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Diagnosing Dysfunctional Staffers
Exhibit managers need to be many things to many people. In fact, sometimes they need to function as amateur psychologists, able to recognize, diagnose, and treat detrimental staffer behaviors before they impact their team's performance. Here, three staff-training experts (Susan Brauer, CME, president of Brauer Consulting Group LLC; Jefferson Davis, president of Competitive Edge LLC; and David Ren Jenkins, CEO of Trade Shows on Steroids) share their insights to help you nip eight common bad behaviors in the bud. By Brian Dukerschein
Frequently moves throughout the booth in a distracted manner
Appears preoccupied with product displays or personal electronics
Does not engage in one-on-one conversations with attendees, but joins staffer/attendee conversations already taking place
Avoids making personal and eye contact with supervisor

Treatment: Frequently misdiagnosed as having the more common Responsibility Avoidance Disorder, staffers with Responsibility Nervosa are not purposefully neglecting their duties; rather, they feel acute stress over not knowing what those duties are. It is important to recognize that some staffers feel uncomfortable on the trade show floor if their roles are not at least partially defined. Meet with the afflicted staffer and discuss what roles fall within his or her comfort zone (e.g., greeter, product demonstrator, lead taker) that will also help you achieve your exhibiting objectives.
Pathologically verbose
Overuses technical jargon when conversing with attendees
Does not provide relevant responses to attendees' questions
Clusters key messages together in a rapid delivery
Disrespectful of booth visitors' time and degree of knowledge

Treatment: To help these staffers understand that trade show attendees are frequently in a state of information overload, convey to them that "It's not what you tell that's most important; it's what you ask." Encourage them to ask booth visitors about their degree of familiarity with the solutions your company offers and work with staffers on minute-long "elevator speeches" that include key feature and benefit messages that are in line with the attendee's level of knowledge. Emphasize that the main purpose of an in-booth engagement is often to deliver just enough information to make the attendee want more and be willing to commit to the next step of the selling cycle.
Readily engages in general conversation with booth visitors but makes little or no effort to prompt them to take action
Fails to ask back-end qualifying questions (e.g., buying influence, purchase time frame).
Habitually fails to scan badges, or completes badge scans without getting additional information
Does not attempt to gather feedback from attendees

Treatment: Staffers with Rejection Phobia are so fearful that an attendee will say no to them if they try to advance the selling process that they limit themselves to friendly conversation. Inform these staffers that a quality in-booth interaction is a collaborative commitment to a clear next action. Pre-show training with role-play scenarios can help staffers become more comfortable interacting with attendees in a way that is beneficial for both parties. Motivation can include daily contests that reward staffers who gather the leads with the most information, the most leads with committed follow-up actions, etc.
Acts as though the purpose of the exhibit is to distribute giveaways
Repeatedly fails to gather lead information or truly engage with booth visitors
Paranoid monitoring that attendees only receive a single giveaway
Manic distribution of multiple giveaways to every attendee he/she encounters

Treatment:Remind staffers with Giveaway-Induced OCD that while they should always be kind and generous with attendees, giveaways should be used as a means to not only leave a positive, lasting impression on booth visitors, but also to start qualifying conversations. Teach these staffers ways to engage attendees who express interest in your giveaways by using role-play scenarios or a list of scripted conversation starters, e.g., "Yes, these stylus pens are pretty neat. Please take a few. And while you do, I'll use one myself to get a bit of information from you. Then we can talk about how our firm can address some of your needs."
Displays an extreme fondness for the badge scanner
Performs his/her duties under the assumption that a large number of badge scans has more value than quality interactions with attendees
Limits attendee engagements to perfunctory conversations preceded or proceeded by a badge scan
Scans attendees' badges despite their vocal lack of interest

Treatment: Arrange a meeting to let the staffer know that scanning badges indiscriminately is akin to providing the company's sales team with a cold-call list that will be of little benefit. If collecting qualified leads is a priority, establish a vetting process based on criteria (e.g., target audience, buying authority, etc.) that align with your show goals. If vetting isn't necessary, encourage the staffer to think of scanning badges less as an opening handshake and more as a launching point for a more in-depth conversation about attendees' specific needs and pain points.
Visibly decreases level of motivation/work ethic in the late afternoon
Pays increasing attention to cellphone and/or timepiece during the final work hour
Flagrantly rushes through conversations with attendees as soon as the show closes for the day
Leaves the booth without assisting with closing procedures

Treatment:Talk to the staffer in question and remind him/her that the day doesn't end as soon as the clock says the show is over. Explain that making an exhibit a success is a team effort, and that his or her behavior can have a negative impact on co-workers, attendees' impression of your company, and your booth's performance. If necessary, adjust work schedules so all staffers know they have to remain in the booth until all closing procedures are completed. To incentivize staffers to remain engaged with attendees as closing time approaches, consider offering a reward for the staffer who collects the last lead or has the final metric-driven interaction of the day.
Dresses in a provocative manner, whether in a staff uniform (e.g., undoing an excessive number of buttons) or in personal attire
Engages with attendees in overtly flirtatious ways via speech, body language, and personal contact
Frequently suggests adding adult-themed elements to the exhibit, such as scantily clad models or suggestive graphics
Regularly makes lewd and/or inappropriate jokes to co-workers

Treatment: Staffers displaying these symptoms must be made to understand that while they may be out of the office, a trade show is still a place of business. Establish a clearly defined dress code and enforce it on the show floor. As for addressing inappropriate behavior, speak to the staffer in private and reinforce that when people have an experience in a booth, they often link that experience to the company as a whole. Encourage the staffer to view himself/herself as a brand ambassador and not act in ways that can jeopardize the firm's image in the marketplace.
Frequently seen eating meals and snacks inside the booth
Routinely takes food and refreshments intended for attendee hospitality
Habitually leaves personal beverages in plain sight
Odor of previous meal can clearly be smelled on subject's breath

Treatment: Eating exhibitionists need to be given limits. Schedule breaks for meals and snacks, and let staffers know that any eating should be done either in a staff-only area or outside the booth. Communicate that it looks very unprofessional if they are seen taking items from a hospitality spread that is meant for attendees, even if it's a simple candy dish. Establish a rule that any in-booth beverages need to be stored in corporate-branded bottles, and encourage staffers to keep them out of sight whenever possible. Provide each staffer with a tin of breath mints to assist in diminishing residual post-meal halitosis.
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