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Trade Show Survival Tips For The Introvert

I just returned from managing my first trade show booth in nearly five years. Turns out there were some simple things I remembered:

  1. Comfortable shoes are a life saver (turns out my Lucchese boots fit the bill nicely).
  2. Make incremental adjustments to booth setup depending on the attendee behavior (we moved our tchotchkes closer to the front to encourage more takeaways).
  3. Smile and call folks by their name (it’s no accident why events have those big name tags featuring attendee first names).

But I also realized there are some fairly important tips I’ve developed that help me – as an introvert – to successfully cope with the demands of working a trade booth. The biggest misconception of introverts is that we’re shy which is only somewhat true. Some of us introverts (like me) have extrovert tendencies so we enjoy interacting with strangers and carrying on interesting conversations. Where we do tend to differ from our extrovert counterparts is that being in and around large groups of people drains our betteries. So for that reason, we introverts need to carefully manage our energy in order to start and finish a trade show strong. Here are a few tips that I’ve used that have helped me…and hopefully they’ll help you:

Take care of ourselves. We need to eat a healthy breakfast, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, and breathe. Trade shows are incredibly demanding of our focused energy so it’s crucial that we tend to our physical, mental, and emotional needs.

Make time for some alone time. Our batteries get drained by being on the show floor so it’s only logical that they need to be recharged. That usually requires some alone or quiet time. If we’re going to make it through that two or three day show, we can’t do it on depleted energy reserves.

Take breaks when they come. It’s natural to have some lulls in show traffic. We need to take advantage of them to recollect ourselves and be ready for when the next wave of traffic hits.

Have fun…but within limits. Trade shows can be a lot of fun. We get the opportunity to meet a diverse crowd of folks, learn about their work, and find ways we might be able to help them. We also get out of the office and visit some interesting places. But it’s important to remember we’re there for work first and foremost. Going out drinking and clubbing every night is fine if you’re one of the rare individuals who can function on little sleep and hungover. I’ve yet to meet an introvert who can do that.

Don’t apologize for who we are. Seriously. Accept that most folks who staff trade booths are extroverted by nature and gather energy by being around other people. We can’t try to keep up with them like its some kind of test of strength. If we do, we’re probably going to lose. So if you’re feeling a little run down, graciously head back to your room for the evening, order room service, and just relax with a book or television.

If you’re an introvert, what other advice would you offer? I’d love to hear about your own experience so leave a comment below.

Additional Resources:
The Surprising Value of Introverted Trade Show Booth Staffers
from Mike Thimmesch at Skyline Trade Show Tips
You’re Just Not That Into Me (the introvert’s guide to attending a conference) from Lisa Petrilli at C-Level Strategies

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