Meeting with a prospect at a tradeshow costs an average of $142. Meeting that same prospect at a his or her office costs $259. Social media and online channels have overtaken more traditional face-to-face meetings, but tradeshows can still pay off for those willing to work to get the most out of their investment.

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David Spark knows a little something about how to boost your tradeshow ROI. He's a content marketer, brand journalist, and tradeshow engagement expert. He's also the founder of brand journalism company Spark Media Solutions.

I invited David to Marketing Smarts to discuss his recent book, Three Feet From Seven Figures: One-on-One Engagement Techniques to Qualify More Leads at Trade Shows, and to find out how you can get the most out of your tradeshow investment by making some simple changes to the way you interact with people on the tradeshow floor.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Just showing up to the booth isn't enough: you need to be truly present or you could miss huge opportunities (04:10): "You've got to be present. You've got to be standing on the edge of your booth, and you've got to learn how to connect with with these people.... You put all this money, all this time, all this effort, and then there is this moment between the person working the booth and the attendee walking by, which is physically three feet, and if this attendee turns into a customer, the lifetime value—especially if you're in the B2B space—will inevitably jump up to seven figures. So, how do you close that gap, how do you engage with that person?"

Break up the "booth huddle" (05:57): "The 'booth huddle' phenomenon is when you see three or four people (usually three) from the same exact booth wearing the same colored shirt all talking to each other and their backs are all to the floor. And when people are in a huddle like that they are not approachable. So now what you have is not one person not doing their job, you have three, possibly four, people not doing their job—also not approachable. And all you have to do is start ticking off the dollars of how much this is wasting.

"People are so afraid of rejection—crazy, crazy afraid of rejection—that they do this. And they don't know how to stop and engage people.... If you're doing this, people are actually rejecting you at a faster rate, but passively rejecting you. 'That person is in a huddle, they don't want to talk to me, so therefore I'm not going to talk to them.' While that rejection is not obvious and not verbal and not to your face, they are still rejecting you at a much, much higher rate.... Get out there in front and face that rejection, because you will get rejected at a tradeshow, but don't take it personally."

Don't drop people the second you realize they're not a qualified lead (21:57): "The process is very simple: You need to engage the person, and that starts with an opening line of some sort. We are very big into being 'in the moment.' And then you need to quickly move to qualified, and depending on how high-traffic the event is, that will determine how fast you should move into qualification. and then if they're still have to make that experience positive.

"If I find're not a qualified person for my booth, I don't say, 'All right, Kerry, you're not qualified, you're not going to be interested in our product, see you later,' because you'll have a bad negative experience with me, and you'll talk to someone who's qualified later and say, 'You shouldn't talk to company ABC, they were rude to me.'"

To learn more, visit, and be sure to follow David on Twitter @dspark.

David and I talked about so much more, including why your salespeople are not the ones you want working the booth, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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