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An Event Manager’s Guide to Happy and Successful Tradeshow Management

During a tradeshow, event reps need to maintain a shiny, happy and approachable demeanor, no matter what! Drawing from my own experiences, here are my personal tips to help you represent your company to the best of your abilities, and to ride the roller coaster of emotions that all reps feel during an event. Off-the-bat, there are three things you need to remember and use as a mantra during the show:

1) Take care of your guests
2) Take care of your staff
3) Take care of yourself

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It's Like Throwing a Dinner Party

I tell my staff to pretend that our booth space is our home and we’re throwing a dinner party. When you throw a party, you invite people in, show them where to put their coats, ask what they’d like to drink and introduce them to other people so that they feel comfortable and connected while you attend to other guests. Although the environment at a show is very different to a dinner party at your home, the mindset is the same and having a “good host” persona should be no different when you’re representing your company at an event. It’s important to control the event space so that anyone entering your booth can find their way around, ask questions, touch things, look at things, and feel that they’re a welcome guest.

When interacting with guests, don’t wait for them to start the conversation. Ask them the following questions so that you have all the info you need to help them:

What do you do?
• What do you need to get to the next step?
• Are you fixing an existing problem?
• Are you looking for a new solution?
• What are your business goals?

It’s also important to add, that you should never try to answer a question about your product or business that you don’t know. Escort them to the right representative or get them the literature that will be useful to them, but don’t try to fake the knowledge.

Dealing with “Special Dietary Needs” (aka Difficult Guests)

In any show, there are going to be difficult guests and a bad experience with an annoyed customer can seriously ruin your show mojo. So knowing how to cope with these characters is extremely important. The fact is, that you can’t ignore any guests. You have to address both the happy and the frustrated people. They both deserve your attention.

I’m sure that while phoning a company, you’ve experienced the dreaded transfer; explaining your whole story only to be transferred to another agent! As a tradeshow rep you never want guests to experience this same frustration, and if you don’t possess the knowledge that they’re looking for to fix an issue, explain to them immediately that you are not the person they need to speak to, then direct them to the representative in the booth who may be able to solve their problem. If there is no other representative available, make sure they leave the stand with the contact info of a service rep who can help.

You need to be a calming influence. Never show your frustration or anger. It’s not helpful to ANYONE in this situation. If you are particularly good at troubleshooting these kinds of issues, you might even offer them your own card, and insist they follow up with you when you’re back at the office.

Be Easily Identified

A tradeshow booth is really no different from a retail store— people want to know who the employees are. Name badges aren’t enough since all attendees have to wear them too. To put their mind at-ease, it’s important to be easily identifiable and be seen immediately as the “party host.” This relationship goes both ways because when a guest feels confident and happy that you’re the person they need to speak with, they in-turn make you feel more at ease and comfortable.

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Take Care of Your Staff

Putting on a successful event takes a village! You must not forget to tend to your team. A show is mentally and physically draining. To ensure that your staff don’t burn-out, have a break schedule in place and force them to stick to it. If your storage room is large enough, provide some chairs, healthy snacks and water, and if not, clearly identify the best place to take a break. It’s critical to create a place for staff to sit and replenish for a few moments, ideally hidden from the view of attendees.

Make sure your booth attire complements your staff. For example, don’t put women in a boxy men’s polo or button-down shirt. There are so many options now for branded dresses or cardigans that will coordinate.

While working for my current company, here are some of the practical and fun items that our representatives have worn so that people can easily find us at the show:

• Easily identifiable badges and pins
• Signature scarves
• Brightly colored cardigans
• Brightly colored costume wigs (it’s okay to have fun as well...it gets you noticed!)

Roland DGA Tradeshow Reps
Nicole (center) with other members of the SGIA 2016 Roland DG tradeshow team – having fun and standing-out at the show in their fun wigs that reflected the colorful product marketing campaign.

Take Care of You

First and foremost, as a woman rep, you must change your shoes every few hours. Don’t expect to have one miracle pair shoes that will last you all day. Women’s footwear is not designed for standing for hours at a time, so you must swap-out your shoes regularly to change and relieve those pressure points. Flip flops don’t count as show shoes; however, wearing them walking to and from the show can help. Rainbow’s double-arch sandals are hands-down the best.

I also recommend that you pamper yourself before a show so that you are completely refreshed and confident in the way you look. Before each event, I go through a process where I get my hair and nails done, so that I feel “fabulous” for the show.

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What Not to Do While in the Booth

Think of it this way – as soon as someone crosses the carpet into your booth, your guests have entered your home. As such, here are a few important rules to remember:

• Don’t fail to properly greet every individual who steps into your booth
• Don’t keep your back to the aisles— you should have a complete view of everyone entering the booth
• Don’t stand in groups— it’s intimidating for the attendee to approach
• Don’t drink or eat — it’s not the place and is off-putting to people entering the booth

Manage it all with a Smile

During the set-up and duration of the show you will undoubtedly have to deal with a lot of chaos. As an event manager, you have to be prepared to be humble but also tough in your resolve to get things done. You need to plan for the worst but hope for the best. I’m usually dealing with some mini-crisis, like calming down an annoyed electrician who doesn’t want to be working on a Sunday morning, while simultaneously crawling around the booth floor in my dress and heels trying to plug in a microphone so our company president can address the group.

Dealing with the different personalities of people – such as the annoyed installer who wants your help so they can get out as quick as possible, as well as the important guest who expects you to take your time to show them around – is demanding. You have to manage all these situations with grace and with a smile.

You must be a troubleshooter and solve issues while being respectful to every person you encounter during the entire duration of the show, because they are all integral pieces of the puzzle. From the truck driver, to the caterer, to the executive, people will react very differently to you, but your personality remains the same, because the only personality you can control is yours. Be like a chameleon: change your color “mind-set” before addressing each situation.

In the End

Being a tradeshow manager is a challenging, fun and rewarding job. It’s a firework of a profession where there are moments of great excitement, energy and highs while the show is on, but you crash when it’s all over. A tradeshow manager has to keep total control of their emotions during the show and then just release those feelings when it’s over. I’ve even been known to cry when I leave a show because the end is such a mixture of emotions; relief, exhaustion, pride and sadness that it’s all over. Then the next one comes around.

  • You can meet Nicole and other awesome members of the Roland DGA tradeshow team at a show near you. See our Roland DG Tradeshow Calendar for info on our print and sign, textile and apparel, dental, 3D fabrication and other 2017 shows.

Nicole DelPrato

Nicole DelPrato

Nicole DelPrato Marketing Manager, Campaigns and Events at Roland DGA has been in corporate event and tradeshow management for nearly twenty-five years. Starting her career, working for an exhibit builder, then moving over to the client-side to work as an exhibit manager. She has worked for major companies in the gaming, beauty, communications and print industries. She brings her boundless energy and bubbly personality to the role of Events Manager.