Tradeshow Etiquette 101
1. Mind Your Appearance
First impressions matter. The idea’s generally the same when it comes to manning tradeshow booths: be mindful of hygiene and appearance, make sure you look neat and presentable. Though there’s no real need to spend much when it comes to booth staff uniforms, it would do you well to keep consistency among your staff: stick to a dress code of (preferably) company branded apparel, matched with a clearly legible name tag.
Impressions include your overall appearance, and since some people consider chewing gum rude, make sure to skip it for the day. Since you’d be talking in close contact to people, avoid garlicky and spicy foods, and freshen up your breath every chance you get.
2. Mind Your Body Language
Before you even start speaking, the person passing by your booth will see you first and judge how friendly you are based on the vibe your presence exudes; even as you stand there idly waiting for them to finally come up and talk, your body has already told them a lot.
How do you look like when you stand? Where do you put your hands? Do you fidget? If you answered yes to any of these, then be wary: some of the most important tradeshow staff no-no’s are keeping your hands in your pockets, fidgeting with your hands, keeping your arms folded across your chest, and talking on a cell phone or with co-workers.
Avoid idle chatter with other booth personnel or exhibitors. Aiccnc.org, in their tradeshow etiquette handbook, offers a simple explanation as to why: “The sight of two people in conversation looks like a meeting. No one will interrupt a meeting.”
3. Booth Setup and Maintenance
Aside from being mindful of your own appearance, it is important to constantly be sure that your booth makes a good first impression. Keep it clean, tidy, and well organized. Make sure the important signage are not blocked, and keep food and beverages for the staff somewhere unseen. Since your tradeshow booth is designed to showcase products and other company-related gear, it is easier to notice articles that are obviously out of place, such as litter (napkins, wrappers, and plastic bottles).
“Event managers typically direct tradeshow booth staff to store the unattractive boxes and supplies in such spots as behind a trade show wall, under a fully skirted table, or in a location outside the exhibit area where additional supplies are stored,” event planning writer Rob Hard suggests.
4. Manage Your Time
A tradeshow event is a wonderful opportunity, and it is crucial that you don’t waste a single minute of it. How can you do this?
To make the most out of your tradeshow time, you must study the schedule, and then plan, and staff, accordingly. “Tradeshow staff is usually responsible for booth setup, and they should arrive early enough to make sure that all materials are properly displayed and ready for show attendees,” Hard recommends, “staff adequately to allow attendees easy access to staff, and to consider needs for lunch and/or other breaks.”
5. Talk to Impress
The most important part of a tradeshow is when you actually talk to the attendees. When dealing with potential customers, the rule of thumb is 80/20: listen to prospects 80% of the time and speak for 20%. It is also important to brief all staff beforehand, to maintain consistency in company knowledge.
Aiccnc.org talks about the common mistakes that staffers make when talking to prospects: turning on the “pitch” too soon, pitching instead of qualifying, and long winded-product presentations. Mistakes such as this could cost you your prospect’s interest, and in turn, business.
“Representatives in a tradeshow booth should be prepared to answer questions or understand where to obtain more information. The booth should be managed by one person who has that expertise and/or authority, and that person should be accessible at all times,” Hard advices.