“Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.” ~ William Shakespeare

Listening to attendees who visit your exhibit is a necessary human quality that increases sales and fosters a positive image of your brand at a trade show. Much is made about engaging prospects and ways to start conversations. But, knowing when and how to disengage from visitors can be equally important if you want to maximize the limited time you have to make new contacts, gather leads and increase brand awareness.

We’ve all been there when conversations with trade show visitors turn to idle chit-chat. Tales of Little League games, family outings, work troubles and political discussions too often take center stage. Or, dare I say, the person who thinks your exhibit is a giant Tinder site! It’s not comfortable to end conversations. It takes practice and sensitivity. Here are a few reasons why it may be necessary to say goodbye to a booth visitor:

  • You have limited time to make contacts at trade shows.
  • You will not be able to reach your lead capture goals if you take too long with each prospect.
  • Others may be waiting for your time and feel justifiably ignored.
  • Too long conversations with people who are not interested in your products or services take precious time away from those who are.
  • Long conversations and jocularity may leave a bad taste with your exhibit colleagues who are working hard to answer visitor questions and garner leads.


Saying goodbye may seem straightforward, but it can be a delicate proposition. Here are eight techniques to break up with visitors without them knowing it.

1. The “I’m glad we can provide a solution for your company and will follow up with you soon” technique.

This is the best possible situation! You have determined that this visitor is a prospect. Sum up the conversation, take their contact information and make arrangements to follow up soon!

2. The “Nice talking with you, have a great rest of the show!” technique.

After exploring the visitor’s interests, it’s obvious this person isn’t interested in your products or services. Thank them for their time, shake their hand and wish them luck at the trade show.

3. The “We have someone in our booth who can help you” technique.

Maybe the visitor has a complaint or is interested in an area other than your own. Introduce the visitor to the appropriate person in the booth and move on.

4. The “Would you like us to send you more information?” technique.

This customer isn’t an immediate prospect, but offering to send them a link to company info may be a nice way to wrap up the conversation.

TPG Product Specialist, Peter, interacting with a visitor at the Mid American Trucking Show.

TPG Product Specialist, Peter, interacting with a visitor at the Mid American Trucking Show.

5. The “We have a lot going on in our booth, would you like to join in?” technique.

If you have exhibit activities, such as an in-booth presentation, product demos, games, prize wheel, or a refreshment lounge, invite the visitor to participate. This ends the conversation, but keeps the customer engaged.

6. The “I need to get back to working the booth, would you like to come back?” technique.

This technique is slightly abrupt, but most people understand that the trade show booth isn’t primarily a place for socializing. Good-naturedly say you need to get back to work and thank them for their conversation. Let them know you’ll be glad to further the dialogue at another time.

7. The “Thanks for your time but I have another visitor waiting” technique.

I have often seen visitors waiting in line to speak to a representative who is having a drawn-out conversation. If this happens to you, acknowledge those who are waiting, let them know you’ll be with them soon. Then, keep your promise by winding down your current conversation.

For a little levity and when all else fails:

8. The “Oh, my coworker needs me over there” technique.


This technique requires acting skills, so use it sparingly. Thank the visitor for their time. Let them know you’re needed in another area of the booth. Turn on your heels and catch the eye of your colleague. The look in your eyes must telegraph desperation – a plea for help and your colleague must understand what you’re up to.

In all seriousness, most attendees who like to talk are not malicious, so return the favor by not letting out a huge sigh, rolling your eyes or checking your watch. In fact, according the CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research) “The quality of face-to-face interactions with booth staff is the primary exhibition floor feature that builds loyal alumni.” Therefore, remain friendly and sensitive when breaking off conversations. Whether people are interested in your products or not, they will walk away with a positive image of your company, your people and your brand.

C.C. Carr, Lead Onsite Director

C.C. Carr, Lead Onsite Director