I need to be careful how I introduce this month’s columns in case the casual reader picks up the wrong end of the stick. Over the last few exhibitor seminars that I have run there have been questions of a recurring nature concerning how to get people off your stand! It appears that we spend so much of our effort these days attracting people to come on our stand and enticing them with all manner of goodies that a situation is arising where we are almost becoming victims of our own success. Namely in our attempts to attract people we are encouraging visitors to linger “unduly” for protracted amounts of time on the stand and so effectively tying up resources (stand personnel) that could and should be freed to meet and greet the next new visitor.

Now we all know that arranging corporate hospitality on stand can lead to visitors outstaying their welcome, but what if an ordinary visitor decides that he or she has found a soul mate or has a sudden need to disclose their life history? It can be a tricky situation to handle well for the risk of offending is high. Well, the psychology of repelling visitors is similar to that used in attraction. We have long beaten the drum about asking the right sort of open questions and avoiding ones like ‘Can I help you?’ and why this is so important in engaging a visitor. In order to repel visitors, reverse the psychology – namely use closed questions to close the conversation. Once you have established the potential of the visitor and have agreed a next step (appointment, e-mail or further contact), summarise the action and end with a closed question. “Great, so you want me to e-mail our latest brochure and give you a call to make sure we can meet your timescales, is that right?” This should give you a ‘yes’ at which point you can add, “In that case, Mr(s) L’Urquer, thanks very much for your time, enjoy the show and we will be in touch as agreed.” And stand up and shake hands! This is a time when you also need to reverse your body language. Instead of open smiling postures, you now need to steer the visitor towards the aisle and use the hand shake as a gesture of finality, and using your eyes to acknowledge the next prospect, possible vocalising “Be with you in a second!” in their general direction. As to the severity of your subtlety or lack of it, that should be proportional to the ‘thick-skinned quotient’ of your malingerer – the more thick skinned they are, the less subtle you need to be and can get away with. Remember the adage – be gracious with visitors but ruthless with time!