Rugby and Your Trade Show – the ムMatch'

October 13, 2012

Lisa Apolinski

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

I am leaving New Zealand, and I am very sad, partly because I won’t be able to watch rugby 24/7.  But watching rugby got me thinking about how you can use this game (my second favorite sport, the first being baseball) to have a proper trade show.  After all they call rugby ‘the game of animals played by gentlemen’. Aptly put.

1. Team captains – I was watching one of many matches, and there was a small break out fight on the field. The one referee (and yes, there is only one on field) easily broke it up, and then called over the team captains (not the coaches) to remind them to keep their players in line. You are the team captain. Your boss may be the coach, but you need to be the one to guide your team while still working your booth, and behavior really falls on you to correct or congratulate. 

2. Politeness and team play – In the same instance as above, the one captain started to defend what his player did, and the referee calmly said ‘Please let me finish’ and the captain said ‘My apologies’. And then that team captain kept quiet.  Wow!  And when the match is over, the members of the team line up and congratulate one another on a match well played. Goes to show you even in the most bloody sport (and rugby surely is), being polite and having a good sense of team play can make or break the experience. So, be sure to encourage your team to be positive and polite. In the 14 days that I watched rugby (and yes, I watched it just about every day), I never saw someone ejected off the field for bad behavior. 

3. Only one substitution – Now, the sport of rugby does allow for a team member to go to the ‘bloody bin’ where they get patched up for an injury where they are bleeding (and that does happen a lot), but they are only allowed one substitution for the entire game (80 minutes). That means that each player on that field is pretty important to whether a team wins or loses.  Does your team know that they are just as important to the success of your show?

4. Each player has a specific role – Each team member has a specific role to play, whether they are trying to get possession of the ball, move the ball, kick the ball (you get the idea). Forwards mainly get possession of the ball, and backs mainly carry and move the ball. Depending on your size and speed is where you fall into the line of players. But, it also then plays into a person’s strengths (if they are bigger and can tackle, or if they are faster and can run with the ball).  Make sure your trade show plays into each person’s key strengths, which means you need to know what those strengths are. If you have a good ‘engager’, have him (or her) positioned at the aisles to bring someone in. If you have a good ‘story teller’, they should be working your demonstration. 

5. A player has to see and think – If a player sees an opportunity to score a try, they are going to run as fast as they can before they are in a ruck (i.e. tackled and the ball is now on the ground). So, when you are doing your trade show, let your team members know that opportunities, when presented, should be run (and run fast!)  Also, the kick is done perpendicular to where the ball goes down over the tryline; so many players will make a determined effort to put the ball down so the kicker has the best field advantage. Make sure your team members are setting each other up for success as well.

I wish I could continue to watch my new favorite team, the All Blacks, in real time, but I guess I will just have to watch recorded matches on the internet. But you don’t need to be a rugby enthusiast to take a few tips for your next trade show – just keep that spirit in mind!

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