Don’t Show Up and Throw Up!

By Jeff Duguid, Guest Contributor  

Do you remember how exciting it was when your firm moved into its new office? Do you remember how much time was spent on planning the details to make sure the lobby had an inviting and welcoming look and feel? Even in the humblest of offices, the lobby is always clean, tidy and free of obstacles that may block clients and guests from entering and spending time with you.

Why then do so many exhibitors take the exact opposite approach when exhibiting?

The 2018 SAME Federal Small Business for the A/E/C Industry is headed to New Orleans, La., Oct. 31-Nov. 2. There will be more than 350 companies exhibiting. Let’s help them all do it right!

At industry events I have attended over the years, many exhibitors show up at the convention center, find their booth, and immediately begin throwing up piles of tchotchkes, stacks of paper, and rows of pens. They then cover every remaining inch of the table with even more stuff. The image is all too familiar.

When you plan your booth, start with a blank floorplan and reimagine the space as more of an extension of your office, like your lobby.

Let’s stop and think about this a minute and go back to our office lobby. When a visitor enters your office, is this how you would greet them in the lobby? Would you have a barricade keeping them from entering more than three feet from the door? Would you immediately offer them their choice of cheap pen or a free fidget spinner while reciting the firm’s history?

More importantly, would you do this while sitting behind your desk, forcing your guests to stand towering above you? Of course not. No one would do that! Why then is that EXACTLY what so many exhibitors do? This is what we in the conference world refer to as “showing up and throwing up.” You know exactly what comes next: the booth staff sit behind their treasure table awaiting the first sucker brave enough to grab a free pen. This is the moment their trap is activated, and so begins the story of the firm’s founding, in every exhaustive detail.

The Rules of Exhibiting

There are a few basic rules for exhibiting that all experienced marketers will tell you.

• Maximize the open square footage.
• Move or remove the provided table.
• Stand—do not sit—in the booth.

The question you’re probably asking yourself is: “Then why does every 10-ft booth come with a 6-ft table and two chairs?” Good question. Nobody knows! The solution is simple, however. Plan to use a smaller table, turn the table sideways inside your booth, or ask to have the table and chairs removed. By moving or removing the table you maximize the open square footage and remove the barricade between you and your guests. Standing in your booth, instead of sitting, will make you more approachable to others walking by, already standing. Additionally, it will alter your state of mind, attention and focus, so you will be ready to start a conversation.

Don’t be That Exhibitor

We have all seen the exhibitor who sits behind a table, gets bored and pulls out their phone, or worse, their laptop. Don’t ever do that! This sends a strong subliminal message to attendees that “I’m closed” and they won’t want to disturb you. Aren’t you there to be open, engage in conversation, and meet new people? If you’re closed, attendees will walk by and talk to other exhibitors, maybe even your competitors.

Facilitate a Memorable Guest Experience

When you plan your booth, start with a blank floorplan and reimagine the space as more of an extension of your office, like your lobby. What is the first impression you want to send to potential clients? If your table looks a flea market, you’re probably only going to attract adult trick-or-treaters. Instead, aim to create an intriguing space that will facilitate a memorable guest experience. Keep it simple, clean and welcoming—just like your lobby!

Follow these simple steps and you’ll have a comfortable exhibit space that will facilitate successful networking, increase your return on investment at the conference, and help your brand be remembered positively. Isn’t that the goal?

For more information on the 2018 SBC, visit Follow the event using #SAMESBC18.

Jeff Duguid is Marketing Manager at RLF, and Programs Chair of the SAME Young Member Council.