For almost 30 years, I have been attending and organizing conferences and most of these have some manner of exhibition area. Quite often the measurement of success of a conference includes how successful was our booth? How do we measure that success? Was the traffic heavy? Did we do quality demos? Did we capture leads?
The appearance of your booth and how your booth staff conducts itself within your booth not only help determine the success of the booth but can leave a lasting impression of your company.
Therefore, our teams should use proper booth etiquette when staffing the booth. And, yes, there is such a thing as proper booth etiquette. And it matters.
When we are fortunate enough to have an exhibit, we have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with both long-standing and potential customers, competitors and potential business partners. We should relish that opportunity and make sure we make the best of it by putting forward the best possible image of ourselves and our company.
So, here are a few recommendations for impeccable booth etiquette to make sure your networking goes as smoothly and successfully as possible.
1. Be Aware of Your Space and How to Utilize It
The first thing a potential customer will notice is your booth set up. Make sure your exhibit area is tidy and clean. Also, since you want to establish a close, personal connection, it can be helpful to set the divider table on the side, leaving plenty of room in front of your booth to interact with prospect clients.
2. Eat Away from the Booth
Eating while talking to people is not only unprofessional but unpleasant to behold. Do not bring food or drink at the booth. If food and drinks are being offered in the exhibit area, step out of the booth to have a break.
3. Adopt a Welcoming Approach
When “manning” the booth, make sure you are not idly standing by your table, waiting for people to approach. Step away from the table and invite people in by adopting a friendly, welcoming approach.
Engage people with warm, introductory talk, “Hi, I am John Doe, how are you enjoying the conference?” or “Have you seen anything interesting today?” or “How about those Cowboys and Dak Prescott?” It is also important to show interest in the individual, “What do you do at Xcorp or XDOT?”
This will not only make the person feel at the center of attention, but it will give you a way to find out if he or she is indeed someone who could benefit from your product.
4. Have an Elevator Speech Ready
Let’s say the person you are now talking to sounds like a good prospective client. The next most important thing for you is to have your company’s elevator speech ready.
That is a 30-second pitch that explains what your company is and does, “Info Tech provides electronic solutions and services for bidding, contracts and construction management. We work with every DOT and many of their contractors as well as many local agencies in North America.”
This brief introduction to the company is important because, if your prospect has never heard of your company, you only have a few minutes to impress them and provide a “WOW” factor.
5. Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Your elevator speech grabbed your prospect’s attention, and you are now having a conversation. At this stage, HOW you say things is just as important as WHAT you are saying. Therefore, pay attention to your posture, gestures and general mannerism. What does your body language say?
Well, if your hands are in your pockets, that says, “I am not interested in you.” If your arms are crossed, that says, “Don’t come near me. Be gone.” If your hands are clasped behind you, your prospect might get the impression that you are not too friendly or shy. Hence, make sure you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands in front of you or at your sides. Have a smile on your face and remember to make eye contact.
We all get tired at events, but try not to sit down. Sitting shows you are not interested and you really don’t want to be there. If you need to sit down, make sure you do so during downtime or while a colleague is standing in turn. Do not stand with your knees crossed or locked as it looks unprofessional.
Bonus tip from someone who suffers from back issues: Keep your knees bent slightly, as it takes pressure off the back and helps circulation.
6. Put Away Personal Belongings
Finally, make sure you’re not cluttering the booth with personal belongings. Your booth should only display exhibit or event-related material. Put your backpack and notebooks under the table, behind the curtain, or anywhere you can to keep them out of sight. Keep the display area neat, orderly and clean.
That’s it. It is just common sense.
Conferences are a place to learn, to connect, to nurture relationships. Relax, enjoy yourself and leave a lasting positive impression of you and your company.