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Why Did That Attendee Leave My Trade Show Booth?

Whether your exhibit is a 10×10 or a 40×40 there are times when you may be wondering why you can’t keep attendees in your booth.  While a 10×10 might be tight, there is usually plenty of standing or meeting room in a larger island; but still you cannot keep an attendee involved in a conversation long enough to qualify them.   What has happened?  Could it be something you said?  Well, it might be but often times it’s something a little more personal, and your colleagues are not so interested in being the ones to tell you.

Hhhey, guess what I ate on my break? 

If you’re a fan of salt and vinegar chips or those great Wheat Thins made with cracked pepper and garlic, it’s more than likely people will not have to guess what you were eating; they can smell it from a mile away.  Sometimes you don’t even have to have anything ‘on’ your breath to send people running for the aisles; it might just be bad breath.  Talking does that to people; the more you talk, the worse your breath gets.  An easy fix for this is common sense and under-counter storage.

If you know you will be on the show floor talking with attendees, common sense would tell you to stay away from the morning onion bagel and have something less offensive to the nose.  A poppy bagel is better but be careful to check a mirror before you start your day; those poppy seeds love to hang out in between the front teeth!

Under counter or inconspicuous storage in various locations in the trade show display is a great way to store mints.  Gobstoppers are not the best choice though.  Something small that you can keep in your mouth discreetly until it dissolves would be your best bet.  Altoids are a good size, TicTacs are too.  If the mint you choose makes you look like you’re storing it up for the winter, it’s not the right one.  And unless your trade show booth has a diner theme, gum of any kind is out of the question.

Even if you are diligent about brushing after every meal, you might be on the show floor for 2-4 hours before your next break, bad breath happens; be prepared for it.

Is this the International Flower Show or Pack Expo?

Nearly everyone has a favorite scent.  We may have one for the fall/winter months and something lighter for the spring/ summer months.  That’s nice, really.  It can also be extremely offensive to the noses of strangers.  Perfumes and colognes could be the difference between getting someone into your booth and keeping them there for the demo, or sending them to your competitor across the aisle (or several aisles until they don’t smell you anymore).  We all like to smell nice but what you like might be something that causes the next guy to dry heave whenever they are in close proximity to you.  Save the scents for parties and other social events.  They should not be so detectable that the carbon monoxide detectors around your booth keep tripping.  Also, keep in mind that some people have severe medical reactions to perfumes and colognes.  If your scent causes a key prospect to come down with a 3 day migraine, they’ll remember you alright, but you probably won’t land the contract with them.

So a pharmacist walks into a bar…

Sometimes it actually is what you said.  If you don’t typically have success with telling jokes, don’t try it on the show floor.  Humor comes naturally to some people and for others it’s an awkward enigma that should not be solved – ever.  People come to tradeshows for information and they want it fast, factual and without a punch line.  If you are naturally funny, that’s great.  It is something you don’t think about, it just flows and doesn’t distract from your ability to provide what the attendee has come to your booth for.  If you’re not naturally funny, then your best bet is to just be prepared.  Know your stuff; be able to answer questions and point people in the right direction.  There is nothing worse than trying to be funny, having it flop and then finding out that it’s your responsibility to call that lead after the show.  Chances are they’ll have forgotten about the awkwardness if it was something mild, but you will not.  Following up on a lead is difficult enough without the baggage, don’t do that to yourself.  Save the jokes (like your perfume) for parties and other social events.

Most of us are somewhat uncomfortable with the prospect of standing in our booth, trying to get people to visit us and hoping that it pans out to be a good, qualified lead.  We don’t need the additional burden of bad breath, loud scents and uncomfortable humor making it more difficult to find common ground with our guests.  Make these issues part of your booth staff training and pre-show kick off meetings.  Here are some ideas to help you plan:

  • Don’t leave it to your staffers to remember their own mints, buy a small case to keep in your emergency kit.  Replenish it like you would your literature.
  • Schedule breaks every 2 hours instead of every 4 hours if possible to allow people to get a drink of water and rest their tongues.
  • Remind your staffers that they will be in close proximity to people you want as future customers and they should choose their meals and snacks accordingly.
  • Perhaps a script, or a number of scripts that booth staffers can have access to will provide background on how to approach an attendee in the aisle without offending them with a bad joke.  As a group you can come up with your “hook” for getting people in.
  • If you require your booth staffers to wear a uniform on the show floor, perhaps a no- perfumes /colognes requirement as part of the uniform for everyone would work.

We all have to deal with losing to our competitors occasionally.  Make sure it’s a business decision only and not something you could have avoided with a good plan and a little common sense.

Trade Show Booth Staffing GuidebookFor more great tips on how to prepare your team to exhibit, read the Booth Staffing Guidebook.  Request your free copy of the insightful 48-page book by clicking here

About the Author

Lisa Maniaci is a Senior Account Representative with Skyline Exhibits NJ.

7 responses to “Why Did That Attendee Leave My Trade Show Booth?

  1. Nice article. A point you missed is to always acknowledge someone when they walk into your booth. I’ve walked out many times because the team was talking to attendees and didn’t even look up and say something like “I’ll be with you in one minute” or “why not come over here and join the conversation”. If the sales team can’t speak to more than one person at a time then working a booth might not be for them.

    1. Great one Andrew,
      This works in retail establishments as well. I am always shocked when I walk into a store and feel invisable – the rest of the comments work whether on the trade show floor or making sales of any kind! Thanks Lisa

  2. Overheard conversations are a big one_ I am always surprised to hear loud conversations as I walk by a booth- never assume that pre and post show hours don’t have clients listening- keep company training to a minimum and don’t be too loud! Tone down the SEX in your booth- too many hot young scantily clad women definitely put off 1/2 your clientele-no matter what you are trying to sell!

  3. For people who are on the fence on whether they are going to stop by a booth these details really make a difference. People will follow the path of least resistance and we must be conscious of these road blocks and remove them to make our booth more approachable and effective.

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