Less Obvious Trade Show Do's and Don'ts
You probably wouldn’t talk on your phone or blow bubble gum or eat a Subway sandwich while manning the booth at your tradeshow. These are egregious errors in protocol that none of us would commit. However, have you ever skipped an opening event? Overlooked a surly-seeming booth visitor? Been too tired to give a client your full attention? These more benign breeches in etiquette might not strike us as that unbecoming, but to a prospective customer or client, our behavior matters. A LOT. If you think you’re above slipping up in the area of manners, look over the following trade show etiquette tips and judge for yourself.
Being Respectful Attendees are looking to the exhibit staff for a reason to spend time at your booth. Perhaps they were initially drawn by your design, but whether they stay or go depends largely on the staff. Be sure to stand up and greet ALL attendees at the front of the booth (not just the ones you think are potentials). Only sit if the clients want to sit. At all times, smile and make eye contact and be polite. It’s also important to be respectful of your other booth staffers and your company and your boss. Don’t be caught eye-rolling or badmouthing any part of your company, whether it’s a product or policy you don’t like or a co-worker who’s difficult. Be respectful of other exhibitors as well. Avoid bad-mouthing or trying to suggest something negative about another company. Finally, be respectful of the expo hall and its workers. Take care of the space you’ve rented; be nice to the cleaning personnel; be kind to the worker at the coffee shop. Although it might not seem important, a good reputation goes a long way (and so does a bad reputation!).
Being Helpful People in the business world can adopt a dog-eat-dog mentality, which is really too bad because most people don’t want to be that way. Being helpful goes a long way toward building good relationships with people. For example, if a visitor in your booth is looking for a different product altogether, and you know the business that offers that product, point your attendee that way. If you’re having a chat in the aisle with another exhibitor and you notice someone eyeing their booth, cut your conversation short and alert them to the interested party looking at their booth. Don’t think for a second that this sort of seed-sowing will not be returned to you. You will definitely reap what you sow – both good and bad.
Being Social You might be tempted to skip out on social events at trade shows. After all, you’ve had a long tiring day of networking on the show floor, right? Well, maybe, but the best networking opportunities happen at the purely social events. Opening events, evening galas, award ceremonies, and meet-and-greets all offer a chance to form true connections and strengthen existing ones. Your attendance at these events doesn’t just benefit you and your business, either. Think of the reverse: what does your absence from these events communicate about how much you care for the industry, your colleagues, and your business?
Being Present After a long day and many hours on the show floor, it is very tempting to sneak out before an event is even over, but that would be a mistake. Packing up early might cause you to miss out on a lead or some last-minute info, but it also sends a negative message to your attendees that your time is more valuable than theirs. After all, the trade show is FOR them, and you committed to be there FOR them. And they came to see you. And you’re leaving. Bad move. Being present and staying present if just good manners, so much so that some show organizers will fine exhibitors who tear down or leave before the show is over.
Being Intentional It’s important to maintain protocol on and off the show floor, during and after an event. The best way to put your best foot forward is to be intentional with the contacts you made and leads you gathered at the show. Send prospects a personal, one-to-one email and provide a link to a landing page on your website with a valuable whitepaper or case study. (Whatever you do, don’t spam people for your e-marketing list.) If you happen to remember a piece of a conversation you had with that person, or a common interest, or another interesting tidbit, include it in your email note. A personal connection makes a great talking point and people feel cared about!
Good trade show manners go far beyond the creating an inviting booth experience. Mindfulness of these and other aspects of trade show etiquette can pay long-term dividends in the strength of your brand.
This article was inspired by "Trade Show Etiquette 201" by Tami Moore and first appeared at skyline.com