Exhibit, Trade Show, Display Booth or Informational Table Venue Engagement Selling… Ideas for Increased Business Opportunities!
The opportunity to have suspects, prospects and existing customers funneled directly to
you, the customer service and sales professional, can be a windfall or a crap shoot—you
In reality, most client service representatives, sales professionals, recruiters and business
professionals in general dread working the booth, exhibit, trade show, expo fair,
information table (or whatever you call this exposure opportunity) more than going to a
dentist or paying taxes. Not taking full advantage of these opportunities though is a
critical mistake and possibly the greatest career oversight you will ever make!
With a few simple shifts in “attitude” and “behavior”, you can turn this informational
awareness event into one of the greatest prospecting, marketing, selling and brand
awareness building opportunities in which you will ever participate – and potential
closing day ever.
Your ability to have quality and quantity of lead generation at one time and venue can be
a strategic accelerator for your business. Viewing these events as B2B, B2C and C2C
target rich opportunities is the mind-shift towards a champion. Likewise, this can be an
opportunity to re-engage COIs, friends and industry colleagues with increased market
exposure. To make this shift in mind and presence for greater ROI consider the following
strategic and tactical recalibrations in your performance.
First, always start with a clear understanding of what you immediate, intermediate and
long-term purpose or goal is for exhibiting and showing up?
Second, recognize the actions of the person who hates the exhibit, fair, display booth, or
trade show affairs. He or she
- Shows up late to set up, with an endless list of reasons (aka excuses)
- Accepts wherever he/she is directed to set up.
- Creates a display space that is boring or too busy!
- Spends less time engaging people walking by and more time rearranging the set
up. It’s amazing how busy one can be at these events . . . doing everything except
networking and making new valuable qualified leads for later follow-up selling
Third, let’s turn this event into a cash cow of potential. Here are twenty-five plus action
plans for your next venue opportunity. If your competition is not taking advantage of this
same opportunity, you have the chance to have a career-changing experience.
In fact, with these twenty-five plus strategic and tactical plans, you will find yourself
looking for more group venue opportunities.
Get clarity of the B2B and B2C opportunities that differing people that you engage can
bring you and engage accordingly. Focus, plan and execute:
It’s all about location, location, location. Get there early and get the high
ground. Remember that attendees are not there (just) for you, they are always
there to see someone else. Determine who the big players for that venue will be,
that your target prospect may be coming to see, and set up next to them.
If not relevant, then a great general location would be next to the check-in counter
or a high-profile exhibitor. If you are relegated to a low-traffic spot, then the
venue should be FREE; If you yield no meaningful results, make sure the vendor
hosting the event not only refunds your monies, but also gives you bonus
exposure in some after-event communication vehicle sent to attendees. In fact,
this after-even communication exposure should be sought anyway!
- Traffic flow is critical. You will want to make sure that you are set up so that
you are in the early stages of the traffic flow. You don’t want to be the first or last
booth in a major hall, as the first booth typically intimidates most attendees, and
they will purposefully avoid making eye contact with you; by the last booth, most
attendees are exhausted and are ready to be somewhere else. Avoid being the left-
side placement on corners, as attendees make too fast a turn and will often blast
right past you. Ask event promoters or review layout charts to determine what the
traffic patterns should be—and then set up in an offensive position. Sometimes
there is potential near food stands, but this can sometimes work against you as
well. There is an art and a science to traffic flow.
- Design a high-energy booth for engagement. Make sure your display has the
energy that attracts—not repels—traffic. Leverage every vantage point as an
access point to your booth. Have pictures versus just words; have a television or
interactive computer screen playing an endless loop of your most eye-grabbing
features and benefit stories. Consider a drawing/giveaway for something, but
make sure the prize will be of interest to your ideal prospect/customer. Think like
your clients! Have live samples of your product/service if appropriate for tactile
interaction; reflect on anything displays that have drawn you in previously, and
try to replicate that energy for your display.
Remove all chairs. Make sure you have no opportunity to withdraw from the
audience and let your energy decline. A lot of money is invested in your presence,
and the traffic flow is potentially delivering to you many prospects to meet and
follow up on. It would take a month of high-impact prospecting days to equal the
potential of this one single event. There will be time to relax when you get home!
(You may offer your chairs to competitors; if they’re dumb enough to accept
them, they will most likely even say thank you to you for aiding their laziness!)
Another problem in sitting is that the relaxed stance enables you to let your
professional guard down, and in many cases, you may engage in dialogue with
your booth-mate, thereby ignoring attendees walking by. You are no longer
approachable, and many potential prospects will not want to disturb you. Worse
even than this are clients walking by, listening to you talk disparagingly about the
venue or attendees!
Push your table and display stand screening, etc., to the wall. Make sure that
if you have a booth, any table setup is pushed to the wall. You never want to be
hidden behind the table—isolated from the traffic flow—as this makes you less
approachable and actually more intimidating!
Offer candy or unique power snack/drink/bar. Have a sugar fix on your table.
Candy does attract and so too do health bars . . . and chocolate is a magnet!
Set out business cards in three stacks/or a row across the front of the table.
Make sure you have your business contact cards in three different stacks across
your display area, not just in one area. This way, if you are blocking one stack or
engaged in a dialogue in front of another stack, a passerby will be able to see
other cards, increasing the odds that he or she will pick one up and contact you
Make a personalized business card brochure. For every person you meet, take
one of your own business cards, and on the reverse side, draw a circle in the
middle. In the circle, write the prospect’s name and date, and on the outside of the
circle, draw axis lines outward. On each line (times how ever many you need),
write down the greatest feature and benefit items for that particular prospect.
Relate to what you have to offer that can serve a need the prospect has revealed in
Limit your table brochures. Don’t have so much literature on your table that it
looks like a warehouse. Only give brochures, flyers, catalogs, etc. that are truly
appropriate for each particular suspect or prospect. Make sure you write the
person’s name in at least two different places, referencing at least two major print
items of specialized interest to the suspect’s/prospect’s needs. By writing the
name in the material, you increase the likelihood of your literature actually getting
home with and being read by the potential customer.
Schedule ten-minute interval meetings/appointments. Want to fight and
eliminate boredom? Keep it alive. Here is the most powerful strategic adjustment
in your venue set up . . . adjust your efforts for the week leading up to the exhibit
opportunity, and for all customers whom you had planned to meet, instead of
going to see them, schedule them to come by your booth in ten-minute interval
appointments. Now you will never be bored, and you will have created a
continual sense of energy around your booth that will attract greater traffic to your
area. Meet with a new client (member, recruit, etc. as they are at this point in their
life-cycle over-enthusiastic about you!), a center-of-influence/advocate, a hot
prospect, someone from whom you need a final signature, a person you were
planning to give something to, etc. Stack the cards in your favor. During the event
if people need more of your time or specific needs answered, schedule them back
like an appointment when you would otherwise be dead, so as to always keep an
array of energy and urgency around your space, this attracts others to your space!
Identify the top 25 people you meet during your exhibit and develop a
separate campaign to mail them a series of collateral (hard copy, tangible)
pieces for two months. This could include a simple hand-written "Thank You
Note" within 24-hours of your event, then one week out a brochure or flyer that
follows up on something you discussed with them, followed up two weeks later
by another informational piece on you and or your organization, followed up three
weeks later by one final value rich media piece. Along with each of these mailed
out pieces, you can enhance the power and influence of this campaign by making
a follow-up telephone cal to move that contact forward into active customer
Consider the nature of the venue you exhibited at and what the real reason
would have been for the individuals that you meet for being at the venue, as it
more than likely was not to just come there to have interacted with you. With that
goal clearly in mind, now evaluate if you have any complimentary information,
services, or products to assist them in their endeavors, and if so make sure you
send that to them as value added differentiator and a simple note, "FYI".
Make sure you likewise send a hand-written "Thank You Note" to the
sponsor of the event that you were invited to exhibit at, as well as the actual
Venue operator them self, as a way expressing your appreciation for the
opportunities that they afforded to you. This will also be a shock to them as no
one ever thinks about them afterwards, and will serve as a stock raising action
with the sponsor and allow you greater courtesies for the next event!
Check with the sponsor of the event to see if they maintain a master list of
attendees or members over-all to their organization (business, association,
community, etc.) and inquire about penning a content rich (no self promotion
here) value added article for their newsletter, journal, magazine, or electronic
news services (eZine or blog). Inquire about having this appear in the publication
to these people immediately after having exhibited (or posted to their web site).
This becomes a major differentiator and serves as a second party endorsement of
you to this demographic.
To make action item twelve more impactful, inquire about offering a column
for publication in any media piece prior to the exhibit trade show
opportunity that the sponsor may have. This will serve as a subtle pre-
marketing endeavor, and people may seek you out at the exhibit venue because of
a compelling editorial item you wrote about.
Immediately after every exhibit opportunity debrief (either by yourself, or
with your colleagues) what worked, what did not work, and what you could
have done to make the experience more productivity. Identify from that same
venue opportunity what exhibitors seemed to be significantly more attractive to
participants, and then determine how you can replicate that in your booth the next
time, and even better yet, how can you surpass that at your next event.
An example with one of our clients is the National Guard with an
emphasis on the market of 17-to-35-year-old individuals and the Iowa
Army National Guard and then Recruiting Commander LTC
Higginbotham … What they call their "WOW" tables, using STEM items
to generate excitement. Make people fight their way to your display.
STEM is science, technology, Engineering and Math. It’s a buzz word in
Tables are set up for interaction and engagement with the market, we have
a UAV called the Raven and its gear on the table, a TOW Mission system,
A TV playing a video of cool stuff on a loop, two thermal weapon sites
(see through walls, etc.), a small satellite dish connected to the new high
Once you have a formula for how best to set-up your tables/booths, make
this the standard, explained why we do this, why we need to etc. The
visual helps your team to learn and execute greatness so as to be able to
engage and gather great leads and just meet and build rapport with people
you don’t know.
If you had a give-away item, now evaluate whether it was a flash-in-the-pan
item that people may have grabbed while there, yet thrown away as they left
the exhibit area. If so never spend your money on that item again. Determine
who had something so original that people went out of there way to go by their
exhibit area to get it, and better yet they will be using it throughout the conference
and into their life-style afterwards - thereby gaining your bonus exposure into
their circle of influence when they go back home and continue to use them. For
example, the United States ARMY gives new enlisted recruits in route to basic
training black shoulder back-packs with a big gold star and the simple word
ARMY on the back - I have seen these on youth’s shoulders all over the place and
on the shoulders of parents, business people, and soldiers in airports, malls, and
on the streets, all of whom are not the target audience yet are serving to continue
to promote their service opportunity in the mind of a mobile public!
Another example, at a recent exhibit the Jacksonville Florida handed out
florescent colored padded grips with their website name on them for participants
to place around the handles of their pull brief cases and luggage – WOW,
everyone sees them and attracts attention. Another was the Toronto Canada
Chamber handed out classy leather-bound travel shoe shinning kits. Another
exhibit vendor handed out meal tip calculators printed on the reverse of their
business card onto a plastic credit card sized handout.
If you feel appropriate, partner with a complimenting exhibitor (maybe even
a competitor) to exchange leads after the exhibit opportunity. Then send to
those contacts that you have cross referenced to ensure that they are duplicates a
letter that simply reads, “Your name was given to me after the _____ (insert
the name of the event you exhibited at here) ______ event you attended, it was
suggested to me to contact you _____ (insert a powerful benefit statement here)
____. If this sounds like something that you would like to hear more about,
please give me a call at ______________ or send me an email to
_____________. Thank you for your time.” By doing this you can morph your
contact list and extend your reach from having exhibited.
Contact the sponsor of the event (ideally you would have done this before the
event) and see if can gain access to their invitation list for the event or
membership list. If you can get the contact list or access to their list, send them a
pre-invitation to stop and see you, and a post follow up invitation to connect with
Determine if there is a member of your team that their personality is better
suited for future exhibit lead generation or exhibit contact interaction. If so
make sure they are present the next time, or you will continue to do your
organization a disservice and not maximize exhibit opportunities!
Duffel Bag/Back-Pack Display. Imagine you are a military enlistment recruiter,
bring your duffel bag or ruck bag and spread out across your table or display
booth items of your actual life (i.e. night vision goggles, gloves, shovel, paint,
food …), instead of the expected hand-out items as this will induce a higher level
of curiosity and allow you to engage attendees and prospects in a more
meaningful manner. So, what is your Duffle-bag equivalent?
Work the other Vendors at the event, as they may be more valuable prospects or
lead generators (Centers-of-Influence/COIs), than they attendees you initially
came to meet!
Utilize Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) smartly to do advance
promotion of where you will be, where, why, and what a select few that get there
early can receive or connect with you for. Have your COIs forward your social
media messages to their contacts. Then use it continuously while at your event to
show high energy interactions and Booth engagement to excite others to attend
now or follow-up with you at a later date.
VIP Meet-and-Greet or Q&A Interview, Invite A Celebrity Personality/Your
Boss/and Subject-Matter-Expert (SME) to be at Your Spot. Be smart about your
time and leverage the people you know that can make the space you are in more
exciting. If you are a military Recruiter have one of or several of your most recent
enlistments/soldiers present to create a buzz, work the room and invite people
back to the table/booth, display their contacts and leverage their social media
contacts to stop by; Have theses invited co-hosts at your Table to wear their new
uniforms or paint of their faces in war wear, etc.; If you have a power personality,
person of stature within your organization schedule them into your space or Table
for a specific time for people to meet and sub promote, announce, signage that up
Utilize social media as you arrive or while you are present, to engage your
followers, COIs, customers to stop by, bring someone, encourage others to see
you … And have them retweet or post to the social media walls for viral leverage!
Calendar Your Event, by cross referencing the venue hosting groups calendar,
against any community calendar against your calendar to ensure that you leverage
all together to maximize your exposure, marketing efforts and what assets
(people, collateral materials, give away media pieces, etc.) you can to make this
event as productive as possible.
Draw attention to your space, by being professional and yet memorable in your
presence … Helium balloons can attract attention from across the room to your
space, especially of you are in the back or a crappy location; Place traditional 4 to
6 foot floor banners on your table and no you just gained 4 more feet of air borne
visibility; Have a power recharging station, H2O, unique and usable trinkets/give-
away items; Have a Celebrity personality for or to your cause/industry present;
Have show-and-tell items out that people would typically never see or be able to
experience as attention and energy creators …
Selling via exhibits, display booths, BOR, informational setups like a fair, a conference, a
trade show or on-line virtual meeting spot, should strategically be seen as a blitzing
opportunity to meet, greet, engage, sell or recruit people for future follow-up.
Again, the opportunity to have suspects, prospects and existing customers funneled
directly to you, the customer service and sales professional, can be a windfall or a crap
Change your psychology and pathology around and now create a power force that
compels people to stop by, and you’ll see more people in a shorter time frame . . . thus
increases your yield!