Some teammates and I recently attended a conference that had fantastic speakers, sessions and a huge number of companies with booths ranging from simple to elaborate. As I walked the floor visiting vendors, I had very different experiences visiting the booths and speaking with the representatives of two different companies. Both vendors stood out, but one stood out for all the right reasons while the other left a very bad first impression. Here is the story of each, with some practical do’s and don’ts for those of you with booths at conferences and trade shows.
Booth 1: The Rock Stars
From the moment we approached this booth, we were not only welcomed and treated like VIPs, but also instantly impressed with how well they handled their logistics. We had made an appointment ahead of time, and before we even got to the desk, someone approached us and knew who we were. They brought us over to get us checked in and let us know our contact was finishing up another demo and would be with us quickly; he finished up and brought us over to our demo right on time.
The technology itself was impressive, and the demo was stellar. Our contact moved through it seamlessly and was able to dive in deeper without missing a beat when we asked about specific modules. There was a minimum of three people serving us at any point during our visit to the booth, all of whom were extremely knowledgeable and incredibly friendly.
When the demo was done, their team thanked us and shook our hands while looking us in the eye. That may seem like a given, but I assure you it is not. Their contact talked about following up with us in a way that was supportive and welcoming without feeling pushy. The team for this company was well-trained not only in the technology and company knowledge, but also in how to be polished and professional. I walked away looking forward to continuing our conversations.
• Make every person who approaches you feel welcome• Keep appointments running on time• Have a great demo ready to go and adjust to meet the needs/questions of your visitor• Train your team to be polished and professional in every interaction
Booth 2: The Amateurs
In fairness, we did not have an appointment with this company but pulled over while walking around because their technology caught our eye. A representative came over to talk with me. He was somewhat knowledgeable but couldn’t answer all our questions. When he showed us the demo, pieces of it didn’t work and he had to dance around it, asking us to “imagine” how it would work. Strike one.
As he was struggling with the demo, he asked one of his colleagues to come over and help. The colleague spent all of 15 seconds on the discussion before simply shrugging his shoulders and saying things like, “Yeah, I don’t know what to tell you.” Is this the kind of support we could expect from your company? Strike two.
Our contact spent most of the time addressing my colleague, which is reasonable since he is the head of our engineering team. At the end of our conversation (when we decided we had seen enough of this stumbling through a presentation and it was time to move on), the representative was scanning our badges and saw our titles. His response to mine was “Oh, COO, huh? Good for you.” Followed by a quick wink. We’ll get into gender bias and everything that is wrong with this interaction some other time, but needless to say, strike three.
While in the first scenario I walked away wanting to learn more, in this case, I walked away unimpressed and unhappy. I will always remember the company, and I will never do business with them.
• Show a demo that doesn’t work• Have people manning your booth that can’t answer basic questions or are unprofessional• Make assumptions about your potential buyers
You have one chance to make a first impression for your company. Be sure to make it count.