Staff at a trade show can make or break you. A team who are confused, unexperienced or fumbling their way through an exhibition can be catastrophic to your results. The stakes are high and there are no repeats. It’s doomsday if your staff are scaring visitors off, missing opportunities or not capitalising on everything a show can potentially offer. If staff training for trade shows isn’t on your radar, it should be.

On the flip side, a well-functioning team have the ability to make trade shows your most successful marketing stream. I’m not exaggerating. Trade events account for 9% of marketing budgets but return 23% of business**.

Before you roll your eyes, I know the impacts of Covid would have altered those figures for the last year, but there is still merit in the statistic. – The importance of events has remained consistent for both exhibitors and visitors with restrictions being the main reason preventing participation.

  • 2 out of 3 exhibitors expect to spend the same or more on exhibitions once a vaccine is deployed.

  • Three-quarters of visitors feel either positive or neutral about returning to events, compared to 56% of exhibitors. ***

It’s crazy how much people worry about what their stand will look like and how little thought goes into how their space will work. Knowing the importance these events have on business outcomes, it’s fair to say that more effort should be placed on how effectively they are run.

After booking the stand space, what often happens is a trickle of fear seeps in. There’s not just the worry of what your team will think of the display you have put together, there’s the worry of how it will look compared to the competition. These concerns can cloud your judgement and weigh you down. It’s when you agonise over colours, promos and new products (AKA the “nuts and bolts”) instead of the big picture thinking required to make the event an absolute triumph.

I’m not talking down the importance of design. It’s what we do and I value it greatly. I’m just saying that there are other things that feed into how an exhibition stand will work. No one coughs up money without expecting something in return… Not in business anyway!

One of the most surprising things in our line of work is how few companies undergo any staff training for trade shows. Staff are the lifeblood of any business and too many fall back on their regular sales training to see them through a trade show – Ludacris (Stupid, not the rapper). No one has an hour to do a sales pitch and if it’s not explicitly spoken about, you’re assuming people will know what to do and how to treat different visitor types at a trade show.

Here are my top 5 suggestions for improving staff performance at trade shows:

  1. Keep your eye on the prize. What is your goal for the show? (Don’t say “to wave the flag” or I will personally come and slap you – Make it something measurable that moves your business forward i.e. # appointments, # leads, # orders. Cool?) 
  2. Set targets for the show. Make it a game! Offer prizes if you have to (most sales teams love this. Competitive bunch they are.) 
  3. Share the goal with the team. Make it real for everyone so they know what part they play in helping the business reach its target.
  4. Set expectations about the day and how you want everyone to work in the space and with each other.
  5. Train how you will speak to prospects. What’s your elevator pitch? (To effectively do this you will need to understand your customer types and workshop their stages).

You’ll be glad you have done staff training specific to exhibitions – either create this yourself or call in experts (like us). Staff training can have a daggy connotation. Everyone instinctively thinks they are going to get lectured and their time will be spent better elsewhere, but it when done correctly we you’ll see it work it’s magic.

It’s one of the areas people can see the largest improvement in their trade show results. It leads to better conversations and happier teams who value the trade show and what it can do for the business (not a day out for the team, but a prospecting/networking bonanza!)

I know it’s easy for me to sit on the sidelines and point out these things. I’m not living it. When you’re in the trenches there is so much noise and chatter! It’s why everyone needs a partnership with an event specialist. Having that solid sounding board to help clear the fog and provide direction is an incredible asset. (If I was sitting beside you right now, this is where I wink and nudge you)

If this is an area you would like help with, reach out here to learn how we could integrate this into your exhibit strategy.

Yours in Exhibiting,

Jess Turnbull

**Source UFI, Exhibitions Work campaign
*** Source, Reed Exhibitions’ Global Digital Insights team