It’s not just a matter of sending your sales team.
You’ve determined your trade show marketing goals, partnered with an experienced PR team, contracted with an exhibit designer, set up your logistics, and picked your giveaways.
Now, it's time for one of the most crucial, yet overlooked, trade show prep tasks: training staff to work your booth. You need sufficient booth staff who handle crowds, restock brochures, walk around, attend meetings, talk to media and customers. You need people who are knowledgeable, efficient, motivated, and at ease outside their comfortable zone, all while working seamlessly as a team.
Staff training can determine if your trade show participation is a hit
Nothing determines attendee perception of your brand - not booth size, not graphics, not handouts - than the level of expertise and professionalism displayed by your booth staff. Staff training should be among the top three in your trade show prep list. Here are just some of the to-dos that you should incorporate when training your booth staff, whether in-house or temps:
- Impart company goals, trade show objectives, and key messages
- Review trade show information - number of attendees, attendee profile, how to deal with VIP clients, complete product information (features, specs, benefits, pricing, target audience, competitors), and how to answer frequently asked attendee questions
- Demonstrate communication techniques and show floor selling tactics
- Role play a script they can use with booth visitors/ potential customers
- Emphasize proper booth etiquette and behavior (example: refrain from eating or texting while engaging with the public)
- Provide an overview of the exhibit space layout, including locations for registration, food, restrooms, taxi stands, fire/emergency stations
- Review all items kept at the booth - product info, business cards, press kits etc. - and where they are located
- Cover details on show dates and hours, staff schedules, staff responsibilities, transportation options, dress code, registration particulars, emergency phone numbers, etc.
- Show them how to follow up leads for next-step meetings
- Train them how to handle potential technical, communication, or staff problems
If you recruit from inside the company…
Once you've determined the key personnel who should attend, you may have some more holes that need to be filled. You need to take a few things into account, though: ill feelings from staff who’d rather close deals than mix and mingle with random trade show visitors, or from staff who have not been selected to travel to a great location, perceiving this as more perk than work.
What if there is a shortage of trained personnel? Do you have enough experts in sales, technology, R&D to represent your company? And of course, there’s the biggie - training costs. Someone from your PR team should train even those with excellent product knowledge in interpersonal skills and avoiding certain types of interaction that may be culturally accepted at home but are detrimental on the road.
The case for hiring additional staff
This may not make your CFO happy, but consider that your best marketing or salespeople may be great at what they do, but what happens when they’re not enough? A busy show booth is a nexus of multi-tasking. Your staff will be on their feet for an entire day, meeting and greeting, fielding question after question, and delivering product presentations. You must assign responsibilities according to their strengths.
Who are the best meet and greet people? They’ll be answering simple question, handing out materials, goodies, and directing more complicated inquiries to the right people.
Who will field the tech questions, who gets the financial/ROI/TCO inquiries? Who’s your ace closer? Who’ll handle media/analysts? Should you bring one or more of your PR team to handle them and walk to floor to do additional outreach?
Hiring temporary booth staff - people who regularly work trade shows and are comfortable in that setting, pros who are trained in lead generation, sales presentations, and customer service - means that your business can run at full speed while your booth is run by actual trade show professionals.
You put a lot of time, energy, and money into your trade show efforts. Don’t waste them. Make sure you’ve got a well-trained and motivated team in place to staff your trade show booth. It’ll not only make your participation a success - it’ll also generate leads, increase sales, and encourage repeat attendees at your next promotional event.