Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Working a Booth at a Convention

When you're in publishing, working healthcare conventions is part of the deal. There is an art to working a booth at a convention, I think, and also a science.

I don't profess to be competent at either, but I've worked enough booths over the years that I've picked up some techniques that, if you ever wind up at a booth, might help you get through the experience successfully.

  • Dress for the image you want to present. I always try to look professional but I'm a rather casual guy, so I often wear a nice polo shirt with dress pants. For some shows, particularly for an opening night reception, I wear a dress shirt and tie, but I never wear a suit. To me a suit projects a bit too much formality, which is not me at all. But it may be you, and if so, wear it proudly. But always dress professionally, everything clean and neat.

  • Keep that cup o' Joe hidden or discretely out of the way. Exhibitors have to eat too, and attendees understand that. But do everyone a favor and keep food and drinks as much out of sight as possible.

  • Use your body language to silently "invite attendees into the booth. I try never to stand in front of the booth and cross my arms. That posture can seem off-putting to some people, and the idea is to seem inviting and open.

  • Never block the opening to the booth. This is critical when the booth is small, not so important when it's gigantic. Either way, try not to block something important that you want attendees to see. Even when I'm talking with authors or potential authors, I try to inhabit only a portion of the booth entrance, when in fact there is an entrance.

  • Don't force contact. For people passing by the booth, smile, perhaps say hello, but don't force contact. I've seen vendors in a booth literally chasing after attendees to get them into the booth. Sad. Say professional. Be nice, be open, be inviting, but don't push. The attendees don't owe us a visit to the booth. We owe it to them to be there, to listen to them, and try to meet their needs, that's just good business sense. But they owe us nothing. It's good to keep that in mind, I think.

  • Honesty is a good thing. At least some of your competitors will also have a booth in the exhibit hall. Scout out their locations as soon as you can so you can send attendees who don't find what they need at your booth over to your competitor's. Yes, that's what I said. If someone visits your booth and you don't have what they're looking for, send them to someone who might. That attendee will remember your graciousness later, believe me.