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The “Ten Commandments” of Trade Show Etiquette

December 5, 2022

If you are attending a trade show or are going to volunteer for the first time, here are some tips, or what we like to call the “Ten Commandments” of Trade Show Etiquette, that you should know to succeed in your trade show exhibit.

1. Research the Event Clientele

Understanding who your event attendees are before the event even starts can help a lot with planning your event. Most trade shows will provide exhibitors with a document that covers attendee demographics, so you know who your attendees will be and what industry and companies they will be representing. Doing this will help craft a messaging strategy and plan for the team. It’s important to make sure you clearly understand who the overall audience is, which will make for more valuable conversations at the show, which should generate more leads and help reach whatever the show goals are. Catering to the feelings and needs of attendees, while people often forget word for word what was said or done, they will always remember how you made them feel.

2. Be Hospitable

First, what is “hospitable”? It’s being friendly and welcoming to strangers or guests. Now, this is self-explanatory but also super important. Make sure you and your team are putting their best foot forward for the customer, also to cover the following basics with the team to help make the exhibit space as welcoming as possible:

  • Teach the team friendly greetings and conversational techniques. (Be standing or stand up, greet everyone with a smile, make eye contact, be facing the walkways, be ready to engage with attendees, and be enthusiastic, confident, and polite). Be sure to always thank attendees for stopping by your booth and make it clear they are free to come back anytime if they should have any more questions.

  • Practice! Practicing trade show attendees’ interaction with scenarios will help them be prepared to address most of the needs of attendees.

  • Don’t be too pushy, don’t try to shove the product down their throats. Make small talk, like for example ask if they are enjoying the show so far. Talk to the attendees! Do not ignore anyone to have conversations with your co-workers. You are there for them and can talk with co-workers. Nobody needs help.

3. Experiential Activations

In a trade show display design is very important; it means adding details to the exhibit that can make the act of visiting the booth more engaging. Instead of looking at boring displays, having a more hands-on experience is more memorable than reading or listening. Three key benefits of experiential activations; adding experiential aspects to your booth has three main benefits:

  • Higher traffic potential

A larger trade show is harder to stand out in one way to compete is with an experiential booth that does more than informing the attendee it gets them involved. If the booth is more engaging, attendees are more likely to be drawn to a booth if there’s something fun or interesting for them to do. For example, using branded giveaways everyone loves free things, lots of samples, hosts a game and many more, also word-of-mouth is likely to bring more visitors. Try to include a hashtag in your social strategy, social sharing becomes easy, further boosting attendance potential.

  • A more engaging booth

Attendees don’t respond well to boring sales pitches or dry presentations, even if the focus is not on experiential design. With an experiential activation within the booth, instead of stopping to talk to people make the attendee a part of the conversation. They get to have interactive experiences that let them engage more fully with your products and the brand.

  • The chance to get press and social media coverage

Experiential marketing is not a new tactic, but with the start of social media and a mix of solid social media strategies the booth can get some media coverage or go viral. Sending out press releases to let the media know to come to see the booth and press attending a show may gather some attention (unless the booth is a big brand). But an exciting booth experience is great to get press because it attracts more attendees to come experience the booth.

4. Use Positive Body Language

Body language is extremely important in any situation. Staff with the wrong type of body language will not attract attendees from their booth rather than welcome them in. It’s all about gestures, movements, and expressions you make, sometimes even more so than actual words. People will notice the difference. Be Presentable, it’s easy to look presentable at a trade show. Make sure you and your team dress according to the professionalism of the trade show. Overdressing or underdressing is common in trade shows in different niches. If you know the industry, then you can take a pretty good take on how people dress. Go with your gut. If unsure, reach out to peers in the network or who have attended the same shows and ask them for advice or look up photos from previous years’ shows on the website or social media.

5. Avoid Using Chairs

We are not saying sit down but many booths will be set up with tables and chairs to sit on to have conversations with attendees interested in your products and/or services. The booth staff should avoid sitting at the table on their laptops or phones at all costs because it makes it seem like they don’t want to be there or are not interested in selling products and/or services. This is one of the rudest things to see at a trade show for attendees, and they will often walk right by the booth.

6. Build Relationships

First impressions are very important, so make sure to make a good impression on the people that pass by your booth and try to remember that only people who are aware of your business and products will stop at your booth, the rest must attract through other means. It’s not about how you act, it’s also about setting up the booth to look visually appealing. Make each person comfortable when they come to the booth. Don’t just start selling that will be overwhelming before selling the product/service, strike up a real conversation and let the visitor dictate the terms. Answer their questions in as much detail as possible. Also, look for common interests, which you can use to further the chances of sealing the deal in the future.

7. Do Not Have Food or Drink

Do not eat or drink when you are at the booth during peak exhibit hall hours. This will drive attendees away from the booth because they will think you’re busy. Also, try to not have a lot of drinks or food containers laying around the booth. if there is a water bottle and/or food at the table, it can be somewhat discouraging and looks messy. So maybe put it under the table or somewhere nobody can see it. Understandably, you need fluid. Especially water because you’ll be talking a lot. Try to use logo-branded stainless steel water bottles, these logo-branded bottles are a great way to represent the brand with a professional appearance. Branded water bottles are also a great giveaway item.

8. Organize your Booth

This should be an easy one, always keep your booth organized (throwing out any trash immediately and keeping your booth clutter-free). Keep your literature racks filled and giveaways visible. Keep supplies and personal items stored somewhere safe behind the booth backdrop out of sight. This is obvious but travelling staff do not use the booth as luggage storage; it should be stored at the hotel and never piled up at the booth visible to attendees.

9. Think Outside the Booth

An engaging display design is very important, something that will attract attendees and make them want to come and check out the booth. Some things to make the booth pop out are:

  • Having Bright Colors:

Bright colours can set the booth’s mood, brand colours are instantly recognizable to attendees, and applying high-contrasting colours to the design to emphasize certain display elements and highlight important messaging.

  • Incorporate space into the layout:

Consider how to maximize the space. Regardless, this doesn’t mean covering every inch of the space with graphics, furniture, and displays. It helps balance the space with a more visually appealing display and draws attendees’ attention to the most important messages. A good rule to follow is to ensure about 40% of your booth is space, following this rule can help attendees move around the booth.

  • Have one clear theme throughout all messaging:

One way to create a cohesive display is to have a single consistent message throughout the booth. Many exhibitors are tempted to highlight all their products, but doing that can result in confusion Set your booth apart by highlighting a unique selling proposition, by answering questions like

– What problem does your product solve?

– Do you solve that problem better than anyone else?

– What makes your product unique?

Then make sure most graphics visuals communicate this message.

10. Be Helpful

Finally, if for some reason you find that you can’t do any of the other tasks, be as helpful to your attendees as you possibly can. At the end of the day, attendees are walking around looking for guidance, and if you can be helpful that is a bonus. If you are done with the tasks, don’t stand around and wait, find other tasks to get done. Be Positive, People are drawn to people who give off positive vibes. A pretty booth can give off positive energy, but that is not enough staff needs to be doing the same. Try to smile! There is nothing more positive than a smile. Ask whoever is working in this booth to smile and appear happy, especially during peak hours.

Don’t let rough moments take a toll, if an attendee’s experience earlier in the day was negative, don’t let it affect the rest of your day. Turn those negatives into positives, any day feels longer if you have a negative mindset that the attendees will pick up on. Don’t be scared to take a break and encourage staff to take breaks when they notice them feeling burnt out. Plan when each member will take breaks, so the booth is not left unmanned. Remember that you’re possibly at a trade show for multiple days with thousands of potential clients. Lots of companies would love to have this opportunity.

The proper trade show manners can make or break the trade show experience. Follow these “10 commandments”, and that you should know to succeed in your trade show exhibit, if you follow these rules the likelihood of closing the sale can increase significantly.

— Source: Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (CAFE)
Author: Isabella Tedesco

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