2011 ASI Chicago Show: An Open Letter to the Exhibitors

Dear ASI Exhibitors,

What a wonderful experience! It was great meeting so many of you, checking out exciting new products, and even giving out a few Bubbas along the way.

I got a few geeky thrills, too, most notable in the form of an especially nerdy imprint.

In other news, officials at the Pacific nuclear research facility have denied the rumor that a case of missing plutonium was, in fact, stolen from their vault two weeks ago.

Do you get the reference?

At a crowded, industry trade show, competing for attention is challenging. You used various strategies to get my attention, keep my interest, and send me off with a solid first impression.

Most of you were wonderful and memorable. Others… could use some pointers.


Thanks for the suggestion. Kal-El will love this!

First, the good stuff:

To the lady who commented on the product I was looking at and asked me what you could tell me about it, thank you!

  • Giving me information on the item I’m looking at shows that you’re not just launching into a prepared sales pitch: you’re gauging my personal interest.
  • The open-ended question was a bit of a mind hack (asking WHAT you could tell me rather than IF I needed to know anything, you sneaky thing), but you were friendly and it did prompt me to engage with you.

To the gentleman who chatted with me about Chicago sports for ten minutes while things were slow, I appreciate your effort to connect with me!

  • Our conversation about your company revealed we had something in common, which made you and your product line all the more memorable.
  • Your enthusiasm and knowledge about my favorite Chicago sports team assured me that you were genuinely interested and knowledgeable, not just agreeing with what I said in hopes of making a sale.

You two and so many other folks were wonderful to meet, and I took note not only of your product line but also your kindness and professionalism.

Some of your other strategies were memorable, too… but for all the wrong reasons.

Trade Show Salesman

I’ve got a rope, revolver, and lead pipe for sale here, but I’ve always been fond of the candlestick personally.

Now, the tough stuff:

I am a short, young woman. I know I’m generally about six to twelve inches below your eyeline, but please make an effort to make eye contact and talk with me. I just know you didn’t ignore me – the person standing closest to your booth, looking at you and your catalog, saying “excuse me” – to talk to the taller, older gentlemen behind me, because they better fit your idea of what a person worth your time looks like. It must be the height thing, and since wearing six-inch stilettos at a convention is awfully painful, please make sure you’ve acknowledged interested parties of all heights.

I’m not a big fan of the barcodes on the front of our badges. Sure, scanning it will give you a mailing address or email, but you can get that from a business card. The most aggravating part of the barcodes is that many of you apparently had a quota to meet. That is the only way I can explain some of the unprofessional and downright embarrassing behavior.

Over the course of one day, I saw exhibitors:

  • Ask if they could scan my badge while I was browsing their product line without first asking if I was interested in additional information
  • Step in front of me in the aisles and ask if they could scan my badge, without a greeting or any introduction to their product line
  • Attempt to “snipe” me from their booths without asking my permission

The ultimate goal for your presence at a trade show or convention is not to get more contact information. It’s to get more customers. That means more interested prospects. That means not turning off those who might have been interested in your product line if you hadn’t jumped out at them like a snake with a caffeine addiction.

Shaking on the deal

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership, Mr. Dent.

Bottom line: make sure you’re cultivating long-term business relationships even at short-term events.

The vast majority of you at the convention were polite and professional. Unfortunately, the aggressive tactics used by some were very much a turn-off, and yes, I did take note of which businesses they were.

But I don’t want to end on a down note like that, my new friends! I had a great time getting to see products in person I had only read about on our site. Hands on is the way to go!

And I definitely have a newfound respect for those at Quality Logo Products whose job it is to hand-select each of the products we offer. There’s so much to choose from, and so many of you made it easy to get the answers to our questions.

I hope to make it out to another ASI show sometime soon, perhaps during a week where we’re not in triple digit temperatures.

Thanks for everything!

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!

Don’t miss our other ASI posts by Amy Swanson, Joe Giorgi, and Jill Tooley.

Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.


  1. JPorretto

    Shouldn’t it be lone pine mall? Or was that the alternate timeline? I forget… NICE reference and NICE post though!

    • Jana Quinn

      It’s originally Twin Pines Mall, but since Marty knocks one over in 1955, it becomes Lone Pine Mall in the “new” 1985. The best part of the whole thing was that I only needed to point at it, and Joe and Jill got it immediately.

      We. Are. Nerds.

      • JPorretto

        Right there with you. I think I can find an appropriate BTTF quote for most conversations. But I just keep them to myself and chuckle…

      • Mandy Kilinskis

        Jeff and I exchanged Back to the Future quotes multiple times yesterday.

      • Ness

        Yes, I would like the above tote bag.


  2. Bret Bonnet

    It’s sure a good thing that I loaded the “squads” name badges with fake mailing addresses and bogus emails!

    In the end… Jeff is about to get a lot more junk mail than what his Fischer Price mailbox (remember, Jeff is short), can handle!

    [HINT] [HINT]


    • JPorretto

      Oh Yeah? Well lets see if you [bleep] can do 88…

  3. Amanda

    This is a fantastic letter Jana! =) I love how you told both the good and not so good parts while keeping the whole letter generally positive. I can tell you enjoyed your time at the show, and I think the vendors would enjoy reading this–you gave some great pointers about how they can improve.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks! The negative experiences were in the minority, but my point was that they shouldn’t have happened at all. In some cases, it seemed that the people who were there (or their superiors) were more interested in quantity over quality, which is unfortunate. I would love to see conversion rates based on approach method.

  4. Rachel

    Exhibitors “sniping” your badge from their booths made me laugh–I can understand feeling the pressure to make a quota, but you’re right, that’s no way to make a connection with a customer! It’s good to hear you had a lot of positive experiences mixed in with the not-so-positive, though.

  5. amy

    Great post Jana!!

    You had me cracking up with the different ways they would scan our bar codes. Some were a lot more enthusiastic to get that information than others LOL.

    Like Amanda said, good job at keeping it classy and not ‘ratting out’ the bad ones or ending on that note 🙂

  6. Joseph Giorgi

    Though I didn’t come across any myself, I heard that those “snipers” were quite a nuisance at the show. Hopefully, after reading this, they’ll think twice before resorting to the same tactics next year! Quota or no quota, nothing excuses the unwillingness to at least talk to attendees before asking for (or simply TAKING) their information!

    Great post, Jana!

    *** And I definitely “got the reference.” 😉

  7. Kyle

    I didn’t attend, but these sound like some great words of advice. I can’t stand when a salesman ignores me as a person, but seems hell-bent on taking my money (or in your case, information). I’m glad to hear these negative experiences were few and far between though. Great post, by the way. This sounds like a great trade show to attend.

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