Are You Deaf? Dumb? Blind at Trade Shows?


I'm constantly amazed how otherwise smart marketeers become deaf, dumb and blind at a show. I remind clients - You = Your Company - so when the company rep is incompetent, it reflects on everything about the company.


Not really deaf, but not aware of the gist of the conversation. Interaction at trade shows is quick, maybe with nods and incomplete sentences. There's a tendency to let your ears slide over important words.

Often you, as the staff person, are so intent on making the pitch that the words just tumble out, not giving the visitor an opportunity to break in with questions or comments. This is awful! The visitor feels trapped because you've committed the capital sin of Not Listening.

First, there should be no pitch, no obvious script that you follow. The words must flow naturally, and you should be speaking less than half of the time. It's your responsibility to draw the questions and concerns from the visitor.

Second, visitors have questions. You have answers but you also have literature, materials and quotes you can send for follow-up . When you do all the talking, you aren't listening and your company can't do an accurate and complete follow-up.


There's a difference between not knowing something and making up an answer. Not everyone knows everything about a company, processes or an industry, so there are times when you just don't know. What to do? Say so. Visitors require honesty.

Say - "I don't know, but I'll find out. How should I get the information to you?" Then follow-up to make sure the correct information is sent.


Not literally blind, but oblivious blind. You're not paying attention to the body language of visitors to see whether they are tentative or genuinely curious about your firm.

More important, you're blind to your own body language and the message it sends to everyone. Slouching shoulders, back to the aisle, crossed arms, bored look, talking on the cell phone or huddling with other staffers - all indicate you're more interested in yourself than others. It's a poor message to be sending for your company.

Conversely, the aggressive staffer is a visitor's worst nightmare. No one wants to be pounced on, so the "stop-'em-in-the-aisle" technique often backfires, and people avoid your booth. Also, they'll go out of their way to avoid you when they see you outside of the show floor.

Trade shows require concentration, great listening skills and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Make sure you're not deaf, dumb or blind when representing your company.

Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - is president of Trade Show Training, inc., a sales and marketing consultancy based in Richmond-VA. TSTi is celebrating its 10th year.


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