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Whether your company is planning for a 10′ by 10′ booth or a large 40′ by 50′ trade show exhibit space, one of the most important things you will need to incorporate is the assembly of your trade show team. This includes training the staff who will be working the booth during the show.

Unfortunately,  staff training tends to be overlooked in favor of more pressing issues like booth planning, construction, design, and other logistics. While the importance of the booth itself is important in attracting customers and prospects, you need to keep in mind that your staff’s presence and demeanor can make or break that new prospective business.

Some experienced staff and executives who staff trade show booths pride themselves on their ability to weed through the duds to spot and engage only live prospects, but staying focused only on revenue or big-ticket customers can often damage their brand and lead to missed opportunities.

So, this week’s article from the Booth Mom will be on coordinating your trade show team. Candy goes over the internal and external stakeholders and providing you with the tools to determine your exhibit strategy and plan logistic implementation.

Internal Team

Your internal team consists mainly of marketing and sales management and any other stakeholders such as technical support, engineering (especially if you’re launching a new product), facilities and shipping.

TIP: Make sure that stakeholders from all critical elements of your exhibit are invited to all planning meetings, from the start of your planning process to assure their buy-in to the planning decisions and adherence to the show deadlines, avoiding last minute changes and rush charges.

Show and Exhibit Orientation

To attendees, your staff is the most memorable part of your exhibit, so training and rehearsal are essential.

You will want to train the booth staffers to become familiar with the exhibit layout, demos, and tools (such as badge scanners, promotional items, and collateral).

You will need to review the location of the exhibit in relation to business partners, competitors, registration, hall entrances/exits, coffee vendors, restaurants and fast food, along with the exhibitor lounge, fire and emergency apparatus, restrooms, shuttles and taxis, the show office, the press room, etc.

You will want to notify staffers of the items kept at the information desk, including the staff schedule, employee cell phone numbers, product literature, press kits, business cards, office supplies, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, lead-retrieval equipment, and whatever else you plan to store there. Go over available collateral literature such as data sheets, brochures, and white papers, along with their format (e.g., thumb drive, URL, or hard copy).

While in the booth, review product demonstrations and live presentations – this is the perfect opportunity to gather feedback and work out any last-minute kinks. Practice using the badge scanner/lead-retrieval system or lead forms, and review lead-grading criteria, the importance of completeness and accuracy, recording related notes, and so on.

Tip: Question to ask yourself, “What would our trade show team need to know to make them productive in the booth?”

Product and sales training

When it comes to product and sales training, below you will find a few training discussions and practices to go over with the staff.

Show Floor Opportunities: What trade shows provide beyond just leads, i.e., networking, education, and competitive analysis.

Show Snapshot: Explore essential show metrics along with attendee demographics, so you see the big picture and know how you fit in.

Prime Prospect: It would be good to brainstorm a profile of your target attendee. Teaching the staff to keep job title and pain points in mind, so they have a better understanding of a prime prospect. Share the color of your best prospects’ badges to help your staff quickly identify and make decisions on which traffic will be most productive to talk with.

Game Show Review: An effective way to end the training would be to have trainees review all essential content in a game show format. It’ll leave them energized for the show floor!

Boothmanship (at-show etiquette)

Below you will see essential behavioral skills for boothmanship.  When training your team, review this at-show best practices list with each of them.

Skills in making rapid contact.
Match the body language of the prospect.
Warmth skills: smile and positive emotions.
Ability to make small talk quickly and naturally.
Respect opinions and beliefs of the prospect.
Lead the prospect to an action step: either closing or setting another appointment.
Keep booth area neat.
Maintain good eye contact.
Relaxed, friendly, yet professional attitude.
Shake hands.

Housekeeping Details

Booth staffers at any given show typically have varying levels of trade show experience.  So I have found it useful to cover all the bases when it comes to basics like the schedule, transportation, registration, etc. Remember, you are responsible for the success of this show, and the information below might seem elementary, but it is necessary.  The last thing you want to run into on the day of the show is not having your staff arrive on time because they didn’t know how to get from the hotel to the convention center.

If you are not distributing badges to the staff before the show, you will need to instruct them on where and when to pick up badges at exhibitor registration. While veteran staffers will likely be able to find the registration desk on their own, newbies might get overwhelmed.

Timing is everything. You will need to go over show dates, hours and when staffers need to be at the booth. You will want to discuss what staffers should do if they are running late for their assigned time or if they fall ill and are unable to make it to the show floor. That way, you’ll be more efficient with making shift changes, so all shifts are covered. I have found that scheduling a few floaters for every shift to be beneficial in case of no-shows and schedule changes.

Review transportation options and the directions to the trade show venue (if walking or driving). Also, go over the estimated time frame of how long it might take to travel on show days from the hotel to the convention center.

Review and reinforce your company’s dress code and distribute booth uniforms (such as branded shirts) if you’re using them. Handing out uniforms during the training session is an excellent way to encourage staffers to attend.

Provide a specific space for storage for personal items and remind them of the things that need to be stored away. You don’t want purses, laptops, and other personal belongings out in the open. It not only makes your exhibit appear messy and unkempt, but it’s also not secure.

Discuss the schedule (and location) of end-of-day debrief meetings to review what worked and what didn’t work in the exhibit that day. These debrief are a great time to get feedback from your team and brainstorm any necessary mid-course corrections to be implemented for the remainder of the trade show.

Review the schedule and responsibilities for exhibit teardown. Booth staffers have a way of disappearing toward the end of the show, so assigning tasks ahead of time ensures your crew is there when you need them.

Tip: Questions to think about: “What info do you need from your trade show team? What info do they need from you?”

External Support Team

Now we went over your internal support team, training, and housekeeping details, but what about your external support team? External team members can include account executives from your exhibit house, advertising or marketing agency, public relations firm, shipping carrier, installation and dismantle provider and other subcontractors such as A/V and computer rentals.

Show Organizer

The show organizer is at the top of the chart. This may be an association, a company, person, or sponsor who decides that there should be a trade show organizer. This role will make all executives and financial decisions regarding the show’s strategy, including identifying the target audience, type of businesses, the time and place of the trade show, and whether it will have a conference component.

Depending on the show organizer’s business model, it may use internal staff to manage the various aspects of an event.

General Services Contractor

The General Services Contractor is also known as a general contractor, GSC, or official general contractor. The GSC is contracted by the show organizer or show manager and accepts the responsibility for physical setup and teardown of the trade show.

The GSC’s duties include, but are not limited to, inspecting the trade show site for planning purposes; preparing numerous versions of the show-floor layout and exhibit placement; receiving the approval of all floor plans from the venue’s fire marshal. Along with generating the exhibitor services manual (aka the exhibitor kit); managing freight sent through the advance warehouse, marshaling yard, and freight docks during move in and move out; and storage of empty crates and cartons during the show. The GSC will also hire and manage the labor force; printing and placing informational and sponsorship signage throughout the venue; hanging the pipe and drape for in-line exhibits, and vacuuming aisle and booth carpet.

Tip: Communication is key; share your strategic, tactical and financial vision and your desired outcomes with your internal and external stakeholders.

Conclusion

Now as the exhibit manager, I am aware adding staff training to your to-do list is the last thing you want to do. But don’t underestimate the power of expertly trained staff. The people working your exhibit during a show are the face – and the voice –  of your company and the way they interact with attendees can make or break the overall success of the show. So teach them the booth-staffing basics before turning them loose on the show floor.

Keep an eye out for my next article, as I will dive into Pre-Show Strategy and Supporting Tactics. Do you have a question or want me to go over a specific topic? Click here. 

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