The good news is that the members of your product team are geniuses. The bad news is that they possess the trade show engagement skills of Rain Man.
Achieving trade show success depends on the performance of your exhibit staff. Your challenge, as a trade show marketer, is to transform your crew of introverts and shy-guys (and gals) into a mean and clean engagement machine. To help you accomplish this, we have six pieces of advice. Not every solution works for every company—and not every introvert can be taught to engage (See #5 and #6)—but we haven’t found a company yet who didn’t find that at least one of these approaches made a significant and measurable difference to their trade show success.
1. Brief and educate. Whether you employ a professional trainer or deliver your own pre-show orientation—a prepared staff is more successful.
The ideal pre-show meeting communicates your company’s goals for the show, how the exhibit engagement/qualification process will work, and outlines exactly what is expected from every staff member. Your goal is to motivate the team to take ownership of the program and do their best to contribute to its success. Emphasize the importance of the staff’s role in achieving your company’s objectives—and how that success will benefit your company—and you just might succeed.
You can also include the standard list of exhibit staff don’ts, but these should be secondary to bringing the team into the loop on what the show is all about.
2. Practice makes perfect. People tell us all the time that they don’t want to do role-play with their exhibit staff. “It’s hokey,” say some. “Demeaning,” say others. And while we’re with you on the fact that role-play can feel awkward—what you have to realize is that awkwardness is the number one indicator that your team needs the practice.
Engaging in an exhibit is no different from any other skill. You wouldn’t expect to master painting, playing violin, or any other skill just by reading and hearing how it’s done. You have to practice.
3. Offer an incentive. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to bribe people to do their jobs. But this isn’t a perfect world. Sometimes people need a carrot to help them perform. Or a little friendly competition against their peers. Try giving gift certificates to everyone who meets a quota for generating leads or a contest that rewards the team member who connects with the most qualified prospects.
4. Have management flex its muscle. When you get right down to it, nothing is more motivating than having the boss let you know what is expected of you, that they are watching, and that failure to perform is not an option.
5. Adjust strategy to capitalize on strengths, minimize weaknesses. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and acknowledge that certain team members are never going to be good engagers. Working the aisle is just too contrary to their personality type.
In these instances, your best bet is to assess your staff and define roles based on their individual strengths. Ask yourself—if you were hiring for the position of tradeshow greeter/engager, is this a person you would hire for the job? Is it someone you would even consider hiring? If the answer is yes—that person becomes a dedicated engager in your exhibit. They belong on the front line. During the show, your engagers stop visitors in the aisles, qualify them, then transition them to the appropriate team member for further discussion and education.
If the answer is no, you wouldn’t even consider hiring this person as a greeter/engager, assign that person a demo or educational role. With the burden of engagement gone, your introverts are free to focus on what they do best—solving problems and explaining how things work.
6. Know when to bring in help. If you don’t have enough engagers, consider hiring a couple of booth ambassadors to help. These professional Engagers can stop attendees, qualify them, and deliver them right to your team—taking the stress out of engagement entirely.