Event Marketing

How do Marketers Justify Their Trade Show Spend

…if Staffers Aren’t Maximizing Return on Investment (ROI) and Objectives (ROO)?

Part Two of a Two-Part Article by Bill Lauf Jr., Strategy Consultant for Skyline TradeTec

There is a simple answer…

it’s really difficult because staffer performance, arguably, is the biggest variable affecting trade show ROI and ROO.

Of all the factors that influence the success of a company’s exhibiting, staff performance is the wildest card. Critical aspects of a trade show program like planning, promotion, and design are able to be refined for weeks and months well before the show. Booth staffing, however, is like opening night at a Broadway show – it’s live and in person meaning it cannot be re-worked or re-done. A well-planned, well-promoted and well-designed exhibit will not make up for an underperforming booth staff.

Here are a few more reasons why:

Trade shows require more complex communication for marketing

Think about it.  Marketers spend most of their workdays in offices on their computers or sitting in meetings. They communicate a lot using their heads and hands; typing with fingers and thumbs, talking on the phone or through VOIP web audio, and speaking across a conference room table or office desk. Aside from the occasional “stand up in the front” presentation, whole body communications mostly take place in hallways or near the coffee machine and these conversations are with people who we are around much of the time. We know them and they know us.

Trade shows and events, on the other hand, require staffers to use whole-body communications with strangers for hours at a time. How we use our arms — are they folded or flailing (not good)? Are they controlled and purposeful (very good)? Are we slouching, balanced, distracted, approachable, using a one-size-fits-all approach or are we matching the attendee’s body language? It’s unrealistic to expect top performance from staffers if they are not prepared for the unique environment that trade shows provide.

Salespeople aren’t always natural booth staffers

While it may seem that someone who sells your products or services would be a natural for staffing your exhibit, that’s often not true.  While sales staffers may have the social skills to engage attendees, they often lack the ability to compress their usual 30- to 60-minute sales pitch down to five to ten minutes. In some of my recent field work where I benchmarked booth staff performance, I saw salespeople spend too much time chatting with fellow staffers or telling too many stories to attendees.

Trade shows are like panning for gold. The exhibitors that constantly engage and qualify (pan) the audience for opportunities (gold) are those who interact with more attendees and reap the most value from the show.

Subject matter experts (SMEs), like engineers and software developers, have a different challenge on the show floor

SMEs who are comfortable with product and service details are now required to behave more like salespeople. If they are expected to engage attendees on the floor, they need to learn and practice selling skills to be effective. On the other hand, if they are going to have prequalified attendees delivered to them by other staffers working the aisles, they need to practice the presentation or demonstration that they will be providing.

To maximize staff performance takes consistent coaching and practice

I took my eldest son, Max, to see Pedro Martinez battle the Yankees at Fenway Park in the ALCs in 2001.  I took my youngest son, Sam, to Toronto to see his favorite pro tennis star, Rafael Nadal, play Andy Murray in the semifinals of the Rogers Masters tournament in 2008. They were both great father-son experiences.

The tennis match and the ballgame were exciting, but what happened before both of these events was something exhibitors should keep in mind.  Every player practiced in front of the assembling crowd right before the contest. The top players achieved a high level of success by consistently learning and practicing.  How many exhibit staffers are able to do the same thing in their chosen profession?

Too often, the “athletes” staffing our exhibits get little to no training, coaching, or practice. We move them from behind their desks and computers to a busy trade show floor and expect them to perform at a high level.

To improve your return on investment and objective(s), teach and role play with your staffers to get them prepared for your next show. Marketing staffers can prepare talk tracks and lead capture techniques for everyone while also working on their understanding of body language. Salespeople should learn and role play a streamlined sales process. SMEs must understand the clues that body language provides as well as practice the skill of taking qualified leads and art of disengaging with visitors. And everyone needs to practice the smoothest way to pass an attendee from one staffer to another.

A skilled and well-trained staff can improve the success of your program. It’s a difference that management will be delighted to see.

About the Author

For over three decades, Bill has worked in the events/trade show marketing industry. He was the corporate sales trainer for Skyline Exhibits, Inc. from 2000-2013 and has run his own consultant services since 2014. Trained in consultative selling, social styles, negotiating, presentation skills, advanced discovery and customer service, he now creates and delivers seminars and trainings on trade show marketing to exhibiting companies in the US and Canada. Additionally, he is an accomplished tenor (4-string) guitarist who writes, performs and records his own songs and often brings that performance dynamic to his trainings. Bill is a strategy consultant for Skyline TradeTec of Lombard, Illinois.

About the author


Guest Contributor

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment




The Healthcare and IT Marketing Community (HITMC) is an extension of the HITMC conference that is the first of its kind event that brings together marketing and PR professionals from throughout the health care community. We strive to provide amazing marketing and PR related content that helps HealthIT companies and healthcare organizations  stand out amidst all the noise of the industry. If you’re looking to market to hospital executives, doctors, practice managers, patients, or other healthcare professionals, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the HITMC community!