Welcome to Advice from the Booth Mom editorial series, each article you will gain insight on how to set up your company trade show schedule, planning logistics and marketing efforts strategically at industry events. This week from the Booth Mom, she shares her insight on the importance of a well-trained exhibit staff.

Memorability. It’s what all exhibitors want when the show’s over. We want the attendees to remember us: our brand, our message, and our product when they’re ready to make a buying decision. And according to Exhibit Surveys’ research, six weeks after the show, 80% of what attendees still remember is their interaction with our exhibit staff and how they made them feel while they were visiting our booth.

The bad news is that as exhibit managers, we usually don’t get to hand-pick our exhibit staff. Even though our exhibit looked great, our signage was top-notch, and our product was all in place, our staff was… well, still our same old staff with the same bad habits of checking mail on their cell phones, hanging out in groups comparing notes on last night’s party, and ignoring passing aisle traffic.

So what can we do to improve our staff’s less than memorable performance?

The simple answer: train them.

Since the recall of our entire exhibit is directly tied to attendees’ face-to-face contact with our staff, shouldn’t we be concentrating on – or at least putting as much budget and effort into our staff’s performance – as we do our shipping or drayage that are invisible to our target audience?

Sadly, this commitment to exhibit staff training doesn’t happen often enough, and the visitor is the one who pays the ultimate price with a forgettable booth experience. According to a study by the Center for Exhibit Industry Research (CEIR) called “The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction,” only 26% of exhibitors conduct training for all or most events, and more than 50% rarely or never hold exhibit-staff training sessions.

For an investment with such a high payback, those are pathetic statistics. But there is hope to get a leg up on your business rivals if you’re willing to reallocate some of your exhibit budget to improve your staff’s boothmanship skills. Consider it your “secret weapon” so attendees will favorably compare you to your competitors!

But why, you ask, does your exhibit staff even need training? They may have worked shows before. As I see it, the problem is that none of us do booth duty regularly and we get rusty at even the most basic boothmanship skills. We may not so much need training as a refresher course and orientation to what’s new and different at each show.

We need a reminder that selling on the trade show floor is different than an office sales call based on:
Attendees’ sensory overload on the show floor
Briefer length of time of engagement that requires focus and efficiency
Immediate comparison to our competitors, and
The overall goal of not actually selling but moving the visitor along the sales cycle to agree to a post-show follow-up.

Your staff needs to be comfortable efficiently:
Greeting, engaging and qualifying your visitors
Presenting a demo
Gathering and recording lead information, and
Thanking and dismissing visitors.

But what you need to communicate to your staff doesn’t stop with just these sales skills. You’ll also need to provide an exhibit orientation covering your marketing goals and objectives and how the staff’s individual contributions fit into this bigger picture.

Don’t forget to cover messaging, staff roles and schedules, presentations, promotional activities, and ancillary events. Hands-on training on using the badge scanners to capture all qualifying information is critical, too.

We’re in SHOW BIZ, you know! Just think of your exhibit as your company’s stage, your messaging as the script, your demonstrations as your props and your exhibit staff as your actors. Then don’t forget the rehearsal – and blow your competition out of the water!

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