5 Steps to a Powerful Greeting Experience

Perhaps the thing that shocks me most at any trade show is when I walk through an exhibitor’s booth and not a single person acknowledges my presence. Well-meaning, often well-paid staffers are positioned at their demo stations, but not one of them says “hello.” This doesn’t surprise me—because it happens all of the time—but it never ceases to amaze me.

Show attendees really want just one thing: to be recognized. They want to be acknowledged. They come to the show with their interests and they want to talk about them. And all it takes is a simple greeting to get the conversation started.

Engaging customers when they walk into a booth drives all kinds of positive metrics. Customers report higher brand awareness. They have more positive perceptions of the exhibitor. They are more likely to talk about the experience with their peers and on social networks. They are more likely to become brand promoters rather than detractors. All of this comes by simply starting a conversation.

Booth staffers often want to let people look and touch without getting in their way. They are afraid of the attendees feeling “trapped,” so they allow them to make the first move in starting a conversation.

Attendees pick up on this subtle distinction: who started the conversation? In our post-event surveys we always carefully word the question to attendees this way: “Were you engaged by a member of our staff?”

When I train brand ambassadors and representatives, I break the process down into some easy steps that start the conversation:

  1. Smile and say “hello” – The first step is as simple as that. The staffer says hello and the customer has the option to signal their intentions. They may return the greeting or they might keep walking. One way of the other, this simple start often leads to a positive interaction all on its own.
  2. Ask about the customer’s interests – A simple question like “What brings you in today?” or “What are you interested in here at the show?” gives the attendee the opportunity to open up about their interests and guides where the staffer will take the conversation. Attendees love to feel that you are interested in them and this is a powerful way to show them that you are.
  3. Point them to something or someone that matches their interests – When the attendee tells the staffer what they’re interested in, the staff should respond by guiding them to someone or something that matches their interest, even if it means that they are not the best person for that job. “You sound like you are interested in X, I know just the person to help you out.”
  4. Allow the visitor to experience on their own – Now it is important to signal to the visitor that they can continue their experience on their own if they choose. “Please take a look and let me know if you have more questions.” This places a natural break in the conversation and allows the visitor to continue their visit on their own or to keep the conversation going.
  5. Follow up – Finally, we encourage following up in a few minutes. This re-engagement is where the true selling can happen. A good opener can be something like, “I’ve seen you looking at this particular product for a few minutes, can I answer any questions about it for you?”

Following a chain like this does several things: it opens a conversation, it signals interest in the attendee and it produces a low-pressure environment. All of this leads to positive experiences by attendees. And perhaps the most important thing is that it is easy, free and starts with a smile. What could be better than that?