Trade Show Etiquette

The Helicopter Maintenance magazine team was in Atlanta March 7-9 attending HAI Heli-Expo 2023. It was nice walking the show talking to the exhibitors and learning about all the new products and services available for helicopter maintenance professionals. Thank you to all of you who stopped by our booth to say hi. It was great meeting new people as well as catching up with longtime acquaintances.

After the first day of the show, we went back to our Airbnb to relax before heading out to dinner. Our publisher Greg Napert shared a story with us. He had stopped by an exhibitor’s booth to say hi to an old friend. That person was on the phone, so he continued to walk the aisles to visit nearby exhibitors. He checked their booth every now and then. More than an hour had passed, and his friend was still in the back of the booth on the phone. Greg finally gave up and decided to try to stop by the next day.

Communication is an important of our jobs. We talk to our peers, supervisors, employees and customers. When we are asked to attend a trade show, our goal is to communicate with our customers, potential customers, and colleagues. Sitting in the back of the booth talking on the phone is at the very bottom of things we should be doing at a trade show. 

On the last day of Heli-Expo I walked by a booth and noticed all the employees were sitting on a couch at the back of their 20x20 booth. They weren’t even trying to engage with the attendees passing by their booth. Yes — the last day of the show is typically much slower than the first two days. Nonetheless, those employees were kicking back relaxing on their couch talking to each other instead of trying to engage with the attendees walking right by their booth! 

Sometimes the responsibility of bad booth etiquette is the fault of a company owner or manager. For example, we were exhibiting at an NBAA-BACE conference a few years ago. As the show started, we met the guys at the booth next to us. Not even an hour into the show, one of the guys went to the table in the back of their booth and started working on his laptop. Then one of the other guys joined him. Shortly thereafter, the third guy sat down with them. This was the first day of the show, and all three of them were sitting at their table in the back of their booth working on their laptops and talking with each other. We found out that their boss had assigned them with a huge project. The boss insisted that they complete it by Thursday (which was the last day of the show). For the first two days of the show, they came to the show and went straight to table in the back of the booth — where they sat all day trying to work together to finish the project. They didn’t even show up on the last day. Think of all the money the boss spent getting the three of them to the show — plane tickets, the cost of the booth, hotel and food costs. The boss basically threw all of that money away by asking them to complete a project that should have been done at the home office — not on the exhibit floor of a trade show!

It's expensive to go to a trade show. Let’s make every effort possible to do what we have been tasked to do! If you are at a trade show talking on the phone or working on your laptop, you might as well just go home. 

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