5 things to remember when attending a fair for the first time

As a self-proclaimed certified barista (I took a short barista course last year!), I was more than excited when I was asked to attend the Café Malaysia fair, the first international café equipment, supplies and technology exhibition. Truth be told, it was my first time attending a fair and my visit has taught me a few things to keep in mind when attending fairs. Below are five things to remember when attending a fair for the first time:

  1. Get as much information as possible on the fair that you will be attending. Find out the vendors that will be in attendance, the fair’s target audience and some of the highlights that will be held during the fair such as activities, contests, etc. You will get a better idea on what the fair has to offer, which will then help you prepare for the event.
  1. Expect a crowd on the day of the fair. I did not think there would be so many people at the fair, so I decided to come an hour later. As soon as I entered the building, however, there was a long queue – attendees waiting for their turn to register for the event. Keep in mind that some fairs are only open to the public on certain days, and for other days, they are by-invitation only. Be sure to check which days you are allowed to attend.
  1. Know your business well. In order for you to get more information from the vendors (eg. quotes), you need to have full knowledge of your business such as the type of business you are running, the capacity of your business, etc. This will give the vendors a good idea on the status of your business.
  1. Remember to bring your business cards on the day of the event. If you do not have your business cards ready, you can always print your contact information on a piece of paper. Most vendors at the event will have a contact form that you can fill in so that they can get in touch with you.
  1. Take notes. This is very, very important, especially because there will be too much information given to you that it can be a bit overwhelming. Most vendors also provide brochures and leaflets for their businesses, along with their contact information to make it more convenient for you to get in touch with them in the future. A word of advice: Summarize your findings as soon as you get home while your memory is still fresh. This will help you identify the vendors that might be suitable for your business.

Building habits

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“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Like Rome, habits cannot be cultivated overnight. Likewise, bad habits are just as hard to eliminate. Fortunately, with sheer willpower and consistent practice, it is possible to build new habits and get rid of old ones.

For most of us, we create New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of each year, some of which include going to the gym more often, eat less and so on and so forth. As for me, my goal was to wake up earlier every morning to do yoga. Last year, I gave myself excuses for not waking up earlier than I should and as a result, I can barely touch my toes. This year, however, I started to form a habit of waking up in the wee hours of the morning to do yoga and for the past few weeks, I’ve been able to not only touch my toes, but also do a backbend.

Growing up, I’ve been told that it takes anywhere from 21 days to a month to form a new habit. In my opinion, this idea holds true for people looking to form simple habits such as eating a fruit a day or greeting one person that you meet each day. Other habits, such as sticking to a diet or going to the gym at least three times a week, are more difficult to maintain and take longer time to form because there are many distractions as well as other priorities that can get in the way. More often than not, these habits may require you to make changes to your schedule and lifestyle.

It takes a lot of discipline and patience to build and maintain a habit. Below are some ways that can help you form a new habit, both in your personal and professional lives:

  1. Identify your goal and write it down

It is better to pick a habit that you want to build and work towards it one step at a time so that you will be more focused in achieving what you have set out to do. It can be overwhelming if you want to build too many habits at the same time and you may be discouraged when times are tough. Write down that goal and put it at a place where you can see it everyday to remind you of it.

  1. Start now

Don’t wait until tomorrow, next week or next month to start forming the habit, even if it’s something as small as running for ten minutes today. It will make you feel a whole lot better knowing that you are one step closer to fully developing your new habit.

  1. Break your goal (building a new habit) into smaller goals

When you break down your goal into smaller, achievable goals, it is easier to keep track of your progress. Write down your progress to see how far you’ve come and how much further you need to go to achieve your goal. If you want to wake up an hour earlier in the morning, start with setting your alarm five minutes early. In time, you will be able to train yourself to wake up 10 minutes, 15 minutes earlier and so on. If you are not making progress even with the smaller goals after some time, reevaluate what you are doing and make changes accordingly, even if you have to start over or find another way to form the new habit.

  1. Recognize your challenges and find solutions to each problem

You will definitely encounter some challenges in building new habits such as skipping your workout because you’re too busy or too tired to wake up earlier. You start giving excuses and if prolonged, you will become demotivated to build that habit that you wanted. In this situation, you have to be aware and acknowledge the challenges that you are facing and the reason that you are giving excuses. Once you’ve identified the challenges, try to find solutions to each problem. For example, if you are too tired to wake up early, ask yourself why are you too tired. If it is because you are overworked at the office, consult your supervisor to see whether anything can be done about your workload.

  1. Have someone hold you accountable

A good support system is essential in helping you to form a new habit. For example, if you want to make running around the park as part of your daily routine, it will be much easier for you to execute that plan if you have a partner or a group of friends who are willing to run with you. You will not only start cultivating the habit of running, but you’ll build a great relationship with the people around you.

  1. Reward yourself

Give yourself credit at the end of the day, week or when you have achieved one of your smaller goals by taking yourself out for dinner or buying an item that you really like. If things don’t go the way you expect them to be, cut yourself some slack because you are not doing this for anyone else – you are doing it for yourself. So enjoy the journey and never, ever give up!

Getting awareness to change

I recently watched the movie Freaky Friday, a story about the strained relationship between a mother and her daughter and how they resolved their issues. My favourite part of the show was when the two characters switched souls and woke up in each other’s body. It was not until the switching happened that both realized the other person’s life is not as perfect and easy as they initially thought. Once they were aware and understand the challenges faced by each other, only then their souls were switched back and their issues resolved. After the souls were switched back, their attitude towards each other changed for the better and the mother-daughter relationship was restored.

The story above shows how important it is to have awareness in our daily lives. Awareness is the ability to be conscious of your current situation and realize whether or not change is needed to improve that situation. In the movie, both mother and daughter became aware of the challenges faced by each other only when they start living in each other’s shoes. Believe it or not, people get awareness to change when bad things happen (in the case above, when both protagonists switched bodies and had to live each other’s lives). This is because when the situation is at its worst, people will do almost anything to get out of it, knowing that they have nothing to lose since by that time, they have probably lost everything. A classic example is the predicament faced by major corporations during financial crisis, where some will survive, while others collapse. The companies that last survived because they were aware of their situation and decided to make changes such as developing new procedures and revisiting company values.

Awareness involves changing your current belief of what you think is the right way to do things. In order to develop awareness, you have to get to know yourself and reevaluate your values. You have to be able to view things from a different perspective and most importantly, keep an open mind in this process.

As a result of awareness, you will either decide to make a change, or choose to stay in your current situation. The choice is yours. If you decide to make a change, be prepared to go through ambiguous circumstances, where at times things may be difficult, but you will grow from your experience. You can also choose to stay in your comfort zone, but there is little opportunity for growth. It is when you go through tough times that you will actually make progress.

Here’s a short exercise for you. Ask yourself the following questions to analyze and be aware of your current business situation:

  • In the last year, have your business objectives and targets been met? If yes, congratulations! You are on the right path.
  • If not, have you and/or your team been doing the same activities? I.e.,
    1. Have you and/or your team reviewed your business processes and sought improvement opportunities? Do you have discussions about this and craft plans to be implemented?
    2. Have you performed a market / competitive analysis?
    3. Has anyone attended training or development? And if yes, have they applied the knowledge back in their day-to-day work? How is this tracked?

If you had answered “No” to any of these 3 questions; while you are not meeting your business objectives; you should probably be aware by now that there is a case for trying out new things that may lead to change.