How to Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Trade Show Booth Staff

April 7, 2015

Today's guest post comes to you from trade show expert Tim Patterson, Founder of Communication One Exhibits Tradeshow marketing isn’t rocket science. But it’s not a simple errand, either. After all, it’s not hard to stand in a booth for three days straight nodding at passersby, saying hello, and collecting a few business cards from persistent visitors, thinking that you’ve done your job. That approach, however, won’t get you very far. If you already feel like you’re doing everything else right––trade show planning, pre-show marketing, booth design, and solid follow-up––but still have mediocre results that leave you scratching your head, it might be time to take a closer look at your booth staff.

How to Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Trade Show Booth Staff

Bringing the Right People

As Mel White of Classic Exhibits says, “If you bring ten people to the show, at least six are the wrong ones.” These staffers are some of your most important assets at any trade show. They should have a combination of great people skills, charisma, and excellent product and company knowledge. They should be prepared to work for several days, avoiding the attitude that it’s a “vacation” from the office. Staffers should be outgoing, intelligent, approachable, friendly and knowledgeable. If they’re a bit lacking in one of these qualities naturally, they should at least be open and able to actively developing those skills. While some people are naturally introverted, for instance, they’re often able to adapt and do a great job when required.

Setting Expectations

Unfortunately, many staffers are simply not prepared for trade show sales. A tradeshow floor is, at best, a chaotic environment. A typical salesperson with no trade show experience or training may expect a “typical” sales situation––one where they’ve set up an appointment and plan for an hour-long meeting in which they discuss the product in detail. That approach won’t fly on the tradeshow floor, where there may be thousands of exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees to contend with. At a show, the sales process is more like speed dating for salespeople and prospects. A staffer’s goal should be to ask specific questions, engage the visitor, and quickly determine whether or not they’re likely to place an order (either at the show or in the future). That doesn’t have to mean rushing people through a cattle call process. Properly trained booth staff can ask straightforward questions to identify prospects, and spend more time with them if necessary. It’s also important to note that buyers are looking to maximize their trade show time as well. On a side note, if the booth display’s graphics are doing their job, much of a visitor’s self-selection process is done before they ever approach the booth.

Booth Staff Training

Should you invest in staff training? Andy Saks, Lead Speaker and Presentation Expert at Spark Presentations, believes that booth staffers from virtually any company or situation can benefit from training. Saks says, “A professional trainer will focus on getting staffers to understand the particular show and how the company’s goals relate to exhibiting at that show. A good training session will have staffers practice and engage in play-acting situations.” Ken Newman, owner of Magnet Productions, says, “It’s important that booth staff know how to approach strangers without being obnoxious. It’s one of the best skills that a staffer can have.” Saks and Newman have conducted dozens of booth staff trainings over the years and have the data and testimonials to prove that booth staff training is a key element to exhibiting success, if not the most important element.

Building a Knowledge Base

How much do your booth staffers really know about the company’s products and marketing efforts? Many companies don’t engage in cross-department information sharing, often to the detriment of their tradeshow marketing efforts. When employees are fully educated about the company’s tradeshow marketing efforts and are up to speed on all new products and services, they’re more likely to buy into the overall effort. Sharing knowledge across various departments of the company is important to collaboration, especially on the front lines of a trade show, where staffers are often engaged with customers and potential clients in a wide assortment of topics. One of the best things you can do for your marketing efforts (tradeshow and otherwise) is to increase your employees’ knowledge base. Plan on teaching sessions to give them a deeper understanding of your products and services. Schedule training sessions either in-house or with a professional trainer so they can be fully prepared to meet the challenges of hectic show. Loyalty and performance! It really works. If you have any other questions regarding these trade show tips, let us know in the comments below.

Author Biography:

Tim Patterson is a trade show strategist, blogger and Founder of Communication One Exhibits. Tim’s happy to talk about trade shows all day if you let him. Give him a call at 503-507-4110, or read his blog and subscribe to his newsletter at You can also find Tim on Twitter @tradeshowguy.