What’s the best way to get a conversation started on the expo floor? Even the most experienced brand ambassadors will struggle to answer this question. Why? Because face-to-face marketing is unique, in that every single interaction relies on a number of factors: the company, the industry, the products, and the customers.

In order to yield success at trade shows and conventions, your company must find compelling and effective ways to engage with attendees. These “openers” can be anything from catchy, to startling, to odd, to clever — all that matters is that they are specific to your brand and entice attendees to stop by your booth. If you’re struggling to create an effective opener, test different methods and see what works best for your brand. Here are six different strategies.

1. Be Direct

Many companies utilize the direct approach. This method involves being candid about your intentions from the moment you open the attendee. This is popular because it cuts the unnecessary fat from every interaction. It saves your staff time, the attendee time, and it proves that you’re confident in what your company has to offer. By being direct, it allows your brand ambassadors to dive right into the specifics and discover if your products fit the attendee’s needs.

The downfall in the direct method is that it might seem polarizing to attendees who don’t need your product or service. If you’re too direct with these visitors, they might disregard your brand quicker than they normally would if you would have opened with less direct method.

Direct examples:

“Give me ninety seconds of your time to find out how you can…”

“Let me tell you about how our company can solve X need for you…”

2. Be Indirect

Rather than directly stating your intentions, you can always try the indirect approach. This strategy utilizes more open-ended or vague questions that will hook the attendee but won’t state what your company does. This is an effective way to entice the attendees who are unfamiliar with your company. By being indirect, the attendee will likely answer the opening question and feel prompted to stick around to learn more.

The downside of the indirect method is that the vagueness of the opener might irritate the attendees who want to cut straight to chase. If your booth doesn’t offer immediate value to these type of visitors, they’ll likely turn a deaf ear to your indirect approach and walk right by.

Examples:

“Can I ask you something?”

“Could I get your opinion on this?”

3. Lead The Interaction

Depending on your company and industry, it might be beneficial to lead the interaction straightaway. This will force the attendee to examine an aspect of his or her lifestyle that is related to your product or service. As your brand ambassador guides the conversation, they can pinpoint each attendee’s needs quicker than other indirect methods. By putting the attendee into a deliberate headspace, they are more likely to consider whether or not they need your product or service.

First, lead — then, presume. As your staff leads the interaction, they should then ask presuming questions. By leading and presuming that the attendee is already interested, the attendee will be more inclined to actually feel interested.

Examples:

“What is your business doing to more effectively…”
“This product would work great for you. Are there any features you have questions about?”

4. Establish Common Ground

Even though you are working toward a specific end goal, it’s important that your opening pitch isn’t overly robotic. Your booth staff should always treat attendees like human beings and let the conversation flow naturally. Often times, attendees are tired of being “pitched” to at every corner of the expo floor. One way to hook these people is to establish commonalities right away, rather than being direct. As your brand ambassador expresses empathy or commonality, the attendee will feel at ease while hanging around your booth.

The disadvantage to this method is that, similar to the indirect method, you might lose out on attendees who want to get straight to business. This fine line between lost prospects is where your booth staff’s expertise will come into play. If your brand ambassadors have a lot of trade show experience, they will be more capable of cold reading the attendee and knowing if this method will be effective.

Examples:

“Are you enjoying the trade show today?”
“How are you doing? The exhibition is so busy today!”

5. Entice with a giveaway

People love free stuff. If you’re giving away some impressive promotional items, considering mentioning that in your opener. This method is likely to attract visitors who aren’t familiar with your company and didn’t plan on stopping by your booth. This attracts brand new eyes onto your company — eyes that could become high quality prospects and future customers.

The drawback of this method is that it is much more likely to attract attendees who are just looking to grab a bunch of free gear. Because of this, your staff will might run into a lot of low quality leads. So, do some testing first and trust the judgment of your booth staff to appropriately utilize this strategy.

6. Make it Open-Ended

Similar to the indirect method, you can snag the attendee’s attention by asking them an open- ended question. People love talking about themselves and expressing their opinions. This is especially true at trade shows and exhibitions, as they draw visitors who are passionate about a specific industry. By asking attendees open-ended questions about your company or industry, it allows them to reveal their thoughts and feel less pressure about the interaction. They’ll feel like your staff is curious about their thoughts, rather than trying to sell them something.

Examples:

“So, how did you hear about our products?”

“Are you familiar with our brand?”

Be Versatile

No matter what industry you’re in, it’s critical that you find the most effective ways to engage with trade show attendees. There is no “right” answer to this inquiry — it will be unique to every single company, industry, and interaction. Nevertheless, by having varying methods at your disposal, it will allow your booth staff to remain versatile and capable of opening attendees with skillfulness.