San Francisco, CA-  I’ve been rereading Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” and I’m loving how it applies to the trade show environment. I first read this persuasion classic back in junior high, and I found the content to be exceedingly manipulative. “Speaking in terms of the other person's interests...” “Finding something to admire about others…” These aphorisms seemed targeted at getting what you wanted by showing false attention.

However, now with about 30 years under my belt, I have a much different perspective on the value of these truisms. The difference? Well, I’m a different person now: with more self confidence, more self esteem, and the ability to actually appreciate and enjoy others without expectation. Interestingly, these traits also make a successful and effective booth staff! Here are a few of Carnegie’s tips that you can put to use in your booth at your next show:

1. “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Sure, it’s hokey to read a person’s name as they walk by in the aisle, and then greet them with a joyful “Hey Name!  Great to see ya!” However, it never fails to get a goofy smile, and offers a potential conversational opener. In what other social situation can we call strangers by their name in public, and not be accused of nefarious activities? However, its critical to take Carnegie’s words to heart: a person’s name is not a joke- it’s the most important sound in the world to them. Don’t be afraid to greet your prospects by name in an honest and joyful manor. Its the easiest expo floor opener out there (if you can read their badge, that is).

2. “Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely.”

Carnegie suggests finding something (anything) in other people to honestly admire, and then sincerely communicating it to them. On a trade show floor, booth staff has a few seconds at most to connect with attendees as they hustle by to attend their workshops, vendor meetings and keynote addresses. What can be admired in this minuscule slice of life? Well, pretty much just physical appearance. An honest, appropriate comment can go a very long way in snapping an attendee out of their rushed day at the trade show. At your next show, try giving sincere compliments as a way to engage. You may be surprised at the fruitful conversation that follows.

3. “Become genuinely interested in other people.”

Once an attendee is in the booth, booth staff can be tempted to launch into their show-appropriate brand messaging. However, Carnegie offers some profound counter-advice: get the prospect talking. Limit the “I”s and maximize the “You”s in your dialogue. It's about them, after all. Carnegie suggests that good listening makes you seem like a genius conversationalist, and from a trade show perspective, that’s the kind of brand your prospect wants to engage with. After all, a trade show interaction is not about closing the sale, its about establishing a relationship, and there’s no better way to establish a relationship than by listening. To be interesting, be interested. At your next show, get your prospects talking.

As you jump on a plane to your next trade show, do yourself a favor and download “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The aphorisms are a bit hokey and the examples are a bit dated (Abraham Lincoln, anyone?), but you’ll find ideas that are immediately applicable in your trade show booth. Encouraging these concepts in your booth staff engagement tactics will have a drastic effect on your lead count and ROI. Good luck out there, and I’ll try to greet you by your name when we meet (if I can see your badge)!

trade show engagement for maximum ROI