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You’ve got your big fancy booth. Now what? Let the shenanigans begin.

Lining the borders of your booth with very attractive, tall sales representatives (or hosts) doesn’t work.

The Ken and Barbie brigade is not inviting. In fact, it is often downright intimidating and leads to the opposite result, causing attendees to avoid eye contact and scurry past your booth. Think of the same effect evoked by the annoyingly aggressive mall kiosk workers, thrusting samples of hand lotion and cheap iPhone cases as you make your way through from store to store. Personally, I can’t get away from these people fast enough – they’re lucky if they get a glance and quick “No thank you!”

So you enlisted the Ken and Barbie brigade to represent your brand. What did you expect to happen?

What happens when you put a bunch of very attractive and young people in close proximity? Especially if they are not actual employees of the exhibiting company, meaning not as much is at stake. There will probably be some flirting socializing. Meaning potential prospects walk past unnoticed. This may not always be the case; however, I have witnessed this firsthand several times.

A tale of two tradeshows – examples of the good, bad and ugly in action.

What follows is a quick example of why spending money and time solely on flash – e.g. attractive staff and a fancy booth – can result in more harm than good.

Over the past 12 months I attended two industry tradeshows. I visited the booth of company A at one show and its competitor, company B at the other show. Let’s just say these were two vastly different experiences . . .

Company A

Company A had a modest booth, probably a 10×20, staffed by a senior level management representative. Meaning he knew the product up and down, had answers for all questions and successfully scored a follow-up lunch meeting. His demonstration of the product in action was flawless. This was almost one full year ago, and I remember a lot about our conversation and their product. And my supervisor ended up purchasing their product.

Not only did Company A save money by opting for a more modest booth, they accomplished their goals for the tradeshow – creating lasting professional relationships, backing up the brand and product’s value and ultimately landing a contract. A very worthwhile investment.

Company B

Company B had a bigger (maybe a 20×20 or 30?) and notably fancier booth, staffed by about 10-15 representatives. I specifically intended to visit this booth while walking the tradeshow floor because I was curious about their product. The young woman who approached me was hopefully a temp and not an actual employee of the exhibitor because what followed was . . . well, pathetic.

She wasn’t prepared to answer questions, and it showed. The giant iPhone she used to demonstrate the product was stubbornly uncooperative almost to the point of hilarity, but ultimately embarrassing for everyone.

Oh, and while it was very flattering, twice during her stumbling monologue she randomly paused to compliment my hair and jewelry. This is a tradeshow. You are there to educate people about your product and form professional relationships. This is not an appropriate place or time to ask me how I curled my hair!

Company B opted for a fancier booth, e.g. they invested a lot more in the show. And unfortunately, seemingly for nothing – except a tarnished image and failed tradeshow experience. If you are going to invest that kind of money to promote your company, spend the money to staff the booth with competent people, trained to effectively demonstrate your product! On equipment that works!

Modest exhibitor:           +1

Flashy exhibitor:             –0

Oh, and I’d almost guarantee that Company B probably blamed show management for their poor booth traffic and lack of leads, rather than reevaluating their strategy and focusing on the true issues.

Le sigh.

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