An area of exhibition management which is often neglected, both in theory and in practice, is booth staff training.
Research shows that only half of all companies say they provide training to booth staff prior to an exhibition. When training is provided it is all too often an afterthought and tends to be delivered immediately prior to an exhibition beginning, sometimes on the show floor itself. This creates an expectation of booth staff to instantly understand unfamiliar content that may have even been specifically developed for that exhibition. In a world where exhibit booths are often the single biggest line item in a marketing budget (direct to consumer advertising aside), surely this is the wrong approach?
Sollen K. Solberg’s excellent publication, Booth Staff Behaviour (available for download here), highlights research showing that ordinary sales training does not offer much help to those who staff exhibition booths. At a basic level, booth staff have to practise two kinds of behavior, selling and non-selling/promotional, and they need to be able to distinguish between a number of different types of agent with different needs. These are things that ordinary sales training does not cover. They imply that the company should have at least two sets of objectives: one for its selling and one for its non-selling activities.
Irrespective of the marketplace, a trade show is a performance. Exhibition halls are the only environment where a company will be sharing information with its customers, whilst at the same time, in direct earshot of the competition. Much like in showbusiness, many performers, especially the less well-prepared, tend to forget what they have learned once the stage lights are switched on. A leading reason for this failure is that booth staff are seldom allowed time for practice. Instead, they are put in an audition situation where actors are asked to read a script in the lobby and then go straight on stage to perform. There is another major difference between the two situations. In a theatre there is only one stage; at a trade show there are multiple stages, each requiring the playing of a specific role.
Solberg hypothesises that there are five different ‘stages’ on which exhibition staff perform:
With 30 years’ experience in the delivery of thousands of exhibit booths around the globe, we put the delegate at the heart of everything that we do, ensuring that staff are on-boarded at an early stage to allow them to understand our clients’ key communications objectives. From pre-event e-learning modules to on-site training using motivational speakers and brand ambassadors, we can offer a tailored solution to meet your budget and expectations.
Gerry Montgomery is Business Director at Ashfield Meetings & Events | Exhibits