I want to talk about an interesting phenomenon that fellow parents will totally understand. Do you ever see your kids behaving better at other people’s places than your own? Why are they so good for Grandma and Grandpa? You can show them how to throw a ball or ride a bike, and they just won’t take instruction from you. Then all of a sudden you see them practicing their new skill or task, and they tell you it was the babysitter who showed them how. This never ceases to amaze me.

One thing that seems to be common in these instances is that kids seem to learn more effectively when they are one step removed from their natural environment. A new teacher or a new environment seems to grab their attention and gives them a fresh way of looking at things.

You may have noticed this with your own booth staff. After you just held a pre-show booth meeting and emphasized the “No eating in the booth” rule, you look over and one of your booth staff is eating a bag of popcorn. No matter how many times you tell them, they just don’t listen to you. It seems to go in one ear and out the other.

Unfortunately, you are in a tough position. Many booth managers find themselves in this quandary. It’s really a choice between good cop or bad cop. Managers can either lay down the law and risk being disliked, or they can be too nice and the training doesn’t get the respect it deserves. If you go too easy on your staff, they will treat trade shows like a vacation and you won’t get the results you desire.

One possible solution is to bring in an outside trainer. Just the idea of training your booth staff might be new for your company. You are not alone. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, more than “73% of exhibit managers report that they have no plans to invest in training efforts.” Despite this, “75% of booth staffers reported that they respond more favorably to professional trainers from outside their companies than to internal company representatives conducting training sessions.” Bringing in an outside trainer might just be what your booth staff needs. It’s so easy for them to become complacent after hearing the same pre-show spiel of booth rules from the same person each and every show.

The advantage of having an outside trade show trainer is that he or she can come in and kick butt and not have to worry about work relationships down the road. They can whip your staff into shape. These trainers understand that it’s more important to be effective than to be liked. This saves the trade show manager from having to be the “bad guy.”

Outside trainers can also bring a great deal of credibility with them. A booth staff member will put more credence into lessons taught by an industry specialist who has worked with all the blue chip companies compared to Suzie from down the hall in marketing.

Your booth staff is your “boots on the ground” at the show. They are the front line, and they represent your company. Support their efforts and give them the training they need to do their best.

So the next time you need to school your “kids,” remember how they behave better for the babysitter.