For attendees, trade shows are a great networking opportunity and the chance to learn about new products and innovations in their industry. For exhibitors, though, trade shows represent one overarching goal: generating new sales leads.

The typical exhibitor expends a great deal of energy on the design of the pop up display, coming up with cool or clever giveaway items or promotions, and marketing. Of course, these are all highly important components of a successful trade show experience. After all, if you can’t get people into your booth, how can you generate leads? Of equal importance, though, is what happens with those potential leads after they enter your booth.


What Are Attendees Looking For?

The best way to understand what trade show attendees are looking for in your booth staff is to understand what they’re looking for overall when they visit your booth.

We like to remind people of the ‘Golden Rule’ here. What would you want? How do you feel when you walk past a booth and see staff glued to their phones? Or, even worse, what do you think when you see an empty booth? What goes through your mind when you ask a question and the staffer doesn’t know the answer? How does it make you feel when an exhibitor seems bored or put out by your questions? However you feel in these situations, you can be pretty sure others feel about your company’s booth, if you staff it with the wrong people.

Your exhibitor team is the face of your company. Whatever opinion attendees form about your staffers, they form about your company. Your job is to make sure you give your company the best public face possible, and that means choosing the best team to man your booth.


Who Should Staff Your Booth?

In our experience, most exhibitors spend too little energy on the question of who will staff their trade show booth. Some organizations seem to tap whoever has the most time, while others bring in their top sales rep when a hungry up-and-comer might be better. Oh, it should go without saying that, if at all possible, you want at least two people staffing your booth. A team ensures that, whether someone is answering the call of nature or is busy with another lead, there is another person there to greet attendees and answer questions.

Unfortunately, there is no single employee title that makes the ideal representative at a show; that depends on your industry. You may want a mix of employees, say a service person to answer technical questions, plus a sales or marketing person skilled in closing the sale.

More important than their job title is your booth staff’s personality and knowledge. Upbeat, friendly, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic are all adjectives we’d use to describe the ideal tradeshow booth staffer. These are the people who really connect with attendees and make your company look good.


What Information Do Attendees Want?

So, how do you know what information to share with your attendees? By understanding what they want. Again, this is so simple if you consider the type of information you’re looking for when you make a buying decision. At the same time, so few companies nail this.

At the end of the day, your prospects want to know how your product or service makes their life easier. Steep discounts, great press, and a killer marketing campaign look great, but they don’t mean squat if you can’t demonstrate to the customer how you make their life better. Does what you’re selling save time? Save money? Those are the big two, but you need to move beyond “this product saves money” to how it saves money (or time, or whatever it does) and how those savings benefit the buyer.


Nail the Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is a Hollywood staple; it’s the idea that you need to be able to sell your screenplay or movie in the time it takes to ride the elevator. The same is true for your trade show pitch.

Once you get an attendee’s attention, you have around 30 seconds to keep it and make your sale. That means that you better have a dead-accurate, effective, 30-second pitch rehearsed and ready to go before game day.

Effective is the key here; you need to make every one of those 30 seconds count. Your basic elevator pitch template includes:

  • Who you are – name and company
  • The market’s genuine need for your product or service – who is your target audience
  • Your unique selling points – what differentiates you from the competition
  • Your call to action – how can they learn more or buy now


Create an On-Site Call to Action

The goal of marketing materials is driving your audience to complete a particular action and the same is true with your trade show booth. That means that your goal is creating a call to action (CTA) that attendees complete during the event.

A lot of exhibitors rely on sign-up pages, such as a free trial or similar opportunity. Assuming you follow up on these leads (which the vast majority of companies do not), sign-up sheets still don’t generate on-site sales. Remember, your goal is generating motivated leads during the trade show itself.

One popular tech option is the QR code (that funky white box with its black bar code full of lines, dots, and squares), particularly if you’re looking to book consultations with attendees during the event. Include the QR code on your signage and in your marketing materials, and make it part of your CTA. Attendees looking to book a private consultation simply scan the code and schedule their appointment.

If you aren’t sure how to create a QR code, HubSpot has a great how-to article.


Bringing it All Together

Your trade show booth offers you the ideal opportunity to connect with new customers and generate strong, motivated sales leads. All you have to do is understand what attendees are looking for, staff your booth with the right people, craft a solid elevator pitch, and create an on-site call to action to significantly grow your trade show ROI.