Tips for Training Your Exhibit Workers
Your exhibit staff is your most important asset at a trade show or customer event. Your exhibit workers will interact with hundreds (thousands) of your company’s best customers and prospects and affect their perceptions more than any other factor on the show floor, according to research done by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (ceir.org). Regardless of their roles outside of the show, your exhibit workers are perceived by attendees as professional representatives of your company who can provide them with information about your products, services and solutions. Your staff should be properly trained to:
- Understand the importance of their role; and
- Ensure that each interaction is positive and mutually beneficial.
The following tips and suggestions are presented to help you train your exhibit staff.
Answer the WIFM Question
Most of the people representing your company on the show floor were not hired for this purpose. In fact, the words trade show / customer event were probably never mentioned during the interviewing process nor mentioned in a job description. They were hired because of their expertise in a given area and are now being asked to apply that expertise in a venue that is as far from their comfort zone as possible. Most mean well but don’t intuitively know how to do what they are being asked to do. Their goals and those of the trade show team are not one in the same. Answering the WIFM question and providing training will help your exhibit workers be more comfortable and motivated, factors that will enhance their performance and improve your company’s results.
WIFM is an acronym for “What’s In It For Me?” When show/event managers focus primarily on a show’s success they are inadvertently conveying to exhibit workers “I need this from you” so that: 1) “I will be successful;” or 2) “this show will be successful.” A subtle shift in focus – from your success or the success of the show to how your exhibit workers can benefit from staffing the show will often improve the amount of support you’ll receive.
Changing the wording from “I need you to…” to something along the lines of “In order to help you accomplish your goals at XYZ show, we need to…” conveys that you:
- Understand and respect their needs and goals; and
- You are committed to accomplishing their goals as well as your own.
This subtle shift will lead to more support and quantifiably improved results for everyone involved.
Select the Right People and Define Roles and Responsibilities
Think about your goals for the show, and then ask yourself “What skills, capabilities and knowledge will I need in the booth to accomplish our goals for the show?” Once you determine the answer, select people accordingly. During your pre-show strategic briefing explain:
- Everyone’s area of knowledge and expertise;
- Specific roles and responsibilities in the exhibit (i.e., meet-and-greet; demonstrator; floater; information counter; etc.); and
- What’s expected of them on the show floor.
If appropriate each person should also know how their performance will be measured and evaluated, and by whom. Train to address deficiencies.
Review the schedule for the show and for exhibit duty. Allow time for your exhibit workers to accomplish their WIFM goals and identify commitments (i.e., customer meetings; meeting with a high level manager; attend a specific presentation; etc.) that will impact their booth duty schedule and adjust accordingly.
Explain how your company plans to interact with the press. If you have a dedicated PR person or PR team, make sure that people in your booth know who they are, when they will be available, where they’ll be located (both on and off the show floor) and contact information if an introduction can’t be made during the show or event. Discuss press and/or product announcements that were made before, or will be made at, the show. Mention interviews that are already scheduled, and who will be interviewed.
Do’s and Don’ts
Trade shows have their own unique set of rules and etiquette. Review the Do’s and Don’ts before the show begins by providing your exhibit workers with a list of Do’s and Don’ts and asking them to identify the most important ones. Doing so will display respect for their experience and get them more involved in your pre-show strategic briefing.
Show Goals and Marketing Message(s)
Convey both your goals and marketing message(s) for each target audience attending the show. Role-play with your staff to ensure that they understand, and can clearly articulate your key marketing message(s). If they can't clearly convey your message(s), chances are pretty good that your customers and prospects won’t understand or retain them.
Provide a high level overview of the products, services or solutions that will be highlighted at the show. Avoid a “parade of stars” – product managers who try to turn your meeting into a product training workshop. Prepare a diagram of the booth; note where each product or service will be displayed, and the subject matter expert(s) who will be in the booth to address customer questions. This will enable your staff to professionally transition prospects to the right part of the booth or the right person in the booth when they get questions they cannot answer.
Sales Skills Training
Most interactions on the show floor last between three and five minutes. Discuss with your exhibit workers how to make the most of these short interactions. They’ll also need to know how to use open-ended questions to:
- Engage exhibit visitors and develop an initial understanding of who the person is and why they are visiting your exhibit
- identify each person’s interests, needs or requirements (before they present); and
- Qualify the person and the sales opportunity.
They also need to be able to:
- Present information that relates to each prospect’s specific needs (at the right technical level)
- Suggest and gain agreement on the most appropriate post-show activity;
- Complete the lead form and professionally disengage.
Don’t assume that the people staffing your exhibit can do all of these things. Provide some guidance, ask your more experienced exhibit workers to share their best practices and practice by role-playing (in small groups).
Explain and demonstrate how to process leads. Ask your exhibit workers to practice asking the questions that they will ask to properly complete the lead form. If you are using a card reader, computer or other device, explain (and have them practice) how to use the device, key in additional information and process the lead. Lastly, explain how and when your company will follow-up after the show so that your staff can convey this to prospects and customers who want and expect to have additional dialogue with your company.
Maximize your investment in shows and events by selecting the proper mix of exhibit workers and providing them with the training they need to accomplish their WIFM goals and make the most out of each and every interaction they have on the show floor.