Trade shows provide exhibitors with a captive audience looking for new products and services under one roof over several days. Starting conversations with these motivated prospects is one of the main reasons companies invest the time, money and resources in exhibiting at face-to-face events. However, staff time is limited if the goal is to interact with as many people as possible and qualify leads that result in sales. On the trade show floor there is as much art to disengaging quickly and gracefully from attendees as there is to engaging with them. The trick, or the art of it, is in not being rude or abrupt to your Beloved Attendee. Here are some suggestions for disengaging from trade show attendees while still making a great impression:

Double Pay-off Presentations

Having a booth area with regularly scheduled presentations (whether focused on brand messaging, product launches, tech talks, or key opinion leaders – KOLS) not only provides an opportunity to spread your message to the masses, but also allows you the ability to escort, or drop-off an attendee in the theater area when the conversation should be over.

Example: Your internal trade show clock is ticking.  You know this attendee engagement needs to come to a close as you see others who have not been approached start to leave your area.  Time to make your move. Be polite – wait for them to end their sentence. Casually glance at your watch.  Ask, “Would you be okay finishing this conversation after the show?  Would a reach-out in a couple of weeks work for you (getting permission for post-show follow-up)?  Great, because we have a presentation about to begin that I think you’ll find interesting.”

Begin escorting your Beloved Attendee to the presentation area and make sure they have connected with one of your Brand Ambassadors in that area.  Make a personal hand-off, “Melissa, could you please find Ms./Mr. Beloved Attendee a good seat for the presentation?” This ends the conversation, but keeps the visitor engaged.

In-booth presentation in the FORD booth at NTEA.

The Obvious – Time Honored Hand-off

Most companies are not only encouraging their booth staff to direct attendees to other product/solution areas of the booth, but are now demanding it.  This ensures educating the attendee to the full corporate offerings and encourages broader purchasing.  When the attendee’s time is up, use the same tactic as above:

Casually glance at your watch.  Ask, “Would it be okay if I contacted you in a couple of weeks to discuss how we can provide a solution for your company? Great, because there are some other demos in the booth that I think you’ll find interesting.”

Again, walk Beloved Attendee to your fellow booth staff member’s area and introduce, or ask if Ms./Mr. Beloved Attendee could join the demo in progress. Be sure to reciprocate when your colleague asks the same. Oh, and buy fellow booth staff member a drink later that night!

Trade Show Staffing

Saying goodbye at a trade show demo area.

Use Your Engagement Device for Disengagement

Another quick way to disengage is to use your badge scanner. Delay scanning a badge until you find out who you are talking with. Not only does that allow you to put in meaningful follow-up info, but you can use that scanner to end the conversation.  In a physically defining move, wrap it up by scanning their badge and saying,  “Here, let’s get you into the system. Thank you.”  Invite them to visit the rest of the booth and to enjoy the show.  Done!

TPG Brand Ambassador scanning attendees at InfoComm.

Don’t Do It!

Remember, today’s unqualified attendee is tomorrow’s buyer. So, don’t let your eyes dart from one badge to the next as attendees pass by. The last thing you want to do is reveal to Beloved Attendee that you think they are so-o-o unqualified.


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.” 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. In fact, that’s the art of it!

Jean Howard, Director of Business Development

Christina Piedlow, TPG Executive Director