Maximizing Your Tradeshow Investment Through Training

October 6, 2016

Exhibiting and attending tradeshows is an important form of marketing and sales for many companies.  Businesses rely heavily upon these opportunities as a means of acquiring new leads and potential clients.  When the many direct and indirect costs of a participating in a tradeshow are calculated, especially on a cost per lead basis, the investment can be quite substantial.

To be considered, there is the rental of the space and services at the tradeshow venue, a booth or stand of sorts (some are quite elaborate and can be very expensive), then there are the brochures and printed materials, some unique giveaways or prizes for a drawing, and occasionally a special guest or other “event” is deployed to attract traffic to the booth.  Further adding to the overall costs are staff travel expenses for airfare, hotels, dinners, and entertainment.

On the night before, or the day of the show, company representatives arrive to “work the show” and “man the both”.  Some are tradeshow veterans having done this many times before while others may have had limited or even no exposure to tradeshows, but the expectations are the same… acquire leads and identify potential clients.  So how does an employee with little or no experience acquire leads and identify potential clients if they haven’t been properly trained to do so.  The answer is simply “they can’t and they don’t”.

Drawing potential clients into meaningful conversations and acquiring leads is an essential skill set to be learned prior to the tradeshow.  Colleagues must know the proper way to create value for booth visitors in ways that encourages them to discuss their needs.  Creating value and rapport creates an interested prospect.

For the unknowing newcomer and for those who may have perhaps become a little too experienced there is the all- important “booth etiquette” to be considered.  Like a magnet, good booth etiquette attracts while bad booth etiquette repels.  The latter often includes sitting down, eating, drinking, chatting with colleagues, or emailing and texting on a cellphone while in the booth.  Nothing repels a prospect faster than a disinterested or pre-occupied person.

We recently worked with a client to prepare their staff for an upcoming tradeshow in the Mid-West.  They were making a substantial investment in this international event and planned to staff the booth with representatives from sales, marketing, and product development (technical staff).  The client was very focused on assuring both sales and non-sales staff was sufficiently prepared to maximize the investment at the show.  Corporate Ladders worked with our client throughout the weekend coaching and training on topics such as client engagement techniques, creating rapport, building value in conversations, and having great “booth etiquette.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Tradeshow Booth Etiquette


  1. Train Your Staff: No one is born knowing how to work a show. Hire professionals to prepare the team.
  2. Be Welcoming: Smile and make good eye contact; find something to compliment attendees about…
  3. Build Engagement: Ask visitors about their business.
  4. Ask Good Qualifying Questions: What are their reasons for attending and what do they hope to gain?
  5. Create Value: If the visitor is qualified; offer a follow up call, literature, meeting, or demonstration.


  1. Sit Down: Give visitors the impression that you are on a break and not ready for engagement.
  2. Eat or Drink in the Booth: Visitors may think it rude to interrupt those at lunch.
  3. Use Your Cell Phone: Emailing, texting, checking Facebook, or playing games shows you are disinterested.
  4. Over-indulge before Booth Duty: You may feel sluggish, tired, and disinterested.
  5. Cluster with Colleagues in the Booth: Appears as if you are having a meeting and visitors will walk on by.


A minor investment in training ensured a more substantial return on the tradeshow investment for this client.  This year’s tradeshow yielded outstanding results: doubling the number of qualified leads over the prior year’s show and had great participation from everyone on their staff, including the “non-sales” representatives.

The Takeaway: While your booth, brochures, and giveaways are important, it is up to your people working the booth to truly make the difference.  When investing in tradeshows, plan to budget for training the people who will represent your business at the show.  It certainly was a worthwhile investment for our client.

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