When exhibiting, your trade show etiquette is an extension of your brand. Once the day of the expo arrives and your booth is set up, the top priority for you and your staff is showcasing your brand’s best self.

Great trade show etiquette can make all the difference in your presentation, while bad manners or other missteps can cost you business. Here are 8 do’s and don’ts for staff to keep in mind as you approach new prospects and try to seal the deal.

Table of Contents

  1. Do stay on your feet
  2. Don’t get distracted
  3. Do keep a clean and tidy booth
  4. Don’t forget about your own appearance
  5. Do speak and behave mindfully
  6. Don’t forget about neighboring exhibitors
  7. Do plan an engagement strategy
  8. Do maintain positive engagement beyond the booth

1. Do stay on your feet

We mean this literally–try not to sit down at the expo unless you are stepping aside to chat with a customer. Your booth has a limited amount of seating, so you’ll want to save that space for visitors who are engaging staff in conversation.

Sitting down can put you below a standing visitor’s eye level, which makes it harder for them to approach you. Instead, make sure staff have an appropriate number of breaks when they can go sit, rest, and recharge. It’s also a good idea to opt for taller seating rather than lower seating, so if staff do sit down, they’ll still remain at eye level.

Standing can help you look proactive, enthusiastic, and ready to assist visitors. For the best trade show etiquette, use body language that is open and engaging for any passersby.

2. Don’t get distracted 

Stay focused, attentive, and open. This means avoiding scrolling through your phone or laptop, checking emails, or taking calls in your company’s booth. In addition, refrain from talking to fellow staff. This can deter visitors from approaching you.

You have a short window of opportunity to engage with passersby, so don’t miss those critical moments by getting distracted. Excellent trade show etiquette is best achieved when you pay attention to potential visitors.

3. Do keep a clean and tidy booth

An example of a clean and tidy booth with enough space for staff and guests, tall chairs, and storage space to help staff maintain good trade show etiquette.

Keep your trade show booth clean, uncluttered, and ready to go. Store away personal items, bags, giveaway boxes, and anything that won’t be used while you’re exhibiting. Visitors will spot your booth before they see your staff, and an open space is more inviting than a crowded, chaotic, or messy one.

While trade show etiquette tips like these are important to keep in mind, there’s also a limit to what staff can do with the booth they’re given. In the months leading up to a show, make sure your company:

  • Chooses the right booth size for the staff, activities, and attendance you have planned
  • Plans a layout that will comfortably fit any visitors, staff, furniture, and display pieces
  • Sets aside effective storage space to reduce clutter
  • Makes sure your booth is physically accessible and accommodating, with no barriers to entry
  • Considers incorporating COVID health and safety products, such as sanitizing stations, as needed to keep visitors comfortable

At the end of the day, your goal is to attract and engage customers, and having the right booth is crucial for supporting the efforts of your staff.

4. Don’t forget about your own appearance

You and your fellow staff are presenting your booth and your business, but you are also presenting yourselves. As a representative for your company, your appearance, hygiene, and mannerisms are a part of the package you are trying to sell.

A clean appearance can go a long way, and it is reflective of your company’s organization and image. Consider these tips:

  • Choose appropriately professional yet comfortable trade show attire.
  • Give yourself enough time to do your hair or makeup before the show if needed.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before the show and grab a coffee if you need a boost.
  • Keep your breath and body odor fresh without using any overpowering scents.
  • Stay mindful of your facial expressions and body language.

While it may seem superficial, resting and freshening up during breaks can ensure that you are maintaining a professional appearance and demeanor.

5. Do speak and behave mindfully 

One of the best ways to develop great trade show etiquette is to remain mindful of your speech and behavior. Everything you say and do should be friendly, approachable, and professional.

Speaking in an animated way can bring positivity and excitement to your booth. Your passion for your company and your interest in engaging with visitors should manifest in a positive and meaningful tone.

Your enthusiasm should match the flow of events within your booth. Laugh when something funny happens, cheer when a visitor wins a game or giveaway, and keep things light hearted and professional, even if you encounter something stressful or frustrating.

6. Don’t forget about neighboring exhibitors

Being respectful to your fellow exhibitors is a must. At a minimum, your trade show will have regulations that remind you to be mindful of other booths.

When it comes to being professional with your fellow exhibitors, respect their space in both visuals and audio. For example, playing loud or repetitive music can interrupt surrounding booths and their visitors–which isn’t a good look. Maintain your volume within a range that is legible and clear, but not overbearing.

Respecting the physical space of your neighboring exhibitors can include:

  • Watching out for lighting that might shine in their eyes
  • Ensuring that your props or displays are not getting in the way
  • Making sure that you do not intrude on their space

7. Do plan an engagement strategy

When surrounded by several other booths that visitors may stop at, you want to hook your audience as quickly as you can. Your trade show etiquette can make or break whether visitors decide to stop by your booth. Get ready by planning and practicing how you will engage passersby before the big day.

Start by empathizing with your visitors’ experience. If you were in their shoes, would you feel inclined or comfortable to approach your booth? What would make you want to engage?

An important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to intimidate your visitors. For example, scheduling a staff rotation can keep workers from getting burned out, while also avoiding a situation where you have an overwhelming number of company representatives that scare off potential visitors.

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Divide up duties among your staff based on their knowledge and strengths. Make sure each one of them is trained and confident in the information they need to know to talk to visitors or perform demonstrations.

Some workers can stay on the front lines, engaging with fresh newcomers, while others can be ready to give a more in-depth view into your business. In some cases, it may make the most sense to hire professionals who are skilled at reeling in visitors at trade shows for those initial touchpoints, and then passing potential customers off to your in-house staff who have detailed knowledge about your products, services, and processes.

8. Do maintain positive engagement beyond the booth

Trade show etiquette extends beyond the booth as well. In between presentations and events, you and your team are still representatives of your business. From start to finish, your goal is to start conversations with peers and potential customers, introducing and sharing your brand with them.

Strike up a conversation with someone as you leave an elevator or run into them at the hotel or banquet table. Whether you are on an airplane, at the airport, or in public or private transport, each place is an opportunity to show that your passion stays with you, even off the clock. A helpful tip is to wear something that makes your brand identifiable and unique from other exhibitors, such as a company shirt or jacket. 

This is also an opportunity to show interest in other exhibitors from your industry. These in-between moments can spark connections and conversations about industry trends. Listen to what other businesses have to say, and you could even pick up some helpful tips and practices for your own company.

Make the Most of Your Trade Show Etiquette with the Perfect Booth

From start to finish, your trade show etiquette is a reflection of your company image. While you focus on how your staff will interact with visitors, Cardinal Expo can set the perfect stage for your company with a custom booth design.

Not only that, but our full-service management means we’ll handle all your booth’s logistics as well, including shipping, set up, take down, storage, and more. With years of experience across industries, we’ll help you navigate the entire process without a hitch from start to finish.

Contact us below to learn how we can help you make the most of your next trade show.

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We at Cardinal Expo are here to answer any questions you may have, provide you with additional information, and create an effective solution for your exhibit needs.

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