Booth Staff Bootcamp: Training Top-Notch Staffers

How-To Tips

In our last newsletter, we discussed the benefits of professional staffers. But not everyone has that option — whether it’s due to budget or C-Suite buy-in. So this time, we’re turning our gaze inward toward preparing your in-house staffers for the show floor. Let’s delve into the essential aspects of training your booth staffers to make a lasting impression at trade shows. Because, let’s face it, even the most stunning booth design won’t save you if your staffers are more interested in their phones than in potential clients.

We tapped Jim Obermeyer, Regional VP for North America at Bray Leino, for his insights. Jim got started in this field when he noticed his own staff was woefully unprepared for the show floor. After getting the most out of his team, he began training staffers for other companies, and he’s been a trade show training guru ever since.

What You'll Learn

  • Choosing the Right People: Inquisitive, good listeners, and personable.
  • Practical Training Tips: Demonstrations, role-playing, and regular training.
  • Effective Opening Lines: Ice-breakers to engage attendees.
  • Moving the Conversation Along: Transitioning good leads to the next steps.
  • Respectful Disengagement Techniques: How to politely move on from non-leads.
  • Aligning Training with Objectives: Tailoring training to your trade show goals.
  • Common Training Mistakes to Avoid: Pitfalls to watch out for.
  • Measuring Staffer Performance: Evaluating and improving staff effectiveness.

Choosing the Right People

Psst! Don’t simply rely on salespeople to work your exhibit — they often lack the attributes to be a great booth staffer. Assemble your team with care. When staffing your booth, it’s crucial to select individuals who are:

  • Inquisitive: Think of them as Sherlock Holmes in business casual — always eager to uncover what makes attendees tick.
  • Good Listeners: They should have the listening skills of a therapist but without the hourly rate.
  • Personable and Approachable: Imagine someone who could make friends with a cactus — that’s your ideal booth staffer.

Training Tips

  1. Demonstrate What You Want to See:
    • Show your staffers the right way to greet attendees, ask questions, and present your products or services. Lead by example. Remember: Monkey see, monkey do!
  2. Role Play Situations:
    • Practice different scenarios with your staff. Role-playing helps them become comfortable handling various types of interactions, from answering common questions to dealing with difficult attendees. Think of it as a dress rehearsal, minus the Shakespearean drama.
  3. Make Training a Regular Part of Your Program:
    • Incorporate booth staff training into your regular trade show preparation program. This ensures that your team expects it and understands its importance. Plus, repetition is key — after all, even Beethoven didn’t nail “Für Elise” on the first try.

Effective Opening Lines

Starting a conversation can be challenging. Here are some icebreakers to help your staffers engage attendees:

  • “Hi there! What brings you to the show today?” (Hint: Not the coffee and free pens, hopefully.)
  • “Have you heard about our latest product?” (Because if you haven’t, boy, are you in for a treat!)
  • “What challenges are you facing in your business right now?” (And how can we make them disappear like Houdini?)

Moving the Conversation Along

For visitors who seem like good leads, it’s important to smoothly transition to the next steps. Here’s how your staffers can do it:

  • Ask What Works Best for Them:
    • Offer options such as, “Would you like to talk to a product specialist?” or “Shall we set up a follow-up meeting for after the show?”
    • “This sounds like a great fit for you. What next step works best for you?”
  • Provide Clear Next Steps:
    • Ensure they know what to expect next. “I’ll have our product specialist reach out to you this afternoon,” or “Let’s schedule a follow-up call next week to discuss this further.”
  • Gather Contact Information:
    • Make sure to collect all necessary details to facilitate the next steps. “Can I have your business card or contact information to arrange this?”

Respectful Disengagement Techniques

Not every attendee will be a fit for your products or services. Train your staffers on how to politely disengage:

  • “It was great chatting with you. I hope you enjoy the rest of the show!” (Translation: Please move along now.)
  • “I think our neighbors over there have something that might be more in line with what you’re looking for.” (Because we’re all about spreading the love — unless it’s to a direct competitor, of course.)

Aligning Training with Objectives

Before you start training, ensure you clearly define your trade show objectives. Whether it’s lead generation, brand awareness, or networking, tailor your training to meet these goals. For example, if lead generation is a priority, focus on how to qualify leads effectively. Remember, a well-defined goal is like a well-made martini — clear, strong, and leaving a lasting impression.

Common Training Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Neglecting to Train:
    • Assuming staffers know what to do can lead to inconsistent performance. Always provide clear, comprehensive training. It’s like assuming your cat understands “stay off the counter” — it never ends well.
  2. Overloading Information:
    • Don’t overwhelm your staff with too much information at once. Focus on key points and build up their knowledge over time. Think of it as feeding them delicious tidbits rather than force-feeding them a feast.
  3. Ignoring Feedback:
    • Listen to your staffers’ experiences and adjust your training program accordingly. Their on-the-ground insights are invaluable. Remember, even a broken clock is right twice a day, so pay attention to those nuggets of wisdom.

Measuring Staffer Performance

To ensure your staff is performing well, consider these evaluation tips:

  • Set Clear Metrics:
    • Define what success looks like. It could be the number of leads generated, the quality of interactions, or feedback from attendees. Because if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
  • Regular Check-ins:
    • Hold brief meetings during the trade show to gather feedback and make real-time adjustments. Think of it as a pit stop — quick, efficient, and keeping you in the race.
  • Post-Show Debrief:
    • After the event, review what went well and what could be improved. Use this feedback to enhance future training sessions. Because hindsight is 20/20, and we all want to see clearly.

Wrapping It Up

By following these guidelines, you can ensure your booth staffers are well-prepared, confident, and effective in representing your company at trade shows. Effective training not only enhances their performance but also contributes to a successful and memorable trade show experience.

Feel free to reach out with any questions or for further assistance. Let’s make your next trade show a resounding success.

Until then, stay smart, stay confident, and most importantly, stay awesome!

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