You have your little ducks in a row. By, “ducks,” of course, we mean your trade show booth staff.

They’re pumped, they’re informed, and they know the game plan. That’s awesome. But, with things like this, there are always some basics that have to be covered. So, here’s the not-so-fun part of training: booth etiquette.

Working a trade show booth may be new territory for some of your staff, and you never know what a new locale can do to an employee’s level of professionalism.

Keeping all of your staff accountable for their actions, and feeling responsible for their piers can uplift the entire experience. Take a moment with your people to have a quick run-through of the “rules” in place for this adventure.

Just know, that while everyone should be prepared for busy streaks on the day of, don’t expect the flow of customers to be constant. It can come and go in waves. Remind your staff that those slow times, and all the times in between, are all opportunities to shine. Stay bright.

Here’s a list to share with your team and soon-to-be successful trade showers.

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SH Blog Icon 200x200_7.23_Arms CrossedPractice Fluent Body Language

Body language is a powerful form of communication that severely impacts how we interact with other people. Brush up on positive and negative forms of body language and how to react to other people’s body language to adjust your own messaging.

Whenever possible, exhibit body language that’s casual and friendly. Avoid negative body language like crossing your arms or looking down when speaking.

This means staying active, never seeming bored or disengaged. Stand as much as possible, (Note: bring good shoes!), unless your customer is sitting as well.

Avoid hunching or leaning on the furniture, or crossing your arms. DON’T be on a cellphone. Like, ever. As long as customers can see you in that booth, you are their vessel for information, and a mean, green, selling machine.

19.11_waving_icon_steelhead_1Focus on Engagement

Smile, and greet every person with a fresh face, and approachability. Disengage quickly with your fellow associates in order to interact with prospects. Make every minute count – time at a trade show is precious.

If you can, catch the attendee’s name immediately, and get to know their company and position. Ask open-ended questions, always leaning towards what we can do for them (perhaps list a few, and practice with other reps prior to the show, or during slow times at the booth).

SH Blog Icon 200x200_7.23_ChampagneNetwork and Host Like a Pro

A big part of the trade show experience happens during happy hours, dinners, and other casual networking events that include drinks and food. Knowing how to act in these situations can be tricky, especially when things appear a bit more casual.

Practice good etiquette and stay professional by limiting yourself to two drinks, and always waiting for the client to eat or drink first.

No matter how cozy you get with new prospects, keep the conversation as professional as possible. Warm up to them with questions about themselves, but avoid over-sharing, or becoming too casual.

Never have food or drinks, other than water, in sight of booth customers.

Do talk about food – because, everyone’s a “foodie” these days. Seriously, though, it’s a great topic that feels personal, but isn’t too hard to politely redirect back to business. Don't complain about being hungry, nobody cares.

SH Blog Icon 200x200_7.23_Tie HeelDress Appropriately

Whatever the agreed upon dress code is, make sure all the details align with professionalism. You should present with a clean and unwrinkled outfit, appropriate hair and makeup. Even if the show’s in Vegas: if the trade show and/or your booth isn’t covered in sequins and glitter, than neither should you be.

Set the tone for the company – you are the chosen face, after all. Show these attendees your mojo, or at least make use of a good name tag that says, “ask me anything!”

Should you wear heels or flats? A jacket and tie, or a branded polo?

On the trade show floor, you’re no longer just representing yourself — you’re a physical representation of your brand as a whole. If you’re not showing up in the brand’s best light, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to make the right impression on your prospects.

Think about your brand’s image. Is it edgy and hip? You can probably get away with something more casual. Is it more traditional and buttoned up? Don’t forget to pack that tie.

Align your attire with your industry and your brand. When in doubt, business casual is usually the safest bet.

steelhead_icon_chip-happy-like-friendly-1-1Avoid negativity

There’s no point bad-mouthing the competition, other salespeople, your coworkers, or complaining about the show. The success of this show is completely dependent on you, and your outlook. Seek out positivity and it will gravitate towards you.

SH Blog Icon 200x200_7.23_ChairAdd Seating

Should you offer seating in your booth, or not? This is a question many exhibitors ponder and debate year after year.

Some believe it’s an easy way to offer much-needed respite to exhausted attendees and provide comfortable meeting spaces. Others are firm in their stance that it gives sales people an excuse to sit down and relax when they should be putting their efforts into selling.

At Steelhead, we know that attending a trade show is a fiercely physical experience. In fact, one tech writer logged over seven miles in a single day at CES. By offering seating, you create a comfortable space for prospects to rest and focus on your presentation or demo.

SH Blog Icon 200x200_7.23_LipsWork on Communication

Trade show success relies heavily on maintaining clear communication with your prospects and customers before, during, and after the show. Establish basic communication techniques with your team to ensure a consistent and positive connection with everyone who interacts with you and your team.

Before the Show

Use a diverse mix of direct and digital communication to let attendees know you’re exhibiting. Details should include where your booth is located, what products you’re exhibiting, and any critical information about special presentations or giveaways.

During the Show

Create guidelines for greetings so your team knows exactly what to say to prospects. Here are a few examples.

  • Greeting for Random Attendee — “Hi, what brings you to the show today?”
  • Greeting for Attendee Approaching Your Booth — “Hi, what can we help you with today?”

Finally, when exchanging business cards, make sure to ask the other person a few questions about their work. After you part ways, jot down a few key pieces of information on the back of their card to help you remember the interaction later during your follow-ups.

After the Show

Follow up with attendees who stopped by the booth through email, on LinkedIn, or through direct mail or call methods. Don’t forget to use the notes you took during interactions to personalize follow-ups when possible.


By focusing on proper etiquette, you allow your prospects to focus on your message, and not on your behavioral blunders. Get more tips on perfecting your trade show techniques by checking out our free resource: 7 Keys To An Irresistible Trade Show Campaign.

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7 Keys To An Irresistible Trade Show Campaign

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