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What You Should Know about Event and Trade Show Etiquette

September 2nd, 2009 4 COMMENTS

Magellan VK-2048 Trade Show Exhibits

  • Booth etiquette refers to the conduct, presentation, and performance of your booth staff
  • An exhibit is a public stage and you are the host—be gracious, be knowledgeable
  • Set clear expectations and measurable goals for your exhibit staff and conduct training
  • Use off hours effectively to help achieve your company’s exhibit marketing objectives
  • Be discrete and professional. You never know who is watching, who is listening

You have worked hard to design the perfect exhibit and the most effective marketing materials, but your performance in the booth—how your staff greets and assists attendees—will determine whether your show is a success. Booth etiquette refers to the conduct, presentation, and performance of your booth staff. The following are commonsense booth etiquette tips.

Booth Etiquette Tips

Make no mistake about it, trade show attendees and your competition are monitoring your behavior. Your exhibit is a public stage, and you are the host. As such, you and your staff must behave with the warmth and graciousness expected of a host. These include: 

  • Humility
  • Active Listening
  • Genuineness
  • Hospitality
  • Graciousness and empathy

Your staff is nice but are they knowledgeable, personable, and presentable? As company representatives, your staff should also demonstrate the following professional characteristics:

  • Respect for the company and its mission
  • Genuine interest in the product
  • Extensive product/service knowledge
  • Working knowledge of the marketing campaign and message
  • Professional appearance

 Before and After the Show

Traveling to shows can be fun. Sure it’s work, but you’re out of the office, and the show is usually in a town with great nightlife. Everyone is planning to go out the first night and hit the town. This is a very real and unavoidable part of managing your exhibit marketing. Handled correctly, you’ll either maximize the Return on Investment of the show or minimize the show’s effectiveness.  

So, don’t fight it. Make it work for your company. If you work for a small company where the executives are the booth staff, you will rarely have a problem. Senior executives know all too well the cost of exhibiting and are usually motivated to seize every business opportunity. However, if your company is larger, then consider setting measurable goals for the booth staff so they support each other and work toward a successful show. Regardless, it is important to make your expectations known and to reinforce those expectations throughout the show.  

Here are some suggestions:

  • Set guidelines and an agenda that clearly defines work hours, free time, client meetings, and alcohol consumption
  • Establish clear parameters on acceptable personal and company expenses
  • Consider combining a staff kickoff dinner and award recognition certificates
  • Conduct a breakfast meeting before the show and daily pre-show reviews
  • Provide company logo wear for your staff during the off hours

Lastly, appropriate staff behavior applies during show hours, before the show opens, before and after show hours, and after the show is over. Too often, the person sitting next to you on the plane is headed to the same show (likewise for the person in front of you in line, and/or at the next table in the restaurant). Key contacts are often made in these chance meetings (or company secrets revealed). Trade shows are an open microphone. Know when to turn it on and when to turn it off.

–Mel White

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4 Responses to “What You Should Know about Event and Trade Show Etiquette”

  1. Ken Newman says:

    Great piece, Mel. You hit on some very important points. I wrote a blog entry sometime back on the same subject.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Anthony Rodell says:


    Thanks for this. I am going to make sure that I share this with my staff. I thought you hit on some key points.


  3. Sherry Evans says:

    Great advice Mel!
    This is exactly the type of piece I like to include in my exhibitors information packet when I confirm the show details. Even though some are “experts” at doing a show they always need this type of reminder to get the most out of the show.

  4. mel says:

    Ken, Anthony, and Sherry–

    Thank you for your positive responses. Sherry, you are so right. Knowing how to “behave” at a trade show is not the same as “behaving.” We can all use a friendly reminder before we even board the plane. My mother, the beacon of politeness, would always remind me to say “Please” and “Thank you” before any gathering and then quiz me afterword just to make sure.

    BTW–When did “OK” or “Yeah” become the correct response to “Thank you?” I hear it all the time and it drives me crazy.


    p.s. Speaking of behavior, you may enjoy this posting about how to dress at a trade show:

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