Tips for success at educational trade fairs

February 10, 2010

Here are some tips I’ve used myself at educational trade fairs. They could just as easily apply to business trade shows too, I would expect, but since my experience is in the educational sector, I’ll stick to what I know. A few of them were passed on to me by others who were seasoned veterans of the fair circuit, so let me publicly thank them for helping me out when I was a rookie. I’m happy to share all these tips with you:

Think “first aid kit”. First aid kits are full of little things you need in emergencies. Your “trade fair kit” should include tape, push pins, “fun tack” (sticky putty that holds posters to the wall without marking the wall) business cards, markers, pens, elastic bands, a couple of large envelopes, a note pad and a pair of scissors. Bring everything you need to make your booth beautiful. Bonus tip: Using clear packing tape, I always tape a business card to the handle of my scissors so if anyone asks to borrow them, they will remember who to return them to. It’s amazing how many things get lent – and then lost – at a trade fair!

Stay hydrated. Exhibition halls can get hot and usually don’t have a lot of fresh air. You may get dehydrated more quickly than usual. Keep a bottle of water handy and drink from it often. Coffee, tea and colas will dehydrate you (and they’ll look terrible if they spill on your clothes.) If you’re travelling in a foreign country remember to buy bottled water. Make sure the bottle is sealed when you get it. Otherwise, it may have been refilled with local tap water which may contain bacteria that is not agreeable to your system.

Dress for comfort. You’re on the go for 10, 12, maybe 14 hours (or more). You need to look professional, but you also need to be comfortable. If your shoes hurt your feet, leave them at home. If your favorite suit is a bit snug these days, forget it. The bottom line is that if you’re not thinking about what you’re wearing, you’re more likely to concentrate on your work. Bonus tip: Bring some stain remover. In Canada, for example, you can buy a box of individually wrapped stain-wipes and I expect you can get them in many other countries, too. They are great for travelling. If you spill something on yourself, you may not have time to run back to your room to change.

Be a know-it-all. People are more likely to remember you if you are helpful to them. Before the doors crash open and people flood the hall, make a point to find out where the closest bathrooms, exits, water fountain, information booth and cafeteria are. No, it’s not your job to direct traffic, but if you can be helpful to others, they will appreciate it and you’ll leave them with a positive impression.

Smile, smile, smile! Once students, agents and parents fill the hall, this is your time to shine. Make a point to smile to as many of them as possible. Sometimes, people start concentrating on answering questions or focus on how tired or jet lagged they feel. The tough reality is that students and parents have no idea how you feel and most of them won’t care. They will care, however, if you make them feel good. A smile always makes people feel good.

Be a farmer. Trade fairs are a place to plant seeds that will grow later. Collect as much contact information as you can, so you can stay in touch with people later. This is called “harvesting information”. One way to do this is to offer a draw for something that people are really keen on. Free tuition is always a hit. Then, use your entry forms to follow up with people when you get home. Plant the seeds. Nurture the relationships that germinate at trade fairs and some of them will blossom into registrations for you.

Warning – Don’t eat alone. Trade fairs mean networking. Valuable meetings can happen over meals or coffee. Use this time to build relationships with other professionals, agents or a new contact. Remember that the best way to network is to make yourself an excellent resource for others. Be ready to offer your own tips, ideas and information. Doing so will help others remember you – warmly.

(This post is a reprint of an article originally written by the blog author in the October 6, 2003 edition of the “weekly e-newsletter for subscribers of”.)

Related posts:

How to find a good ESL agent: Tips from the trenches

Tips for finding ESL educational agents


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Educational Leadership in the New Millennium (CILC workshop)

February 8, 2010

Recently I started working with the Centre for Interactive Learning and Collaboration as a provider of professional development programs.

I have just posted a new workshop with them:

Educational Leadership in the New Millennium: Leadership as part of professional practice

This is a new endeavour for me and I’m looking forward to delivering some professional development programs for educators, school administrators and other leaders in the field.


February 8, 2010

I’ve just received an e-mail saying that my application to attend the TEDxYYC event has been accepted. I am thrilled an honoured to have the opportunity to attend this event, which restricts attendance to 100 people. I am excited to hear the speakers and eager to meet others who are also attending.

3 Tips for dealing with non-English speakers on the phone

February 5, 2010

Anyone who answers or makes calls is going to encounter someone whose first language isn’t the same as their own. Providing this person speaks enough of the language to understand you, there are three key tactics you can use to set yourself apart from other, less compassionate and understanding people, when it comes to dealing with callers whose first language differs from yours.

Smile. The person on the other end of the phone can “hear” your smile and will respond to your positive energy. About 70% of our communication is non-verbal, so a smile conveys a lot, even if the other person can’t see it. But did you know that the smile is the only universal facial expression? All others can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the culture. But a sincere smile will always transcend words and cultural difference.

Be extra patient. Imagine you are the person on the other end of the phone. You would appreciate it if the native speaker did not jump in while you were still talking, finish your sentences for you or skip to the next point without letting you finish. If you allow a non-native speaker to finish saying what they have to say, listen intently and be patient, you will win respect and trust.

Speak slower, not louder. People whose first language isn’t English may need more time to process the language, but their hearing is probably just as good as yours. If you slow down the pace of your speech and leave longer pauses in between sentences, you will allow the other person time to absorb everything that you are saying. Don’t exaggerate your pauses or tone, but rather think of speaking slowly, clearly and cheerfully. If you do, the person on the other end will know you are trying to be helpful, not patronizing.

(This article is adapted from one published Sept. 8, 2003 in a weekly newsletter for language program marketers and managers on a Yahoo group.)


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

3 Key Elements of Leadership

February 3, 2010

Leaders are everywhere. They are business owners, executives and managers. They are teachers. They are parents. Sometimes they are children. Anyone can be a leader. Some people think that being a leader is something that comes with a particular job or vocation. I disagree. After having studied leadership for a number of years, I am convinced that most of us have the capacity to improve ourselves so that we can either become leaders, or improve the natural skills we already have.

There are three key elements of true leadership. The first is to set an example by living it. Many years ago Gandhi said “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”.  No truer words have ever been spoken. In order to lead powerfully we must first demonstrate the attitudes and behaviors we expect and want from others. This may seem simple, but how many times how you run across a manager whose attitude is “do as I say, not as I do”. These people may be managers, but they’re not leaders.

If you’re a business leader and you want your staff to dress professionally, you set the example by arriving in a suit every day. If you’re a teacher and you want your students to turn in their homework on time, you give them back their corrected assignments in a timely manner. If you’re a parent and you want your children to make their beds, you make your own bed in the morning. No excuses. Leaders live the example they want others to follow.

The second element of true leadership is to inspire others and give them hope. You can turn on any news channel today and see stories of death, despair and terror. It is true that terrible things have happened in the world. Leaders will acknowledge the reality and ask themselves what they can do to keep the human spirit thriving and growing? The answer is often found in hope.

There may not be easy answers to every situation. But there’s always a reason to hope. The resilience and strength of the human spirit are powerful. The strength of our spirit can help us overcome tremendous pain and grief. It is what allows us to continue to love and be loved when we feel all is lost. Leaders recognize this and remind others of it.

Finally, leaders empower others. Everyone has hopes, fears and dreams. Leaders encourage others to pursue their dreams and help them overcome their fears. This means working with others to help them understand how to prepare for success and then make their own dreams reality.

Once when I was coaching a very capable director of an international language program at a university. She expressed frustrations about lack of funding, too little time and too few resources. I replied that as an educational leader, her focus was her students. Educating and empowering them was at the core of her value system, and her work as an educational leader. If she forgot this, then potentially hundreds of students would walk away from her program disillusioned, rather than vibrant with new potential. Realizing this was true, she resolved to do  whatever she could to improve her program so students could continue to grow and learn as a result of it. She later told me that was a pivotal conversation for her, as she realized that her first order of business was to serve her students and help them become the best they could be.

Leaders look beyond themselves and their own wants. With compassion, honesty and guidance leaders will help others to reach their maximum potential as human beings in whatever way they can.

These 3 actions: living the example, inspiring others and empowering others are keys to success and genuine leadership.

See Dr. Eaton speak on this topic on YouTube:


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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