It only takes seconds to make a first impression...
...and a bad impression can last a lifetime.
If you're a trade show exhibitor, than you know how difficult of a job it can be, and one of the most important lessons that I've learned is the importance of making a great first impression. Believe it or not, your body language (especially in that first interaction), can make or break your sales.
Use these tips to train your staff, or refresh your own knowledge on body language signals. You’ll not only make your prospects and clients feel more at ease, but open the pathway to honest communication. Remember, people buy from other people and the first step is to like, know and trust – you!
It’s been said that a trade show rep’s eyebrows can send a message. “Really?” you might think. Studies show that eyebrows held in a resting position convey a lack of interest in others. Here’s an easy fix. Advise your team to raise their eyebrows as they welcome customers to the booth. It prompts visitors to approach and engage. Add a genuine smile too. And note to self, everyone can tell when it’s for real.
Any yogi’s reading this? Most of us know that palms in a downward position mean you’re closed. In fact, palms down communicates not only a closed mind but potential disagreement with what the other person is saying. Palms up projects friendliness. Here’s to a thumbs up for palms up at trade shows, conferences and any sales presentation. Palms up is always the way to go!
You’re walking down the aisle at a conference and here’s what you see. Trade show staff facing attendees with a full body display – arms on their hips and feet in a wide stance. From afar and even up close it looks like they’re trying to create a human barrier into the booth to prevent visitors from coming in. Suggest to your reps that they angle their body slightly away from prospects so it doesn’t appear to be a body to body struggle. You’ll increase the booth’s accessibility that way (and sales).
Shake it Don’t Break It
I love shaking hands and am not a fist bumper. Shake my hand, but not too firm, please. An overly aggressive handshake portrays dominance and could leave the wrong impression. Research suggests that it takes over three hours of continuous face time to reach the same level of rapport you can achieve instantly with a (good) handshake. Teach your team the right way to shake hands and suggest that they look their partner in the eye. A few seconds is fine. There’s no need to creep them out!
What does your chin have to do with body language disasters? If your staffer’s chin is facing upward, this could mean that they’re looking down on others or that they’re snobby. And, you know as much as me, that’s a turnoff. In your body language classes (hint), teach how to keep your chin position on an equal level with the floor implying equal footing with the client. Make classes fun and you’ll be bonding at the same time – and get a few laughs.
Never lean away from your visitors when you’re in a conversation. Leaning away suggests a reluctance to interact and an intention to leave, pronto! Train your team instead to move their feet and body slightly away from whom they’re talking to and relax their arms. Feet should also be about 12 inches apart. Why is this important? A relaxed stance establishes a more personal connection and makes your prospects more at ease. Make sense, right?
When your Mom told you “stand up straight and shoulders back,” she was right! There’s nothing sloppier than when staffers are hunched over at their exhibit. It shouts weakness, lack of confidence and (yawn) boredom. Standing up tall with your shoulders back shows strength and a positive outlook. Make sure your reps create the impression that their visitors are important and use positive body language to invite them over.
Angling for Position
Using video or computer screens at your booth? If you are, facing your body away from guests and toward the screen will stop almost any possible human connection. Here’s a tip. Advise your staff to set up the screen between themselves and the prospect as a triangle. That way they can look at the prospect and the screen, plus be engaging at the same time. This set up works time and time again and it doesn’t matter what’s on the screen!
Don’t forget to blink! Staring someone down is not only awkward, it pushes a potential prospect away. If you focus on the area know as the “eye-nose triangle” for too short a time, it could give the appearance of being dishonest. Train your reps to maintain eye contact for over half of their conversation. Any longer and it can feel invasive. The goal is to make everyone comfortable in your space, not just stare at their face.
Moving from side to side while talking with a prospect or client for that matter can be a recipe for disaster. Shifty movements imply that you’re not focusing on the conversation and otherwise engaged, or thinking about anything else other than what’s at hand. Standing still is an art which can be combined with other subtle body language signals, like nodding in agreement or mirroring behavior.