The 8 People You’ll See at Trade Shows

We grabbed you with the headline, so here we go: (Our typical opening paragraph is at the end.)


1. The Looky Loo.

They got in for free, they’re just looking to kill some time and chat you up to fill their day. Beware: they might be an expert looker and have a pretty elaborate back story to cover their tracks, so to speak.


2. The Christmas Shopper.

These swag experts are easy to spot by their distinctive bags or purses that will be overflowing with everything from pens to mouse pads to post-it notes. (Does anyone even use mouse pads anymore?) They are not there to avail you of your service or product in any way, they are merely doing early Christmas shopping for stocking-stuffers. Beware, they will have the hands of Vegas card dealers, they’ll be grabbing stuff right out from under your nose the entire time you’re talking. “Nice talking to you!” and you look down and they have magically caused your merch to vanish.


3. The Snacker.

If you are in the food industry, look out for these Costco-Weekend- Warriors. They are there to eat, and by eat, we don’t mean at the concession stand. They have fasted in preparation of the show, and they are packing some serious appetites. A tell-tale sign is their oversized water bottle. They need hydration for their rapid fire booth-to-booth snack-to-snack trek. If you’re not in the edibles-industry, you don’t have to worry. As soon as they see your samples are tasty treats, they’ll beat a hasty retreat towards the nearest aroma.


4. The Traveling Salesman (or woman.)

These ne’er-do-wells are too cheap to exhibit on their own, so they have hit the show floor with samples and business cards and they’re gonna reverse-trade show you. They’ll approach your booth, feign some interest, and then move in for the kill. Suddenly their samples and brochures will be littering your booth. The die-hards will even try to leave a few pieces of literature in strategic positions for your future clients to “stumble on.” The exhibitor is in danger of becoming the exhibitee if caution is not taken. (And a possible security guard is not called.)


5. The Expert.

This show goer has been going to trade shows since before you were born. They have seen it all, told it all, taught it all, and will have no specifics or proof of any of their illustrious past. When pressed for details, they will offer vague recollections, such as “Oh, it’s been so long since that show I can’t really remember where I was.” Or the ever famous reverse psychology of, “Well, why do you think I was such a success?”


6. The Secret Agent.

Within the first five minutes you’ll know they’re from a competitor and are just scoping you out. (The Groucho Marx glasses and fake cigar are a dead giveaway.) While they are to be avoided at all costs, if one should break through your inner line of defense, have FUN with them. Create new markets that you’re heading in to. Explain your newest product or service that is “guaranteed to annihilate the competition.” This is, of course, the ultimate in fake outs, but how much fun will you have later wondering how much time they’re spending in their hotel room trying to top the “service” you just created?


7. The Good Cop, Bad Swag Stealer.

This is different that the Christmas Shopper, in that they travel in packs of two. While one is attempting to close some sort of deal with you (beware: the details will be sketchy) the other has loaded a silent forklift up to your swag table and is robbing you blind. Most often these pairs are expensive, but provide no serious danger. The majority of their training comes from the “Ocean’s 11” movie franchise, and their most sophisticated ruse is that of, “Look, your shoe’s untied.”


8. The Blogger with Five Readers.

While they mean well, the amount of time they are going to want from you for an “inside scoop for just their readers, and thus a boom in business for you” won’t amount to a hill of even ten readers on a different continent. A quick way to remove them from your presence? (After you’ve thrown them a 10 second sound byte.) Ask for the URL to their blog, grab your phone, and look it up. While the page is loading they will be planning their escape. (After all, the 10,000 readers they promised will have suddenly vaporized or there will be a mysterious “glitch” on their readership.) The blogger will have no explanation for this sudden drop, rather, they will receive a phone call “that must be answered right now.”


While we take this tongue in cheek look at trade shows, we are the first to admit that most traffic on the floor is comprised of people who are there to be serious, to do business, to give you good press, and generally seek out your products or services.


But just like a basket of apples, there are bound to be a few in there with worms. Have one to add to the list? We’d love to hear about it right here!


Have a great week!