Even Lionel Richie needs help with Trade Shows

Trade Shows can be tricky. It doesn’t take a wizard to get attendees from the aisle carpet onto YOUR booth carpet. Just follow these DOs & DON’Ts and you’ll conjure up more qualified leads and fill your booth before you can say Abracadabra!!

Most of these are just common sense for trade shows, but we all need reminders occasionally. And maybe, just maybe, you might learn something new!


DOs in the booth

… Look Professional – Iron your clothes, fix your hair, shine your shoes, brush your teeth (keep mints handy), tuck in your shirt and then ask a colleague in the booth, “How do I look…honestly?!” Here’s what I wear. 

… Stand-Up Straight & Smile – Shoulders back, chin up, chest out a tad, feet apart, hands by your sides (not in your pockets and definitely not crossed) and a nice, natural smile. If you appear confident and happy to be there a larger percentage of attendees at trade shows will respond positively and feel more like engaging.

… Stand Back A Bit From The Aisle – Many booth staffers stand right on the edge of the aisle and booth carpet. To an attendee this reads: “I DARE you to come in here!” Take a small step or two back to give the attendees some space to approach the booth with a greater possibility of them stepping onto the booth carpet (the goal of ALL of this).

… Greet Visitors Quickly – There’s no faster way to lose an attendee than not greeting them swiftly. Even if you’re with someone else, at least acknowledge their existence and let me know you will be with them in X-number of minutes. This manages their expectations, and they’ll wait a few minutes. It also manages the expectations of the person you’re with, letting them know you’ll be done in the same X-minutes. Which brings us right into …

… Managing Visitor’s Expectations – A trade show isn’t the place to give any attendee an unlimited amount of time. Be up front and let them know this will only take 5-10 minutes…then you’ll follow-up with them, if necessary, a few days after the show. Than do that. Some attendees want to fill-up all your time, and this is fine if the booth is empty. But when the floor is busy you need to make as many “touches” as possible. After the show you can give them all the time they want, but now is when you must use their and your time wisely. One way to do this is by….

… Ask Qualifying Questions – The best way to gain insight on your prospect’s qualification is to ask them sales prospecting questions and listen carefully to their answers. Here’s a nice article that will help (https://www.insidesalesbox.com/blog/14-lead-qualification-questions-to-spot-your-sales-ready-leads)

… Ask “Open-Ended” Questions: The clear majority of booth staff at trade shows that I observe stand on the very edge of the booth carpet, and as attendees walk by say non-engaging things such as: “Hi” “How are you” or simply smile and nod. Not counting the first half of a show, when most attendees have an agenda of where they’re going and who they want to see, the last ¾ of a show many people are wandering looking for information and searching out “What’s “New.” This is a wonderful time to engage them with open-ended questions. Simply put: Questions that don’t require a Yes or No answer. Examples: “What are you look for at the show?” “What do you know about what (Your Company Name) does?” “What’s the biggest problem you’re facing these days with regard to ________?” You can really take almost any question and wordsmith it into an open-ended question. Work on these pre-show…. that time will pay off.

Pitches for Trade Shows

Are you Going Up…with leads!?!

… Know Your Elevator Answer – We all know what this is, but is it handy and professional? So, do yourself a favor, write it down. Really, it’s that easy. Here’s an outline:

  • 30 seconds long.
  • States irrefutably how your company provides value.
  • Establishes credibility; how long you’ve has been in business, clients you have, etc.
  • Offers two or three reasons people do business with you and your company.
  • It ends with a call-to-action or an open-ended question.

DON’Ts in the booth

… Be Late or Leave early – Unless your shift is covered you need to be in the booth at your assigned station. I can’t count the amount of times an attendee has come into the booth either looking for a certain answer or a specific individual and the person manning the info kiosk says, “He/She was just here a minute ago” or “They were supposed to be here. Can you come back later?” Guess what? They don’t care and no, they won’t come back!

… Slouch, Sit or Snooze – Really? This isn’t self-explanatory? This common-sense item in far to common…and that simply makes no sense to me!

… Eat or Drink in the booth – This is an easy one. Leave the booth if you’re hungry. Not much makes a stand look worse than either staff sitting there eating and food littered around the kiosks & in the trash. The one caveat is water; very acceptable and necessary.

… Use Phones in the booth – Such a simple solution: When you MUST use the phone, leave the booth. When prospects investigate a booth, they want to see staff that are alert and approachable, and when you’re on the phone you’re neither. The best solution is to stay off the phone, but today that just isn’t possible sometimes, So, when it’s necessary, inform your co-workers and walk away (plus, you’ll probably find a quieter spot for your conversation).

… Stand in closed circles with colleagues – Nothing says, “Don’t come in here!” as a group of people circled up and talking to each other, oblivious to their surroundings. Again, attendees want to see staff that are open and attentive.

… Waste Anyone’s Time – Politely and professionally disengage from conversations when they are either over or they are wasting your valuable trade show time. This shouldn’t be done abruptly, but in a gracious and friendly manner. It’s easy to gently excuse yourself, then use the universal (if somewhat subconscious) disengagement sentence at trade shows: “Have a great show.”


Have fun. Make trade shows an adventure. Compete with co-workers who can engage the most attendees. Be the kind of person YOU would want to approach and then have a meaningful, educational and engaging conversation.


Good luck!

About Richard Laible

Professional Master of Ceremonies, Richard Laible, has performed in hundreds of corporate industrials, for numerous Fortune 500 companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Cisco, Sprint PCS, McDonald’s, Ameritech, Kraft USA, Burger King, Motorola, IBM, SAP and many more throughout his two decade career. His specialties include Corporate Emcee, Corporate Meeting Host, Trade Show Presenter and Sales Meeting Host. Contact Richard Laible at richard@richardlaible.com or 847.446.2425