by Candy Adams, CTSM, CME, CEM, CMP, CMM  The Booth Mom®

I’ve seen it happen time and again on the show floor: exhibit staff avoiding interaction with attendees.  They do just about anything they can to keep from making eye contact with attendees passing by – by checking their phone, talking with co-workers or even reading the newspaper dropped off at their hotel room.

I don’t think these people purposefully planned to come to their company’s trade show exhibit to make their company look bad by ignoring the visitors who come by their booth. But I do believe that they probably weren’t trained properly to be comfortable acting in an environment foreign to them in a capacity ‒ as their company’s face-to-face ambassador ‒ that’s often far different than their typical daily job responsibilities.

According to a 2012 report by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction, only 26 percent of exhibitors conduct training for all or most events, and over one-half rarely or never hold exhibit staff training sessions. This lack of training can severely impact an exhibit staff’s effectiveness and visitors’ perception of their professionalism.

Using the analogy of trade show exhibiting being like show business, we construct a stage (our exhibit) to act as a backdrop and grab our prospects’ attention.  We write scripts of key messages that include product information, elevator answers and qualifying questions.  We add props like informational graphics, product samples, collateral literature, lead forms and giveaways. But the most critical element to the exhibit’s success and audience memorability – the actors (a.k.a. the exhibit staff) are somehow expected to engage with the audience without any rehearsal.  Exhibit managers (a.k.a. producer/director of our corporate theater) need to make sure that the actors are not only knowledgeable about their role in the exhibit, but unequivocally comfortable with it.

But what does it take to prepare your staff?  Effective pre-show training sessions for your booth staff can include a review of their company’s exhibiting goals and objectives, key messages, product reviews, competitive analysis, the visitor interaction process and booth etiquette. Role playing exercises hone one-on-one engagement skills between exhibit staff and booth visitors in various realistic scenarios.  And don’t forget to provide an in-booth orientation to the exhibit and the props and tools there to enhance visitors’ in-booth experience. (For a detailed list of topics to cover in pre-show meetings, check out the CEIR Guru Report,“An Exhibit Manager’s Guide to Exhibit Staff Orientation”). Providing this review can increase an exhibit staff’s comfort level through improved competency with visitor interactions and better in-booth skills and behavior.  It can also help to motivate staff members to work toward specific corporate exhibiting goals and maximize the limited time available for each visitor interaction.

In a nutshell, don’t skip preparing your exhibit staff with a “boothmanship refresher course” for their new role. Without this rehearsal, your actors’ performance may just be improv without the laughs!


Candy Adams, CTSM, CME, CEM, CMP, CMM, a.k.a. “The Booth Mom®”, is an independent exhibit and event project manager, 1-on-1 rookie exhibit manager trainer/mentor, humorous exhibit staff trainer, industry speaker, award-winning monthly columnist for Exhibitor magazine’s “Exhibiting 101” and Exhibitor Show/FastTrak faculty member.

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