The Do’s and Dont’s of staffing your exhibition stand

Writing on a notepad

Your stand looks the part and you’ve got the position you wanted. The printed material looks fantastic and you’ve erased any technical glitches. Now, whether you take your own people or hire staff from an agency, you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Without brow-beating them, take the time to talk staff through the overall objectives and your expectations of them.

Devise a schedule…

Working on an exhibition stand can take its toll. Working under hot lights, breathing in stale air, and with lots of people making lots of noise is exhausting – physically, mentally and emotionally. Your team need to take regular breaks, so they can grab a drink, maybe have something to eat and take in some fresh air. By allowing them to do so, they’ll come back to the stand at the top of their game.

Assign clear roles and empower your team…

Before the exhibition starts, make sure that each team member knows exactly what their responsibilities are and what decisions are within their remit – what they do have the authority to agree to and what should be referred to another member of staff. A clear level of autonomy will give your team an air of confidence and authority when dealing with prospective customers.

Make sure that staff can hold an intelligent conversation, no matter what…

Long before the show you should prepare a document which team members can revise or use an aide memoir. So when a visitor to the stand asks a question, the team member is confident of providing an intelligent and informative answer. To avoid clichéd and prescriptive conversations, perhaps identify possible ice-breakers, ideas to steer a conversation in a particular direction or something to fall back on should conversation dry up.

Familiarise yourself with your surroundings…

The stand and the event hall will be your home for the next few days, so before it all kicks off it would be a good idea to get to know your stand – where are materials such as brochures, additional bottles of water, spare batteries etc. You should also familiarise yourself with the layout of the hall – where the toilets are, where refreshments are available etc.

Agree a dress code…

Exactly what the dress code is will depend on the nature of your business and the show but in every case team members should be smart, groomed and presentable. You should have a theme to maintain cohesiveness within the team such as shirt and tie, open-neck shirt, skirt or trousers, or a particularly colour combination. But dressing them in a uniform will make them look like automatons or fast-food chain employee, so you must leave some room for expression of personality. You certainly don’t need to douse yourself with enough aftershave or perfume to make people’s eyes water. And remember the dress code doesn’t include a sandwich or a bag of crisps so make sure that staff know to take their break away from the stand.

Allow plenty of time…

Don’t be late. Particularly at larger exhibitions, the volume of exhibitors and visitors can have a real impact on road traffic and public transport. If the venue doesn’t have dedicated parking, you could find yourself driving around the locality for quite a while looking for a space. And even if it does, you’ll be fighting with every other exhibitor and visitor for a space. Also, make sure that you get to the stand at least 30 minutes before the doors open to set up and tidy from the previous day.

Be approachable and not pushy…

When a visitor walks on to the stand, there should always be someone ready to engage with them. Make sure that team members know who it is otherwise you’ll end up with three people walking towards them or ignoring them altogether. Impress on your team the importance of taking every opportunity to engage with visitors. Don’t just talk at them about the company and its products or services. Take the time to find out about them and their needs. Then, if appropriate, use clear language to illustrate how your product or service could address their particular issue.

Be aware of body language…

From across the hall, visitors can’t hear what you’re saying but they can see what your body is saying. Crossing your arms, slouching or huddling with colleagues all give visitors a negative perception of your business, that you’d rather be somewhere else and that you certainly don’t want anyone to visit your stand. Don’t stand in clusters at the front of the stand looking like bouncers. Instead, staff adopt a confident stance with a welcoming smile, and should be spread out, keeping access to the stand open and allowing foot-traffic to flow

Get plenty of rest…

Depending on where the event is being held, it can be tempting to sample the local nightlife or meet up with your contemporaries after the exhibition hall closes its doors. But don’t underestimate just how physically, mentally and emotionally tiring manning an exhibition stand can be. Don’t rely on running on adrenaline and caffeine alone – you need your sleep.

And finally, show your staff just how grateful you are…

When the show is finally over, make sure that you thank and reward your staff for their efforts. You could take them out to lunch, hold a small office drinks party, buy individual gifts or give them a small bonus. Your staff are key to your success or failure at a show, so it’s important to let them know that they’re valued.

Tom Rigby, Author

For over 20 years, Tom Rigbyhas helped businesses across the UK to find their voice and communicate their messages, in print and online, whether they want to generate sales, attract customers, inform stakeholders, educate the public or persuade them to join a cause. He is a published author and occasional contributor to a number of publications. www.tomrigby.com

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