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Breaking the ice: Tips on striking up trade show booth-conversation
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Breaking the ice: Tips on striking up trade show booth-conversation

Have you ever lived this trade show nightmare? You’re standing in a trade show booth, watching seas of potential customers pass by, tongue-tied and stumped on how to drum up an initial conversation with a roaming lead?

It can be difficult as a trade show worker to strike up conversation with show-goers without seeming too pushy or, oppositely, too much of a push-over. If you’re concerned about letting visitors pass by, try one or more of these handy tips to engage them and (hopefully!) seal the sale:

The voice of body language
First things first: Try to be aware of what you’re saying with your body language, making sure you always appear inviting and approachable.

  • Have you ever tried talking to someone while he or she was simultaneously texting or browsing a mobile device? If so, it was probably your last contact with that individual. Make sure all phones are tucked away when presenting at a trade show, and be on the lookout for eye contact as leads pass by your booth.
  • Standing up with a smile and uncrossed arms can be your best foundation in starting a conversation. A polished-looking team can make a world of difference in upping your approachability factor, too: Consider outfitting trade show staff with crisp Ash City LS Easy Care Twill Shirts or Extreme Jersey Sport Shirts.

Making contact
Although the usual “Hello! Are you interested in (insert service or product)” can work, why not stretch the creative envelope and start the conversation by:

  • Planting a seed pre-trade show. If you sent out any promotional material before the show, make sure your booth has integrated signage that will draw people in to drop off entry forms or pick up prizes. This will be a natural conversation starter that won’t come off as pushy. If your giveaway prizes are classic stand-outs, like the Nylon Foldable Flier,  Smashlight Flat Flashlight or a fun, patterned bag like the Kaleida Sportpack, imprint it with both your logo and booth number so that others will know where to go to interact with your organization.
  • Running a hands-on promotion that simply shouts “Join in!” Consider setting up a Nintendo Wii® at your booth and invite visitors to stop in for a virtual game of tennis or golf. Entice trade show audience to spin a roulette wheel to win one of many promotional giveaways. Both of these ideas take a relatively short time investment, are interesting to watch from the trade show sidelines, and create a great way to break the ice.
  • Offering information of value. Among a sea of booths, it can be difficult for attendees to distinguish where to stop and who to make contact with. Start the conversation in an innovative way by holding a mini-seminar every 15 minutes, where you give attendees “insider” industry tips and tricks regarding the latest trends. This will position you as an expert and also give potential customers material to use in continuing the conversation at or after the show.

Harness tech tools
Sometimes, the best way to start a conversation is with a text … or, a “tweet”!

  • In the weeks building up to the trade show, collect cell phone numbers of customers who you know may be attending. Then, every hour during the show, text out a quick reason why people should stop by your booth. The texts could be as simple as “Stop by Booth #32 to learn more about XYZ product” or as alluring as “Want to win a free iPod®? Register for the next hour only at Booth #32!” When attendees visit, be sure to reward their follow-through with their choice of a Bluetooth Hands Free Headset, Cell Phone or Business Card Holder – Opaque or Wave Monitor & Keyboard Cleaner — all imprinted with your logo, of course.
  • During the trade show, consider harnessing the power of micro-blogging platform Twitter by associating a hash tag (the # sign, followed by your key word—i.e. #Booth35 or #CompanyXYZ) with your booth’s activities. This will allow for attendees to follow what’s happening at your booth, even if they’re not in the immediate area, simply by searching the hash tag on Twitter.

Broadcast messages (called “tweets”!) with the hash tag throughout the show regarding limited-time offers, promotions or upcoming seminars. It’s a great way to build buzz without intruding. Consider projecting the live tweet-stream up on a screen at your booth to show others how much buzz you’re getting around the show! This alone will make for a great conversation starter, as many people may not be familiar with Twitter’s capabilities and use.

Whether using pre-show tactics, promotions or technology tools, starting a conversation with trade show attendees may seem awkward at first. But, practice makes perfect, so be sure that all team members are trained on conversation-starting tips before setting up shop. Then, all you need to do is get out there, smile and engage!

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