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.
(c) 2011 Imprinted Originals LLC