3 ways your staff can ruin, or transform, your exhibition stand

Getting your exhibition stand right involves a great deal of planning – from branding and design to placement and collateral. Yet even the best laid plans can go awry. One aspect of your exhibition stand that can really make or break its success is your staff. While it’s obvious that hiring inexperienced and unprofessional staff won’t give the best impression or get you the right leads, it can be difficult to quantify exactly what qualities a great exhibition team should possess.

So, based on years of experience (and a few mistakes along the way), here are the three ways your staff can ruin or transform your exhibition stand…

1. Appearance
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Unfortunately, when it comes to exhibitions many of these judgments are made over the course of a three-second glance toward your stand, so the appearance of your staff will play a big part in the attractiveness of your stand.

The appearance of your staff should accurately represent the branding and theme your stand is aiming for, and that will depend on your industry area and the show you are at.

For example, if you were exhibiting at a children’s toy trade show you may want your staff to be dressed to entertain. A fun new science kit, for example, might be best demonstrated by a wacky scientist, complete with white coat and wild hair. At a security and defence event, however, the same costume probably wouldn’t go down as well.

Here are some hard-and-fast do’s and don’ts…
DON’T:
Have staff who look too young or inexperienced for the industry – e.g. a 18-year old demonstrating new finance software
Allow your staff to come in looking hung-over
Have personal belongings on show

DO:
Align your staff’s appearance with your branding
Keep your staff stimulated – there is nothing less appealing than bored-looking staff
Hire staff who appear approachable and friendly

2. Activity/engagement
Completely passive staff are uninteresting, uninspiring, and will not attract visitors to your stand. On the flip side, however, overly proactive staff can be annoying and intimidating. Just imagine how you would react to a stand full of staff with big fake smiles who look like they want to harangue you at any opportunity. You would probably steer well clear.

As with many aspects of exhibiting, finding the right activity level for your staff is a matter of balance. You must balance being friendly against being intimidating, chatty against clingy, proactive against hyperactive, and so on.

In order to stand out from the crowd it’s a good idea to see how the other stands in your area seem to be balancing their staff activity. If they are mostly passive then perhaps being a bit more proactive would help attract visitors to your stand. If you are in a busy and proactive section of an exhibition, on the other hand, then offering a quiet sanctuary might be a more effective approach.

A good example of this in action was Quatreus’ approach to a Future of Web Apps exhibition for our client BT. Initially the brief was for a stand that would fit in with the fast-paced, technology-driven industry sector. However, we suggested instead that BT juxtapose their stand against this backdrop, creating a desert island sanctuary, complete with sun loungers and sand, complemented by relaxed and casually dressed staff. BT soon had people queuing up just to take some time out from the busy exhibition, and you can be sure they all went home remembering BT’s exotic stand!

Some do’s and don’ts when it comes to staff activity…
DON’T:
Encourage your staff to be too pushy
Allow your staff to huddle together chatting to one another
Permit staff to have personal mobiles on their person, the temptation to reply to a text or check Facebook may prove too much
DO:
Try to offer visitors a different experience to surrounding stands
Give staff a break to walk around, get a coffee etc. every couple of hours to keep them refreshed and energised
Encourage calm yet confident proactivity

3. Pitch and close
Your staff’s pitch to visitors is just as important as their appearance and engagement. Again, a delicate balancing act is needed when it comes to the pitch. On the one hand you need your staff to mention certain key features and benefits, yet a pitch that sounds scripted or over-rehearsed will come across as false. You need to allow the natural sales talent of your staff to shine through while still imparting vital information to the visitor.

The close is also very important to get right. Pushing too hard for a signup will often scare visitors away while not pushing hard enough will result in missed opportunities. Technology can make a big difference when it comes to the close. For example, Delegatebag, a specialist Quatreus piece of software, encourages signups by delivering a quick digital form on an iPad (everyone loves to play with technology). What’s more, Delegatebag also allows you to send digital versions of your product information and presentations, making following-up easy and instant.

Do’s and don’ts when it comes to pitching and closing…

DON’T:
Push too hard for contact info – you will come off as a stalker and they will run scared
Aim for the close too early – the visitor should seems comfortable with the information you’ve provided
Simply hand out your card – at least write your stand number and the exhibition name on the back, or go for specialist software like Delegatebag
DO:
Slip product features and benefits into your sales pitch
Make use of technology – people love to play with new tech
Encourage questions and feedback, you never know what you might learn!

By getting the right staff, with the right appearance, activities and pitch you will ensure that you get the best return from your stand. So, as well as considering the design, branding and location of your exhibition stand – also pay close attention to who will be staffing it.

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Richard Edwards webAbout the Author
Richard Edwards, Director, Quatreus Ltd. Quatreus specialises in creating face to face experiences that strengthen relationships and improve communication – for both internal and external audiences. Activities include customer facing events and activities, exhibitions, trade-shows, road-shows and interactive experience centres, as well as conferences, AGMs, and staff and stakeholder engagement programmes. For more information see: www.quatreus.com

1 Comment on 3 ways your staff can ruin, or transform, your exhibition stand

  1. I once hired a member of staff who was just chatty, uber-confident and great fun. She was *amazing* at just getting a smile out of passers-by, at which point she could strike up a conversation with anyone. I really think that choosing the right members of staff to attend a show is critical to the results you generate.

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