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!
Work ethic encompasses showing respect and providing exemplary service, and one crucial aspect of this is punctuality. Being on time should never be underestimated or taken lightly. In the trade show industry, it holds immense importance. Some may think that arriving a few minutes late is inconsequential, but that is far from the truth. Regardless of the duration, being late is still being late.
Your coworkers depend on you for pre-show setup and meetings, and showing up late is disrespectful to your agency and the exhibitor who hired you. Moreover, it can make the trade show manager anxious and disrupt the smooth flow of events. In all aspects of life, your reputation precedes you, and the same applies here. If you gain a reputation for unreliability, it will be challenging to find opportunities in this industry. Therefore, valuing punctuality is vital to maintaining a strong and trustworthy presence in the trade show world.
“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.
Your photos should convey a sense of friendliness and approachability. We highly appreciate pictures where you are seen smiling. Please avoid selfies and any seductive poses, as they do not align with our clients’ preferences. It is essential to dress professionally, so kindly refrain from wearing crop tops or any attire that may be distracting.
3. Be Well-Groomed
“Don’t be afraid of looking good. Be afraid of not.” ~ Barkers Style Guide
When I initially ventured into the role of a crowd gatherer and brand ambassador for trade shows, everyone in the industry was impeccably polished! Our hair and makeup were flawless, and our nails were perfectly manicured. Our attire was always professional and tailored, and our choice of shoes was top-notch. While the standards may have relaxed a bit since the era of big hair, I’ve noticed a little too much leniency lately. Make sure you have a nicely styled haircut. For women, apply tasteful and appropriate makeup, and take care of your nails. For men sporting beards (as it’s currently trending), remember to keep it neatly trimmed. Practicing good hygiene is essential. In short, aim to present an attractive image! A professional appearance will greatly benefit you in all aspects of your business life, regardless of the path you choose to pursue.
4. Do Your Homework
In the current landscape, exhibitors are no longer seeking booth babes; instead, they rely on temporary staff to represent their brand. Event staffing agencies typically offer some training materials for the company you’ll be working with. This could involve familiarizing yourself with company talking points, product features, and benefits. It’s essential to be able to effectively communicate the brand’s attributes to event attendees. In case such information is not provided, take the initiative and visit the company website to become well-acquainted with their brand. By combining your personality with genuine company knowledge, you’ll become an unstoppable force, leading clients to request your services repeatedly.
At TPG, we have Subject Matter Experts and presenters who seamlessly integrate with the company’s employees. These trade show superheroes travel throughout the year on behalf of our clients, ensuring an exceptional representation of the brand.
5. Attitude is Everything!
When it comes to representing our trade show clients, we prioritize hiring individuals with a fantastic attitude over those with lackluster experience any day of the week! If you possess the right attitude, we can provide the necessary training for the required skills. Your ability to cheerfully take direction, warmly greet booth visitors with enthusiasm, and be helpful to your coworkers will set you apart and keep you at the forefront of event staffing. It’s important to be coachable! Embrace a friendly smile, approachability, and active engagement with everyone you interact with. We welcome individuals who are eager and positive, so 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!