by Barry Siskind, President, International Training & Management Company
When I walk a trade show floor, I am surprised by booth staff that makes eye contact and then ask, “How are you doing?” My answer is inevitably, “Fine,” and I continue to walk.
Some exhibitors will justify this behavior by saying, “I’m just trying to be friendly,” or, “I don’t want to seem pushy.”
It is important to understand why engaging a visitor in a meaningful conversation continues to be a stumbling block for many exhibitors. For booth staff, more accustomed to dealing with people one-on-one, the sheer volume of visitors at a trade show can be overwhelming.
Recent research by CEIR uncovered visitors’ “Most Popular Exhibit Floor Interactions.” The most popular, in descending order of importance were:
- product demonstrations
- hands-on interaction
- the ability to shop without pressure from vendors
I believe these findings reveal that visitors have to be able to engage with products and vendors on their own terms.
There are two reasons that a trade show is not like shopping in a mall where one can walk into one shop, browse and then walk into another: time and space.
At a busy show, time is at a premium and it is often difficult to tell the booth staff apart from other visitors. Space becomes an issue because there are simply too many people in a space that is measured, in 10 feet by 10 feet cubicles.
So there is a need to ensure that booth staff understand that visitors want to engage in a meaningful way. Being reactive and waiting until they approach is a recipe for disaster. A proactive approach that engages the visitor in a friendly and professional manner is what is needed.
Yet the rate at which companies seek out expert help training their staff on basic skills remains frightening small.