Surviving the Trade Show Madness

So you’ve booked the stand, written your strategy and implemented a great plan that includes pre-show, during show and post-show activities. Still there is no denying that those days at the show can be daunting, exhausting and overwhelming, especially for first timers. How can you survive the trade show marathon and make sure you get the most out of your time?

Marketing Managers often comment that it’s difficult to organise volunteers to ‘man the booth’ at trade shows. Yet for a sales person, a trade show is the perfect opportunity to have face to face time with potential customers and to drive business relationships. Yet why are they so reluctant to be involved?

In my experience, it’s because staff haven’t been brief appropriately as a result they aren’t prepared for the show itself. A pre-event briefing is a great way to run through the show plan, booth layout, customer journey and lead capture/qualification process. We’d encourage exhibitors to include a Trade Show Survival Guide in the briefing notes.

Here are some tips to make the trade show experience enjoyable yet beneficial for staff:

Staffing – Spread the Love! Consider a sales roster for the duration of the show. Half day shifts are long enough to meet a good number of prospects whilst maintaining energy levels. Why not buddy up with at least one other staff member? This will keep the mood of the stand energised and give you someone to cover those toilet breaks!

Elevator Pitch. Make sure all staff on the booth have a consistent 15-30 second elevator pitch for approaching people. This should include the key message for the show, and could include information on any special promotions/prize draws or new products that are specific to the show. With this they should feel confident in approaching people and inviting them to the stand.  

Be Comfortable. Consider comfort when designing the branded uniform that staff will wear. Make sure they can team it with comfy shoes and will not be too hot or cold. Ensure the uniform is something staff will wear with pride.

Stay Hydrated and Healthy. The dry conditions of most exhibit halls will take their toll. Encourage staff to drink lots of water, eat well before they hit the stand and don’t forget their chapstick! Avoid drinking or eating on the stand, unless you have catering that can be shared with visitors. Sharing is caring…

Networking is Good, but Don’t Over Do It. A lot of trade shows have a fantastic social program to encourage networking opportunities between exhibitors and visitors. It is important that staff have fun, mingle and exchange business cards, however it isn’t appropriate to party from dusk to dawn. It will be a particularly long and less productive day if their nursing a hangover…

Look Around. Encourage staff to take the opportunity to walk around the show floor. See what competitors are doing, check out the show features and meet as many of the other exhibitors as possible. Have a solid understanding of the show as it will make it easier to have relevant conversations with visitors to your stand.

Be Authentic. The best way to connect with people is by being genuine and honest. In a trade show or expo environment, visitors are bombarded with special offers and show deals, so make sure staff don’t come across as pushy or too salesy. Of course they need to be briefed about the lead capture process, and objectives of the show, however they should ultimately be encouraged to be themselves, relax and enjoy the experience.

As with all marketing activities, communication is the key to achieving outstanding results. This includes internal communication to make sure all stakeholders understand and are committed to the objectives of participation in the trade show. Having clear objectives in mind will also assist staff when they are busy surviving the trade show madness!

For a quick guide on some must dos for exhibitors, download our e-guide: ‘Visibility to Credibility – 5 tips for planning a successful trade show’.