About 5 years ago, I was asked to create and deliver a business communication workshop for a state association. What a great idea on the association’s part! The title I used was: Exceptional Exhibitor: From Small Talk to Big Business.

This past weekend I attended a home show as a consumer. As you can probably imagine the home show had innumerable exhibitors all hoping (one would assume) to create a connection with the many consumers and ultimately generate a sale for their respective business. When I saw the unprofessional conduct on display, it made me recall the workshop I conducted and I quickly realized that the majority of these exhibitors had not been trained at all or if so, they’d had insufficient training.

Some of the mistakes I witnessed first hand at many of the booths included:
1. Eating
2. Conversing with colleagues
3. Conversing with neighboring exhibitors
4. Not making any eye-contact with consumers
5. Neglecting to introduce themselves when a consumer expressed interest
6. Neglecting to ask a consumer’s name and use it during conversation
7. Speaking very rapidly
8. Failing to learn the needs of the consumer
9. Having insufficient staffing to engage with consumers vs. having them wait and waste time
10.Lack of an interactive display to attract consumers

This is only a partial list of exhibitor mistakes–indeed there were more but this gives you a good feel for what I experienced. Please know that with appropriate training all of these mistakes can be corrected and the results would be quite different.

It took me about an hour to walk through the show and I was happy to exit and found it unfortunate that I wasn’t eager to conduct business with any of the exhibitors at this show.

When you decide to exhibit for your employer or for your own business, remember that it’s an investment so it pays to know what to do and what not to do. Then and only then can you become an exceptional exhibitor who knows how to go from small talk to big business.