Trade Show Displays, Booths and Exhibits from exhibitDEAL

15 Conversation Starters For Your Next Trade Show.

What Are the Best Conversation Starters for Sales at Your Trade Show?

Regardless of whether you're about to work your first trade show or you’ve manned dozens of booths by now, coming up with a compelling way to get people to stop and see what you have to offer can be a challenge. A polite “Hi, how are you?” or other standard greeting just isn’t going to do the trick most of the time; you need something that is a little more along the lines of a pick-up line. Your opener can be clever, catchy, intriguing, flattering, or some combination of these things. Many people who run successful trade show booths recommend trying out a few different pre-planned lines, and gauging how trade show attendees react to them. Here are some tried-and-true lines that you can tweak and test out at your next trade show.

Ask a question that reveals what you do.

This is a pretty standard approach, but the reason that it is so common is that it is effective. You want to engage people passing by - but instead of shouting explanations or offers, you want to draw people in with a question. Of course, some questions are going to be more effective than others. You want to ask a question that sets up your company, your product, or your service. Your most basic opener would be along the lines of:

  • “What do you know about our company/product/service?

This certainly won’t be a question that attendees haven’t heard elsewhere that day, but it gives you a solid opening to start a conversation. If an attendee has no idea what your company does, or has a completely wrong impression, you can impart better information. If someone does have a pretty good idea of what your company brings to the table, you can ask them how they know so much, and what else they need to find out. Either way, you can start talking about your product and gauging interest.

More targeted questions can reveal what your company or product has to offer:

  • “Are you looking for a pop up display?”
  • “Do you ever have trouble capturing new prospects?”

While the standard rule is generally to ask open-ended questions that people have trouble walking away from, these yes-or-no questions still give people a quick sell of what you do or what benefits you can offer. They can also save you a little time. Sure, the aim of a trade show is to meet potential clients, and you want to talk to as many people as possible. However, there will be some people who truly don’t have a use for your service. Targeted questions can save you both a little time by revealing this up front. The first question gets right to the heart of the matter, while the second question - if you've picked a major pain point and are able to offer an effective alternative or solution - will draw in people who might not have otherwise been interested in what you're offering

Show them what you do.

One of the biggest draws of a trade show is that you can let people interact with the product and make their own judgment firsthand. Pulling people in with these questions or offers is easy.

  • “Would you like to see a demo?”
  • “Let me show you something exciting.”

Of course, you’ll have more success if you flesh out these lines to describe how your product is unique or what superior features it offers - for instance, “Let me show you how your company can save time and money with [service],” or, “Do you want to see how you can more efficiently manage [task]?”

Make a personal connection.

Many people find it more difficult to walk away from a question specifically directed at them. Suspending the sales pitch for a moment and striking up a real conversation to try to make a genuine connection with someone can be very effective, especially if you are more concerned with making quality connections than with achieving mass contact. This approach is also pretty easy, since you can read a person’s name and company off the nametag and work them into your questions.

  • “So, what do you do at [company]?”
  • “How well have you been finding what you need today?”
  • “How helpful has this show been so far?”

It should be easy to steer the conversation from the attendee or the show to what the attendee is looking for, and how you can help with that.

Take an indirect approach.

Leading with an unassuming or unrevealing question can be very effective at getting people to stop. You just need to plan a strong, targeted question to follow it up with.

  • “Could I ask for your opinion on something?”

Your follow-up question should frame the issue that your product or service can help with, or otherwise build some context for you to introduce your company in.

Draw them in with an offer, or challenge them.

If you have items to give away or promotions running at your booth, by all means, use them to break the ice.

  • “Did you get your free...?”
  • “Have you entered to win...?”
Getting people to stop at your booth for just a moment can be the hardest part.  Besides, many people feel at least some obligation to listen to what you have to offer after taking your product or entering a contest. 

You can also challenge attendants with a question that requires them to think a little, whether about your company or a broader problem.
  • “Looking over our materials and booth, can you describe what we do?”
  • “Do you know how much/how many [targeted statistic]...?”

A good statistic would be something like what percentage of companies don’t have an effective way to deal with this issue, or how much annual revenue is lost because of that problem.  By providing specific and interesting information, you can catch people’s attention while making the pitch for your product or service a natural and logical progression. 

Show that you care about meeting client needs.

If someone has been lingering and examining your booth, or if you’ve already been through a basic conversation with them, questions about specific needs are a natural progression.  These questions also serve a few purposes: they help you make a more personal connection, and they demonstrate that your company wants to improve its offerings and work with clients to satisfy them.

  • “Which part of our service would be most helpful to your company?”
  • “Are there any features you don’t see here that you would be interested in?”

Getting prospective clients to say in their own words how they could use and benefit from what your company offers can go a long way toward building a relationship.  Asking about the features that the attendee is looking for gives you some idea of what your company could do to improve its offerings and marketability. 

Adapt your approach as necessary. 

You may find that, at different shows or even different times of the day at the same show, different questions meet with a better reception.  It’s smart to change up your questions and try more than one tack.  The results can give you a better idea of how to target your ideal audience in the future and in other contexts, like in promotions or on your landing page.  Getting the conversation started can be one of the hardest parts of working at a trade show, but once you’ve had some practice and found your own style, you'll be sure to see great results.