12 Things You Should Know Before You Work a Trade Show Booth

It’s not unusual for sales professionals and other key company personnel to be asked to work a trade show booth. Here are some helpful hints that should be provided to each company attendee before they leave home.

1. Booth number, size and location. Trade shows are usually located in a large exhibit hall. Make it easy for company personnel to locate your booth by providing an exhibit hall map and your booth number. Then circle your location on the map. Be sure to include your booth number in pre-show promotion. Make it easy for customers and prospects to find you.

2. Booth theme and products that will be shown. Your company is attending the trade show for a specific purpose. Review in advance the “marketing” theme for the booth, what products will be showcased and their location. Remember that people buy solutions not products. Remind your booth personnel to ask good questions and resist the urge to pitch product.

3. How leads will be handled. Leads are handled in a variety of ways. Explain to all booth personnel the process you have chosen. Ensure that each individual knows how to qualify each prospect and ensure that meaningful information is collected. The quality of leads is far more important than the quantity.

4. Booth attire and business cards. These days it is common for booth personnel to wear casual attire that is embroidered with a company logo when working the booth and during company sponsored functions. Be sure the attire is provided in the proper size and quantity for each individual. Remind all booth personnel to bring enough business cards. It is inexcusable, unprofessional and embarrassing to not be able to provide a business card.

5. Company Attendees, Booth hours and their hours of work. A published booth work schedule is critical. This allows each individual that is working the booth to inform their clients or prospects when they will be available. It also allows them to set-up other important company meetings outside their booth “work” schedule.

6. Booth etiquette: Do’s & Don’ts. Booth etiquette may be common knowledge but unfortunately it is not always common practice. Everyone working a trade show represents their company and everyone should be reminded of the Do’s & Don’ts. Click here for some reminders from one of our previous blogs.

7. Key customers or Key Prospects. Trade shows present an ideal opportunity to get together with key customers or industry luminaries that may be “prospects”. Booth personnel should know who is on the company’s “watch list” and how to handle them when they arrive in your booth. Don’t miss an opportunity with a “key customer or luminary.”

8. Booth/show objectives and their role. Each company has specific trade show objectives. It is the job of all company personnel working the trade show booth and attending the show to help achieve them. Specific objectives are usually defined for booth personnel and may include the total number of qualified leads received, number of qualified leads by product etc. Other company attendees have different objectives. As an example these may include the gathering of competitive intelligence, key customer meetings, presentations attended etc.

9. Booth De-brief. At the end of each day a de-brief meeting should be held. Usually this is done in a suite or meeting room so candid discussions can occur. During the de-brief sales leadership should review the show objectives achieved that day, number of leads received, hot leads, key contacts made, key presentations attended, objectives for tomorrow etc. De-briefs should be handled in a structured, organized manner. Be brief but thorough and ensure everyone contributes.

10. Entertainment & Expense policy. If you want to control entertainment and expenses at a trade show then company personnel need to understand the company’s policy. It’s always a good practice to define what specific expenses will be reimbursed and which ones will be denied. Attendees should be provided with a list of approved restaurants and if manpower allows reservations should be made in advance by the trade show coordinator. Determine in advance who will pick-up the tab in a group setting. To avoid huge bar tabs rent a suite where beverages can be made available. The suite can also be used like your living room-where key customers can be invited for quiet, private conversations. If you use a bar in lieu of a suite it’s always a best practice to buy one round and then close out the tab.

11. Booth setup and tear-down. In many organizations the sales reps working the trade show booth are responsible to assist with booth setup and tear-down. Since this affects their arrival and departure dates they need this information well in advance of the trade show. Be specific as to what their responsibilities are, expected hours and who will be working with them. Be very cognizant that booth set-up and tear down will decrease their number of selling days.

12. How to handle competition, industry, consultants and the media. Booth personnel need to understand how to handle “visitor’s” that are not customers or prospects. Often times these folks are competitors that want to learn about your technology; industry consultants who are looking for work; potential distributors or manufacturer’s representatives that want to represent your product line; or industry analysts or the media that want information. Each has a specific agenda and each needs to be handled differently and prudently. When these people show up and they will- everyone needs to know how to handle them and who to direct them to in your organization.

Parting Thoughts

Manage each trade show as a key component of your marketing strategy. Assemble a detailed PDF that is tabbed and includes all of this information. Providing this level of detail in a polished, professional looking document sends a signal that this meeting is important, costly and should be taken seriously. After the trade show ask for input on the information that was provided. Constantly improve it and reap the rewards.