Infect the Trade Show Zombies…

Professionally working an exhibition –

An interesting networking environment in which strangers may not want to talk to you, but, you definitely want to talk to them is when you have the opportunity to work a stand at a trade show or exhibition.

Your company has paid big money to be visible at the show and the competition are all around you. The visitors have signed up to tour the floor and can expect to be targeted numerous times at every booth.  It is not an ideal environment for friendly chats, although the networking opportunities are huge, as most of your peers are likely to be in the hall.

Strangers walk by, trying to prevent distractions, pretending to be on their phones, head down, and avoiding eye contact. Exhibitors are working hard to interrupt, attract and draw the attention of every passer-by.  It reminds me of a scene from an American department store, deep in the perfume/after-shave section – ‘trade-show for men’ anyone?

It’s not the most genuine of environments and many organisations will have a gimmick or two to assist with attracting the ‘punters’ eye towards their stand. When I work a trade show for a client I particularly enjoy the challenge of communicating in an exciting and congested space.

Zombie Alert!

What I do is interrupt the traditional pattern of the bystander in a way that they don’t expect. With a big smile I ask if they are having fun, if they have seen anything amazing at the show so far and I’m genuinely interested in their reply.  The body language tells me a great deal as to how this comment lands and what my next move is.  If there is a hint of a smile I turn my enthusiasm up a little and suggest what I consider to be the most fun aspect of the show (this could be a serious or a cheeky response, depending on the interaction) and I work hard to encourage a conversation about anything that isn’t related to the product on my stand.  This way we are more likely to connect without the ‘sales’ bias that they have received throughout their ‘show’ journey.

I tend to ask a lot of questions to explore how they are motivated, how their day has been and what interests them at the show. All of my responses can be made to measure based on the information gathered.  If they are likely to benefit from our products and service then I will introduce these when appropriate.

Trade show bored The key is to get into friendly and productive conversations and these must begin with what your ‘visitor’ is interested in.  I begin with varied topics that take us away from the ‘show’ pressure and make connections based on subjects that they find engaging.

You’ve got to share the enthusiasm though, this has to be done with passion and purpose and provide enough energy to lift all of those in attendance.

You can become the go to guy/girl on your stand or in your hall by having conversations about any number of fun topics based, only loosely, on the show. Infect those zombies with your fervour, brighten their day with your upbeat attitude and sell yourself before talking about your products or service.

You, and your prospect, will be among the few people in the building having fun. Most of those arriving at the show won’t be expecting to have an entertaining day but almost all of them want to spend time with exciting people.  Be the answer to their silent prayers and help them offload the zombie habit.

I find that I infect others on the stand too.  We are soon all feeding off the energy generated by animated and enjoyable conversations.

Once the conversation is done and you have explored solutions that you offer which fit the needs of your guest ease out of the exchange by using the past tense.

Use phrases such as ‘it’s been lovely speaking with you’ and ‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time together,’ which psychologically signpost that the conversation is nearing an end. Follow up by repeating any promises you have made (sending information, meeting at a later date etc.) and wish your ‘new friend’ an excellent rest of their day.

As with a great deal of phenomenal communication, it’s not rocket science, but if done well, it can put you among the stars. Enjoy.

Nick Looby can be booked as a professional presenter / speaker or to work your stand to transform your results and turbo charge your return on investment. Call Nick on 07800662450 or email him on