Over the last few days I’ve come across several articles on training booth staff. The only reason I knew they were about training booth staff was because they were in Exhibit Industry Magazines or had the words Training and Booth Staff in the headline. The articles read more like how to get a three-year-old to behave in public spaces or how to get your teenager to like you.

One article started with “The business world is just like a high-school classroom.” It went on to tell exhibit managers how to deal with bad behavior during booth staff training. Things like move those who misbehave to the front of the room. And, if people are having side conversations, call out the “Chatty Chucks and Cathies.”

If you’re an exhibit manager and this is how you’re treating our booth staffers, then good luck. Do you honestly think those assigned to booth duty will respect you more if you treat them like children? Will they listen better if you sound like a shrew with all your do’s and don’ts and penalties for bad behavior? I cringe every time I come across someone who is following this kind of advice. They sound like the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.

Here’s a better solution. Don’t have these people staffing your booth.

The worst booth staffer in the world is one that doesn’t want to be at the show. Maybe they don’t want to be there because they’re a pompous ass who thinks they are too good for that type of work. But more likely, maybe they don’t want to be there because a family member is sick and they don’t want to be away. Maybe finances are tight and they can’t afford to be on the road for three or four days. Maybe they are terrified of or just incredibly uncomfortable talking to strangers and engaging them in some kind of sales pitch. Maybe they are sick of their boss acting like they just had four days of vacation instead of working hard for 12 hours a day. Maybe the sales person would rather spend the four days working her own territory so she can make her numbers this month instead of gathering leads for other reps.

Whatever their reason, they don’t want to be there. So don’t make them go. You can’t fix bad attitude and it’s the last thing you want in your booth. Send the people who want to be there. Sales people are not always the best booth staffers and quite frankly, these days that’s not who customers want to talk to anyway. Customer service people make great booth staffers. Product development people make great booth staffers. Focus on finding people who actually want to be there…or at least are willing to give it their best shot.

“But I don’t have any choice…I don’t get to choose who goes to the show.” Well, then you’re going to have to grow a pair and start fighting for a good staff. Read an article on negotiation and persuasion. Take a bit of responsibility for the success of the show.

Or you could just continue treating people like children…it’s entirely up to you.

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