Exhibiting 101: Build a Winning team for Your Trade Show Booth

This is the fifth in a series of articles about the basics of exhibiting that began with the first post of the New Year. This article focuses on building a winning team to work the booth for you.

Choosing your trade show team is no different than choosing a team for competitive sport. Every team needs a leader and followers. And every team needs specialists, as well. Your trade show booth is no different; you should be sure to choose the right players for this team also and create a team atmosphere in your trade show boothbuild a winning team with superbowl trophy

Generally, it’s up to you to lead the trade show team, unless the sales manager is also involved. In that case (since a trade show is almost always a sales activity), he or she would likely be the best person to rally the ranks.

Don’t assume that everyone knows who’s in charge. The team structure should be made clear to booth staffers at your pre-show meeting.

And just as a football team has a kicker and a quarterback who specialize in those different tasks, your winning team should also have specialists, if the size of the show warrants bringing several staffers.

The captain should decide in advance how big a team to put on the field. That team should include salespeople, technical people, marketing people and representatives from the C-Suite, if at all possible.

With a team created from members of these groups, you’ll be able to answer almost any visitor’s question and handle virtually every situation that arises on the show floor.

Various sources quote differing statistics, but studies have shown that as much as 85% of your success at a show can be directly tied to the efforts of your trade show booth staff. So your team’s selection process needs to be given serious attention.

It can’t be, as it is for some companies, an afterthought. A winning team must be chosen, not made up of anyone who wants to play. Or worse, filled with unqualified members just to complete the roster. Start with a basic set of qualifications (personable, knowledgeable, friendly, self-motivated) and build from there.

The worst mistake to make when choosing people for your trade show team is to pick someone who doesn’t want to do it. Sure, trade shows are tough on those who work them, and it’s not always a choice assignment. But the negativity of someone who would rather be anywhere else will bring down the energy of your entire team.

Play a Zone Defense

Each staffer should know what position they’re playing. In football or basketball, it’s called “playing zone” as opposed to playing “man on man.”

This means that every member of your team should be responsible for a different area of the trade show booth, so that visitors will always have someone to talk with, regardless of where they go in your exhibit. Someone will always be covering the entrance to the booth, while another person staffs the product demo area, and so on.

trade show booth with shelves - Merchandise Express Kit 8

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With this team strategy, you won’t have a line of people standing at the edge of your carpet, each waiting to pounce on the next attendee who passes by.

This strategy also assures that no one who enters your trade show booth will get away without someone assessing their qualifications as a lead.

Huddle before the Play

Another analogy we can borrow from the sports world is the huddle. Before each play, the team comes together to discuss strategy. This works on the show floor, as well. Plan to have a short gathering before each show day, where you and your team will plan your plays for the day ahead.

And if there’s a problem during the day that seems to be interfering with the team’s success, don’t hesitate to call a “time out” and bring everyone together for a quick discussion.


Teams usually have uniforms, and trade show teams are no different. Tell your team what’s expected of them, whether it’s a suit and tie or khakis and a polo shirt, and hold them to it.

Rules of the Game

Your team should also be as familiar with etiquette in the trade show booth as a soccer team is with the rules of the game. Things like sitting down, eating, talking on cell phones turn away visitors, so they can’t be tolerated in the exhibit space.


There are still more similarities between sporting teams and trade show teams. For example, a winning team wouldn’t think of going into game day without sufficient diligent practice. The same holds true for your team.

Each staffer should know what to say and how to qualify a lead, make a sale or gracefully dismiss those who aren’t potential leads. This should be scripted and role played with the entire team in pre-show staff training sessions.

Part of the captain’s job is to keep the team’s morale up. Do that by taking the team out for a nice meal after a day when everyone performed well. Or take in a show as a group, or offer a financial reward to top performers. Be creative when thinking of ways to motivate your team.

It’s true that 85% of the results you can expect from a trade show have to do with your team. But that winning team can’t do their job without an effective trade show booth. To get the best selection of modular displays and exhibiting accessories, make American Image Displays part of your team. Call (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected].

See full list of Exhibiting 101 articles here.