Picking Your Brain - a Guide to the Consultant Relationship

April 19, 2013

Lisa Apolinski

Lisa Apolinski is a professional speaker, blogger, and digital strategist. With her company, 3DogWrite.com, she works with event managers to get their message to attendees, particularly through digital channels, on and off the show floor.

I love working on a given trade show, whether it is to improve pre-show communication, assess the booth and attendee experience on-site, or give a lecture on post-show lead follow up. 

As a consultant, I have been asked several times how to make the best of a consultant’s expertise.  The fact that I have been asked about it gave me pause since it is a great question.  How should a consultant and a trade show manager work together to have the best possible relationship?

Your consultant is one point of view.  Yes, I am starting out with this disclaimer.  Your consultant is one point of view.  He or she can bring new ideas to your company and your trade show, and they are one of many viewpoints that you probably have on your radar.  Your job is to pick that consultant’s brain.  If you remember that you are asking for that point of view, you can listen and not feel threatened or overwhelmed by it.  You probably do some things in your show very well.  What you are asking from a consultant is what items can be better, and how to make them better.  Those nuggets of unbiased experience are what you are seeking.

People are resistant to change, even if they ask for it.  This is the hardest thing for me as a consultant to remember.  Even when people ask for and see the betterment of a change, we all have an internal resistance to it.  Patience is quite important here, and recognition of what can be changed when.  Many of my suggestions are clearly valid, but the dynamics of the group prevent them from being accepted at that time.  I don’t take that personally.  Those suggestions may get heard another time, or they may get implemented in a different way.  My job is to provide as much information as possible to my client and allow them to act on it. Again, I am offering my unbiased experiences to the equation.

Focus on their outcome, not yours.  This final point is a culmination of the first two.  This is not my journey; it is the journey of my client.  My focus needs to be on their outcome, not mine.  I provide what I can to assist, but the implementation and ultimate results of my advice are in my clients’ hands.  They will interpret and execute the recommendations as they feel is best for their organization.  By focusing on how they are moving through the process, I can build a better relationship with my clients, and they can build a better one with me.

Yes, sometimes the consultant/client relationship can be tough.  But it can also bring needed inspiration, positive change, and new ideas to both parties.

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