Treat a Trade Show Like Your Office, Not Your College Dorm

Just back from my first two trade shows of the season, and I am sad. It would seem, dear friends, that despite our resolve to not suck at these things, we just can’t seem to get it right.

Last year we saw Angry Birds staffing booths, coffee cups greeting visitors and what happens when you let marketing people do what they do best, which is not selling.

Let’s say it together: trade show booths are very, very, expensive inside sales calls that happen to have nicer carpet than your office. So why is there so little selling?

Why are we paying people to sit in spaces that cost more per square foot than an Apple Store in Chelsea so they can eat, read, drop popcorn and stare open-mouthed at prospective customers?

I think we need to apply a new, simpler standard. I think we need to ask ourselves the following question when it comes to booth stuff: would you do this if you were in the Real Office?

Treat a Trade Show Like Your Office, Not Your College Dorm image om nom tradeshow 3Treat a Trade Show Like Your Office, Not Your College Dorm

Eating:
In the Real Office, would you greet people in your boardroom by cramming a giant shawarma into your face and chasing it down with a Diet Coke while they look on, waiting for you to speak?

Treat a Trade Show Like Your Office, Not Your College Dorm image demonstrating the product 2Treat a Trade Show Like Your Office, Not Your College Dorm

Reading:
I once worked in a bookstore. You’ll never guess the one thing we weren’t allowed to do in the store. That’s right, we weren’t allowed to read. Just as you wouldn’t sit in your Real Office lobby deep in a book while customers waited to see you.

So why would you sit in your booth, full of books as it is, and read?

Trust me, we know how to operate one of those new-fangled book things; you needn’t demonstrate.

Staring:
If somebody walked into your Real Office and said hello, would you stare at them without replying? When they smiled and asked what your company does, would you wordlessly hand them a brochure without making eye contact? If your co-worker saw this behaviour, would they keep typing away on their computer?

This is what happens when marketing people are in the booth. Say what you will about Sales Squirrels, they know how to stand up (seriously, you need to stand up), look at somebody, and, just for a giggle, sell them something. Marketing people just resent the interruption to their busy day on the trade show floor. The kicker on this one is that the lone Squirrel in the booth was speaking to someone ( i.e. doing his job) while watching me struggle to sell myself something, and nearly snapped an ankle lunging across the booth to plant a business card in my hand before I walked away with a brochure from the still-seated marketing twins.

There is no photo of this because I thought it rude to snap The Children of the Corn while they were ignoring me.

Treat a Trade Show Like Your Office, Not Your College Dorm image popcorn on black carpet 2Treat a Trade Show Like Your Office, Not Your College Dorm

The Fuc*ing Popcorn:
How many times a year does your company throw popcorn on the floor of the Real Office lobby and invite customers in to drop more? Exactly. And this is why it’s a stupid idea at a trade show. It’s even dumber to order black carpet to go under your popcorn trolley. Your booth should not look like a multiplex on a Saturday afternoon.

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