Cindy Perea is the Marketing Coordinator for National Trade Show Displays, an online retailer of pop up displays, banner stands, and a variety of trade show products.
Staffing Your Trade Show Booth
There are many variables that play into the success of exhibiting at trade shows. However, the greatest indicator of your success at a trade show is how well your staff can connect with attendees.
By properly training your staff and carefully choosing the type of people you want to represent your business, you can ensure that your trade show experience will be a hit! Here are a few tips to help make sure that your trade show staff is helping, not hurting your business.
1. Know your staff’s personality type. When choosing your trade show staff, take their personality into consideration. You want to choose someone that is friendly, outgoing, and interactive. You need someone that won’t be afraid to talk to new people and that will be able to keep a conversation going. You should know, from working day in and day out with them, what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Even more important though, you should know how they react under stress and if they can maintain a positive attitude. You need a team that will power through after 8 hours of standing and that will still treat attendees with the same enthusiasm.
2. Body language. We all know that there is a lot that can be said non-verbally, therefore, your staff should be careful of how their body language can be perceived. Here are things you and your staff should avoid:
● Not making eye contact- makes you seem uncomfortable and that you lack confidence
● Looking over their shoulder- makes attendees feel like you don't want to talk to them
● Crossing your arms- makes you seem disinterested
● Checking the time- they’ll think you’re counting down the minutes to bolt out of there
● Foot & Finger Tapping- makes you seem anxious and inpatient
3. Properly train your staff. One of the biggest pet peeve’s attendees have about trade show exhibitors is that they are sometimes not properly trained. By this I mean that customers are engaged and have questions but then exhibitors don't know how to answer simple questions. Your staff should be trained on the products, how the products work, and your company. There might be some difficult questions that they can’t answer and in these scenarios, teach your staff the best way to reply. For example, they should know to say “let me find out for you” rather than a simple, “I don’t know.
Try giving your staff a refresher before the trade show to make sure everyone is on the same page. As silly as it sounds, you can also try role playing and acting out different scenarios. It might be a bit embarrassing, but it’s better to address mistakes and learn from them before, rather than at the trade show.
4. Listen, then speak. It is common for trade show exhibitors (especially newbies) to talk nervously and excessively. While it’s great that you want to tell them all about how awesome your business is, you should listen to what their needs are and gear the conversation towards them. Ask open ended questions about the type of company they are, if there’s any issues they are trying to address, and what they’re looking for. It’s better to have a clear path for your conversation rather than just throwing information at them and hoping some of it applies.
5. Set expectations for your staff. We’re all adults and the last thing you need to do is babysit your staff at a trade show. Therefore, set expectations of what’s acceptable. For example, it is unprofessional for your staff to be chewing gum or eating at your booth, using their cell phones, or sitting down. We aren’t saying that you should hover over them (PLEASE DON’T!) but talk to them about the types of things you deem unacceptable.
6. Dress Code. We wish people didn’t form an opinion based on looks, but truth is, they’re not going to trust the guy that’s wearing a stained, Calvin and Hobbes shirt. I strongly believe people have common sense when it comes to choosing their wardrobe, however, just for good measure, be clear on what you expect your staff to wear. Do you want them to dress business casual, or maybe just wear your company shirt with jeans? By having a uniformed look, people walking by will be able to tell you’re from the same company and it will make your staff look put together.
You would also be surprised how our sense of smell can affect our experience. Make sure your staff doesn’t come in smelling like alcohol from the night before or if they smoke, that they avoid doing so in between breaks where their clothes might absorb the smell.
7. Be considerate of your staff. Trade shows require lots of hard work and you should be appreciative if you have a team that is following through all the points above. However, be understanding of their needs and try not to overwork them. Even the most cheerful, positive person will be drained. Therefore, if you see them getting burned out, let me take a break from trade show duty and take some minutes to refresh. You should also book your staff accordingly. Staff your booth with enough people so that everyone isn’t stretched thin to avoid added stress (the number of people will depend on the trade show).
Make sure to be encouraging and let you know staff know when they’re doing a great job. Happy employees will create a positive environment that will shine through to your customers.