The do's and don'ts of staffing an exhibition stand.
The people manning your exhibition stand are one of the most important elements in the success of your exhibition stand. These simple tips will help you prepare your team and ensure that your company is represented in the best possible way.
Staffing your exhibition stand:
Outline basic expectations. You don’t need to ram it down their throats, but make sure that all of your team know what’s acceptable and what’s not. Use this guide as a framework for your discussion.
Have a schedule. Working an exhibition stand can be exhausting work and it’s important that your team take regular breaks to rest and re-hydrate so that they can be at the top of their game when engaging with prospective clients. Work out a schedule beforehand to ensure that your stand is always manned, welcoming and performing.
Empower your team. Make sure that your team know what decisions are within their remit to approve and what should be referred on, especially in relation to sales and orders. A clear understanding of their level of autonomy will give your team a confidence and authority that will be attractive to prospective customers. Remember that there might not be an opportunity to refer a decision up on the day, so make sure you’ve agreed a plan for how to deal with such situations.
Assign clear roles. Things like freebies and refreshments can be a great way to draw people to your stand, but can be a distraction from the primary purpose of your stand. It’s important to make sure that your sales and business development leads are kept free to engage with visitors. Make sure each member of the team knows what their primary role is, whether it’s keeping the stand neat and tidy, handing out refreshments, taking details, making introductions or working up the leads.
Get to know your booth. It may sound obvious but think of your stand as your showroom. Make sure your team know where to find the products or service demos on offer and, as above, who is responsible for them. Getting to know your booth design can help to direct your attendees/visitors through your pre-show media.
Allow plenty of time. At large events, it’s not unusual for the volume of exhibitors and visitors to have real impact on the local traffic and public transport. Make sure you have allowed plenty of time for your journey and to set up your stand, including any last minute adjustments.
Get plenty of sleep. It can be tempting to sample the local nightlife or catch up with other exhibitors until late into the night, but don’t underestimate how tiring a day working the stand can be. Adrenaline and caffeine won’t be enough to keep you on top form – make sure you get enough sleep too.
Be aware of body language. From across the room, visitors can’t hear what you’re saying but they can see what you’re saying with your body language. Crossing your arms, slouching or huddling with colleagues are all signs to the visitors that you don’t really want to be there, and you certainly don’t want them to visit your stand. Adopt a confident stance and welcoming smile to welcome visitors to your stand.
Agree a dress code. Exactly what the dress code is will depend on the nature of your business, but if you’re all dressed in a similar it makes you look like a cohesive and recognisable team, and reduces some of the stress as it’s one less thing for your team members to decide upon on the day.
Have a fall back script. Some visitors can be trickier than others and it can be tough striking up a conversation. Before the event, have a brain storming session with your team to work out what information you’re aiming to get from each visitor (e.g. name, company, business interests etc) and a few fall back ice-breakers if you’re mind goes blank. Avoid really generic easily rebuffed openers like ‘Can I help you?’. Instead agree on four or five reasonably general questions that show you are interested and are easy to follow on from.
Hand out business cards with your photo on it. A bit cheesey, and possibly not something you would choose to do in everyday life, but remember that your visitors will have met dozens of new contacts and might struggle to put a face to your name after the event, no matter how enthralling your witty conversation was. Remember to make sure that your cards are easily accessible, e.g on a lanyard or in back pocket, not in a box in the office.
Invest in badge scanners. Badge scanners are a great way to capture your visitor’s details and it really does make your follow up much easier. Make sure you only scan real leads however, as scanning every passer-by is not only annoying for them, it makes it harder to identify the quality leads.
Make notes. You will never be able to remember the details of every person you meet, o get into the habit of making a short note after every conversation.
Staffing your exhibition stand:
Be late. It’s a basic point, but time and time again we see exhibitors turning up to the stands without allowing enough time to set up. Don’t start your day on the wrong foot by appearing stressed, flustered and unprepared – it’s better to allow too much time to set up than too little.
Eat on the stand. It’s unpleasant, unprofessional, and universally frowned on by exhibition visitors. Taking a short break is always the better option.
Be pushy. Don’t forget your manners and try to pick up on the signals your visitors are giving you. If you force someone to talk to you they’ll end up with a negative impression of you and your company. Better to send them on their way with a smile.
Be untidy or unkempt. Another basic – make sure that your appearance is representative of your brand. There’s no one size fits all here, and it will depend on your industry and your company, but remember that you will be judged on your appearance by your prospective clients.