If you’re an exhibitor at a trade show one of the most important things to think about is how to make a good first impression on attendees and attract them to your stand.  You have only a few seconds to make a connection with visitors as they walk past so you need to make sure you give the right impression.

Closed-off body language, looking bored and uninterested, chatting with colleagues or having your back to the aisle will all put people off approaching you.  Your body language can be the difference between making a sale and not, so it is vital to pay attention to it.  Appearing open, making eye contact and smiling will encourage passers-by to interact with you.

What our body language says about us

If we are feeling shy, nervous or uncomfortable we tend to hunch our shoulders and look down, maybe cross our arms.  This is not how you want to appear on an exhibition stand.  You will come across as unconfident and uncomfortable.  It’s important to adopt a power pose – to stand up straight, shoulders back and arms at our sides.  This might feel strange at first, but it won’t look strange to visitors, you will appear confident and open, and therefore approachable.

But it’s important not to take this confident pose too far.  Often at exhibitions, you see stand staff standing next to each other, hands-on hips.  This forms a barrier at the entrance to the stand which will put people off approaching.

Make sure all your staff are well prepared for the exhibition, being knowledgeable about the products and company will help them adopt a confident pose and talk openly with visitors.  Staff who are unprepared and unknowledgeable will give this away in their body language.

Body language advice for exhibitors:

1. Eye contact

It’s important to make eye contact with visitors to appear honest and open.  But remember to blink and look away at times.  Staring someone down is off-putting and can come across as aggressive.  Try to maintain eye contact for half the conversation.  Any more can be too much.  But if you have too little eye contact and you can appear dishonest or nervous.  The aim is to make visitors feel comfortable.

2. Expression

If you have a ‘moody resting face’ try to be aware of this and make an effort to look open and approachable instead!  It goes without saying that you should smile at visitors, and make it genuine, anyone can spot a fake.  The position of your eyebrows can also have an effect.  Studies have shown that eyebrows held in resting position can convey a lack of interest in the subject.  So make sure you raise your eyebrows when you greet visitors.

3. Posture

As said previously you need to stand up straight with your shoulders back, but not create a barrier to the stand.  Adopting a slightly side on position to visitors will appear open but not create a body to body situation.  Don’t lean away from the person you are talking to, it conveys an unwillingness to interact.  The feet should be about 12 inches apart and you should adopt a relaxed stance.

Also, be aware of other’s personal space, some people like to maintain a couple of feet of distance so don’t invade this space or you may seem aggressive.  Don’t sit down, or if you must, make sure it is on a high stool so that the height difference between you and visitors is not too great.

4. Mirror behaviour

Try to mirror the body language and gestures of the person you are talking to, without making it too blatant.  This will make them feel comfortable and help them warm to you.  But keep it professional and to the point.

5. Gestures

Using hand gestures to make your point can make you come across as more confident.  But don’t overdo it and wave your arms around.  Try to keep your palms facing upwards, palms facing down is a closed off signal and can convey disagreement with the other person.  Don’t stand with your arms folded as you will appear closed off, or with hands on hips which can look confrontational.

People talking at a trade show stand.

People talking at a trade show stand.

6. Chin up

The position of your chin can affect how people perceive you.  Held too high and you look like you are looking down on the person you are talking to.  Too low and you will be looking downwards which comes across as unconfident and uncomfortable.  Try to keep your chin parallel to the floor so that you are looking straight ahead.

7. Demonstrating equipment

If you are going to show a product to a visitor, or use a TV or iPad to demonstrate it, make sure you don’t turn your back to the customer.  This will stop any human connection.  Set up the screen or product in between you and the customer in a triangle formation so that you can maintain a connection while showing the product off.

8. Listen

Don’t just dive into your sales pitch, make sure you ask visitors about their wants and needs, and listen to the response.  Try the 80/20 rule – that is 80% listening and 20% talking.

9. Stand still

Constantly shifting position or fidgeting will make you look like you’re not engaged in the conversation and are looking to get away.  You need to stand still and focus on the subject.

10. Have fun

Exhibitions are tiring and long.  If you try to have fun and look like you are enjoying it, this will give out positive vibes which will attract people to your stand.  Ensure that you have enough stand staff so that everyone can take enough breaks.  This will keep staff fresh.

Paying attention to your body language while exhibiting at a trade show could be the difference between gathering lots of hot leads and failing to make an ROI.  The way in which you portray yourself will influence how visitors react to you and whether they want to interact with you.  It’s important to come across as confident, relaxed and knowledgeable so that visitors will take to you and pay attention to what you have to offer.