Managing your booth visitor’s expectations

A lot of the visitors you’ll be interacting with in your booth are going to be veteran trade show attendees and the’ll probably have the following expectations when they enter your booth:

1. They’ll be able to talk to you for as long as they want to or until they run out of questions.

This should not be the case. To manage their time expectation, you first need to find out what they want to hear about. Then estimate how long you can spend with them. Take into account:

  • How big the opportunity is with this visitor (spend as much time with huge clients as needed).
  • How busy the booth is.
  • How long it will take to discuss their area of interest.
  • Then say something like, “Let me take five or ten minutes and show you our new product.” That’s all it take to manage their time expectation.
  • Then after five or ten minutes, it’s your choice whether to continue or not depending upon if the booth got busier or less busy.

2. Even if they have to wait, they’ll be able to have one-on-one conversations.

  • Not necessarily true or productive for you. If your conversation with a visitor started off as one-on-one conversation, they may think it will continue that way no matter what. If other visitors begin to wait for you to finish, you may want to invite them into your conversation (but not always). To do this politely, you need to ask permission of the visitor your currently talking with and tell them why you want to do this.

3. All of their questions will be answered completely. This may not be true if:

  • You don’t know the answer to the question.
  • You shouldn’t answer the question (like a question about future, unannounced products, not-yet-public financials, etc.).
  • The answer might take too long based on how qualified the visitor is and how congested the booth is.

4. They’ll get a free T-shirt, water bottle, tool set, cap, etc. This may or may not be true depending upon:

  • If there is anything left to give away.
  • If the visitor needed to bring in something to redeem for the give away.
  • If they’re just a booth-beggar or trick-or-treater with no hope of ever becoming a customer. (If they argue with you, don’t make it a customer service issue, just give them the cheapest giveaway and move on to a more productive interaction.)
  • Or, if the visitor wants three items (because they have three children) you may want to hold off on giving more than one until the end of the show. Ask them to come back then.

5. They expect to walk up and receive an invitation to your company-sponsored invitation-only party where the invitations were sent out weeks ago.

  • If this visitor is one you want at the party, you should have a few extra invitations around to save for these special high-quality visitors.
  • Otherwise, you should politely explain the situation to a visitor you wish to deny an invitation to. Maybe finish by saying, “but it often happens that we have some cancellations, so if you’d like to check with us again, maybe the situation will have changed.”

6. Accessibility

  • The visitor may not get to speak with the person they’re asking for, or with the person who can answer their question. You choices are:
  • To get a message to that person.
  • If they’re at the show but not in the booth to call them right in front of the visitor and ask them if they can come over to the booth.
  • Get them to someone else with the ability and/or expertise to speak with them.

7. Knowledge

  • You may not be able to answer the visitor’s question or know enough about a particular product or service. Your choices are:
  • To get the visitor to one of your colleagues who can help them.
  • To commit to get back to them later (preferably while the show is still going on). If possible, get their mobile number.

8. Authority

You may not have the authority to grant a requested exception, make a decision, etc. If it’s appropriate, without putting your colleague (and maybe even your boss) on-the-spot, get them to someone in higher authority.

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