Why Exhibit Staffers Don't Want to Hear, "Let's Have a Great Show"

October 19, 2013

Keith Reznick

Keith Reznick is president of Creative Training Solutions, a leader in providing consulting, coaching and training services for sales and marketing professionals committed to providing the experiences attendees want while generating the returns their companies expect.

To: Event Manager

From: The Boss

Subject: Need Your Support.

I need you to support company wide inventory audit in (city) the week of (worst possible week for you – you’re preparing for your biggest show). Our group has to send someone to help staff it, and even though it has nothing to do with marketing, I picked you because you’re so good with numbers. Not sure who your roommate will be, but someone will contact you. Please read and adhere to attached list of Dos and Don’ts.


The Boss

P.S. Have a great audit!

If you received this email how would you respond? How do people respond when they receive a note about supporting their company by staffing an upcoming show or event? Most people who are asked to be exhibit staff weren’t hired for this purpose. In fact, the words ‘trade show’ or ‘customer event’ probably weren’t a part of their job description nor were they mentioned during the interviewing process. They were hired for their expertise in a given area and are now being asked to apply that expertise in a venue that for many of them is as far from their comfort zone as possible.

To help them be more comfortable, confident and effective, ask and answer the WIFM question (What’s in it for me?) – from their – your exhibit staffers’– perspective. Doing so will enable you to identify ways that they can benefit from staffing and the more they benefit from staffing, the more support you’ll get.

The two key questions to ask and answer are:

1) What knowledge can they acquire that they can bring back to their job?

2) What skills can they develop or fine-tune that will help them perform their day-to-day job?

If they can acquire knowledge by visiting other exhibits on the show floor, by attending a few presentations or workshops or by participating in networking activities, make sure you schedule their time in the exhibit accordingly. They’ll appreciate it. If they can acquire knowledge by interacting with attendees, make sure they are comfortable with how to engage an attendee and how to ask open-ended questions to get a conversation started. They’ll appreciate whatever training you provide to help them enhance their communication skills.

When event managers focus primarily on a show’s success they are inadvertently conveying to their exhibit staff, “I need this from you,” so that: 1) “I will be successful;” or 2) “This show will be successful.” A subtle shift in focus – from your success or the success of the show – to how your exhibit staffers will benefit from staffing the show will often improve the amount of support you’ll receive.

Changing the wording from, “I need you to…” to something along the lines of, “In order to help you accomplish your individual goals, as well as accomplish our company goals at XYZ show, we need to…” conveys that you understand and respect their needs and goals and that you are committed to accomplishing their goals as well as your own.

This subtle shift will lead to more exhibit staff support. They’ll be more comfortable and motivated, factors that will enhance their performance and improve your show’s results and returns.

How do you improve your exhibit staffers’ performance? Share your tips below.

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust,  adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters,  it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing tradeshows and expositions.   At Mohegan Sun we have built an industry-leading COVID-19 Resource Center,  with a combination of pictures from recent successful events held since our reopening on June 1st,  along with several easy to share,  downloadable documents such as our Operati