UPDATED September 9, 2022
Companies often supplement their own exhibit personnel with temporary booth staff for many reasons. One reason may be that not everyone in an organization has the personal attributes to be approachable representatives in a trade show environment. Therefore, companies will seek out a temporary staff of trade show professionals to engage attendees, invite them into the booth and connect them to the appropriate company representative. Another reason for additional exhibit staff is because the pandemic may have required companies to scale down budgets and limit travel for their employees. Hiring a team of outside pros may be a cost-effective method to bridge the staffing gap. Trade shows are a great way for temporary trade show staff, commonly referred to as trade show talent, to begin rewarding careers representing clients in multiple industries, and travel to beautiful cities in the US and around the world. At TPG, we know many individuals who started out as greeters, crowd gatherers, or lead generators who are now trade show presenters, brand ambassadors, writers, producers and consultants. I’m one of them.
Young people (and not so young) ask us all the time – how can I get into this business? What are the personal characteristics that exhibiting companies look for and what are some tricks of the trade? With two decades in the industry, and working with talent in various roles, I’ve narrowed it down to six main things I impress upon newcomers, and everyone who could use a refresher:
1. Demonstrate Excellent Business Standards and WORK ETHIC!
Encompassed in work ethic is showing respect and providing exemplary service. And by all means, be on time! You may think this is a given, right? Wrong. Showing up on time isn’t some relic in a history book. It’s essential in the trade show industry. I have heard this from newbies (and others): “I’m only five minutes late”. Guess what? Five minutes late is late. Your coworkers are counting on you for any pre-show setup or meetings. It’s disrespectful to your agency and the exhibitor who hired you if don’t show up at the scheduled time, and it makes the trade show manager nervous! As in all areas of life, your reputation precedes you. If word gets around that you’re not reliable, you won’t be hired in this industry.
“Better be three hours too soon than one minute too late.” ~ William Shakespeare
- It is also paramount to be responsive to texts, emails, phone calls and requests for availability. Reply timely! We cannot proceed with exhibit planning for our clients if we don’t know you’re available, or you are late in signing your contract. Unfortunately, when that happens it indicates to us that you’re not serious about the job and that we may need to replace you.
2. Maintain Current Promotional Materials
Event staffing agencies and exhibitors will likely choose candidates from photos, as well as resumes and videos. If you show up looking completely different than your photos, your client will think he or she didn’t get what they asked for. The same goes for videos. If you’re a trade show narrator/presenter, you must constantly revamp your reel. Oh, a word about age. Not all trade show exhibitors want only young people. Some want polished, mature and experienced talent to represent them. We work with many seasoned professionals, who are highly sought after. Whatever your age, promotional materials must represent your authentic self.
3. Be Well-Groomed
“Don’t be afraid of looking good. Be afraid of not.” ~ Barkers Style Quide
When I first started out as a crowd gatherer and brand ambassador for trade shows, all of us in the industry were polished! Our hair and makeup were perfect, and nails manicured. Our clothing was professional and tailored, and don’t get me started on the shoes. OK, maybe the rules have relaxed since the days of big hair, but I’ve noticed a little too much relaxation. Make sure you have a good haircut and that it is nicely styled. Women, apply tasteful and appropriate makeup, and do your nails. Men, if you sport a beard (since this look is trending), keep it trimmed. Practice good hygiene. In short, strive to present an attractive image! A professional appearance will serve you well in all aspects of your business life, no matter what road you travel.
4. Do Your Homework
Nowadays, most exhibitors are not looking for booth babes. They are relying on the temporary staff to be the face of their brand. Event staffing agencies, which specialize in trade shows, usually provide at least some training materials for the company you’ve been hired for. This may include company talking points, and product features and benefits. Make sure you can reasonably articulate the brand attributes to attendees. If you are not provided this information, visit the company website and become familiar with their brand. Take the initiative! If you combine personality with actual company knowledge, you’ll be unstoppable, and your clients will request you time and again. At TPG, we have Subject Matter Experts and presenters who are indistinguishable from company employees. These trade show superheroes travel throughout the year for our clients.
5. Attitude is Everything!
We will hire a person with a great attitude over a lack-luster person with experience to represent our trade show clients any day of the week! If you’ve got the right attitude, we can train for aptitude. Being able to cheerfully take direction, greet booth visitors with exuberance and being helpful to your coworkers will keep you on top of the event staffing heap. In short, be coachable! Smile, be approachable, engage and interact! Eye-rollers and deep-sighers need not apply.
“It is your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude”. ~ Zig Zigler
6. Energy is Everything, too!
Katharine Hepburn once said:
“One of the main qualities it takes to be successful is energy.” Then she paused and added, “Energy may be the only thing!”
Enthusiasm belongs in this category, as well. Typical trade shows have long hours and last multiple days. You are on your feet constantly and engaging with visitors non-stop. Do what it takes to remain vibrant, energetic and enthusiastic. That means not staying out late and, dare I say, imbibing in the local spirits. Make every attempt to get enough sleep, which is hard enough while on the road. Your client and agency are counting on you to be fresh as a daisy, active and not smelling like a brewery.
The fundamental things apply, as time goes by. ~ from the film Casablanca
I don’t need to remind you that the pandemic crippled the trade show industry for two years. But we’re back with gusto. If you’ve hung in there as trade show pros, the fundamentals of business still apply. You can have a wonderful career as trade show talent that spans many, many years. But you must treat it like a business, be professional every step of the way, and develop the necessary knowledge and attitude that provide indispensable value to your trade show clients. Having worked in this industry for over 20 years, I’ve seen people think they can make a quick buck by working trade shows without giving sincere thought about the opportunities this exciting industry can provide long-term. No job is too small. After all, over time you could advance from handing out literature and scanning badges to a rewarding career. That’s what I did, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
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Whether you need event professionals for a trade show or a virtual event, we have the right people to help you succeed. Contact us about our terrific talent!