By Marlys Arnold, Exhibit Marketing Strategist; Speaker, Author, Consultant; Trade Show Insights Blog/Podcast Host
If you’ve ever been in charge of a booth staff team, you may have discovered that not everyone is cut out for booth duty.
Granted, there may be times when you’re told who will be working the booth and you don’t have any say in the decision. But whenever you do have the opportunity to influence or select who’s going to represent your company on the show floor, here are some guidelines for you.
First, here are some people you should think twice about assigning to work the booth:
Salespeople – Just because they’re great at sales doesn’t make them the right fit for the show floor. Their attention may be divided, or they might have tunnel vision and only talk to certain attendees they deem “worthy.” (Among other things – read a more in-depth perspective on this previous post, “The Challenge of Using Salespeople as Booth Staff.”)
Motormouths are far too busy talking among each other or roaming the show floor and chatting up other exhibitors (distracting them from responsibilities in their own booths). When they actually do talk with an attendee, they may make them feel like a prisoner in your booth because they won’t stop talking long enough to listen to what the attendee wants … or to let them go!
Wallflowers are so shy that they hide behind their phone or whatever else they can find so they won’t have to talk with anyone.
CEOs or other executives – Often they don’t understand the nuances of a trade show, and so don’t know how to engage or converse with attendees in a productive manner. (Note that if you simply want to have them on hand to meet-and-greet, not serve as official staffers, that could work.)
Panthers are aggressive staffers who attack people in the aisles who are simply walking past the booth. They fail to understand the fine art of attract, rather than attack.
Robots – These staffers stand lifeless in the booth with a glazed-over appearance and can only provide a canned speech to anyone who approaches them.
So, who should you consider inviting to be in your booth instead? How about:
The Research & Development (R&D) team have vast product knowledge and can answer in-depth questions about how your products work. As a bonus, they may also gain valuable customer insights for future product enhancements.
Customer service representatives have spent time in the trenches, answering all kinds of customer questions and objections. They not only know how to answer those frequently-asked questions, but also how to do it with empathy and finesse.
People who are good listeners, good communicators, approachable and professional, among other things. (For a more complete list of what to look for, check out this previous post/podcast: “What Makes a Good Booth Staffer?”)
You can have the most beautiful, functional booth at the show, yet still make a bad impression if your booth staff is poorly trained.
No matter who you choose (or have assigned) to work the booth, it’s important for them to be properly trained. Often exhibit managers think that booth staff training needs to be informing on new product introductions and who the prime targets are at the show. But that’s only a small part of what they really need to know.
When you select your booth staff members, make sure they are skilled in dealing with people – LOTS of people. If crowds make them nervous or shy, then perhaps they’re not the best choice to be in the booth. Be sure they know the basic techniques for engagement and qualifying visitors, yet don’t come on too strong. Professional appearance is also important, so make sure your staff is dressed appropriately, or else provide a team uniform to present a unified message.
Teach your booth staff (and any other employees attending the show) to remain on their toes, both in and out of the booth. You never know who might be sitting next to you on the shuttle bus, or standing in line at lunch. Watch how you act and what you say – that person who saw your whole team drinking wildly at the hotel bar might show up in the booth the next day, only to turn around and head for your competitor that presents a more professional image. Also remember that dinner conversation between staffers about product problems could be overheard by your competition and used to their advantage.
With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community. Opinions are her own.