Susan Friedmann

Article Summary:

Trade show booth staff selection is the single most important factor in your exhibiting success.

Trade Show Staffing

Booth staff selection is the single most important factor in your exhibiting success. More than graphics, signage, literature, giveaways, or any other variable, it is the people you put on the show floor that influence visitor's opinion of your organization. They are your ambassadors, representing your company for the whole world to see. It is impossible to stress enough how crucial your team is to your overall success.

To ensure a top notch performance, begin preparing your booth team four to six months prior to the event. You will need the answers to the following questions:

1. How many people are needed to staff the booth?
A number of variables need to be considered. How big is your exhibit? How long is the show? Will you need employees to give product demonstrations, work the hospitality suite, teach seminars, or supervise contests? Ensure you have enough staffing to have your booth manned at all times, while giving your team a break every four to six hours. No one can be `on' for twelve hours at a time.

2. Who are the best people to represent the organization?
Working a trade show requires a unique mix of skills. You want employees with excellent product knowledge, superlative people skills, killer sales instincts, and a warm, engaging personality. These people should be motivated self-starters, able to think on their feet and work with little or no direction.

3. Has staff training been organized?
To ensure success, prepare your team with all the skills and tools they need. Training should cover assessing visitor types, asking qualifying questions, handling difficult attendees, lead generation and follow up, and many other factors.

4. Has a pre-show meeting been scheduled?
Pre-show meetings play a critical role in ensuring that your team understands their goals and objectives, expected roles and duties, and is adequately supplied with background knowledge to handle any unexpected surprises. Use this time to clarify any areas of confusion and to address any staff concerns.

5. Is the booth team familiar with the products or services being displayed?
To effectively sell products, you need to have thorough, complete product knowledge. Too many times, organizations send out rookie employees who only possess rudimentary knowledge. This is frustrating for attendees, who won't come back to find another employee who might have an answer - they'll go to the competition instead.

6. Has a practice demonstation session been organized?
Never assume that your employees know how to use the products that they sell. It is entirely possible that they are not completely familiar with every feature, especially if you are introducing a new product. Take the time to thoroughly train your team, and have them practice demonstrating the product to familiarize themselves with the show floor routine.

7. Will a technical representative be available to answer questions?
Depending on your product/service line, it may be entirely appropriate to send a technical representative to handle specific product questions. Train this person in the basics of salesmanship, but keep their duties largely relegated to providing technical answers. Make sure they are aware of the possibility of trade show espionage, to prevent them from sharing too much information.

8. Has a dress code been established?
Well before you arrive at the event, a dress code should be established. Uniforms may be appropriate for your company, but if they are not, clearly specify what you want your team to be wearing. "Casual business" gives far too much leeway. Instead, spell out "Black trousers or skirt, white shirt, black blazer, red tie," or the equivalent.

9. Have badges been ordered for all booth personnel?
Everyone on your team needs a badge to enter the show floor, access hospitality areas, and move freely about. Order these badges well ahead of time, so that any errors or omissions can be remedied in a timely fashion.

10. Do booth personnel have sufficient business cards?
It is amazing how many business cards you can hand out during the course of one trade show. Make sure your team is adequately prepared.

11. Has a booth schedule been planned?
A complete schedule will cover every moment from show arrival to departure. Include who will be staffing the booth, break times, technical support and assorted responsibilities. It may be a good idea to include `check in' time into the schedule, so sales people acting as booth staff can check messages back at the home office and make needed phone calls. This will alleviate a great deal of staff anxiety.

12. Who will oversee booth installation and dismantling?
Often overlooked, these two items can quickly become logistic nightmares if no one is prepared to address them. Delegate two people to this detail. Many show organizers provide this service for a fee, but you may still want to have staff members on hand supervising.

13. Does that person understand the move-out procedure?
Someone has to arrange for moving the exhibit out of the convention center, ensuring it is properly packed, and coordinate shipping the whole thing back to the home office. Again, a team should be clearly delegated this responsibility, and provided with all the tools and resources they'll need to succeed.

Susan Friedmann, Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), is a "how to" coach specializing in the tradeshow industry. She works with exhibitors, show organizers and meeting planners to create more valuable results from their events nationally and internationally. Originally from London, England, Susan has been a successful speaker, consultant and author for over 20 years.

Susan has written and published ten books. Most recently, she compiled and published the latest books on exhibiting, the three volume, "Secrets of Successful Exhibiting" series, with over 30,000 copies in print. Her latest book "Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies", was published in July, 2003.
For more information, visit her website at www.TheTradeshow Coach.com.

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