How do I teach long-winded staffers to cut off a conversation with attendees in the booth?
While staffers must understand every encounter with attendees is an opportunity to build relationships, it's equally important for them to realize they need to accumulate as many of these relationships as possible in the short span of time a show runs. That means teaching them disengagement is just as important as instructing them on engagement.
To accomplish that, I recommend you use pre-show meetings. However, instead of simply issuing a directive at those gatherings, let staffers devise solutions to encounters that run too long. That way they are more likely to police their own behavior. Ask them an open-ended question such as, "How can we give prospects the attention they need and expect, but communicate effectively with as many attendees as possible?"
Expect to hear ideas such as placing a clock in the booth so staffers can monitor their time; working in tandem so one staffer can interrupt a conversation at a prearranged time to say the other staffer has another obligation to fulfill, thus offering a natural exit; closing by exchanging business cards; or setting a time to follow up after the show. If the staffers don't generate any such ideas, you might toss these out for discussion and then stand back while they debate and fine tune the tactics. With luck, they'll learn what Longfellow wrote, that "Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending."
, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org