Conversation Starters that Work

ConversationsHow to break the ice at your next tradeshow

Whether you’re working your company’s trade show for the first time or a seasoned professional, starting a conversation with a booth visitor can be difficult. But when that visitor is a potential prospect, it’s important to make a connection. The good news: it can be easy with these three simple tips.

1) Prepare questions ahead of time.

Before you ever leave the office, create a list of questions that you can use to engage prospects. Start with open-ended questions. Here are some tried and true questions you can use:

  • What brings you to the show?
  • How familiar are you with  … ?
  • What do you think of the show so far?
  • What have you seen that you’ve liked?
  • How many times have you wished your  (…) could (save time, save money, etc.)?
  • What are your most important needs regarding … ?
  • What are your expectations of … ?
  • Have you ever seen/used (show product or demo) ?
  • What is the biggest challenge you are facing?
  • How familiar are you with our company’s (product, service, etc.)?

2) Be mindful of your body language.

Even the best conversation starters will fall flat if your body language suggests you would rather be elsewhere. From crossing your arms to checking your phone, the list of don’ts is rampant. So let’s focus on some of the do’s.

  • Smile. It may sound simple, but putting on a smile can even help your tone of voice seem more upbeat. It’s hard to sound cranky or uninterested when you’re flashing your pearly whites.
  • Make eye contact. Unless you are in a country where cultural norm dictates otherwise, it’s a good idea to look prospects in the eye. If you aren’t, chances are you are either looking at your phone, the clock or something else that is going on – all of which can show disinterest or be a conversation ender.
  • Nod. We’re not asking you to be a bobble head, but a simple nod can show engagement in the conversation. It also shows you are interested in what your customers and prospects have to say.
  • Don’t fidget. Fidgeting can be mistaken for nervousness, but it can also be distracting to other people around you. So quit tapping that pen and no shaky leg.

3) Practice. Practice. Practice.

Like most things, the more you do it the better you become. So even if you have a few uncomfortable conversations, some awkward pauses or a full-on rejection, don’t sweat it. Chalk it up to a lesson learned and keep moving forward.

Peggy Swords

About Peggy Swords

Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.