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Trade Show Etiquette for Presenters & Attendees

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Promo Expert

You learned how to mind your manners as a kid. It was expected for you to say “please” and “thank you,” not to interrupt when someone was talking, and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Those same rules hold true when you’re navigating a trade show, but whether you’re a presenter or attendee, there are also a few other things to keep in mind.

How should you behave at a trade show? What are some do’s and don’ts? Whether you’re a presenter or attendee, you should pay mind to a few basic rules of etiquette!

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Trade shows can be a perfect opportunity – so long as the exhibitors understand the potential for both the right and wrong kind of exposure.

– Don Debelak, author for Inventors’ Digest

Presenters

As a presenter, it’s important to come to the trade show with the right energy. After all, you’re there to make a name for yourself and drive more traffic to your business. Here are some tips to ensure you make a good impression!

Know Your Product or Service

Know Your Product or Service

It should come naturally to talk about your products or services, to the point where you don’t have to rehearse a tired elevator pitch. If you have a lot of “uhhhs,” then you have a problem. When you’re natural, it’ll be easier to expertly answer any questions that come your way.

Stay Off the Phone

Stay Off the Phone

That email or Facebook notification can wait. Looking down at your phone makes you seem way less approachable, and the whole point of being at a trade show is for people to approach you! Tuck that phone away and save it for later.

Look the Part

Look the Part

Everyone at the booth should be dressed in either branded merchandise, like polos with your logo, or professional clothes. Make sure you hide unsightly boxes or bags, keep your table runner clean, and put your papers in a neat stack. A smile is always good, too!

Arrive on Time

Arrive on Time

Set an alarm and ensure you have enough time to commute to the trade show and help set up the booth display. Your co-workers are relying on you, and it wouldn’t look very professional to show up in the middle of a presentation.

Lay Off the Perfume/Cologne

Lay Off the Perfume/Cologne

If this was speed dating, then by all means spray on the Chanel No. 5. At a crowded trade show, however, a super fragrant perfume or cologne will make people feel like they have even less breathing air. Pop in a mint if you’re feeling smelly.

Talk With the Attendees

Talk With the Attendees

While it may seem familiar, you’re not there to talk to your co-workers. Branch out of the safety of the booth and try to win over the crowd. Be authentic and interested in the person who comes to visit. This will help you convince them to give your product or service a try.

Bring the Freebies

Bring the Freebies

The attendees had to get into a car, find a babysitter, and take time out of their weekend to be there. The least you can do is give them a free water bottle or stress ball to take home. Put some thought and effort into your promotional products and find some trendy items the crowd will love!

Exhibitor Do's & Don'ts

Do
Don’t
  • Do

    Speak confidently

    Smile

    Use open body language

    Shake hands with attendees

    Dress professionally

    Give out free swag

    Be mindful of your speaking volume

    Keep your booth organized

    Maintain a positive attitude

    Stand up straight

    Stay enthusiastic

    Engage in authentic conversation

    Don’t

    Look at your phone too often

    Wear too much perfume or cologne

    Sit while the attendee is standing

    Talk more than you listen

    Invade personal space

    Show up late

    Eat or chew gum

    Swear or use offensive language

    Complain or roll your eyes

    Sit, lean, or slouch against the wall

    Disappear for hours

    Come across too “salesy”

It can be nothing short of exhausting going to a trade show. However, it’s worth making the best impression possible on the crowd. Recruit only the staff members who have the social graces and enthusiastic personalities to practice these rules of etiquette.

Are you prepared to exhibit at a trade show? Make sure you have all your ducks in a row with this helpful trade show checklist.

Attendees

Just because you’re technically at the trade show as a guest, doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all when it comes to etiquette. Be respectful at every booth and keep these tips in mind.

Engage in Conversation

Engage in Conversation

Don’t let the exhibitor speak at you the whole time. This is your chance to ask genuine questions and show interest in the product or service. At the same time, give a hearty “hello” before you start going into the fine details. These are real people you’re interacting with after all, not robots.

Follow Up

Follow Up

Did you enjoy your experience at a particular booth? If you liked the business’s product or service, give them a call and let them know you were at the trade show. This might even lead to an exclusive discount, just for you!

Post on Social Media

Post on Social Media

Take time away from selfies and viral videos to share your trade show experience. Not only are you helping the business get more publicity, but you’re showing followers that you’re ahead of the curve with what’s new and exciting.

Spend Time at the Right Booths

Spend Time at the Right Booths

While it might seem courteous to hear what someone has to say, you’re doing the business a disservice if you have no interest. If you have no intention of following up, leave the food and freebies behind and move on to another booth that’s offering something you value.

Go With the Flow

Go With the Flow

It would be encouraged at a Slayer concert, but the trade show floor isn’t the place to throw elbows and shove your way through the crowd. Be patient and walk at a casual pace from booth to booth, and don’t stop randomly in the middle of the aisle. You can always grab a map ahead of time to avoid confusion.

Offer Compliments

Offer Compliments

The presenters worked incredibly hard to set up an awesome display. Let them know their efforts are appreciated, especially considering the typical cost to rent a booth is between $100 - $150 per square foot. Something as simple as “your sign is super cool” helps validate that cost for the business.

Make Recommendations

Make Recommendations

If you had a good experience at one booth, send others in that direction. Trade shows can be huge and have hundreds of businesses at one time. Other attendees will feel less overwhelmed when they have a good starting point.

Attendee Do's & Don'ts

Do
Don’t
  • Do

    Be courteous of the crowd

    Ask questions

    Follow up with companies

    Post pics on social media

    Compliment nice displays or promo items

    Spend time at booths you are interested in

    Engage in authentic conversation

    Recommend good booths to attendees

    Set appointments ahead of time if possible

    Show respect to the presenter’s space

    Give space between you and the displays

    Clean up after yourself

    Don’t

    Push or shove people

    Bombard the presenters with questions

    Take the giveaways at booths you’re passing

    Take photographs without permission

    Assume everything is a free sample

    Waste time at a booth if you’re not interested

    Demand a discount or free stuff

    Ignore everyone around you

    Interrupt when the presenter is speaking.

    Lay your stuff down on the trade show table

    Lean against the display or booth

    Leave your trash at a booth or on the floor

At the end of the day, you’re at the trade show to learn something new. Keep an open mind as you go from booth to booth and be courteous to both the presenters and other attendees.

Spark Media Solutions spoke with attendees about what they don’t want to see from presenters!

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Think of trade show etiquette not as a series of rules or guidelines, but as a performance. It’s a stage, and a very public one, where your audience expects you to be on your best behavior.

– Mel White, VP of Marketing at Classic Exhibits

Why Go to a Trade Show?

If you have to put in all this effort, you might be thinking “What’s the point?” It boils down to the ROI, or return on investment, of going to a trade show. An amazing 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority. This means the person you’re talking to can easily turn into a future customer. On the flip side, a trade show is a great way for attendees to discover something new. You might just find the product or service of your dreams!

Trade shows are also a way to give personality to your business. The staff at the booth, the interactive activities, the look of the display, and the free swag turn your brand into an experience rather than an idea. The attendees now have a memory of your business they can refer to when they need a product or service like the one you offer. This is how your business stands out from the thousands of others!

Stats for Success

People form a first impression of a business in 50 milliseconds.

Trade show visitors will tell 6 or more people about their experience.

85% of an exhibitor's success lies in the performance of the staff.

The Bottom Line

You’re sharing the trade show floor with many other people. It’s common courtesy to be mindful of space, friendly in your interactions, and respectful of each other’s time. If you’re there as a presenter, these rules are especially important as they reflect back on your business. Even if you’re not sure what fork to use at a business dinner, you can still show off your good manners at the next trade show!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a super cool Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. She’s a fan of diving into the history of some of the earliest promos on the planet. If you need her, you’ll find her buried in research, in the middle of a phone interview, or singing way off-tune in her office.