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When The Trade Show Is Slow

Be ready to act when the show is slow
Be ready to act when you're at a slow show.

Every once in a while you find yourself stuck at a slow show.  Perhaps the show is in a declining market, or it’s a new show yet to get established.  Maybe it’s the show city rotation, or it’s just the last day at an otherwise popular show.  Whatever the reason, you still want to make the most of it.  However, when the show is slow, it’s human nature for the staff to do one of two counter-productive things:

1. Start talking to each other.

The people you bring to staff the booth are usually the most outgoing people you have. So after 30 seconds of staring down the aisle, they get bored and want to talk to someone. Hey look, there’s someone to talk to, your fellow booth staffer!  Chief conversation topics:  Where are we going for dinner tonight, and boy does this show stink (which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy).  The problem is, now you’ve got two staffers out of commission.  It takes discipline and patience to instead resist the temptation to “chat amongst ourselves.”

2. Pounce on every passerby.
It’s slow, so go for the gusto and grab every attendee! We need to get a return from our investment at the show! Well, that may get a conversation started, but you won’t start a good relationship through intimidation.

Instead, wait for the solitary attendee to make eye contact with you (as you’ve been patiently waiting for them, instead of talking with your fellow booth staffer). Once (and if) they look at you, have your best smile ready, and ask a good engaging question, such as “Are you familiar with (Your Company Name)?”  That way you can start a conversation that will lead somewhere.  If they didn’t look at you, well, they may come back on their return trip.

When the traffic is slow, avoid chatting with your own staffers and pouncing on the rare attendee.  That way you get the most out of the traffic you do have.  And anyway, whether it’s slow or busy, you can only talk to one person at a time.

I was inspired by a post on the otisregrets blog about a trip to a slow trade show to write this post.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch was Skyline Exhibits’ Director of Customer Engagement, for over 25 years. He is now retired and spends his time freelancing, traveling, and enjoying time with his family.

3 responses to “When The Trade Show Is Slow

  1. Thank you for sharing staffing tips on when shows are slow. We don’t often receive advice on how to deal with situations that are less-than-perfect, or out of our control. Well done!

    1. Thanks, Christine. Trade shows are a powerful marketing medium, but like all marketing mediums, they aren’t perfect. Problems will arise on the show floor. It’s how we deal with problems that makes a difference.

  2. Great suggestions, Mike. Another suggestion is if the hall is slow, not just your exhibit, is to have one of the booth staffers identify possible clients or partners that are exhibiting at the show and search them out. If it is slow for you it probably is for them as well and finding new opportunites might be as easy as going to the next aisle over. I had this work for a client at The Restaurant Show who did not do much pre-show marketing, and it turned into a vendor partner relationship, and a few potential clients.

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