Trade shows are all about making connections. At the same time, the logistics of trade shows can make forging those connections tricky.

Show floors are loud, bright, and crowded. Hundreds of exhibits compete for exposure. Attendees have limited time to actually find what they’re looking for. In other words, if you’re looking to make a connection, the deck is stacked against you.

5 Convo Starters


So, how do you actually go about breaking the ice at trade shows? In our experience, there are some surefire conversation starters to get a discussion cooking. Here are five of them:

Five Trade Show Conversation Starters:

  1. What brought you to [trade show name]?
  2. How long have you been in your job role?
  3. What are your goals for the year? How are you working to achieve them?
  4. What are your plans for [insert challenge here]?
  5. What’s your least favorite part of your job?

1. What brought you to [trade show name]?

We’ve written a bunch about the three types of trade show attendees.

For those we call Lookers — people who may not yet know what challenges they have coming down the pike — asking them why they are at the show in the first place will get them talking about what they do and what type of things they’re at the show to see. It can also naturally lead to more specific questions, such as some problems they are struggling with in general — problems you might be able to help them solve.

2. How long have you been in your job role?

Another subtle ask, this question is a great way for you to nail down the seniority (or lack thereof) of the prospect you’re talking to.

Download Now: The Exhibitor’s Guide To Trade Show Success In 2020

This way, you can tailor your presentation without spending valuable time in a long conversation that may end up going nowhere due to a prospect’s lack of juice within their company.

3. What are your goals for the year? How are you working to achieve them?

Similar to the first question, asking a prospect a high-level question about their goals lets the prospect know that you’re there to listen and help them.

More importantly, it helps you tailor the conversation in a way that addresses their needs without being overly pushy with your sales talk.

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4. What are your plans for [insert challenge here]?

Going back to the three types of trade show attendees, this question is geared toward what we call Seekers — the ones who know they have a problem to solve.

Opening a conversation with a question about their problem is a great way to kickstart a deeper interaction.

Asking about their problem — and drilling down into it — will also open up lanes for finding unique value propositions, since the more you know about a prospect’s needs, the more you’re able to showcase your expertise.

5. What’s your least favorite part of your job?

This question is a stealthy way to get to the bottom of a prospect’s particular pain points without coming right out and asking them.

It also personalizes the problem for the prospect, which usually means they’re more willing to speak freely about what they want to find a fix for.

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But How Do You Spark that Perfect Conversation?

These are just some of the questions we think can help break the ice. But we know that’s only half the battle. Here are a few general tips for sparking a conversation, straight from our own experienced sales team:

1. Sell Yourself, Not Your Product

People don’t like the hard sell. Instead, make the conversation about how you can help a prospect solve a problem. Yes, you have a product they might be interested in, but first you want to understand what they’re looking for and how you can find them a solution.

2. Keep Things Straightforward

Time, as they say, is money. Don’t beat around the bush or try to tell an elaborate story for the prospect. Focus the conversation on what they’re looking for and how you could help them.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Crack a Joke

Humor goes a long way when it comes to breaking down barriers. Feel free to leverage humor — especially self-deprecating humor — to get the conversation going. Just make sure your jokes or one-liners won’t ruffle the feathers of your prospect by keeping it clean.

The new decade is the perfect time to refresh your event marketing strategy. Download our free guide, The Exhibitor’s Guide To Trade Show Success In 2020.

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The Exhibitor's Guide To Trade Show Success In 2020

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