Hardsell Hanks and Freebie Phoebes: How to Balance Your Stand Squad to Rock Your Next International Exhibition

Of all the time and thought you put into decision making when planning an exhibition, how much do you dedicate to selecting and training your stand squad?  Come on, be honest!

If you’re sitting there squirming knowing it’s hardly any, then don’t panic, you’re definitely not alone! Fewer than 25% of organisations train their stand squad prior to an event₁ yet industry research suggests that 85% of the success of your stand is down to your staff₂.  Time to think differently about how you select and train your squad ahead of your next international trade show – but where do you start?

Identify Your Squad

Admittedly you’re probably going to get far more volunteers if your trade show is in Las Vegas than Lancaster (no offence, Lancaster) but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to take everyone that offers to help. Trade shows are hard work mentally, physically and emotionally and not everyone enjoys or is good at them, so make sure you choose your squad, rather than letting it choose you!

Firstly, identify who you’ve got amongst your merry band of Exhibitionists. Below we’re introducing you to some characters you might be familiar with from visiting exhibitions. Caution – neither are good nor bad, and they are very exaggerated to make a point (so please take them in the spirit intended!). The ‘’perfect’’ exhibition squad member is probably a blend of all of them.


Freebie Phoebe loves handing out your giveaways and makes it her mission to get rid of them all as quickly as possible – beyond that, she doesn’t really understand what it is she’s supposed to be doing.



Wallflower Wilma would happily spend the entire show studying the graphics on the back wall and tidying up but will zealously avoid either speaking to anyone or catching their eye during the show.  If Wilma does have to speak to anyone, she will keep it to pleasantries, scared to be caught out by a commercial question she can’t answer.



Jack the Lad is everyone’s friend by the end of the show, having hung out with them in the bar at the dinner, enjoyed a sandwich at lunch with them and found time for a coffee too.  He will have spoken to a few visitors, but only in an afternoon as he usually arrives late followed by a slight aroma of stale beer.



Chatty Charlie is a lovely bloke, he’ll talk to anyone about anything … except business that is! By the end of a lengthy conversation with a visitor, Charlie will know where they’re from, where they go on holiday and what their favourite meal is, but he won’t have a clue what their business is and what problems they’re trying to solve at the show.



Supermodel Selena will always be the smartest person on your stand and somehow manages 8-hour days on her feet in high heels. Whilst Selena looks great, she will need a 10-minute toilet break every hour to check her lipstick and might struggle with a more in-depth question from a visitor than ‘What’s the name of your company?’. Selena will be more interested in giving your stand a perception of elegant quality than in what it is you do.



Hardsell Hank might be the best sales person you have in the field, but he’ll be trying to close the deal from the first hello at a trade show which might not appeal to visitors. In broadcasting the features of your product, Hank doesn’t give visitors much air-time to share their needs and therefore fails to convert those features into meaningful benefits. Visitors can quite often feel pressured and not listened to.



Unsociable Sam is terrific on Twitter, fantastic on Facebook and incredible on Instagram but put her in front of a visitor and she’s not really sure what they’re expecting.  Sam will be a huge asset in ensuring you get the maximum number of likes, re-tweets and comments on your social media plans but may fail to appreciate the value of a face-to-face event such as a trade show.



Promiser Peteisn’t always the most junior member of your team, but he is the one who just can’t say no!  Whether it’s an all expense paid trip to your French production site, or a 12 month free subscription for your app, Pete just loves saying yes without understanding the value a customer does (or doesn’t) bring to your business. He may not be front-line facing so will sometimes leave a trail of promises in his wake for the sales team to resolve.

Balance Your Squad

Recognise some familiar faces in your squad? An enthusiastic and passionate squad member would be a great asset based on any of those characters but if your team consists of too many similar individuals you might not be getting the best value from visitors.  For example, if your entire squad has a tendency towards being Wallflower Wilma’s then the chances are, you’ll miss some hot prospects whilst working up the courage to say hello. Likewise, if you’re all Chatty Charlies, you could find yourself with a stack of leads to follow up but no real detail on how valuable they could be for you on a business level.

Plot out the different characters you have amongst your squad and see where you’re strong and where you’re vulnerable (the rule of thumb is 2 members of staff per 8 sq m of floor space).  Then work out how your squad can help each other to prepare for your exhibition. For example, put your Hardsell Hanks and Chatty Charlies together to help develop a filtering script that cuts down on the small talk, but creates the opportunity for a visitor to share their problem or needs.  Jack The Lad’s are great for helping Wallflower Wilma’s feel more relaxed and confident about starting a conversation.

Train Your Squad

Just like any Premiership winning manager before a big game, get your squad together to talk pre-show tactics a couple of weeks ahead of the main event. Share your objectives, walk through the stand design and operation and focus on who you’re looking to attract at the show. This is a great time to think about your squad personas and help the team understand how you can get the best out of everyone during the show. We’ve often found that this is also the ideal time for your squad to collectively write the basic rules for the stand – things like eating, drinking and use of mobiles. If everyone makes the rules together, it’s much easier to hold each other to account once the show doors have opened.

Getting your squad selection and training right is crucial to the success of your event, but it can be incredibly difficult when you’re trying to manage budgets, staff availability and egos. That’s why having clear SMART objectives set right from the start of the process will help in your decision making now – but that’s a topic for another blog post! Hopefully that’s given you some inspiration on how to max you squad for your next event but if you still need some more help and advice hop over to www.inspiringexhibitors.com or drop us a line at proextra@12th-man-solutions.co.uk. Happy Exhibitioning!!

Written by Nichola Reeder at 12th Man Solutions

Exemplas Trade Services Ltd (ETSL) has delivered the contract for the Department for International Trade (formerly UK Trade and Investment) in the East of England for almost a decade.

For more information on how we can support your business in exporting overseas, get in touch.

1 – Exhibit Surveys – Industry Study
2- Skyline Whitespace Report ‘’Better Booth Staffing’’