The 5 Languages of Attendee Interaction

I recently came across the book, “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” by Gary Chapman and Paul White.  It’s an interesting exploration into how to build better relationships with your employees.

After reviewing it, I began to think about tradeshow exhibit visitors, and how we could build better relationships with them.

To that end, this blog will take the 5 different “languages” detailed in that book and extrapolate them to see how we could improve our attendee interactions on the show floor.

  1. Quality Time: Many employees crave “quality time” with their supervisors in order to feel like an important part of the team. With regards to tradeshows, attendees like to feel that their time is being respected and well-used.  “Time” at a tradeshow is a precious commodity, and if an attendee feels as if they’ve wasted it visiting your exhibit, you may have lost a lead… and gained negative word-of-mouth.  Therefore, it behooves exhibitors to ensure that their engagement and education strategies are well-defined, well-organized, and help attendees quickly determine if you have something to offer one another. That’s truly “quality time” on the show floor.
  1. Acts of Service: Many employees respond well to “pitching in” and being part of a collective effort to get work done; this makes them feel connected to something greater than themselves.  With regards to tradeshows, Cause Marketing immediately springs to mind.  A Cone Communications study tells us that 89% of Americans are more likely to switch brands due to their cause affiliations.  Incorporating an element of cause marketing into an exhibit, then, may help attendees feel as if they are doing something important, and not simply “shopping.”  This feeling will also influence their opinion of your overall organization.
  1. Tangible Gifts: Not a lot of explanation is needed on this one; free stuff is one of the hallmarks of tradeshows. The Medical vertical, however, (Pharma, Device, etc.) has placed a great many restraints on this, but there remain many opportunities to reward attendees for their visit. Let me add something to consider; if you are planning on giving anything away in your exhibit, it’s important that the attendee work for it.  In other words, to GET something, they must DO something.  This not only makes the gift feel valuable, it accomplishes a marketing objective … to have attendees participate in your brand.
  1. Physical Touch: This one was tricky; my mind immediately went to massage chairs. (what does that say about me?) But after some consideration, I recalled studies that detail how many people today, especially Millennials, enjoy having a more “tactile” experience in an exhibit.  Touchscreens quickly fill the bill, but I think this idea can be extended to include smell, sound, etc. In essence, it’s advantageous to engage attendees on a multi-sensory level.  I explored this idea in much more detail in an Ignite article few weeks back.
  1. Words of Affirmation: If you know the book I’m referencing for this blog, you’ll know that this “language” was first.  I purposely left it until last for a reason: for me, this speaks to the overall experience attendees have in a booth, and how this experience is primarily driven by the booth staff.  The most recent study done by CEIR has shown that 98% of the time when an exhibit is rated poorly, it’s due to staffer behavior.  Think about that for a moment … 98% of the time.  That’s enormous, and if you’re not paying attention to how your staff is interacting with attendees in your exhibit, then you are neglecting the BEST way to improve your tradeshow program. Words of affirmation, then, becomes a two-way street, and if you and your visitors are exchanging them, then you’re assured of success on the show floor.

The authors of this book also wrote “The 5 Languages of Love,” but I don’t think I’m ready to to extrapolate that one to tradeshows just yet … although I have to admit I’m thinking about those massage chairs again.