Manning a stand at a show can be a daunting experience for even the best salesperson. You’re on display and think people are judging you. Newsflash: Half of them are scared of you too and think you’re trying to single them out, the others are preoccupied taking in the sights.

My best piece of advice is that people hate being sold to. Forget that you’re at the show to sell and start by dropping your own guard. You’re there to shake hands, form relationships and show that the people behind the logo are half decent. You might feel out of place, but relax, have fun and own it. Your job is to welcome people into your space and give them confidence in you as a person so they feel the same towards your brand.

Visitors recall the interactions with people at the show over stand design and gimmicks. This being the case for both positive and negative experiences so the staff you choose to man the stand can be extremely influential to your outcome.

We have all been told to ask open ended questions so visitors don’t respond with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Great advice, but what do you ask? Some of our suggestions will seem ground breaking, but this is intentional. You’re better off speaking to someone casually like a friend. You have a few seconds to peak their interest and those who are born conversation starters usually win people over by sparking a natural conversation first. You have to “own” it and be genuine in your approach so they slip into a conversation with you without realising or over-thinking it.

How you say things and your body language are just as important (if not more) than what you actually say. Staff training prior to an event is often overlooked but extremely influential to your success (as well as the enjoyment of your audience). People follow their instincts and the vibe you give out will be how they gauge whether to stop or not.

Traffic walking

Here are our top 5 conversation starters at trade shows:

  • Can you guess what we do? (Said with a smile, this generally gets a rise out of people. They usually accept your challenge and you can usually quickly qualify them straight after)
  • It’s been a great show! What were the key takeaway’s from the conference?
  • How are you finding the show compared to last year?
  • What are you looking to find at the trade show today?
  • Would you like to have a go at (insert interactive/competition/giveaway)?

Notice how none of them ask the visitor “How are you?” or “Can I help you?”. Unless you already know the person you won’t stand a chance at getting them to stop. Think of how you might start a conversation in line at a coffee shop. You might talk about the queue, the coffee quality, staff, weather etc. These are all topics common to both parties and ice-breakers that roll off the tongue naturally. A “How are you?” might have them thinking you’re a fruit cake… A trade show is no different!