Boothmanship 101: Four Staffing Strategies to Bring Trade Show Exhibits to Life

Jack Blog

December 17th, 2019 By Jack Morton

trade show booth staff trainingThe big moment is approaching. Countless hours have been spent to ensure a brand will make an impact on the show floor. The team has created an engaging experience designed to generate qualified leads. But it isn’t just the award-winning design that will bring the experience to life – it’s the trade show booth staff training.

Boothmanship is one of the most important aspects of a trade show experience. A positive experience should be what customers and prospects remember.

But if a brand invests time and money in a standout exhibit, it should also plan and invest in an effective booth staffing program. This starts with the hiring process, and progresses through training, motivating and continually supporting while on site.

Learn the magic number
When it comes to mapping out a solid booth staffing program, brands must first determine the magic staffing number. Too many people make a booth feel overcrowded and unapproachable. Too few can lead to missed opportunities. The rule of thumb is one staffer per 50 square feet of space. Brands need to determine how many staff is appropriate at any given moment and schedule accordingly. Ideally, this involves planning for shifts of two hours each to ensure everyone is engaged and fresh throughout the day, and for each attendee interaction.

It is equally important to make sure each staff member has a defined role and responsibility. In addition to pre-show meetings with booth staff, brands should set aside time on-site to educate and prepare them.

Booth training should include four key things:

  1. Communicate brand goals, objectives and marketing strategy. Exhibit staff embody the brand. This means it’s critical for them to clearly communicate the goals and objectives of the booth brand experience. As brand representatives on the front line, booth staff must be able to understand the brand mission and values, the attendee profile, key product and service and solution messages and what makes up the optimal customer journey. All of this will help them guide prospects through the experience. Staff should also have a solid understanding of all logistics, the key players at the brand that can answer questions, and a clear set of expectations for their behavior, including rewards and recognition.
  2. Articulate appropriate booth behavior. Brands must never assume people know how to behave. Training should clearly cover what is expected of staff while they are working. Beyond the obvious things, such as appropriate attire and punctuality, it’s important to address successful nonverbal and verbal communication techniques. There are a few critical “Do’s” and “Don’ts” that brands should use in the training show boothmanship
  3. Acquaint staff with all elements of the layout and journey. It is paramount that staff be fully acquainted with the exhibit layout, as well as the optimal attendee journey. Booth staff should be well-versed in the tools and demos they will be using. Comfort in these areas allows them to focus on connecting with customers. It’s also key to have reviewed the location of the space in relation to all other aspects of the trade show, especially key competitors. Start by conducting a walk-through of the space, including an overview of the product and demo areas, meeting rooms and storage areas.It’s equally important to demonstrate and model a successful customer “hand-off” from one area (or one booth ambassador) to another. Staff should also have ample time to practice with the lead retrieval system too. They should be well-versed on how to evaluate and qualify a lead, answer anticipated questions and provide appropriate answers. Brands should work through any kinks in order to ensure staff are comfortable with the entire experience.
  4. Consider an incentive program. Brands should also consider implementing an incentive program to motivate staff and increase team morale. It’s important to set clear objectives and goals that are established and communicated at the kickoff meeting. This way, staff know exactly how they are being evaluated. The size of value of the prize isn’t important. For example, gift cards work great. Prizes can be awarded at the end of each day or at the end of the show. Another effective incentive is to take the staff away from the exhibit floor for a drink or a meal to celebrate hard work and success. Recognizing top performers in front of leadership is especially motivating. A happy staff translates into a positive customer experience.

A good booth ambassador should embody four key attributes:

  • Resilience – Consistently deliver the best results and be agile no matter what comes your way.
  • Endurance – Have stamina and maintain great performance over the long haul.
  • Energy – Embody a genuine enthusiasm and passion for the brand and the value it delivers.
  • Collaborative – Be a team player who is respectfully focused on both personal and team success.

Win your next exhibit experience
There’s no doubt that a great staff is a clear differentiator on the show floor. Recently, a large brand was building a new Tier 1 exhibit. The event manager expressed a desire to build and train a team that could deliver on the experiential activations within the booth. The first step was to put a comprehensive program in place, which started with snacks and drinks for staff in the booth before the doors opened, and finished with a review off the show floor.

Rewards in the form of modest gift cards were handed out to reinforce key behaviors, including opportunities for peer-to-peer recognition, which helped build trust, confidence and accountability across the group. The staff performance was consistently stellar, and audience metrics increased every day – including larger crowds, longer dwell times, and an uptick in floor sales and qualified leads.

If more brands follow this example and take the time to build a strong roster of booth staff to help meet their goals and objectives, their brand experiences will truly come to life.