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Making the Most of Your Exhibit Opportunity

10 dos and 10 don'ts of staffing your exhibit booth
(and the outside of your booth as well)

by Corbin Ball, CMP, Meetings Technology Professional Speaker and Consultant

Tradeshows and exhibits are great ways to increase company visibility and ultimately increase sales. However, the cost of travel, shipping, time away from the office and booth rental space/supplies can be significant. It is imperative that you maximize your limited time in the booth to get the best return on investment.

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As a professional speaker and former meeting planner, I have attended hundreds of exhibitions and have observed tens of thousands of exhibit staff. I regularly see glaring examples of what to do and what not to do in order to maximize exhibit sales. This article will cover some of the key points to keep in mind as you staff your booth.

Good moves:

  1. Use advance postcard mailings, personalized email notifications and Web site announcements to invite your clients to stop by your booth. Invitations to your clients will, without fail, increase your traffic.
  2. Hall placement is important, as some parts of an exhibit hall will often get better traffic than others. Perimeter and front placement are often best, so sign up early to improve your position in the queue.
  3. Stand at your booth and greet people warmly -- engage them in friendly conversation before you even think of selling your product. Comment about their names or where they are from. You need to establish a personal contact before you do business.
  4. Ask about their needs -- what are they looking for? Do not assume that you have the answer before assessing their needs.
  5. Be able to state what your unique selling proposition is within 10 seconds. Focus on client benefits (not features).
  6. Have an inviting booth that is tasteful, attractive and barrier-free. A table desk at the front can block people from entering. Extra carpet padding is a subtle way to add a welcoming quality to your booth. Demos, hands-on displays, pictures and interactive activities draw people in. You have about five seconds to capture the visitor's attention before he or she is gone.
  7. Work out a system for capturing, qualifying and following up on leads. In a large show, use the lead retrieval system provided by the show manager. In a small show, it will be worth it to use a business card scanner to easily get the person into a computerized follow-up system.
  8. Have sufficient staffing to allow for rest and eating breaks. Your booth should always be staffed with fresh personnel ready to put their best foot forward.
  9. Make visitors feel happy that they stopped by. In many industries, it is the relationship that is the start of the entire sales process. Thank each visitor for stopping by.
  10. Maximize the power of email marketing. People who have given you their contact information are fair game for helpful, personalized email contact.

What to avoid:

  1. Do not sit at your booth (unless there is absolutely no potential lead in sight).
  2. Do not eat, read or otherwise be distracted at your booth. Avoid anything that inhibits your ability to engage a potential client.
  3. Do not engage in conversation with your fellow booth salesperson whenever there is a possibility to engage in conversation with a potential client. The customer should in all cases take precedence for your attention.
  4. Do not stand with your arms crossed at the booth (the palace guard position). This position is unwelcoming and tends to drive potential engagements away. Do not stand with your hands folded low in front of you (the "fig leaf" position) or behind you (the military "at ease" position) for the same reasons.
  5. Do not use the phrase "Can I help you?" The nearly automatic response to this question is "No thanks, just looking."
  6. Do not hand out brochures until you have qualified the lead and she or he has expressed an interest. Handing out brochures at initial contact inhibits the possibility of deeper conversation. Often, it is a conversation stopper -- the potential lead will say thank you and move on. Instead, wait until you have engaged and qualified the lead before handing out information as the last point of contact.
  7. Do not fail to assess the client's needs before providing a solution.
  8. Do not fail to be impeccably dressed and groomed. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
  9. Do not leave the booth unattended and do not take your stand down before the exhibit ends. You have made the commitment for the time. Often attendees will make a last-minute rush of the hall and dismantling the stand shows a lack of this commitment.
  10. Do not fail to follow up on requests for information. It is imperative that you do what you commit to in the booth.

Corbin Ball, CMP, is a professional speaker and consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity. He was named by MeetingNews as "One of the 25 Most Influential Persons in the Meetings Industries" for four years and was MPI's 2002 International Supplier of the Year. He can be contacted at his extensive Web site:

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