Whenever I visit an exhibition, I just can’t help noticing that at many of the exhibition stands, exhibitors don’t approach the visitors very readily. Companies spend large sums of money to participate in exhibitions and consider exhibitions as an important B2B and B2C sales exercise. Adding customers by approaching the hundreds of prospects that visit the exhibitions is the prime reason why companies build large, beautifully designed exhibition stands. If expanding the customer base is one of the primary purposes of exhibiting, then why don’t the staff manning the exhibition stand do their job of approaching and talking to prospects, isn’t that why they are there in the stand in the first place?
Are the visitors unimportant?
In most exhibitions the booth design is spot on, the exhibitors leave nothing to chance in their efforts to advertise their participation in a show and on the show floor they make sure that the visitors do not miss out on spotting their stand by using large signage, yet when prospects pass by their stands they do not make the effort of going up to them and starting a conversation. What could be the reason for such a disjoint in their approach? In one exhibition, at the stand of a large electronic goods manufacturer I noticed that even when visitors were stopping by looking at the stand, the booth staff was busy talking among themselves, giving scarce attention to the prospects.
Face to face communications
On delving into this a bit further, I was startled to find out that most companies, despite spending serious amounts of money and time in planning their participations in exhibitions, hardly give any thought on training their staff and teaching them the basics of working in an exhibition floor. Exhibition staffing is not a full- time job, people from the sales and marketing teams are usually picked to man the stands during shows. Due to the temporary nature of these assignments, most staff members do not take these jobs seriously. The exhibition managers, on the other hand, consider their jobs well done as long as the exhibition stand is designed and built to perfection. Most companies seem to forget that the very basic function of participating in the exhibition is to cultivate face to face communications with clients and prospects.
Managers need to be proactive
The intrinsic problem behind this lack of communication on behalf of the booth staff is that of under or no training whatsoever. Most of the companies I talked to do not follow a pre- exhibition training program. Sales and brand managers need to focus on pre- exhibition training of booth staff, they need to inculcate into their teams the importance of walking out of their booths to talk to any visitor who seems even a little interested in their products. The staff needs to adapt a friendly body language and etiquette so that visitors feel welcome; this means no lounging around and talking among themselves or on their phones. The booth staff must be made aware that the exhibition is only a short window of opportunity open to them to further establish their products in the market and they must not leave anything to chance, even if they represent a well known brand.
Training and the art of asking questions
The booth staff needs to ask the right questions and should also be in a position to educate visitors about their company and its products. Asking the right questions is an art, the visitors should never be made to feel intimidated or the staff should not have a condescending attitude while asking and answering questions, even if they seem mundane. The best way of seeing to it that the exhibition stand staff adapt the right manners and ask the right questions is to give them a list of basic questions and answers, as well as conduct a series of test runs before the exhibition, either at the exhibition stand or at the workplace.
Getting the stand staff to be friendly and forthcoming is not rocket science, all you need to do is train them and inculcate a feeling of pride in them, that they are the lucky few who have been chosen by the company to represent it at an important event like an exhibition at the corporate exhibition stand.