Start a Conversation. Stop Selling.

Start a Conversation. Stop Selling.

“Every aspect of creating a vendor booth for an event should be about starting a conversation.”

So says Melissa Vilas Boas of LEAP Legal Software who is an expert when it comes to maximizing the impact and efficiency of vendor booths.  She advocates that if your company is going to spend a significant amount of money on getting a booth at an expo, that you should focus on maximizing your ROI, even if that means spending a bit more up front.  The location, staff and set up are all important.  Melissa starts planning LEAP booths a year ahead of the event, which results in quality leads and even direct sales at the events.

At LEAP, she said that they don’t set out to quickly close sales or just scramble to grab as many names as possible.  They engage attendees and gain an understanding about each one’s business needs.  There is no point in pitching people who can’t use the product, so instead the focus at events is to listen and learn.

The planning and execution of vendor booths is about welcoming potential clients and getting to know them.  Melissa shared the why and how to effectively run a booth:

  1. Location – Planners need to research the event’s main entrance location, or other area that will compel attendees to pass the booth. Location is the most coveted aspect and often needs to be negotiated a year in advance.
  2. Details matter – Sloppy is a turn off. Table covers should be crisply ironed and displays attractive and interesting.
  3. Furniture – Attendees are on the move. To engage them, it is inviting to have a high counter for standing, or bar stools to perch on.  Conversation is more comfortable between stools, than across a table placed at the front of the booth which blocks interaction.
  4. A reason to linger – LEAP offers charging stations. Attendees can plug in while they hang out.
  5. Product – One way to present your product is with live demonstrations or images displayed on a monitor. Attendees can learn about the product as much or little as they want.
  6. Tchotchkes – Attendees expect something to walk away with.  Put thought into items that will make it further than the nearest trash can.  LEAP gives away branded lip balm, hand sanitizer, pens, and the far and away favorite …
  7. A unique giveaway – … energy drinks. LEAP themed their booth toward energy and so giving away Red Bulls was a natural fit and a big hit.  Popping open a Red Bull and sitting at one of the high tables lends to conversation.
  8. Tailor giveaways to the event audience – Giveaways for 20-somethings women will be different than what is interesting to 50-somethings men. One size tchotchke does not fit all.
  9. Appropriate Staff – Friendly, outgoing, and good at conversation and most important, good at listening! What you don’t want is the people you actually often see at booths – sitting behind a display, ticking away at their smart phones, and occasionally leaping up to scan a badge.
  10. “Overstaff the booth” – LEAP staffs 5 employees in a booth at a time. Conversations take time and they want attendees relaxed and engaged.  Your staff can’t listen effectively to one person when they are worried about the one walking by.
  11. Don’t scan tags – It is impersonal. Ask for a card or write down contact info when you finish a conversation and take some notes.  This will turn a canned follow up for a scanned tag into a personalized second conversation after the event.
  12. Size matters – Scale the booth to the size of the event. A double booth will stand out at a large event, where a single booth could get lost.
  13. Sponsorships – LEAP has gained impact from sponsorships. For example; cool lanyards brought attendees to their booth just to find out what the company was all about.
  14. Keynote Speakers – speakers, panelists and workshop leaders attract people to the booth. Internal experts, the company CEO and external speakers will bring follow up questions to the table.
  15. Social Media Marketing – post before, during, and after. Posting images of your booth at its busiest will encourage others to find out what is going on.

In short, vendor booths that are a one-day thought are a waste of money.  Significant expenditure deserves planning, execution and follow up.  More information about LEAP Legal software can be found at