There’s a major industry trade show coming up, and you are optimistic. After all, you’ve invested thousands of dollars in your booth design, travel costs and exhibitor fees. Given the costs of exhibiting at a trade show, you don’t want to come home feeling like you wasted your time and money.
Yet that is exactly what many companies do when they attend trade shows. They fail to recognize that a successful presence at a show requires more than a stunning booth and a quirky giveaway. Unless you successfully engage the show’s attendees when they visit your booth and create an environment in which people want to talk to you, you might as well save your money and stay back at the office.
If you have found that your conversations at recent trade shows haven’t garnered the results that you would like, or you would just like to improve the overall quality of the leads you get at industry shows, incorporate these six tips into your next exhibit planning session.
Train Booth Representatives
It’s also common for companies to send representatives to a trade show simply because it’s in their job description or because they “earned” the privilege. In either case, the people representing your company might not be the best people for the job. That’s why it’s important to provide training to the people who will be staffing your exhibit. They need to know your products and policies inside and out and be prepared to answer even the most off-the-wall questions. Incorporate role-playing, so your reps know how to approach prospects and engage them in conversation. Be sure to instruct them on what information they need for a useful lead. When your reps feel comfortable and know what to do, they will take their jobs seriously and you’ll have better results.
Imagine walking up to a booth where several people are sitting behind a table, deep in conversation with each other. Or one where the booth representative is leaning on a counter, arms crossed. Not very friendly, are they? It’s not uncommon for trade show attendees to be interested in a particular exhibitor, but reluctant to enter the booth or start a conversation because the staff seems disinterested or unapproachable. Keep staff at the perimeter of the booth — not behind podiums or tables — and pay attention to body language to avoid inadvertently scaring people.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Everyone who attends a trade show expects to be bombarded with sales pitches. But do you really want to launch into your pitch the second someone enters your exhibit area? Instead of talking about you or your company right off the bat, start a conversation by asking open-ended questions. Talk about business but don’t be afraid to delve into other topics. Ask for restaurant recommendations or for their opinion on the most interesting things they have seen so far. You’ll build rapport and gain information that you can use when you follow up.
Focus on Problem Solving
People attend trade shows because they want to see the latest and greatest developments in their industries but also because they want to make their businesses (or lives) easier. When talking with prospects, try to determine the problems they are facing, and show how you can solve them.
Design an Attractive Booth
Your booth itself can either attract or repel visitors. Design your booth in such a way that it draws attention to your most important products or messages. Make it easy for people to enter and move around the booth, and create zones for private meetings, product demonstrations and displays. If you have a giveaway (such as pens from ThePenGuy.com) keep them well-stocked and displayed attractively. Ideally, your giveaways should be displayed so that attendees must interact with you in some way.
Maintain Proper Etiquette
When training your staff, make your booth policies clear. For example, require that all visitors be greeted within 10 seconds so they do not feel ignored. Not only should you acknowledge everyone who enters your space, you need to mind your manners. That means no eating in the booth, talking on cell phones, having personal conversations or loudly chewing gum. Make your visitors feel welcome, not as if they are interrupting something. Watch visitors’ body language; most people will make it clear when they are ready to move on, so let them go and follow up after the show.
Successfully engaging trade show attendees and scoring quality leads is not difficult, but it does take finesse and attention to the details. If you are finding your trade show results to be lackluster, make some of these changes and you’ll see improvement.
About the Author: Gary Austin, also known as “The Pen Guy,” has been providing organizations with custom promotional products for over 25 years. Gary Austin Advertising specializes in pens, koozies, lighters, umbrellas and pretty much anything else you can think of to get your name out.