Working With Your Exhibit Staff: How to Get Their Buy-In


If you are like most people in charge of a corporate exhibit program, you are probably not the person who gets to choose the people (and personalities) who become your exhibit staff. Even more daunting, you are not their manager, except for, at most, three days. In order to get them to buy in to exhibit staffing, you need to create a working environment that not only motivates your staffers but builds morale and, dare we say, inspires them.

Here are some iconoclastic dos and don’ts you probably haven’t heard before–and which may subvert the way “thing have always been done.”

Don’t: Ask your staff to wear uniforms.

Do: Set a reasonable professional dress code. A good rule to follow is that salespeople should look successful, and perhaps slightly more successful than the target market. Face it: people look and feel better in clothes they buy for themselves. Not only do their own clothes fit better, they are more expensive than what you can provide as a corporate uniform. There are too many different body types in a random group, and you don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable. The old rationale for uniforms is attendees can identify a staffer to ask for information. In what universe does the attendee make the first move? A self-assured staffer can approach attendees confidently.

Don’t: Spring exhibit activities and technologies on your staff the morning of the show.

Do: Send them links to the technology you will be using ahead of time.  Include a brief explanation using bulleted copy. It doesn’t hurt to solicit suggestions.

Don’t: Have a mandatory big-night-out corporate dinner.

Do: Compile a list of restaurants from Yelp, Open Table, TripAdvisor or whatever your favorite online source is. Don’t select only meat-and-potatoes or chain restaurants: think ethnic cuisine, food trucks, or something a little funky. Link to the on-line descriptions, and identify restaurants that are per-diem friendly. Supply the list to the staff, and they will have a much better evening freed from the constraint of “gotta show up.”

Don’t: Let your staffers work full days each day of the show.

Do: Post a schedule of booth duty, and let staffers switch out. Booth duty is grueling. Standing on concrete floors, no matter how thick the carpet padding, is tough. And exhausting. Suggest that staffers walk the floor and check out competitors during their time off. Rare is the staffer who can’t go back to a hotel room and work. On the other hand, don’t be prescriptive. Their time is their own. Added advantage: your staff can eat either at the end of a shift or before. That means no downtime in your exhibit.

Don’t: Announce that you are scooping up all the leads and feeding them into the corporate distribution mechanism.

Do: Allow staffers to keep one lead per working session as their own prospect. Face-to-face interactions create affinity. That’s what trade shows are all about. Take advantage of and respect the personal connection.

Don’t: Tell staffers they shouldn’t talk to one another.

Do: Tell your staff they can talk to one another, but only if they are facing out toward the aisle. The important part of appearing accessible and friendly is not turning their backs to the aisle.

Don’t: Give your staff the shuttle bus schedule without suggesting other transportation options.

Do: Check with your hotel. Some hotels have bikes for guests to use. Many major convention cities now have bike rental programs. You can even institute a steps challenge for your staff and encourage walking. Reward the top stepper with an Amazon gift card. Remember salespeople can be very competitive.

If the roles were reversed, how would you like to be treated? First of all, you would want to be treated as an adult, as a productive employee, and member of the team. You would also like to enjoy yourself. Keep that top of mind as you put together a plan to work with your staff. The best result is that you’ll cultivate enthusiastic people begging to be part of the team for the next show.

Did you know surveys have shown that approximately 85% of an exhibit’s memorability is based on staff interactions? That’s one of the findings you will discover in The Future of Healthcare Exhibiting is Learning 2017. Download the study now.

future of healthcare is learning 2017