Easy Trade Show Speed Dating: How To Engage New Prospects

I’ve got to be honest here. I’ve never tried speed dating.

But I’ve seen enough examples of this modern mating ritual to understand how it works, and it’s not that different from what you’re trying to do on the trade show floor.

Basically, hordes of people are coming through the doors of the convention center, and it’s your job to cull the “bad dates” from the good ones (people who “get” your company and its products or services, and have the means to buy from you).

VK-1118 SEGUE Backlit Hybrid Exhibit with MOD-1267 Pedestal with Locking Storage

VK-1118 SEGUE Backlit Hybrid Exhibit with MOD-1267 Pedestal with Locking Storage

You’ve got just about the same amount of time as they give you in speed dating, too: just a few moments to decide if there’s anything worth pursuing in each interaction with an attendee.

Here are some suggestions on how to prepare for your next exhibition, or your next speed dating session.

1) First Impressions Count

Just as you wouldn’t wear a tattered jacket or an ill-fitting dress to a speed dating event, your appearance has a lot to do with your success.

It starts with the first thing people see: your trade show exhibit.

There are trends in booth design, as there are in fashion.

Certain “looks” go out of style over time.

If your booth design is more than a year or two old, it could be starting to show its age.

And I’m not talking about worn finishes and stains on the carpet, either.

I’m talking about the impression your trade show exhibit makes on those passing by.

If they’ve seen your exhibition display before (maybe several times before), they may make the assumption that there’s nothing new to see and move on toward some other exhibitor whose display booth is new, different and therefore, interesting.

You can combat this problem in a couple of ways.

  • First, of course, is to plan for a new exhibit, just as you’d plan for a new wardrobe from season to season.
  • The new look is likely to pay for itself in the number of prospects the new design attracts.
  • Or, you can stay with the same basic structure and move the modules around or add new ones.

At the very least, update all of your trade show graphics so everything looks different and doesn’t resemble what attendees saw at least year’s show.

There’s also the first impression your staffers make on attendees.

  • Are they well dressed, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and engaging?

If not, you’ll get about as much interest and attention as the shabbily dressed nerd at a speed dating session.

2. Little Things Matter

When you’re speed dating, you’re looking for reasons why you’ll like the person you’re talking with, while also looking for things that might disqualify them.

A man with smoker’s breath might turn you off, or a woman with a cackling laugh could cause you to cross her off your list.

Visitors to your trade show booth are going through the same process, looking for little things and subtle clues that might persuade them that you’re not the company to do business with.

Things like booth staffers talking on their cell phones or looking otherwise preoccupied can turn off a prospect.

You may have the best product at the show, but your graphics are filled with lines of tiny type that have to be studied closely to decipher. Your swag is cheap or not tied to your product message.

These things, and dozens more, can cause a promising prospect to turn tail and run instead of giving you an order.

Make sure you sweat the small stuff. People are looking.

3. Timing Is Everything

At a speed dating event, you have just a minute or two to decide if you like the person across the table from you.

At a trade show, you’re in the same situation. An attendee walks toward your exhibit, and the booth does what it’s supposed to do: capture his or her attention and cause the person to stop for a moment.

BACKLIT Curved Table Top Vburst kit and Unprinted 8ft Black Table Throw

BACKLIT Curved Table Top Vburst kit and Unprinted 8ft Black Table Throw

Now it’s up to your staffers to qualify this person as quickly as possible.

Your booth workers should have a scripted, rehearsed approach to asking qualifying questions and determining whether the visitor is a prospect or not.

If not, the goal is to move on to the next person quickly, so staffers don’t miss out on getting to talk with real prospects instead of being saddled with tire kickers.

Your lead gathering process should be quick, clear and straightforward, so the staffer gets the required information before the carnival-like atmosphere of the show draws the prospect’s attention toward something else.

Whatever approach you use, make sure enough information is collected so whoever is tasked with follow-up will know how to deal with the prospect.

3. You Need A Good Opening Line

Imagine how dull it would be to sit across from an attractive person and have nothing to say—or worse, to say the wrong thing.

If you’re going to give speed dating a try, it’s wise to have some good opening lines that tell the other person who you are and what you’re looking for.

This will create a positive and impression, and make you more memorable after the event.

Of course, this advice holds true on the show floor, as well.

Your staffers should be trained in how to open a conversation, how to tell your product’s story well, and how to leave the prospect with a positive impression.

Work with your product managers to come up with these conversation starters, and then encourage role-playing among your booth workers to make them comfortable with the interactions.

So the next time you’re headed for a show, or out for a fun round of speed dating, follow these suggestions and you’ll fare much better than you would without them.

You just might find a prospect that feels the same little spark you felt about them.

Happy hunting!

At American Image Displays, we take pride in helping our clients put their best foot forward on the show floor, with a wide range of pop-ups, modular and custom exhibits, and a state-of-the-art graphics department that can help you tell your company’s story in the most effective way.

For more, read how to close your trade show leads or how to pre-qualify your leads.

If you have questions or would like more information, call us at (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected].