A Word of Caution

Before every trade show it’s always a good idea to review the “Do’s & Don’ts of working a trade show booth. Even savvy sales veterans can appreciate these gentle reminders. As they peruse this list many realize that they have inadvertently lapsed into some bad habits over the years. The quick review is a good reminder that working a trade show booth is an honor that helps or hinders their organization’s brand image and future sales.

Trade Show Do’s

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet a lot.
  2. Smile-smile and smile some more. For many people this is natural. If it’s not for you practice it or don’t work the booth. No one wants to talk to someone that does not show warmth.
  3. Create a good first impression. Dress appropriately and professionally for the audience. Watch your body language and always start the conversation.
  4. Greet customers at the edge of the booth. This helps you engage them in a conversation and bring them into your booth-much like you would do to a guest to your home.
  5. Always be punctual. Booth shifts should start and end on time. Working a trade show booth is hard work. Be considerate of the next shift and keep in mind that they may have customer meetings scheduled.
  6. Always wear a readable name badge. Wear it on your person where it can be easily seen and read.
  7. Bring enough business cards. It’s simply inexcusable to run out of business cards at a trade show or to tell someone you do not have a card because you left them in your hotel room.
  8. Ask thoughtful, insightful questions. Are you enjoying the show makes you sound amateurish.
  9. Act responsibly after hours. Remember cell phone videos and photos capture everything.
  10. Practice good personal hygiene. Perfume, after shave, smoking and spicy foods should be avoided at trade shows.
  11. Staff your exhibit with the right people. If it’s worth spending the money to be there then have the booth staffed with your best performers.
  12. Conduct a pre-show meeting before the show opens each day and another at the end of the day. The pre show meeting sets the tone and reminds everyone of the show objectives, meeting logistics and scheduled booth activities for the day. The end of day meeting reviews the number of leads, key encounters, immediate follow-up that is required and more.

Trade Show Don’ts

  1. Never read or use the telephone in the booth. This includes checking E-mails or texts or sending them. Prospects will not want to disturb you. Never sit in the booth unless it is in a designated area for private customer meetings. When sitting you look lazy and uninterested in having a conversation.
  2. Don’t stand together and talk with your booth members. Most prospects won’t interrupt a large conversation. Keep in mind that most visitors are more comfortable asking a question one on one.
  3. Never leave your booth empty. If nature calls or you need a quick beverage arrange for someone to cover for you. Other exhibitors are always willing to help for a few moments.
  4. Don’t place a table across the front of your booth and sit. Your booth is not a retail counter or a lemonade stand. Don’t make it a barrier for a conversation. Standing behind the table doesn’t solve the problem. It simply makes you look like a bartender.
  5.  Don’t put a candy jar in your booth. It’s not Halloween. Most people will take some candy and keep going. Ask them 10 minutes later in what booth they got the candy and they won’t be able to tell you. Instead of giving away candy have your company make a charitable contribution. At least you’ll get a tax deduction.
  6. Never pitch product. Instead ask insightful questions to understand real problems and opportunities. Discuss specific product attributes that tie to the visitors identified needs. Be brief. This is not the time or place for a data dump. Your objective is to wet their appetite to the fact that you have a possible solution to a vexing problem, can help them accomplish an objective or avoid a problem. Focus on developing sales ready leads.
  7. Don’t wander. I have seen sales reps wander into the aisle, stretch and stand all while being completely oblivious that they are blocking show traffic.
  8. Never play the giveaway game. As an example this is done when the sales rep asks attendees that pass by their booth if they need a “bag” that has their company name on it? This activity may increase your company’s brand awareness because everyone is walking around with your company’s name but it doesn’t do much to engage prospects in meaningful dialogue.  It does, however, prevent shipping back home all of those unused and paid for bags.
  9. Don’t fail to engage. At a recent trade show I stopped and picked up some product literature that was available. Instead of engaging me the sales rep got up out of his chair and handed me a bag and stated that the literature was inside. The message was clear-take the bag and move on. Never fail to engage in a positive manner. Even if he saw that I was a consultant he had no idea if I was picking up literature so that I could recommend his product or company to a potential customer.
  10. Never eat or drink in the booth. It’s too easy for food or drinks to get spilled on you, your equipment or your carpet. No one will engage with you while you are cleaning up a mess.

Parting Thoughts

It’s easy to read the Do’s and say we “always” do all of these and laugh at the Don’ts and say we “never” do these. Never say never! At your next trade show meeting hire an independent consultant to observe your booth personnel and visitor interactions. Ask them to take photos or a video. You just might be surprised at what you find.

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