three rules? Yes, you may accomplish some company goals, but the biggest reward just may be that you walk away with dignity and perhaps a few new friends.