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A Code of Conduct for New Technology at Exhibitions

Barry Siskind


It’s an age old problem with a new twist; attendees walk past a booth and immediately form the impression that the booth staff is not really interested in meeting new people. This impression comes from observing these company representatives busy talking to colleagues, catching up on paper work and eating their lunch.

Enter the age of technology and we see new distractions: Smartphones, tablets and laptops which apparently are too enticing to ignore, is leaving the attendee with an unfavourable impression, the last impression you want to create with potential customers.

Imagine if you walked into a retail store and the sales clerk was behind the cash register texting their friends or reading updates on Facebook. Unless you needed a product sold at this store really badly and it wasn’t available at their nearest competitor, you might turn around and walk out. The situation is no different at a trade show.

The problem has intensified now that nearly one third of the world’s population is connected and the tendency to send a quick text or email message becomes overpowering. How then do you ensure that your staff stops texting, talking, reading, computing and organizing in order to give one hundred percent of their attention to the visitors?

In the past many exhibitors have developed a list of do’s and don’ts for booth conduct which included rules about such items as eating, reading, sitting, approaching, and professionalism. Now it’s time to create a code of conduct focused on the use of technology at a trade show.

It’s going to take some time and thought to create a comprehensive list. I’m asking you to add your suggestions to the list below. With your input, I plan to update this list in the months to come.

Here are a few of my suggestions to get our discussion started:


Use cell-phones at the booth. The tendency is, especially during slower times, to stay in touch with customers and head office. But you never know when the next customer is going to walk by and if they see your thumbs flying over a miniature keyboard they just might walk by without stopping.

Use the booth time to catch up on work on laptops and tablets. Reports can wait. Most of us are not dealing with matters of life and death so putting off that sales report or the letter you promised to a customer should wait until you can give it your complete attention.

Allow head office people to interrupt exhibition staff with calls and messages. There needs to be clear guidelines detailing who, when and why a phone call from head office to someone at a trade show happens. The policy about these types of interruptions is best handled when your senior executives support your exhibition program and understand how destructive interruptions can be.


Turn your cell-phone ringer to “silent” or “vibrate” during exhibition hours. However, there are times when a Smartphone can be a real advantage. You can use it to confirm show appointments and meetings. It is a great method of staying in touch with your customers reminding them that you are at the show and an excellent tool to use when you run into a situation where you need some head-office advice. A quick text often gets answers that a booth visitor needs.

Assign one person who will post updates from your booth to maintain contact with the social media. To ignore the power of the social media at a trade show is foolish. Many shows incorporate twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites into their promotion plans. Wise exhibitors will embrace social media and use it to their advantage. However, without very clear rules about who posts and how comments are given; the tendency is to have all your show staff falling over each other doing the same thing. A clear policy must be established to ensure that you are maximizing the power of the social network.

Use laptops and tablets to help with visitor presentations. Visitors attend a show to clarify issues related to your product or service. Often a one-on-one discussion will help move them along in the sales cycle. This is the one time when tablets and laptops can be a great help in supporting the points you are attempting to make by accessing your web-site, a pre-loaded presentation, statistics and case studies.

This is a mere beginning. Surely there are many items that should be added. If you have any do’s and don’ts to add, please let me know.