Setting up a booth at a trade show, is, by its nature, very expensive. Even the most basic display at a high-traffic tradeshow will incur costs in the tens of thousands. And, if your company opts for a truly impressive booth (one with two-story digital displays the size of many full-family apartments), the costs will be much higher – sometimes in the millions of dollars.

Of course, the high price of entry doesn’t discourage many of our clients from participating in trade shows nationally – and even globally. That’s because trade shows can be very effective as networking and branding tools. They lead to new relationships with vendors and clients, and, ultimately, they’re a major driver of business. Simply put, trade shows are worth investing in.

An investment in the display, though, is only the first step. The employees manning the booth are just as important. To prepare your staff to take full advantage of the trade show, it’s worth investing in them, too.

That’s where trade show training comes in. Don’t invest in a million dollar booth only to leave the people manning it unprepared. Here are the four things your employees need to know before they head to the tradeshow.

What the Company Message Is

The first step in ensuring that your staff is primed for success is to develop a cohesive company message for the event – and then to make sure that it’s communicated to your employees.

What are the key stories that you’d like to make known at the show? For example, is your company gearing up for innovation? Are you primed to double down on the success of last year? Are you pivoting in a new direction?

Take the time to develop your message, and then make sure that everybody who’s included in the conference clearly understands what branding they’re trying to convey. Remember, mixed messages can do more than cause confusion. If one of your employees is saying something that doesn’t align with your company goals, there’s the danger that it could get taken out of context and reflect poorly on your company.

How to Sell

Once your employees understand what the company message is, the next step is to learn how to “sell” it.

We understand: often, the folks who are manning the booth are the employees who are most familiar with the technical components of your display. These folks come from highly technical backgrounds. Many times, their default messaging is not to sell – it’s to state facts when communicating.

Educating is important, but to ensure that your company message is communicated clearly, these people will also need to be able to sell it: to engage in the small talk, the strategic questioning, and the careful listening that are required to build relationships

While these skills may not come naturally to technical employees, the good news is that they can be learned – and that’s where training comes in. From setting up a mock booth for practice, to more general instruction on marketing communication, training can help even highly technical people learn to sell a message.

How to Bridge Back to the Company Message

Preparing your employees to deliver your message is essential– but what happens when things get off track?

For example, let’s say that your company is planning on running a prominent booth at a major conference. Everything is ready to go – but then, a few days prior to the conference, press is released that claims that the company has recently received a major fine for failing to comply with environmental regulations.

Your people may not have time to prepare – but they’ll still need to know what to say, because they will certainly be asked. This is where bridging comes in.

First of all, it’s important to note that, in the event of breaking news, the sooner you can prepare your people for questions, the better. As much as possible, communicate a positioning statement to your trade show staff – something like: “We were all very disappointed to see the outcome of that, because we take tremendous pride in our environmental actions. Let’s get back to talking about this technology.”

How to Prepare for an Ambush Interview

Of course, you may not always have time to issue a staff-wide positioning statement on how to respond to breaking news. Or, your staff may simply be confronted by questions they couldn’t have expected.

Here’s the thing to remember: reporters are motivated to get a juicy story, and topics out of the ordinary always get more attention. If thousands of people attend a conference like they do every year, but five people protest that conference, it’s the protesters who will be on the news.

Because of that, reporters tend to look for stories that are out of the ordinary, and that can lead to unexpected lines of questioning.

Sometimes, that happens in the form of ambush interviews. For example, one of our global clients was dealing with a controversial issue around a specific region, and they were being very careful about what they chose to say. As they dealt with the issue, they were understandably focusing their attention around the region where the situation was developing.

However, a speaker for the company was presenting at a conference in another location. After speaking, he was ambushed by a reporter who confronted him about the issue even though neither the conference nor his presentation had had anything to do with it – and even though they were geographically distant from the situation.

Fortunately for the speaker and his company, he had received media training. He was able to mitigate the confrontation, and it ended up being a much less interesting interview than it could have been.

It pays to be prepared, and media training can help your staff prepare for the unexpected.

Next Steps

So, there you have it: the four things your staff needs to be prepared for before they represent your organization at a trade show.

We’ll leave you with a few final tips as you prepare for your next event:

  • Practice makes perfect when it comes to communicating a message. Staff should practice before the event.
  • It’s best to meet with employees in person to brief them on their role, instead of assuming that they’ll read an email containing a company position statement.
  • Media training for a trade show is best done within a couple of months of the event, so that it’s fresh in participants minds, and so that any developing issues can be discussed.

Don’t spend exorbitant amounts on trade show booths, only to neglect the people who are manning your display. Capitalize on the full value of your next trade show with media training. Get in touch with us online or at 281-240-2026 to find out how we can customize our training to your needs and group.