You know when you’re on a phone call with someone and you can tell they’re typing…

Isn’t it just THE most annoying thing in the world?

Or worse, they’re texting while standing directly in front of you.

It’s distracting and just plain rude.

I did once witness a checkout chick take a stand and refuse to serve a customer. I thought this was gold… The customer, not so much, but it’s refreshing to see someone take a stand.

In an exhibition environment, this behaviour is equivalent of parents “watching” their kids on the sports field with a phone glued to their hand.

If you aren’t present. It’s truly felt.

Visitors might not want to be pounced on, but they deserve to be acknowledged politely.

I was at a trade show once and this actually happened….

toilet shot

As a visitor, would you honestly go up to either of these guys to discuss their product?

I applaud them for keeping their space open, but they are far from inviting.

Many managers would agree that staff training for exhibitions is time well spent, but generally staff tend to not make eye contact and attempt to shrivel into their chairs when the topic is so much as whispered.

Is this how it is in your office?

Your team might be rebels or cowboys who know better, but when some of the basics are fine tuned, trade show performance can improve tenfold (OK, that stat is made up, but I wanted to make it sound important. It’s REALLY important).

I think people just don’t want to be bored.

The usual kind of team training might look something like this:

  • No talking on the phone
  • No eating on the stand
  • No checking your emails… or your socials. (Whether we do it or not is another story).
  • Smile
  • Greet people warmly
  • Use open ended questions

These are important, but they are also common sense.

The fact is, we read body language, talk, mirror, greet, wave and interpret our way through every single day.

We KNOW how to be nice.

The reason why staff don’t jump for joy at the idea of manning a stand is mostly because they don’t understand (or believe in) the true potential of a show.

The significant investment a company makes in attending a trade show isn’t for a staff field trip.

Regardless of what KPI’s you set, 9 times out of 10 exhibitions are to strengthen relationships with customers and would-be customers (Complete transparency… That’s another made up statistic but I’m sure it would ring true).

But, when they realise that 64% of attendees are NOT customers ( it means the opportunity to meet new clients is phenomenal.

No cold calling…

Or leaving countless voicemails…

They come to YOU!

Visitors shake your hand, get a sense of your brand and then it’s up to you what unfolds.

Which is brilliant when 29% of all attendees at trade shows do not see reps (CIER Statistic).

So in my opinion… (If you’re a regular reader you know I like to have an opinion), manning a stand should be considered the crème de la crème of prospecting.

It’s totally up to staff how they engage their audience and what impression their visitor leaves with.

How to use body language at trade shows

Body language forms a huge part of our daily lives.

Without assessing the intentions of those around us we’re forgoing a vital human trait that helps us stay safe. We unconsciously translate millions of messages and scan faces to assess threats.

Embrace this natural instinct at an exhibition!

Have you ever misinterpreted a text message/email simply because you didn’t hear the tone used?

I guarantee that if this single aspect of staff training is improved, you WILL return from a show with MORE LEADS.

It does come naturally to some, but it’s actually a learned skill.

By actively reading body language and the interactions of people around you, you’re more likely to address visitors with the RIGHT level of service.

Bottom line is, the attendee will think you’re wonderful and you won’t find yourself chewing the ear off anyone who doesn’t genuinely care about your product.

Something magical happens when you know what to look for!​​

It’s a win win.

Make a conscious effort to read your audience

Train staff to interact face-to-face on an exhibition stand.

Unlike any other medium, the audience comes to you.

You can’t hide behind an email or a phone line.

Some companies don’t even like to see reps, which means the outcome of the exhibition is even more important. Respect it.

The 3 key signs a visitor is interested:

  • Head up, ready to talk
  • Looking at or holding an item – If they are not currently speaking to a salesperson, this is an open invitation to speak to them.
  • They are mirroring your body language – This is a non-verbal way to say “I’m like you”, they want to hear more and be your friend.

Keep it real

You’re going to scare people off if you pounce on them like a second hand car salesmen. (I’m sure you know that, but it upsets me to see it sometimes – It’s like when you see something bad happen and time stops so you see it unfold in slow motion).

On the flipside…

If a sales person doesn’t approach a visitor, they can also interpret this as a bad experience because they don’t feel serviced.

To strike the right balance you will rely HEAVILY on reading body language.

The objective is for you and your team to look approachable without being overly eager. Authenticity wins every time!

In fact, 56% of what attendees remember is not the message on the stand, the gimmick or the give away. It is the quality of their interaction with staff (CIER Statistic). 

In other words, the HUMAN ELEMENT.

7 ways to be more authentic when manning your stand:

  • Smile – People buy from people they know, like and trust. (Sorry, no-one cares if you have sore feet).
  • Open body language – Don’t cross arms, legs or hide behind counters (if your visitor is crossing their arms or legs crossed while standing – Unless they are cold, they aren’t comfortable and are trying to make their presence smaller… Either lay off them or let them leave)
  • Ask open-ended questions like; “What product are you currently using?” “What does your current setup look like?”
  • Create a experiential imprint – How could you make their day just that little bit better?
  • Don’t stand behind a counter
  • No sitting at tables unless you’re actually meeting with a customer/visitor
  • Be available – don’t stand in pairs or groups

Which reminds me…

Typically sales reps don’t get to hang out with their colleagues much.

An exhibition can seem like a fabulous opportunity to make up for missed water cooler gossip.

When I see groups of co-workers huddled like this I can’t help but cringe.

This is not the reason to attend a show!

This is why staff training for exhibitions is vital. It isn’t until you highlight this stuff that it’s top of mind.

Exhibitions can’t be seen as a play day away from regular work duties.

The fact is, it’s a sea of potential leads that are washing up at your feet.

If only they had a bit more training in this area and knew the opportunity cost of their groupie ways.

Experiment for Greater Results

Treat your stand like a behavioural experiment. If something isn’t working, you have the power to change things.

My recommendation is to treat your exhibit like a lab, working in 15min blocks test out a few different things.

This technique can help you turnaround a dud show.

Changing your behaviour every 15min may actually help you get back on course without getting to the end of the show and realising what you have been doing hasn’t worked.

Those that attend form part of a homogeneous group, experimenting for 15min will not wreck your trade show success.

Not changing for the whole day could.

Some things you could experiment with:

• “What if I hold this in my hand?”
• Display different material on your digital signage
• Ask different opening questions
• Change where you are standing

If you want to discuss team training for your next event, or talk about any challenges you might be facing, I’m happy to offer some advice. You know where to find me!

Yours in Exhibiting,

Jessica Turnbull
Tradeshow Strategist
0417 468 487


*** Yes, they really are sitting on toilets!