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Do all booth staffers need continuing education?

Barry Siskind


I have heard this so many times &ndash it makes me want to scream.

“Our staffers have been involved with our exhibitions for years and know what they are doing.”

Think about it. What profession graduates its members and never includes educational updating? Yet, when it comes to sales and communications, particularly in face-to-face situations like an exhibition, continuing education is made to sound more like a punishment than a perk.

Why is it so important that each member of your staff be regularly updated on new information and tools and techniques that would make their trade show participation more up to date and productive? The answer lies in three key criteria; demographics, technology and expectations. Let’s look at each.


The US based Center for Exhibition Industry Research has stated that by 2015 there will be &ndash for the first time in history &ndash five distinct generations of attendees populating the trade show floor. The five are: Traditionalists born before 1946, Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1965, Gen X born between 1982 and 1981, Gen Y born between 1982 and 1997 and Gen 2020 born after 1997.

Five generations who all have their unique perspectives, motivations and preferences? The result is that when one of these generations is approached at a trade fair and not treated as they would expect the impact of the encounter is greatly reduced.


Technology has exploded and is part of everyday life. Just think, for example, what would happen to the world we know if for some mysterious reason computers disappeared. This sounds like the plot of a sci-fi novel.

One of the things technology has given us is a tremendous growth in access to information. Today’s attendees have more information at their disposal and are further along in the buying cycle all because of technology.

Attendees have done their research on the products and services that hold the possibility of making their lives and jobs easier and more productive. They have spent time looking into the companies that represent these products and services and through social media have reached out to their community and asked for feedback. When a staffer confronts one of these people and pitches product information with no regard to the individual, the impact is lost.


We live in a world measured in Nano-seconds. Everyone, no matter what their personal objectives for doing what they do, wants to create value for their efforts. The expectations we have for nearly every action we take has never been higher. As an exhibitor you need to obtain value for your corporation and the resources it has invested in your exhibition program. Attendees need to get value for their time.

No longer do attendees casually browse as they walk up and down the aisles at a show. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research reports that 73% of attendees have a pre-set agenda. They have decided which products and services they wish to learn about and which vendors they want to talk to. Once they approach a trade show booth they are primed with questions and are eager for an experience that will lead to their solving an issue they are wrestling with. This is totally different those decades ago when staffers pitched products to anyone who walked by with the hopes of making a sale. It requires a new level of competence when handling the public for they are under constant scrutiny to perform at their highest level. One misstep will affect the value that both parties so desperately want.


The bottom line, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, is, if your booth staff does what they always did, they will get what you always got. If they want better results for your exhibition investment they are going to have to do something differently. Your investment in their continuing education can reap huge rewards.