How to Avoid Booth Staff Duds
13 essential questions to consider well before the event
by Susan A. Friedmann, The Tradeshow Coach
Booth staff selection is the single most important factor in your exhibiting success. More than graphics, signage, literature, giveaways or any other variable, the people you put on the show floor influence each visitor’s opinion of your organization. They are your ambassadors, representing your company for the whole world to see.
It is impossible to stress enough how crucial your team is to your overall success. To ensure a top-notch performance, begin to prepare your booth team four to six months prior to the event. Answer the following questions prior to selecting and training your team:
- How many people do you need to staff the booth?
Consider a number of variables: How big is your exhibit? How long is the show? Will you need employees to give product demonstrations, work the hospitality suite, teach seminars or supervise contests? Ensure that you have enough staffing to man your booth at all times, while giving your team a break every four to six hours. No one can be “on” for 12 hours at a time.
- Who are the best people to represent the organization?
Working a trade show requires a unique mix of skills. You want employees with excellent product knowledge, superlative people skills, killer sales instincts and a warm, engaging personality. These people should be motivated self-starters, able to think on their feet and work with little or no direction.
- How much training will staff need, and have you organized the training?
To ensure success, prepare your team with all the skills and tools they need. Determine how much training staff will need, based on whether or not they have supported this type of event. Training should cover assessing visitor types, asking qualifying questions, handling difficult attendees, lead generation and follow-up, and many other factors.
- Have you scheduled a preshow meeting with your team? If so, what will the meeting cover?
Preshow meetings play a critical role in ensuring that your team understands the goals and objectives, and expected roles and duties, and is adequately supplied with background knowledge to handle any unexpected surprises. Use this time to clarify any areas of confusion and to address staff concerns.
- Is the booth team familiar with the products or services on display? If not, how can you best familiarize staff?
To effectively sell products, you need to have thorough, complete product knowledge. Too many times, organizations send out rookie employees who possess only rudimentary knowledge. This is frustrating for attendees, who won’t come back to find another employee who might have an answer — they’ll go to the competition instead. Booth staff must be familiar with all products and services.
- What type of practice demonstration session will you organize?
Never assume that your employees know how to use the products that they sell. It is entirely possible that they are not completely familiar with every feature, especially for new product introductions. Take the time to thoroughly train your team, and have them practice demonstrating the product to familiarize themselves with the show floor routine.
- Which technical representative will be available to answer questions?
Depending on your product/service line, it may be entirely appropriate to send a technical representative to handle specific product questions. Train this person in the basics of salesmanship, but largely relegate his or her duties to providing technical answers. Make sure the technical representative is aware of the possibility of trade show espionage, to prevent that person from sharing too much information.
- What type of dress code will you establish?
Well before you arrive at the event, consider the target audience and your company’s image and establish a dress code. Uniforms may be appropriate for your company, but if they are not, clearly specify what you want your team to wear. “Casual business” clothing gives far too much leeway. Instead, spell out “black trousers or skirt, white shirt, black blazer, red tie,” or the equivalent.
- How many badges are necessary for booth personnel, and have you ordered them?
Everyone on your team needs a badge to enter the show floor, access hospitality areas and move freely about. Order these badges well ahead of time so that you can remedy any errors or omissions in a timely fashion.
- How many business cards do booth personnel need, and do they have a sufficient supply?
It is amazing how many business cards you can hand out during the course of one trade show. Consider how many you’ll need, and make sure your team orders new cards before the event if necessary.
- What is the booth schedule?
As you plan for the show, remember that a complete schedule will cover every moment from show arrival to departure. Include who will staff the booth, break times, technical support and assorted responsibilities. It may be a good idea to include “check-in time” in the schedule, so sales people acting as booth staff can check messages back at the home office and make needed phone calls. This will alleviate a great deal of staff anxiety.
- Who will oversee booth installation and dismantling?
Often overlooked, these two items can quickly become logistical nightmares if no one is prepared to address them. Delegate two people to this detail. Many show organizers provide this service for a fee, but you may still want to have staff members on hand to supervise.
- What is the move-out procedure, and do those responsible understand it?
Someone has to arrange to move the exhibit out of the convention center, ensuring it is properly packed, and coordinate shipping the whole thing back to the home office. Again, clearly designate a responsible party and a support team if necessary, and provide them with all the tools and resources they’ll need to succeed.
There you have it — a “baker’s dozen” ways to make sure you put your best foot forward the next time you exhibit at an event. Ask yourself these critical questions well before the doors open and you’ll be sure to have a successful event.
The Tradeshow Coach Susan A. Friedmann, CSP, from Lake Placid, N.Y., is an internationally recognized expert working with companies to increase their profitability at trade shows. She is the author of Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a Small Market and Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies. For more information, visit www.thetradeshowcoach.com and www.richesinniches.com.