Guest Post – How to Work a Booth

April 22, 2009

blog-images003As we prepare for the Buy Here Business Fair this Thursday, trade show veteran Mike Gerholdt reminds us how to work a booth.

Trade shows are all about micro interactions that are personal and relevant. Many attendees will spend less than two minutes in your booth. That means you have very little time to convey your message and many pitfalls to watch out for.

Have a traffic flow plan. Try to visualize from what direction your attendees will approach the booth and then place some of your best eye-catching materials or products there. You must resist the urge to put your lead forms here, though. Instead place them at the end of the line. Sign up forms and lead cards take a moment to fill out so you really want those at the end of your booth or the exit. That way they can fill out the form and ‘not feel like they are holding things up.’ Imagine your table as a three-step process as the intro, the interaction, and the info. The first part is the meet and greet. The middle is where you give an overview of your product or service. The end is where you exchange information.

Watch out for tire kickers. These are well-intentioned trade show attendees who love to talk. They may even be huge fans of your brand. The problem is they end up occupying all of your time as prospects pass by. Tire kickers are great people to follow up with but can cost you in the short term. If you’re experiencing heavy booth traffic, do your best to move them down the line and gather their info. Or you can tag team with another staff member. That way you always have someone who can greet new people.

Have a staffing plan. Typical trade shows can last anywhere from 5-7 hours. While this is less than an average workday, it can be intense. Develop a plan to keep your staff rotated. This will give everyone a chance to stay caught up with the office and it will keep them fresh and smiling.

Keep the fishbowls at home. Unless you are selling fishbowls keep them off the table. It’s not a contest about who can get the most cards or leads, it’s about having great interactions. Having said that, keep a pen handy at all times to take notes. If you have a lead capture form write a quick note about what you spoke about on the back. If you’re just collecting business cards, make a note on the back after they exit the booth. That way when you or your sales team follows up, they have talking points to start from instead of just “Umm… hi you attended the conference and …”

Avoid the freebie buffet. Trade show attendees — like everyone — love chotchkies. (Who doesn’t?) The difference is they need to earn them. By simply putting your chotchkies out you give the impression you’re giving them away. You are however selling them for the low, low, price of a prospect’s name. By placing a few out on the table you can generate interest but not make it look like you have an ample supply. Then you can create the demand for getting a swirly glitter pen if you just fill out the lead card. This same philosophy also applies to your brochures and marketing materials. Chances are if it goes in their bag, it will end up in the round file before they leave the hotel. Instead, offer to mail follow up materials to them after the show. That way they don’t have to worry about the hassle of getting all that stuff home because you’re going to do it for them. This also gives your sales staff an excellent opening for a follow up call or two and you’re not relying on the prospect to take the first step.

Get more of Mike’s great sales and marketing ideas at

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.