15 Of The Most Deadly Trade Show Mistakes (pt 2)

In last week’s column, I began to list the problems I see frequently on the trade show floor.

I’ve settled on fifteen of the most egregious common mistakes that can’t literally kill you, but they can deaden the results you hope to achieve when exhibiting at a trade show. We’ve already covered the first seven, so let’s jump back in with the final eight:

LTK-5008 Custom Modular Exhibit

LTK-5008 Custom Modular Trade Show Exhibit

8) Graphic violence.
By this I don’t mean violence that’s “in your face”; I mean violence people do to their graphics.

In hopes of saving a few bucks, you work with a college kid at a discount sign shop to design your graphics, and it shows

You list every product you offer on every sign you have in your booth. Trade show visitors have trouble reading smaller type and they’ll invest only a few seconds sizing up your display.

Help them out with GOOD Graphic Designs, using your logo, a great image, and very few words to quickly and succinctly tell them who you are, what you offer, and how you can help them.


9) Sending bad people.
I hope by now you’ve caught on that this whole thing is a little tongue in cheek. And here I’m not suggesting that the people you send to a trade show are inherently bad; they’re just wrong for the job you need them to do.

For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients say, “We’ll send the new guy. That will get him up to speed.” What a lousy idea!

Would you send the new guy on an important sales call? Of course not. But that’s what working the show floor is: a constant sales call. You’re forever sizing up visitors, sensing if they might be prospects, asking well-thought-out questions and trying to close.

The new guy is the wrong guy for that. Always.

10) Going without…part two
In the first part of this article, I talked about going to a show without a plan. Now I want to talk about going to a show without a “Plan B.”

What will you do if your exhibit (or some element of it) doesn’t show up?

What happens if your literature is lost in transit?

If the flu goes around your office the week before the show, what’s your back-up plan?

A smart trade show manager prepares for the unexpected, the “just in case,” and the “what if.” When you begin planning for the show, plan for things to go wrong. Why? They always do. And you’ve only got one shot at making your show a success.

11) Booths past their prime.
Everything humans build has a life cycle.

Cars, machinery, light bulbs, computers—they’re all engineered to do their job well for a certain period of time, but then things start to go wrong.

Not only that, but good design changes with time. Remember when avocado-colored appliances and shag carpet were all the rage? Not anymore.

The same is true with your exhibit. If it’s getting up in years, it’s not going to work as well as it did when it was designed and built.

Chances are, your purposes for exhibiting have evolved, as well. If that’s the case, consider updating—or completely replacing—your trade show exhibit. That is an investment that can pay for itself with a greater ability to attract attention and communicate your message effectively.

Onyx EZ12 Truss Trade Show Display

Onyx EZ12 Truss Trade Show Display

12) Premiums without a purpose.
There’s a place in the trade show world for premiums.

But not just for the sake of having something to give away. That simply doesn’t make sense.

If at all possible, find a give-away that aligns with your product or service or supports your brand.

Pens, Frisbees and stress balls don’t relate to anything (and who really needs another one?), so don’t use them.

You might also want to think about two types of premiums: a simple, inexpensive one that most people get as a “thank you” for stopping by, and one you give to your customers and most valuable prospects, that’s meant to show how serious you are about serving them.

13) Going to the wrong show.
I’m constantly amazed when people admit they hadn’t done their homework on a particular show and only discovered, after the fact, that it wasn’t the place their prospects could be found.

And worse, some companies exhibit at the wrong shows year after year, just because they’ve “always done it that way.”

What a ridiculous waste of time and money!

Part of the equation is experience and trusting your gut.

The other part is research: asking vendors and strategic partners what they know about a particular show and how it’s worked for them. Ask for specifics from these people and show management: attendance, job titles of attendees, purchasing roles, etc.

14) Packing in a panic.
The show’s over.

You’re tired.

You’re waiting for your cases to be delivered to your booth so you can pack up and get out of there.

Every fiber of your being is telling you to hurry up and get out of there. Get over it!

Why? Because you’ll pay for it on the next show’s set up day, when parts of the exhibit are damaged or missing, or necessary hardware is nowhere to be found. Keeping all your packing materials well organized is like guaranteeing an easier set up at the following show.

15) Fouling up follow up.
Any list of trade show mistakes will include this topic.

It’s a wonder to me why companies will invest the time, energy and capital to exhibit at a show, and then squander the leads they gather at that show.

The problem actually starts before the show, when no plan is put together for how the leads will be dealt with.

Fix that problem, and the people you meet at the show will have a real chance to become customers. The old axiom is true: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

That’s the last half of my list of the “15 Deadliest Trade Show Mistakes.” If you missed out on the first part of the list, click hereFor more, check out our article on trade show gaffes to avoid.

And if your exhibit is causing you to miss out on closing sales, let us help. We’ve got years of experience creating results-getting exhibits—on time and on budget—and we represent virtually every great exhibit manufacturer on the planet.

So you’ll get exactly what you need to make your next exhibit a success. Call us at (425) 556-9511 or email [email protected].