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Tips for booth staffing


There are many different ways a company can staff their booths for tradeshows. Whether a company chooses to have a guerilla campaign or a full booth staffed with 20 people, it is up to the company to establish its goal before beginning to look for the appropriate staff for its tradeshow endeavor.

Choosing to use models or “booth babes” is one way to catch the eye of passersby. If you are looking for someone to stop traffic, hand out flyers or just greet potential clients, then you have picked the right employee. But you are looking to sell or demonstrate a product, conduct lead generation or put on a presentation, these women are not going to be the best choice for your booth.


China Doll at IMEX 2012

“What we have learned in the past is hiring pretty girls in skintight dresses with sky-high heels is absolutely effective in stopping traffic,” said Heather Burdette, professional booth staffer. “Really it depends on the brand, product and show. But beyond that, if they haven’t been given the right information to promote your product or service, that’s all they can do.”

Burdette has been a professional booth staffer who began as a model, became a spokesperson, and then a product demonstrator, emcee and corporate presenter. All of these roles are important in a booth, but finding the right people for the right show at the right rate of pay is a tricky game. If a company can get just the right combination, it can produce measurable results.

“There was a job I recently booked that had me demonstrating cameras,” said Burdette. “I spent two days just on the training of this product. In this situation, it was a foreign company and foreign staff and they wanted an attractive English-speaker for their booth, and I fit those categories.”

Choosing novelty acts can also cause a stir at your booth. Make sure if you hire a novelty act that you also hire someone with the tools to transition the focus from the novelty act to your product. If there is no one who can verbalize what you’re selling, the act can be a waste of time, or worse, it can cause negative press.

“I once did a show where [at] a few booths down they had four women wearing body paint acting as mannequins,” Burdette said. “It actually got a lot of attention outside of the show – much of it negative – through social media. But the attention was only on the abstract body paint – not on the product the booth was selling. I don’t know if that was successful.”

Finding temporary staffers hired out of state or at the last minute can propose a myriad of problems if you are counting on them to do sales presentations. Make sure you find an exhibit or staffing agency that specifically services tradeshows or the tradeshow industry that understands what kind of person you are looking for. Be specific about what they will be doing and be prepared to pay more if you want a qualified candidate referral.

Ideally, a company will have one or two staffers who are internal sales representatives who are familiar with your company’s products and/or services. These people are the anchor of your booth; they have rehearsed their sales pitch and know how to pre-qualify the appropriate buyers at the show. But even if you have you own staff to handle the brunt of the sales, be sure to choose the right support staff who will work in tandem with you to maximize your time on the showroom floor.

“I have seen companies that spend $20,000-$30,000 on a little 10×10 booth for three days and staff it with underqualified people,” said Burdette. “If you hire a ‘model’ and then expect her to do lead generation, you aren’t going to get the results you are looking for.”

Once you have chosen the appropriate staff for your booth, make sure to rotate them throughout the day and throughout the show. This keeps the presentations and your staff fresh. It is also important to go over tradeshow etiquette so that your booth is presented in a professional manner.

Show floor etiquette varies from company to show to booth, but some things are constant: Keep food out of your booth. This can look very unprofessional, and the smell of food or the site of trash may repel prospective clients. Be sure to dress appropriately: Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that fit, so your focus stays on the job.

“The best advice is to hire the person that is appropriate for the job,” said Burdette. “If your goals are clear, you should be able to get the right staff for the right job and have a successful show.”

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