Hello class, it’s great to be back with another lesson…. Have you ever wished that you could find out just exactly how well your booth staffers are doing and what areas of performance need the most work? If you have, then this month’s lesson is the answer to your wish! Our focus today will be  on creating a Mystery Shopper Program (MSP) that can uncover your booth staff’s strengths and weaknesses and while we’re at it, also of your  competitors! This information is invaluable to have when you create a Booth Staff Training program for your staffers so they deliver your company with better results and higher ROIs when exhibiting!

There is not an awful lot of mystery in such a program as long as you develop a logical and executable plan to obtain the information you are seeking.  I will share with you the some of the processes I use when I get hired to conduct a Mystery Shopper Program and you can customize them to suit your individual company’s needs.

Getting Started

For starters, you should probably first get approval from management to conduct the MSP before moving forward. Especially if you plan on using audio or video recordings; checking in with HR and legal tends to be the right thing to do. Once you have the “go ahead”, you can start creating the framework for your program. One of the first steps is to determine which show or shows you will conduct the MSP at and which competitors you want to have observed at each show. For obvious reasons, you want to select shows that provide a good sample of typical exhibiting activities and not some esoteric event where  your company or the show production company are doing something well outside your normal exhibiting.

Who Will be Observing the Booth Staff?

Next, you will need to figure out who will be observing the booth staff. This is an important decision that can have a big impact on your results, and should therefore not  be taken lightly; to ensure the reporting is thorough. I suggest that you hire experienced convention professionals such as a trade show consultant, but if you have to rely on internal resources, select  an individual or individuals from another division or regions of your company that are very knowledgeable on your company and products that the booth staff are unlikely to recognize. The best thing to do is to get Mystery Shoppers from another division of your company, or hire several Mystery Shoppers; to deliver a well rounded report and observations. A good trade show consultant will typically be able to help recruit and prepare local mystery shoppers.

The people who do the actual observing are the key element of the MSP. They will need to first learn about your company, products and competitors so they can have detailed, logical and educated conversations with staffers. I suggest you provide them with case studies, data sheets about products, company details, etc. so the Mystery Shopper can learn the information and be perceived as a serious prospect by the booth staffers. However, you may also want to have one person go in as an unqualified prospect to see how booth staffers deal with that situation.

Mystery Shopper Identity

You will need to use fictitious companies and possibly even fictitious names for the Mystery Shoppers; and register them for Attendee Badges. When registering, use an address that mail can be sent to post-show and an e-mail address that can receive follow up e-mails after the show. This way you can see how well your booth staffers and competitors perform their follow-up tasks. If you deem it necessary to use fictitious names, make sure you check into the regulations and processes for obtaining attendee badges; explain the situation to registration if necessary. Inform the Mystery Shoppers of their “identities” well in advance of the show and note the type of attire they should wear so they can arrive well prepared.

Questions to Ask Staffers

When determining the type of questions the Mystery Shoppers will ask booth staffers you need to think of the areas you want to report on,such as:

  • Greeting
  • Qualifying
  • Demonstration
  • Closing/Gathering  of Lead Information

Be sure to provide Mystery Shoppers with the questions ahead of time, as well as a “loose script” to follow so they can practice their “performance” before the show.

Mystery Shopper Reporting

In order to collect the information you are looking for, create a comprehensive reporting form that will be filled in by the Mystery Shoppers after their show visit. Be as thorough as possible to make it easy for them to create a detailed evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your booth staffers. Give them the follow-up reporting evaluation form ahead of time so they have a clear idea of what type of things they need to look for when in the booth and speaking with staffers. It is a good idea to ask them to fill in the reports as soon as possible after the visit to the booth so all the information is fresh in their minds!

Several sample questions for the report are:

  • How did booth staffers attract you to the booth?
  • Did the booth staffer spend time asking you questions and “qualifying” you, or did they jump into their sales pitch?
  • Do you feel the booth staffer was effective in presenting information about the product(s), based on your specific needs?
  • Did the booth staffer present the company’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?
  • Was a follow-up process described?
  • What were the top 3 most memorable things about your visit to our booth?

Shhhhhh…..It’s a Secret

Don’t let booth staff know about the MSP; the objective is to see how they perform naturally. If they are aware of the MSP, your reporting will suffer because the results will be skewed.

Creating the Comprehensive Mystery Shopper Report

After the show, collect the evaluations from the Mystery Shoppers and compile this information into a
detailed report. Start with an Executive Summary that describes an overview of the MSP and the findings, then move into the detailed information for each question the Mystery Shoppers answered. Conclude by describing your suggestions for improvement of the booth staff and the strategies that can be implemented
to help booth staffers improve their performance. If you also evaluated competitor’s booth staff, describe the results and what you can do to better position yourselves against those companies.


Consider implementing a Mystery Shopper Program to evaluate your booth staffers. Follow the steps listed in the lesson….. Call me if you have any questions about your homework!