Trade Show Booth Etiquette 101: Tips for Working a Booth (Part One)

We live in a digital world.

Comfortably behind glowing mobile phones or desktop screens, we have the chance to mold our personal and brand appearances on social networks, showing the best version of ourselves and our products.

It’s easy enough to show the best of the best online, but when it comes to working a trade show booth, it’s crucial that you deliver a consistent experience when you come face-to-face with your customers and prospects. Yes, we know how difficult it is to smile and maintain good posture for hours, but the benefits for your brand far outweigh the sore facial muscles you’ll have the following day.

When it comes to engaging with visitors in your booth, the number one rule is one we’ve known since elementary school: treat others as you would like to be treated. The bottom line is that wearing a smile, making eye contact, and engaging prospects and customers in conversation with a full understanding of your subject matter is the best way to forge relationships long term.

If you want to create a lasting impression, following these guidelines is a foolproof way to guarantee a positive, memorable experience that will result in the ROI you need.

1. Stand up, smile, and make eye contact.

First impressions matter and people will take your body language into account before they decide to cross into your booth. Even if you’re having a bad day, making a positive impression will influence how visitors perceive your brand.

As visitors approach, smile, greet them, and make sure you’re making eye contact to engage them right out of the gate. Projecting your confidence and enthusiasm onto visitors will help you keep the conversation going and hopefully, will convert them into a lead.

Before and after visitors enter your booth, thank them for spending time with you to learn more about your products or business offerings. Always make sure you’re aware of your body language and demeanor, as crossed arms or one slouch, frown, or negative comment could result in a prospect walking the other way.

2. Greet attendees inside and in front of the entrances of the booth. If booth traffic is slow, engage aisle walkers from INSIDE your booth.

Depending on the configuration of your booth, people will be entering from a number of different openings. Make sure that your staff is standing near the entrances and inside near points of interest, ready to speak with visitors. It should be clear to visitors who is working and available to help.

If traffic is slow, it might be tempting to wander the hall looking to entice people to come to your booth. This can be considered distasteful and is generally frowned upon by the show organizer. Never enter the booth to entice people to come inside, and especially don’t enter any neighboring booths to ask visitors to come into your booth. This is extremely off-putting and while it’s tempting to pull visitors away from the competition, it’s disrespectful. Let your booth’s appearance, engagements, and staff inside attract a crowd.

3. Speak with attendees, not colleagues or on your phone.

When you’re deep in conversation, sometimes you tune out what may be happening around you. As a potential customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than approaching staffers that are chatting away with their backs turned or eyes glued to their phone, with no hope of ever letting up to talk to you about your needs. Booth staff should spend their time greeting visitors, listening, and answering questions. That’s not to say your team shouldn’t enjoy themselves and engage with one another; just be aware of who is approaching and how you can help them.

4. Keep it short and simple and engage your prospects in conversation.

Take a page out of EXHIBITOR Magazine’s book: rather than immediately launching into your sales pitch, engage your prospects in conversation and ask questions. Ask them about their position and the company they work for, what their favorite thing they’ve seen at the show is, or what plans they might have once the show doors close at the end of the day.

People LOVE to talk about themselves and their experiences and allowing your prospects to do so will provide them with a positive memory of your brand. People don’t enjoy being sold to without the chance to give their why and state their needs. If you want to close a sale, it’s best to ask open-ended questions and engage prospects in conversation rather than rambling on about how amazing your company and services are. Let prospects talk to you, and then you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your unique offerings.

The bottom line when working a trade show booth is the same as if you are in the office at work. Be professional, come prepared and be knowledgeable, and bring a positive attitude with you. Look out next week for part two in this installment.


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