I talked a while ago about how to network with other vendors at an event. Not long after that I attended a small business expo. I was looking forward to checking out other businesses and what they had to offer. It reminded me of some of the things you want to do or avoid when you work a booth. I had allowed plenty of time to attend the expo, and thought I’d use the opportunity to see what I might want to tweak about my own upcoming booths. Let’s pretend I’m attending your event.
Do engage me. I shouldn’t have to draw you into a conversation. You should greet me as I walk by your booth. Tell me who you are and what you’re representing. Don’t be reading a book or have your nose in your phone. When you see me approaching smile, stand, and greet me. If you’re engaged with another attendee, I’ll understand. Still, you should make eye contact, smile, and nod.
Do ask questions. Have I ever heard of your company? Do I have a consultant who’s meeting my needs? Can I see myself involved with your company? Once you’ve asked the question allow me to answer fully. Don’t jump on the first two words out of my mouth.
Don’t try to shame me into buying your product. I was shocked at how many people at that last expo seemed to think that subtle insults would motivate me to buy their products or do business with them. (Wouldn’t you rather be driving a better car? Don’t you wish you could lose some weight? Wouldn’t you rather be wearing designer clothes?) They were so very wrong.
Don’t verbally vomit on me. More than one vendor told me every single detail about their product, their company, and their business plan. I assure you I never showed the least bit of interest in their booth other than saying hello and that, no, I hadn’t heard of their product. Yes, I could have stopped them and walked away. To be honest, with the first one I got really curious how long he’d talk before he asked me a question. There was a clock behind him, so I can tell you that it was over three minutes. That’s an eternity. Ask questions. Answer questions. Make any offers you’re presenting. They should leave your booth feeling like you were a fun person to talk to, not feeling like they were lucky to escape.
Don’t talk if no one is listening. This didn’t happen at that most recent event, but I couldn’t leave it out. I was with my mom at the Indiana State Fair this summer. I heard what I thought was a recorded presentation playing. No. It was a woman standing back in her booth talking loudly. Mom stopped to view some things in a nearby booth, so I had a chance to observe. She was going through an entire 1½ – 2 minute spiel over and over. No one had stopped to talk with her. She was talking to a point slightly above the heads of the crowd. It was very odd and clearly ineffectual.
Booths are about connecting with people a few minutes at a time. You should leave a good impression. Don’t ignore the attendees. And, please, whatever you do, don’t verbally vomit on them.