The Rules of Engagement tell the military the limitations they must follow in using force. The Rules of Engagement for Booth Staffers are there to help prevent staffers from limiting their lead counts.
You can’t generate a big pile of trade show leads if you’re not adept at sparking and fanning the flames for many conversations. So let’s do a deep dive on the start of the interaction that takes place in only a few seconds.
- Trade show booth staffers can only engage with attendees when they have their eyes on the aisle.
- Booth staffers that talk to each other can’t engage with attendees.
- For hyperactive booth staffers (such as most sales people), it is difficult, yet essential that they maintain their focus on aisle traffic through the entire show.
- Attendees will walk around a clump of people talking in front of your trade show display, instead of going into it. The bravest thing you can do is to ask your company senior management that is blocking your booth with their conversation to move away from the aisle.
- While some staffers can attempt to qualify leads by reading attendees’ badges as they walk down the aisle, that’s only for experts, because it can backfire. People don’t like to be treated as a number. If you are qualifying by the color of their badge, then go ahead, because you can see that from a distance. But if you try to read their company name to prequalify them, they will catch you and be offended. And if you read their name and call them by name, they will perceive you as very cheesy.
- Open-ended questions are the best way to start a conversation, such as “What are you looking for at the show?”
- If you see an attendee really looking at your booth, ask them, “What do you like that you see?”
- Good engagers build relationships quickly. A great question to ask is, “Where are you from?”
- This is a trade show, not a client’s office, so don’t take too long to get the conversation going towards the next step.
- Think of working the aisle like cold calling. Be brave, be quick, be persistent.
- Engage with people only when they are less than 6 feet away. Too much farther, and it will feel forced, and they will recoil.
- Wait for the moment when they look you in the eye to say your engaging statement / question. Unless they are really close, and they will look at you when they hear your voice.
- You need to be at least on the edge of the aisle. If you go into the aisle, you will get more leads, but may also get the show mad at you.
- When the show is slow, and a prospect is walking down the aisle, if they are not looking at you as they pass by, take a step or two with them, and then talk to them when they do look at you.
- When it is slow, and you have an island booth, walk to a different side of the booth to engage with an attendee if they are the only one coming by the booth at that time.
- During the course of the show, try standing in different sides of your booth, to see which one has the most traffic flow, and then stay there.
- If you are reluctant to engage with people as they walk by, remember that they paid money to travel to the show to find solutions to their problems, and you may have that solution.
- If you are reluctant to engage with people as they walk by, forget your mom’s advice of “don’t talk to strangers,” and remember Will Rodger’s advice that “Strangers are friends I haven’t met yet.”
- Engaging with attendees can be hard work, so take a short break after an hour or two. Grab a water bottle and a snack and take ten steps out of the booth, turn around, and watch the booth while you snack. You’ll gain perspective of what attendees see.
- Engaging with attendees is very valuable to your company, so take a short lunch so you can get back fast.
- Starting a conversation with an attendee is much, much easier if you have a good demonstration, giveaway, or in-booth activity to get attendees to walk into your booth themselves.
- If an attendee is attracted to your booth by a giveaway, don’t let them just grab it and leave; use the moment to start a good conversation that leads to a lead.
- If you stand with a relaxed and open posture, you will be more welcoming than if you have your back to the aisle or your arms crossed and your head down.
- Keep the most valuable tools of your trade in your hands — like a lead card on a clip board, and a pen, or an iPad, or your awesome giveaway.
- Encourage your booth staffers to engage with more people by having a contest for the most leads.
- If all staffers are busy, then train your already-engaged staffers to quickly say to impatient attendees waiting for a booth staffer, “I will be with you in a moment when I finish this conversation.”
- Just as Indira Gandhi said, “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist,” I say, you can’t engage an attendee when you’re already on the phone.
Engaging with attendees well is a rare skill. Some take to it naturally, some can be taught. Those who can’t or won’t engage, even after training, should be kept away from the booth, unless their other knowledge makes them worth feeding leads started by others. Those who succeed at engaging attendees are valuable, so keep them on your booth staff short list. Use these Rules of Engagement to help train them.
And remember, you’re not finished with your booth visitor simply by engaging with them. You still need to find out if they are a viable prospect and what interests them, present the part of your story that is relevant, and then finish your conversation by committing to the next step.
What are your own Rules of Engagement for Booth Staffers? Share them in the comments below.
85% of your trade show success depends on your booth staff’s performance. Multiply your trade show results by adding on to the rules of engagement with the Booth Staffing Guidebook. To get your free copy filled with articles, worksheets and more, click here.