Going Beyond The Tip of The Iceberg of Booth Staff Training
January 27, 2011
By Mike Thimmesch
In the rush to prepare for trade shows, exhibitors often schedule only one measly hour to training their booth staff. That’s woefully inadequate for what the staff really needs – and what the opportunity demands.
Your company invests thousands upon thousands of dollars to gain the rare opportunity of getting face-to-face with hundreds, if not thousands of buyers. Yet without thorough training, your staff lacks the deep understanding to fully take advantage of your valuable at-show time.
10 Things To Fully Train Your Trade Show Booth Staff
Separate yourself from the pack, and give your staff the training they need to excel. Here are the 10 areas to fully train your booth staffers:
1. Goals: Share your overall objectives the company has for exhibiting at the show, and what show-specific goals have you set for achieving those objectives. And then, tell them what are the individual goals of each booth staffer, such as take 2 qualified leads per hour staffing, or 5 new product demos per shift. If they don’t know why you’re exhibiting, they won’t be able to help you achieve it.
2. Customers: Drill your booth staffers until they can answer key questions about your customers. What are the needs and pain points of your main customer market segments? What size companies do they come from, and what matters most depending on their varying job titles? What industries tend to buy from you, and do different industries have varying priorities? It’s essential that booth staffers understand what clients care about, so they can better connect with them. Also, if your show provides different badge colors to categorize attendees, let your booth staff know what color badges are most likely to be potential customers — and competitors.
3. Products: People come to trade shows to see what’s new and to get their hands on products, so make sure your staff is prepared to answer visitors’ questions: What are the features and benefits of your main products? Your most popular products? And especially for a trade show, your newest products? How do your products compare to your main competitors? What do they cost? What is the next step in buying them? Your booth staffers should be fluent in these discussions, to better serve and give confidence to visitors.
4. Booth Staffing Process: Go beyond just talking about no sitting, eating, or phone calls in the booth. Train your staffers how to engage attendees in the aisle with good opening lines, how to qualify them to discover what matters to them and if they matter to you, how to present just the part of your story that is relevant to what they said about themselves, and how to close the conversation with an agreement on the next steps. Include role playing to let staffers practice before the show so they feel more comfortable and capable when the heat is on.
5. Lead Management: Tell your staffers how you handle leads, be it dumping business cards in a fishbowl, writing notes on lead cards, scanning badges with rented lead retrievers, or entering leads into a database right on the show floor. Emphasize how to properly record a lead to include lead quality, comments about what their main problems are and how your products solve them, and what the staffer promised the booth visitor they’d do next. And on the show floor, demonstrate how your lead systems work, and where to store your leads.
6. Demonstrations: Great trade show demos attract a crowd and help attendees remember you, so train your staffers to make engaging, smooth, and convincing demonstrations. It can take a lot of work to make a demo look easy, but it pays off in greater credibility on the show floor.
7. Promotions: Show your staff all the promotions you plan to do before the show and at the show. Did you invite key prospects for meetings with your top brass? Did you send an email promising visitors a prize? Did you tweet a message on Twitter that the first 25 visitors who mentioned the tweet would get a free t-shirt? Are you having a contest? Offering show-special discounts? Whatever the promotion, alert your staff so they don’t create a disconnect with potential clients.
8. Your Booth Layout: If your trade show exhibit is larger than a 10 x 20 backwall, it’s not so obvious where everything is. Show your booth staffers where your storage is (for promotional items, staplers, brochures, and their personal effects), where product demo areas are, and which computers have live internet access. Most of all, if you have your booth segmented by product or division, give your booth staff the tour so they know which areas they can use depending on who they are talking to.
9. Schedule: Not only tell your booth staff what hours on what days you expect them in the booth and when their breaks are, but give them the full show schedule outside the booth. Let them know when and where there are good networking events held by the show or major sponsors. Give them access to the show’s educational session schedule, especially keynotes about industry trends. And alert them if your company is planning any group meals.
10. Convention Center and City: Share the best way to get from the airport to your hotel and from the hotel to the show floor. If you’re in a really big convention center, tell them which hall and provide a map to your booth. Let staffers know where are the nearest good restaurants, coffee shops, and convenience store, and especially where the closest bathrooms are from the booth.
Think that’s too much to train at once? You’re right. So break it down into chunks, and spread it out over two or three sessions. Consider first training about your customers, products and demonstrations first, and then at a later session build on that core knowledge with areas such as the booth staffing process, booth layout, and lead management, and more.
Sure it’s hard work. But the prize is more leads, more sales, and a higher return on investment. That’s better than the alternative, which is confused and unprepared booth staffers, dissatisfied visitors, and fewer sales and profits.
FREE BOOK: BETTER BOOTH STAFFING FOR GREATER TRADE SHOW RESULTS
Get this free book containing 34 articles, half geared to increasing skills and perspectives of individual booth staffers, and half for the trade show manager who must prepare the booth staff for their company.