You’ve heard of “Take-Your-Kid-to-Work Day,” but what about “Take-Your-Marketing-Director-to-a-Trade-Show Day?” Although I’ve been involved in planning SoapBoxSample’s trade show presence for the past several years, it wasn’t until last month that I actually got to be there for an exhibition. Attending the MRA Corporate Researchers Conference in person let me see trade shows through a new lens. I learned a few simple (and free!) tricks that can help any company bring in a big fish.
Focus on what really counts. It’s not just the flashy booth graphics (although they help), the perfectly-worded handout (probably doesn’t help at all) or the even the free giveaways (although I am a sucker for a good stress ball). What stood out the most for me was the people. Here’s what I picked up.
- Being Bored Is Boring
You know how you start to yawn when someone around you is yawning? Yeah, it’s not a good look. So cut it out. Keep your energy up. Tell a joke. Do a few jumping jacks. Be silly. It’s better than putting people to sleep.
- Avoid Predatory Practices
Have you ever walked through the mall and gotten the sensation that you were being stalked? It’s probably the overzealous perfume counter girl looking for her next victim to spray. Don’t be like this girl. You can feel her stare from a mile away and it immediately makes you want to duck and run. An overly intense salesperson can cause the same effect. If you notice people quickening their pace and suddenly burying their faces in their phones as they go past your booth, someone may be putting off a desperate vibe.
- Seven Deadly Body Language Sins
60% to 90% of communication is nonverbal. Closed-off body language sends a clear signal to potential clients — Don’t stop, keep walking. Here are some examples of behavior that can drive people away from your space. If you see anyone on your staff doing any of these things, throw a stress ball at their heads.
- Constantly checking their phone (or watch)
- Scratching, picking, poking, or doing anything to their bodies that should be done in private (It’s just gross!)
- Staring at the ground
- Standing too close to people
- Tapping fingers, feet, or worst of all, clicking a pen
- Fake, frozen smile
- Over-blinking (or staring without blinking) (Super creepy! Don’t be known as the company of serial killers.)
- Don’t Be a Broken Record!
Have you ever gotten a robo-call? If you’re lucky enough to have avoided them, they are pre-recorded telephone calls, usually from a telemarketing company or a political party. And they are THE. WORST. EVER. Don’t let your staff pitch like robots. Robots memorize a script and recite it on repeat. Encourage your team to LISTEN, and ASK QUESTIONS. People want to feel heard. They want their uniqueness to be acknowledged. Show your value by showing off your human side. In other words, be real.
- Steer Clear of Smack-Talkers
Market Research is a small, tight-knit industry. People know each other. If I started talking smack about my competition, it would get around. Fast. Even if you work for a huge industry, it’s not a good idea to trash talk your competition. This is especially true at a trade show, where competing companies are sharing the same space and the same food supply. There are ways to show off your capabilities without putting others down. It makes you look desperate, and unprofessional. And it might make people wonder if you’re equally uninhibited about discussing clients and their confidential information.
- When the Show’s Over, You’re Still on Display
Before attending this conference, I thought that Market Researchers were a meek and mild bunch (like accountants or insurance adjusters.) Wrong. Market researchers like to drink and party. A lot. And when they start drinking, they start coming out of their shells. (Some of them should have stayed in their shells.) Speaking of staying in, it’s a good idea to look out for … (how can I put this delicately?) overexposure. After the cocktail reception mingling, potential clients should come away with more knowledge of your products and services, not more knowledge of your salesperson’s soft tissues.
And yes, I actually witnessed all of these things first hand. Some even more than once. I was there for 2.5 days.
I have always known, that having a decent trade show presence can be expensive and time-consuming. But if it’s done well it can have a great ROI. In other words, you can be the best Marketer in the world, but work with your leadership team to make sure your hard work isn’t ruined by a salesperson with a creepy stare who picks his nose in your booth.