In juxtaposing tradeshows with live theatre, I thought it appropriate to construct my case for shows just as plays are written – in Acts.

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Act I It’s ALIVE
Tradeshows provide customers with valuable insight that can’t be acquired by any other marketing source. Customers meet you and your brand becomes alive to then when they shake your hand. They are able to talk with experts, able to get more of a feel for your company and can better determine if you are a company they want to do business with based on how you engage with them.
When you talk with customers, you are able to read body language and you can gauge their level of interest. You can see if you’re starting to lose them or if they’re getting excited about your company. In person, you can often tell if you aren’t answering their question and you have the opportunity to correct the path of the conversation. Customers will give you these ‘tells’ which you ordinarily don’t detect in a phone conversation or through email.
Despite either overzealous fans or overly negative comments on social media, I have found that what you really need is constructive feedback – how does the customer use your product, what could be improved, what else could they use to make their job easier? That comes from one of two places, either actual observation in the field, or in one-on-one conversations. Those conversations happen when there is a rapport, the person is feeling listened to and they believe you are the person to address it. That happens all the time . . . at tradeshows.
Act II Props Are Cool
Viewing product on a screen is not a tactile experience for your customer, but being able feel the weight difference of your brand new ultra-light model is very tangible. Holding two different products and seeing with their own eyes the quality difference in your superior workmanship, that’s memorable. This alone can help you stand apart from your competition. If you are a service company, then your value proposition might be your awesome customer service – your prop could be your most seasoned and beloved customer service rep. Wherever you excel in your industry – that’s what you want attendees to experience for themselves, in person . . . at tradeshows.
Act III The Green Room
In theatre, the green room is where cast and crew kill time when not on stage; often friendships develop, feedback is given and camaraderie is forged. Similarly, at tradeshows those working the booth have time before the show, during slow hours and even while walking miles out of the hall after the show where they share information. I believe companies would be wise to take note of the significant value of knowledge that is transferred between team members when they are gathered in one space.

The informal training I witnessed over the years is quantifiably immeasurable. Whether it was product training or one salesperson sharing how she was able to overcome objections another salesperson had struggled with – that information sharing didn’t happen anywhere else. It was in those unscripted moments when real life scenarios were shared which taught more than hours of role-playing ever could.
I personally learned from listening to how our product expert would talk to a prospect. I learned how to ask the right questions and be more effective in talking to customers. Companies don’t offer that kind of training, you just have to learn it for yourself and tradeshows were the perfect place to do exactly that.
It was towards the end of the day at my very first show at one particular company, when my fellow booth workers suddenly said “You’re up!” meaning, the only way to learn to talk to customers was, to talk to customers. I lasted a few seconds before stammering over myself at which point the seasoned salesman stepped forth to my rescue. Nevertheless, it was my first step in gaining my confidence to talk about a product I was just learning. I continued to learn at each and every tradeshow – the more I attended, the more I worked, the more I learned and the better I became. This wasn’t corporate training, this was peer-to-peer training; it was real life and real questions asked by real prospects and real customers. I couldn’t get this information by watching a corporate ordained video, nor could I learn it from my own Marketing department’s product information sheet. This was the stuff I could only learn . . . at tradeshows.