Tips for Exhibit Volunteers

With assistance from wonderful network members like you, we are able to spread the word about using quality health information and the great work of libraries. Consider the following reasons why attendees visit exhibits:

  • To be educated;
  • To find solutions to unknown problems;
  • To determine or finalize vendor selection of post-meeting purchases;
  • To identify new products, services, or methods;
  • To meet technical experts;
  • To assess industry directions; and
  • To obtain information.

You have the ability to help meeting attendees use NLM and all medical libraries more efficiently. Here are some general tips to remember during the show:

  • Observe the person's name, title and institution on their name badge. It can frequently give you helpful information for tailoring your responses to their specific needs.
  • Exhibit hours vary and may fall on evenings and weekends. At major meetings two individuals should staff the booth at all times to allow for breaks, lunch and heavy traffic times.
  • Exhibit staff members should be in the booth during the convention lunch period (unless there is a keynote address), during breaks and during exhibit hall activities such as the opening of exhibits and receptions.
  • Restock literature and giveaways as needed.


When deciding what to wear, take into account the attendees and the layout of the convention center. You need to feel comfortable and confident to make people feel comfortable and confident in you.

Physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers, seniors, mothers and children are all potential attendees of exhibits. Each of these groups invokes different images. Your image should be complementary to theirs. You want to be seen as a professional peer, an expert, or as a friend. At physician's meetings, you should dress in business attire. You are the information expert. At teacher meetings, you should dress in business casual. You are their peers. For consumer shows, you can dress in everyday casual, but not sloppy. You're a neighbor or a friend with an important message.

When selecting shoes to wear, consider the size of the exhibit venue and how much walking is required. You may want to bring a spare pair of comfortable shoes with you, and change shoes when you arrive at the exhibit booth.

Body Language

Body language is very important when exhibiting. When you are at a show, try to make the attendees feel that you're there because you really want to be. Even though you may have tons of email and lots of projects you would like to be working on, you are there to devote your energies to this particular show and audience. The following are nonverbal signals that convey a sense of openness and friendliness.

  1. Smile - Your smile is your best asset. When you smile, most people will smile back at you. Some might wonder why you are so happy!
  2. Keep your hands at your sides. If you put your hands in your pockets, it may signify boredom. If you cross your arms, you may appear unapproachable.
  3. If you're not doing an online demonstration, don't look at the computer screen. Ask visitors if they are aware of the National Library of Medicine's resources. Emphasize that they are *free*. We are the "odd duck" in the exhibit hall because we aren't selling anything. Do not feel obligated to tell every visitor every detail about our resources and services. Some people simply want the free pen and that's fine.
  4. Introduce yourself to neighboring exhibitors. They can help keep an eye on the exhibit if you need to step away for a short period of time. Do not leave laptops or other equipment unattended for any length of time.

Making Contacts

For a lot of people, the technology we use to get the message across is as interesting as the message. Our laptop computers and even the Internet connection itself hold a lot of appeal. Use that interest to draw people into the booth where you can talk to them about NLM and NN/LM products and services. When meeting attendees don't seem to be paying attention to you and seem to be walking through the aisle to get to a different vendor, try using inexpensive giveaways, such as bookmarks, to draw them into the booth. Stand on the edge of the booth space and the aisle and start passing out bookmarks. Most people will just take them, say thanks, and keep walking, but some people will really look at it and stop. Don't stand in the aisle, as this may be a violation of exhibit rules. If attendees are seriously interested in our services (training, etc.) take a name and number, give them an RML staff member's business card, or give them the NN/LM bookmark with the toll-free number on it.

If you ask passing attendees, "Do you use MEDLINE?" you will often hear a response something to the effect of "I already know all about it". Asking the right question can set up a fulfilling interaction for you and the attendee. Use open-ended questions that give him/her an opportunity to express how they feel and how much they know. You may hear, "It's great but I can never get the full-text of the article", or "My area isn't covered in MEDLINE", or "I'm in private practice. We had stuff like that in school but I don't use it now". You have a chance to get the word out about Loansome Doc, MedlinePlus, PubMed's My NCBI feature, or even other websites that may serve him/her better.

Sampling of Informational Exhibit Giveaways

NLM: Our Collections/Our Databases Card Brief descriptions of NLM’s collections, services, and major database products, including specific web site addresses.
Public Health Resources Card Brief descriptions given of NLM products specific to the field of Public Health.
Consumer Health Card Brief descriptions given of NLM products specific to the area of Consumer Health.
The National Network of Libraries of Medicine Card A description of the NN/LM mission, the services provided by the Network, and contact information is specified.
Good Health Information On the World Wide Web Card Brief descriptions and specific web addresses are given for each of the NLM Web products.
Health Information for Senior Citizens Card Brief description and other information related to Card Brief description and specific web address given for
PubMed Card Brief description given for what PubMed provides.
AIDS Information Services Card Contains brief description of AIDS information resources, such as AIDSinfo, as well as Help Line contact information.
WISER Card Description of the content and purpose of the wireless information system for first responders or Hazmat specialists.
Tox Town Brochure Expanded descriptions and illustrations given for Tox Town's toxic chemicals and environmental health risks where you live and work.
Booklet - Health Hotlines "Health Hotlines" is a compilation of organizations with toll-free telephone numbers, derived from DIRLINE, NLM's Directory of Information Resources Online.
PubMed Basics Trifold Brochure Brief overview of searching PubMed.
PubMed Basics
PubMed My NCBI Trifold Brochure Covers the basic aspects of PubMed’s My NCBI feature.
MedlinePlus Basics Trifold Brochure Brief overview of using the MedlinePlus web site.
MedlinePlus Basics
Lo esencial de MedlinePlus Trifold Brochure Brief overview of using the MedlinePlus web site in Spanish.
MedlinePlus Basico