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Best Practices for Effective Tradeshows

August 14, 2017  - Tips for Small Business
Best Practices for Effective Tradeshows

  According to statistics from the Center for Exhibit Industry Research, 80% of what visitors remember most is their interaction with the exhibit staff and 75% of the effectiveness of any trade show is due to the exhibit staff.  

Sending company personnel to exhibit at a trade show is typically an expensive endeavor* considering booth cost, travel expenses, promotion, show services, etc. To achieve a positive return on investment, SMBs should take time to plan objectives and ensure attendees are armed with best practices. You can start your implementation of trade show best practices by identifying your show goals and developing the brand message to share with the visitors to your trade show booth. It is important to provide every visitor with a positive experience so that they leave the booth with a good impression and know what service or product your company offers. This can be achieved by professionally and politely communicating your message with as many qualified visitors as possible.

Trade show booth interaction can be broken down into three components:

  1. Engage and Greet
  2. Qualifying Visitors
  3. Closing the Conversation

Engage & Greet: best practices to keep in mind when first engaging people in your booth:

  • Be approachable and enthusiastic: Don't give any visitor a reason not to approach you.
  • Look interested: Don't stand in a closed circle talking with colleagues or right on the edge of the booth or with your back to the aisle.
  • Be proactive: Engage people walking in, around and near the booth. Never leave the booth unattended.
  • Have open body language: Refrain from use of cell phones or laptops, eating or drinking* in booth – keep the booth clean and neat.
  • Make eye contact: When first meeting, and then when departing, be sure to look people in the eye with a personal greeting before you look at their badge to note their name.
  • Don't make visitors wait: Move out to the edges of the booth and greet and engage people as they approach.
  • Set the visitors expectation of time: Stating “Let me take 5 minutes and tell you….” lets visitors know they aren't in for a lengthy sales pitch.
  • Acknowledge waiting visitors: Add them to your conversation if possible or tell them how long it will be before you are finished.
  • Greet visitors who are waiting to talk to other members of staff: There are no private conversations in the booth. It is OK to interrupt politely and ask how long your colleague will be or for permission to add a visitor to their ongoing conversation.
  You know you're going to get asked “Who are you” or “What do you offer” so be ready with your Elevator Pitch, a brief 30 second answer followed by an open-ended question.  
Crafting an effective elevator pitch for tradeshows

Qualify Visitors: ask probing questions to find out:

  • The needs of their business or here at the show – what is their level of interest?
  • What is their time frame for purchasing and their role in the purchase process?
  • Who makes purchasing decisions if it's not them?
  • If they want contact from a salesperson and how should that contact be made
  • Typical openings for qualifying questions include – tell me about, how does, and describe

If you are asked a difficult question, answer the question with a question to find out why they are asking the question. Anticipate what might be a tough question and have some answers ready.

Giveaways and drawings* attract people to the booth. It is okay to ask for something in return when someone is taking a giveaway item. Interact with the visitor to get something for what you give by saying: Do you know what we do or a similar question to start engagement. Tip: we all experience attendees that are “swag collectors” – people that want the free stuff and a lot of it. A friendly response that usually works is “If you'd like more of those, feel free to come back at the end of the show”. It's a polite way to manage the distribution of the giveaways.

Closing the Conversation: the final component of trade show booth interacting is dismissing and ending the conversation:

To dismiss a conversation, be polite and professional, look the visitor in the eye, walk to the edge of the booth, shake their hand and thank them for coming. Summarize what you discussed, generate the lead and scan or get their business card.

It is okay to dismiss a visitor by saying you need to talk more with other waiting people, and suggest you continue your conversation at another time. State your follow-up commitment as to what and when, and then follow up as promised.

A positive attitude, and a polite and friendly disposition make the quality of your interaction at trade shows with visitors a key differentiator in representing your company and generating leads at a show. When the show is over, follow through to ensure commitments get converted to specific actions.

  Trade shows are about face to face contact with existing and potential customers. Face time is critical in customer acquisition and retention. Staying on track and implementing best practices will build up your potential customer base, open the door to sales opportunities and close the deals.  


Ascentium Capital knows the value trade show events can bring to your business. Whether you're furnishing a new booth, launching an event marketing plan or hiring additional staff for coverage, our business financing, leasing and small business loan solutions can help you make the best out of every event. 

Contact us today to learn how our fast, flexible financing programs can be customized to suit your unique business needs.

About Our Guest Author:
Christine L Kimball, Vice President of Marketing at Ascentium Capital. Christine has 14 years of experience in trade show exhibiting and corporate event planning.

*The mention of or links to third-party information, services, products, or providers does not imply endorsement or support by Ascentium Capital. Individual research should be done before use of any product, process or service mentioned.

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