A Step-by-Step Guide to the Trade Show “Ask”

In a recent Exhibitor Magazine article entitled “Asked & Answered,” John Baker (former SVP and COO of American Express) discussed the power of persuasion and shared his “6-Step Asking Formula” for getting what you want, every time.

This formula defined a clear procedure that professionals could follow when “asking” their superiors for something, e.g. a raise, extra resources for their department, or larger budgets for key projects.

Here are the 6 Steps in brief:

Step One:    Define clear objectives … know exactly what you want

Step Two:    Clearly ask for it.  Don’t be coy … come out with it;

Step Three: Support your “ask” visually when possible, i.e. photos, charts, etc.

Step Four:    Strengthen your “ask” with “best reasons,” i.e. what’s in it for them.

Step Five:    Stop Talking.  Be quiet, reflect confidence, and gather feedback.

Step Six:      Share.  Provide additional details when appropriate.

Intuitive and useful?  Certainly.  What struck me most about this process, though, was how it could also guide your trade show attendee interactions.  For example:

Step One: Fully define the message you want to communicate to attendees.  You cannot communicate everything about your brand in one interaction; define the 1-3 messages you want attendees to remember, and stick to them.

Steps Two and Three go together.  Many exhibitors do a good job of using printed and digital visuals to support their messages.  However, what they often do not do well is clearly communicate what they want attendees to actually do when they are in the exhibit, and after they leave.

Step Four:  All interactions should focus less on what a product or service does, and more on what it can do for the attendee. Keep things “them” focused.”

Step Five:  Trade show booth reps are often highly energized and “amped up.”  The result is a booth rep who talks “at” an attendee … endlessly … rather than “to” or “with” them.  The attendee never gets a word in edgewise.  When rehearsing your interactions, plan for a time when you stop talking and listen.

Step Six takes the conversation to the next level, either at the show or in a future meeting. You are, in essence, moving the lead down the sales funnel.

The process seems simple, doesn’t it?  And, in a way, it is simple … how like riding a bike is simple … but how it takes a great deal of trial & error, and time, and mindshare to make happen.

The main takeaway here is … treat attendees like real people. Know what you want them learn, know what you want them do, then “ask” them to do it.

Of course, all of these steps should be performed on qualified leads … but that’s another topic altogether.