Monday, April 22, 2013

So You Want to be a Trade Show Model? Part II...The Crowd Gatherer...

Over the next few blogs I will break down the job responsibilities and expectations of each Trade Show Model position from my point of view and experience.  I'll try to give tips and tricks to help you become successful in each.  

Keep in mind that you might also be wearing multiple hats at one show, which is completely normal.

The Crowd Gatherer:

Being a Crowd Gatherer is perhaps the hardest of all the Trade Show Model positions.  Not everyone is cut out to be a TS Model, and of that small number, only about 10% can be a good Crowd Gatherer.

It also happens to be my favorite of all the positions.

Main Job Responsibility:

We call it, “Butts in Seats.”

Job Description:

The most important part of your job is to fill a theater for your Presenter so that when he or she steps up on stage to Present, there is a full crowd.  Not a half-filled theater, not people milling about and stopping for a few moments to watch, but FULL. 

It’s a particular mindset that you have to get yourself into to be able to check your ego at the door and not take it personally when 95% of the crowd says no.  You need to be able to convince them that yes, indeed, they do want to hear what your Presenter has to say.  With a smile.

You typically have less than five minutes every half hour or hour to take an empty theater (5-30 seats) and fill it. 

Butts in seats.  Butts in seats.  Butts in seats. 

And when the Presenter starts, your job doesn’t stop, you keep going, having people join in and watch the show in progress. 

Scan badge, sit them down, next.  Scan badge, sit them down, next.  Seats are full, keep gathering, have them stand and watch. Your goal is a Standing Room Only crowd, every show, every day.

And don’t forget to smile.  Always.  Attendees don’t respond well to frumpy faces.

The Presenter:

The Presenter is hired for one purpose—to deliver the Client’s Message. 

I’ve worked for some of the best, from magicians and jugglers and other Specialty Entertainers to straight verbal Presenters.  And I’ve worked for some pretty awful ones too. 

The good ones will help you gather when they can, making small talk once you get the first few Attendees to sit down to help hold the crowd, or do little magic tricks on the side before starting the official show.  Some will even go out into the aisles with you and help call Attendees into the booth.  They are in effect doing double duty and deserve all of your respect.

The Presenter is the reason you have a job, and once you get comfortable with that idea, the rest is easy.  Coordinate your lunch with the Presenter.  If there are two CG’s you can actually take a full lunch, separately, of course.  If not, you go to lunch five minutes after your Presenter is done with the show, and get back five minutes before the next one starts.  Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to leave your Presenter to gather a crowd or Present a show alone.  Sometimes this means you only get a couple of twenty minute breaks on a nine hour show day.  That’s the way it goes.  Don’t like it?  Well….tough.  Maybe Crowd Gathering isn’t for you.  It’s rare that this happens, but it can, so be prepared for it if it does.

How to be a good Crowd Gatherer:

Getting the First Attendee to sit down is always the hardest.  An experienced CG will learn how to spot the Easy Marks—the ones who will probably say yes because you are giving them swag, and focus on them first.  It’s almost an animal-like instinct you have to develop…Hunter and Prey.  Pick the weakest ones off first, work on the harder ones later.

A good CG can learn how to pick off three or four Attendees at a time, making the job a little easier and the theater fuller faster. 

You will probably have some sort of bribe to get them into the booth:  Swag such as t-shirts or other trinkets, prizes at the end of the show or day, free drink tickets, whatever.  Your swag is your weapon.  Use it wisely.  Don’t run out of swag halfway through Day Two or you will be screwed trying to get a crowd on Day Three.  A good CG can monitor the swag levels to make sure it never runs out until she wants it to.

Never ask Attendees if they would like to watch a presentation.  Tell them to watch it:

"Hi!  Come watch our Five Minute Presentation!  Have a seat.  Here’s a shirt."

Keep it simple and they will do what you tell them.

Learn to walk backwards in heels as you guide them into the booth.  A good CG never stands in place—she is out in the aisles, herding Attendees into the booth with open, waving arms and a huge, welcoming smile. 

Do what you have to do to get them to sit down.  Stand in front of them and block their path down the aisle.  There are no rules here, do whatever it takes short of promising them a million dollars and dinner with you.  I never consider a show a success unless Show Management pops into my booth to tell me that I’m being too loud or going too far into the aisle to get Butts in Seats.  Push the limits as far as you can without getting in serious trouble.  Smile at Show Management when they scold you and apologize.  Then go back to what you were doing.

Five Minute Presentation:

The Presentation is always Five Minutes.  Always.  I don’t care if the Presenter is going to talk for twenty, NEVER tell them anything other than it is Five Minutes.  They won’t sit down for twenty minutes, but everyone has five minutes to spare.

Yes, LIE!  They will forgive you once you give them their swag.  Just make sure you smile when you do it.

Want proof of the Five Minute rule?  Watch Leslie Chambers crowd gather for one of her presentations.  She is the Best in the business, and I learned from her.  One of the biggest compliments I have received was from a different Presenter who knew I was exhausted and on my last show of the day.  I knew I couldn’t let this theater only fill up half-way, so I reached into my Bingo Fuel Tank and kept going.  My Presenter said, “Wow.  You sound just like Leslie right now.”  Now THAT means you are doing it right.

Down Time:

There is no Down Time.  Once the theater empties and everyone has their prizes and their badges are all scanned, you have other duties.  Set the chairs straight.  Pick up the leaflets and any trash on the floor.  Check in with your Presenter to see if everything is OK.  Bring the Attendees deeper into the booth and introduce them to the Sales Staff.  Stock swag for the next show.  Make sure your client is happy and has water, coffee, a drink, or whatever else might be needed.  Go and get what is needed.  Make sure your shirt is still tucked in and your hair is still straight.

Take a swig of water and fix your lipgloss.  Pop a breath mint in.

Breathe.  Smile.

Go do everything again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you aren’t completely exhausted at the end of the day, you haven’t worked hard enough.

If the shows are only once an hour or so, you will fill your time between Presentations assisting the Booth Manager with whatever is needed, typically filling a Booth Hostess role.  That description is next time…

Life is Good.  Life is better when you have Butts in Seats!


  1. You have raised an important issue..Thanks for sharing..I would like to read more current affairs from this blog..keep posting..
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  3. Another great post! Thank you so much for sharing all of your advice Jennifer!

  4. This is an amazing article on the benefits and roles of a great crowd gatherer. 5-minute presentation, butts in seats, lather, rinse and repeat! You nailed it, Jennifer. An excellent crowd gatherer is worth her weight in gold!