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How To Work a Trade Show Booth

Amy Chan

Posted on October 23 2014

If you’re about to head to your first trade show, you are probably nervous as all get out.  Being surrounded by strangers, asking you all sorts of questions about who knows what, while you’re jittery on lack of sleep and too much coffee?  Sounds like nightmare.  Don’t worry though, there are some things you can do ahead of time to prepare yourself for working the trade show booth.  If you come in with confidence, knowing what to expect, you will knock it out of the park and make your company proud to have sent you.

The biggest difference between a trade show and the “real world,” is in the real world you have to target your audience and go after them, whereas at a trade show, your prospective clients are there, looking for you, actively and keenly.  It’s a world unlike any other, so you have to take advantage.  First of all, unlike when you are going from office to office presenting your wares, you have the opportunity to come up with a really nice presentation, even a multi-media operation, since you are in one place and people are coming to you.  Remember, your potential buyers are heading all over the show, so why should they stop and see you and your booth

Working a trade show booth is different than other situations.  Your interactions are going to be decidedly different.  You can’t dedicate hours to one potential client as you might in a situation where you’re seeking them out at their office.  You are going to be spending as little as 5-10 minutes with a customer, and need to have all the bells and whistles ready to lay on them in that time.  Your interactions will have to be less nuanced.  But that’s ok: remember, the customer is trying to hit up many booths as well, so you will both be interested in keeping the meeting brief, yet fully informative. 

At a trade show, you are working your booth toward quantity, not quality.  You are building new relationships. 

Here are the steps you need to know to form these relationships at the trade show that will transfer into business down the road.

  1. Meet your prospective customer. Can’t develop a relationship unless you meet face to face, one of the reasons trade shows are still so important.
  2. Assess their level of importance. Are they the decision maker, or do they have influence over the decision maker?  If no, politely (and quickly) end the interaction and focus your time on others.
  3. Develop rapport. Friends first, business partners next.  While it’s not a secret that you’re befriending them only to get their business, being genuinely friendly is actually very helpful, more fun, and more conducive to long-term relationships.
  4. Gather information. Not only contact info is required here; you want to collect information about their company, their footprint, their strengths and weaknesses within th company.
  5. Identify a need. Uncovering a need or problem they have will allow you to pitch your product as a solution.
  6. Offer comparison. If you can preemptively explain why you, and not your competition, is the solution, it’ll save them time and make you look better. 

Of course, then you follow up with them after the show.  But if you follow these rules and game plans, you should be able to work your booth to its maximum capacity.