Five Tips for Engineers on Conference Booth Duty

Nov 7, 2023 by Craig Jellick
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Five Tips for Engineers on Conference Booth Duty

It’s tech conference season again and with that comes Expo Halls and Booth Duty. If you’re an engineer or otherwise technical role and have been asked to put in some time at your company’s booth, CONGRATULATIONS! Someone on the marketing team thinks you won’t entirely muck it up talking to potential users. As a seasoned vet in this arena, I know it can be tough but rewarding. I'll be at Kubecon and AWS Re:Invent over the next month, and I wanted to share 5 tips for making the most of the experience.

Tip #1: Dress for Success

No, I’m not talking about a smart suit -you’ll likely be in a company branded t-shirt anyway. I’m talking about comfortable shoes and a sweater! You will be on your feet ALL DAY and that can be brutal. If you’re lucky, your company sprung for the extra thick carpet, but either way, you want a pair of shoes that enable you to stand for hours. Several years ago, I bought a pair of Hoka One Ones specifically for booth duty and they were a huge improvement.

Next up, sweater: inevitably the Expo Hall will either be too hot or too cold. You want options. Layer up! The easiest solution is to throw on a sweater. One recent conference had us in a building with a giant glass roof. The sun beat down for the busiest hours of the day. A hat was a nice bonus there.

Tip #2: Embrace your Inner Extrovert

If you’re like me, you’re not a natural extrovert. It doesn’t feel natural to just reach out and engage with strangers, but right now, that’s your job! You may be giving demos, handing out swag, or pulling passers-by into the booth, whatever it is, embrace it and challenge yourself to engage. The easiest thing to do is smile, and ask anyone who walks up if they've heard of your company or the product you're introducing, and if not if they'd like to learn about it. You’ll be drained by the end of the day, but it’ll be rewarding and you’ll get through it.

Tip #3: Give a great demo

When you're preparing for booth duty, make sure you're ready to give a great demo. That's not just a run through of your products UI or slides. It means having a demo application that is relevant to your audience, and using that to highlight the impact it can have on potential users.

If possible give the person you are demoing with something they can take home with them. If you're demoing a SaaS product, sign them up for a trial on the spot. If you have software they can test, create an Acorn Image, and have them launch their own instance of your software in their free cloud sandbox. When they get home, they'll remember the accounts they signed up for, and the actual software the took with them much more than a quick demo.

Tip #4: Always be scanning

Chances are, your marketing department is going to measure success at least partially by the number of scans your booth gets. Don’t be afraid to ask and bring your bartering A-game. Want some swag? Want a demo? Let me get a scan.

Tip #5: Get Something out of the Experience

I enjoy working booths because it allows me to connect with potential users and the broader tech community. What insights can you pick-up about your product or competitors? What resonates, what doesn’t? You should also find time to check out other booths. Those are filled with people just like you - interested in showing off their wares and making connections. This is also a great networking opportunity, so make some new contacts; be liberal with your LinkedIn connections.

Bonus Tip: Make Good Use of Downtime

There’s going to be some time in your booth where there is relatively little traffic. Use this time to build relationships with your fellow booth workers, especially the ones from different departments. Learn about how the sales team pitches your product or what features they think would really make it pop. Find out what plans the marketing team has in store for the future.

That does it for these tips. Remember to have fun with the experience. And if you’re at KubeCon North America or AWS re:Invent this year, stop by the Acorn Labs booth and say hi. I’ll give you a scan!

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