How To Be A Better Trade Show Manager

recommended by better trade show manager - MQ portable display counter“Eighty percent of success is just showing up,” if we’re to believe the famous philosopher, Woody Allen.* So if you can get yourself, your exhibit, your staffers and your collateral material to a trade show, you’re already well on your way to having a successful show. It’s how you deal with the other 20% of what’s going on that makes you a better trade show manager.

What I’m suggesting is that you do a few simple things to make achieving that extra twenty percent easier, by just following a few simple guidelines.

1) Eliminate Distractions:

We’ve virtually eliminated the possibility of boredom ever occurring again. Why? We’re wired to a device that is constantly providing us with distractions: phone calls, emails, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—and even Candy Crush when that’s not enough to keep us from boredom.

A step up from our phones is our laptops. They offer us all the same distractions as our phones, and more. We can work on reports, balance a spreadsheet and maybe even check out some of those “not safe for work” emails.

We can also distract ourselves with food, and we do it on the trade show floor, too. Maybe not the Chunky Monkey ice cream we’d use to distract ourselves when we were home alone, but we’ll find something.

If you were a trade show attendee considering entering an exhibit where people were distracting themselves like this, would you follow through and enter the exhibit? Probably not.

So the first simple thing you can do to get 20% further down the road to success is to avoid these things yourself and refuse to tolerate them in any of your booth staffers.


2) Toss out your canned pitch:

Most unenlightened trade show managers and staffers see someone coming down the aisle and immediately launch into a canned (and boring) sales pitch. What these people—the 80%—don’t understand is that show attendees are people first, prospects second.

So engage them in the same way you’d be hospitable in any other environment: say “Hello” and offer a warm and genuine smile. It’ll go a lot further to creating rapport with visitors than trying to get your elevator speech out in the time it takes them to cross in front of your booth.

Once you have their attention, ask an open-ended question like, “How many widgets do you use in your business?” Something tantalizing that can’t be answered “yes” or “no” can build interest and entice them off the aisle and into your exhibit.

For more ideas about how to interact with trade show attendees creatively, see our prior post – Creativity For Trade Show Managers.


3) Lay out your exhibit strategically:

Again, most exhibitors leave the table where the show decorators put it: across the front of the booth, where it serves as a barricade to passing attendees. In this scenario, no one can actually enter your booth, so at best you’re talking with people while they’re still in the aisles.

Instead, be one of the 20% of trade show managers that either remove the table, or have their table placed across one side of the display, front to back. Your booth’s back wall can still be seen clearly, and your exhibit looks open and accessible. A small pedestal, table or kiosk at the opposite side of the booth space can display your product. The space between is where you conduct business.

With this layout, prospects are actually committing to enter your exhibit in order to discuss their needs and how your company can assist them. They’re much more likely to stay and engage with your staffer than if they were still standing in the aisle.

4) Don’t send your “bench players”:

In sports, the majority of the team spends most of its time on the bench, only entering the game for specific reasons (a kicker in football is an example). A precious few comprise the starting line-up, who spend most of the game on the court or field.

In the trade show business, many companies don’t send their “A” team to the event, wrongly assuming that their best talent will be more productive selling in the office or on the road, rather than at a show. That’s the wrong approach, but it’s still what 80% of exhibitors do. They figure their staffers can hand out brochures or catalogs, but in truth, they couldn’t close a sale to save their lives.

Again, be one of the twenty percent who send their best people to the show, understanding that that’s the best place to renew connections with older customers, create connections with new ones, while building your brand and even closing sales on the show floor.

You’ve spent the money to exhibit at a show, so get the most from your investment by doing things differently than the majority of exhibitors, and you’ll reap the rewards.

Now, here’s the final element of a better trade show manager strategy:

Selling on the show floor can be helped or hindered by your exhibit. Let us show you how adding little things like lighting, table throws, literature racks or banner stands can give you that extra 20% that puts you ahead of the competition. Call us at (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected]

For more, read part 1 and part 2 of creativity for trade show managers.

* I’m sure some of you have heard variations on this line, or the line itself being attributed to everyone from President George H. W. Bush to Thomas Edison. But Woody, in a 1989 letter to William Safire, said: “You refer to a quote of mine which occurred during an interview while we were discussing advice to young writers, and more specifically young playwrights. My observation was that once a person actually completed a play or a novel, he was well on his way to getting it produced or published, as opposed to the vast majority of people who tell me their ambition is to write, but who strike out on the very first level and indeed never write the play or book.”