Category Archives: At-Show

7 Keys to Regaining Control of Conversations At Tradeshows

How Can You Handle Talkative Tom’s and Chatty Cathy’s?

When you are at a tradeshow, convention or other event, your most valuable assets are time and focus.  You need to invest them well to succeed, either as exhibitor or as attendee.

Having tactics to help you disengage from conversations, at the right moment, is as important as preparing how to start a conversation.

Here are 7 keys to help you regain control of the conversation – first from the point of view of you as exhibitor, dealing with someone overstaying their visit, and then when you, as attendee, cannot get free from an overzealous booth staffer.

1: Show appreciation and solidify the connection

Once you have asked/heard enough to qualify (or disqualify) your visitor, say “I’d like to be able to give you my fullest attention.”

2: Set up the next step

Then lead them to the next step, which should be a followup call or appointment.  Right then and there, you can gauge their interest by asking how soon and in what fashion they’d like to continue.

Say: “I’d really like to talk about this more.  Shall we pick this up the next time we talk?  Would phone or email be best to followup with you? Mornings or afternoons?”

Or if they are raising questions which are better dealt with in a longer conversation or by connecting them with someone else, say “I have to research this when I get back to the office.  I will …. ” (and then note what you commit to).

3: Fast-track the next step at the show

What if you don’t want to diminish your effectiveness in the booth, but they seem like a really good lead and you don’t want them to lose them to a competitor with more time on their hands?

Your best bet is to set up a specific time at that show to continue the conversation.  If you’ve been able to staff appropriately, you can take them to a quiet area then, or you will have specific times set up for appointments at the show, and have available slots to offer. If you need to improvise, set up a meeting at a meal or break.

4: Treat everyone well even if they don’t seem to be a good match

If you suspect they’re just lonely and figure you for an easy audience, look them in the face and say, “I wish I had time to talk to everyone as long as I’d like, but I’m afraid I cannot.”   It’s true and it’s not offensive.

If you start asking about next steps and they suddenly get vague, then you’ve clarified it’s not a match.

On the other hand, when you get down to specifics — they might actually ‘fess up to having an RFP they’re working on that’s about to go out.

5: Are you the attendee and it’s the exhibitor who’s latched onto you?

Even as an attendee, you can simply say “I don’t want to keep you from meeting up with other attendees” or “I wish we could talk more but I’m afraid I don’t have enough time.”

This poor exhibitor is either so insecure that they’ve latched onto you, or so poorly trained that they think they should be “selling” you on the spot. In either case, they are well on their way to “proving” to themselves or their boss that “tradeshows don’t work”!

6: There’s power in the truth

Fib or tell the truth? Some suggest it’s easiest to say you need to go to the bathroom or fake a phone call.  I would not make something up.

There’s power in speaking the truth, and I’d always suggest wording it with a sense of etiquette.

Talky Tom or Chatty Cathy could – handled appropriately – become a great client, vendor or resource.

7:  Your time is limited, you must keep your focus on your objectives

You need to be able to control your time and your focus when you are at tradeshows and other events, either as exhibitor or visitor.

Take these steps to disengage when it’s time and keep focusing on your objectives, and you will be one of the ones who knows that “tradeshows do work when we work them effectively”.

Comments?  I’d love to hear if any of these ideas resonate with you.


Deborah Elms is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping businesses grow by creating and retaining customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events, including high impact, professionally designed display booths, promotional marketing and guidance on what works and what does not.

You can follow Deborah on Twitter at @D_Elms and Imprinted Originals at @TradeshowsMdEZ.

(c) 2011 Imprinted Originals LLC


Looking Past the Tip of the Iceberg: Tradeshow Planning for Success

Which part of the iceberg is dangerous?

I often say to clients, and when presenting to tradeshow newbies: thinking about a tradeshow or conference in terms of “the day of” is like thinking about an iceberg in terms of what you see above the water.

It’s only the tip of what’s going on, and if you avoid thinking about (and handling) the rest of it, you are likely to have a very bad experience!

For specifics, check out:

Elements of Tradeshow Planning

Preparing for Your Tradeshow

and other items in our strategy, planning and preparation categories.

Or give us a call and see how we can help you step up your tradeshow exhibiting to success!


Deborah Elms (@D_Elms) is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping businesses grow by creating and retaining customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events, including high impact, professionally designed display booths, promotional marketing and guidance on what works and what does not.


Directors Chairs: Holiday Gift or A Way to Improve Tradeshow Results?

I’m only partly speaking tongue-in-cheek in suggesting a Directors Chair as a holiday gift. One of our clients, who finally replaced an endless stream of rentals with a portable display, received a chair the following holiday season from a grateful staff.

Such a “gift” to your sales or field marketing staff — or yourself, if that’s your role — could likewise be considered a gift to your organization by helping achieve your tradeshow or event objectives.

Let’s get this over first — it’s always better to be standing rather than sitting in your tradeshow booth. It shows you’re available — ready to walk over, shake hands and start a conversation.

Sometimes, however, you’re faced with a multi-day show and not enough staff on hand to rotate as you’d like, or there are gaps when attendance in the exhibit hall lags. And let’s face it, sometimes we just need to take a load off, and give our legs and feet a break.

Even so, you don’t want to have anyone sitting in your booth in a regular height chair, especially slouching behind a table.

It sends the wrong message. It says someone is much more interested in their own comfort than their visitors. In addition, a table creates a moat between you and your visitors. It causes doubt that you really want someone to stop and talk with you.

A Directors Chair will set up a different dynamic.

The height of a Directors Chair positions you at or near a standing elevation, signaling a willingness to engage, so anyone entering your space will feel more comfortable approaching you.

At the same time, after grabbing a brief break, you — or your staff — will be prepar moved ed to handle visitors to your booth in a more energized, friendly, and professional manner. The result will be not only greater comfort, but almost certainly a larger pool of qualified leads.

So, call it a holiday gift or not, but both booth staff and show results can benefit from bringing a Directors Chair or two into your booth!

Directors Chairs and Stools Made in the USA

We have a very special relationship with an American manufacturer of Directors Chairs and  wooden stools that we rely on because they provide great quality, a lot of options, and excellent service. We truly like being able to offer their products to our clients.

Custom-made to order in the USA using American Beech hardwoods, these chairs are available in 3 styles and 3 heights (the 24 in. and 30 in. being recommended, as mentioned above).

By adding a logo or message using one of four decoration methods (embroidery, screen printing, thermal and photo film transfer) and selecting from a range of material colors and frame finishes, your chair will fit into any environment.

If you agree that giving your sales or field marketing staff — or yourself — a directors chair would make a worthy gift and also help achieve your goals at upcoming tradeshows and events, there’s still plenty of time!

Ready to take a look?


Could A “Moat” Destroy Your Tradeshow ROI?

The Case of the Mysterious ROI-Destroying Moat

This happens all too often at trade shows, and it’s heartbreaking.  A simple but major mistake leads to disappointing results. 

Here’s the situation:  a business spends good money to purchase a display and have it professionally designed  to catch the eye of its best prospects so they will stop and start a conversation.

But then, without a second thought, the table that the trade show has provided is placed across the front of the booth space, with piles of literature and/or promotional products scattered across it, and salespeople sitting behind it.

Here’s the problem:  instead of using their entire space to interact with prospects, to get to know them better and gain their confidence, these exhibitors have essentially set up a moat – with their sales force stationed like defenders of the castle on one side, and their prospects on the other side, stuck in the aisle.

With such poor possibilities for genuine interaction, it’s unlikely that enough useful information will be collected to turn the people who have passed by the booth into genuine leads.

The ROI from such a show will almost certainly be low, and another exhibitor will conclude “trade shows don’t work for me”.

How can you make sure not to make the same mistake?

  • Design your booth layout in advance.
  • Train your staff on how to optimize the use of your space.
  • Situate your table to the side, if needed; never sit behind it!
  • Don’t leave literature or promotional products sitting around – be sure to swap them for a business card or badge swipe.

What if – as an occasional client of ours insists – your prospects are touchy-feely, non-verbal types (think engineers) and you think it’s easier to start a conversation if product is “close by”?

Even if physical props are important to engaging your prospects, you still don’t want to block the entire front of your booth. Use a small table as near to the front of the booth as you find necessary, and then if you need more table or counter space, add it to the sides.  A counter-height cocktail table can be a perfect compromise which sets the right tone.

The moat makes your prospect a long-distance audience.

Taking away the moat makes a conversation easier to start, and reminds you or your booth staff that the point IS to invite your prospects into your castle territory.

If you would like more detail on these points, or help with your particular booth arrangement  — feel free to give us a call.  We’re always happy to help with your Exhibiting Success!


Deborah Elms is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping businesses and non-profit organizations create and retain customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events.