9+ Trade Show Booth Pitfalls to Avoid

Custom VK-5094 20x30 trade show display island meeting room

Custom VK-5094 20×30 trade show display island meeting room

It’s the mark of every good trade show manager that you have a “Plan B” in your back pocket, just in case something goes wrong (and something always goes wrong). But by avoiding these pitfalls that come with the trade show territory, you won’t have to pull out that Plan B so quickly. Here are some of the most common problems that befall trade show managers.

Pre-Show Pitfalls:

1. Not Reading The Exhibitor’s Manual Thoroughly.

No trade show organizer has ever won a prize for great prose in the creation of an exhibitor’s manual, and some are tougher to slog through than others. But they are created for a reason. Every rule and regulation you’ll need to follow should be in there, as well as every deadline you need to hit, along with the penalties for not doing so. You’ll pay an average of 10-20% more for every service you sign up for late (or even more of a penalty, heaven forbid, on the show floor), so save your company’s money and your sanity by going through the manual and following its instructions.

2. Not Setting Specific Objectives.

This is the entire reason you’re at a trade show: to accomplish something. Knowing what that is, and what it will look like when you’ve done it, is of paramount importance to the success of your exhibiting efforts. Make sure your exhibiting goals are aligned with your corporate marketing strategy so they work together to support your brand. Once you’ve developed your objectives, share them with your team and enlist their support in accomplishing them.

3. Not Allowing Enough Time For Shipping.

Trust me. It’s no fun showing up at the convention center and finding out your trade show display is stuck in a warehouse in Poughkeepsie. Or that the truck was in an accident in Duluth.

To avoid this, ship your exhibit to the advance warehouse with time to spare. That accomplishes two things. First, it virtually eliminates any chance that your trade show booth will go missing. And second, it gives you the best odds to have your booth delivered to your exhibit space early on the first day of set-up.

That solves so many problems! For example, if something is broken or missing, you’ll have time to take care of it without rushing around like your hair is on fire.

Shipping at the last minute is prohibitively expensive, so a little advance planning can save a bundle. It’s also a good idea to have a list of emergency contacts, so if there is a problem, you’ll know who to contact and how to reach them.

4. Leaving Production Of Graphics To The Last Minute.

We’ve worked with clients who not only left the preparation of their graphics to the last minute, but they also didn’t even know what they wanted the graphics to say until the eleventh hour! Save yourself the headaches and stress that arise from last minute pandemonium, and give your graphics producer six weeks to prepare what you need. Consider investing in a second set, in case they get lost or damaged.

At-Show Pitfalls:

5. Neglecting To Train Your Booth Staff.
On The Move Bamboo Trade Show Furniture

On The Move Bamboo Trade Show Furniture

Many of our clients function as one-person trade show departments. But if there’s more than one of you, it’s wise to invest in professional booth staff training. The show floor is a unique selling situation—much different than selling in an office setting or over the phone.

Since you only get one shot at convincing a passerby to invest some time in learning about what you offer, this expense pays great dividends in terms of helping your staff come across as knowledgeable and professional, resulting in closing more sales.

6. Unprofessional Behavior.

This one has been talked about so much, you’d think the problem would have disappeared by now. But we’ve been to a trade show in the last month where I saw exhibitors eating in their booths, talking on their cell phones when attendees were nearby, and even chewing gum!

All these behaviors detract from the time, energy and investment you’ve made in exhibiting, so make sure you inform your staffers of what’s expected. Get management’s buy-in on this, so if someone breaks the rules, consequences will follow.

7. Audio/Visual Problems.

If you’re using monitors or computers in your exhibit, there’s a great chance that Murphy’s Law will cause problems that detract from what you’d hoped to accomplish. To avoid problems, consider renting the necessary equipment from the show’s AV supplier, so you have the benefit of their on-site IT people if a problem should arise.

If you do decide to use your own laptops, arrange for staffers to bring more than you’ll need, so you have back-ups. Make sure you have the login and password information, in case staffers show up late. Bring your presentation on a thumb drive, so you have a back-up if a laptop is broken, lost or stolen.

Post-Show Pitfalls:

8. Not Following Up In A Timely Manner.

Lead follow-up actually begins prior to the show. You need to determine who will be responsible for follow-up and how it will be done. Arrange for cover letters, brochures or other follow-up materials to be available immediately following the show. Schedule staff time to allow for follow-up activities, set deadlines and make staffers accountable for the leads they’re given.

Economic Edge Trade Show Banner Stands

Economic Edge Trade Show Banner Stands

Before you leave the show, give someone else a copy of the leads. If your bag is lost, you don’t want follow-up efforts to suffer as a result.

When you return from the show, make leads your number one priority. The longer they sit, the colder and less valuable they become. Don’t let the fact that you’ve been out of the office for a while interfere with the reason you exhibited in the first place.

9. Ignoring Show Evaluations.

No matter how well you think you and your team performed at the show, there’s always room for improvement. Take time while the circumstances are still fresh in everyone’s minds to reflect on what went well and what needs work, then put plans in place to ensure any mistakes are rectified before your next show.

10. (A Freebie!) Filling out the Show Material Handling Forms Incorrectly

We mention this because we’ve had several clients in the last 30 days that goofed on this relatively simple task. When you ship your trade show booth to the show, you need to fill out the show’s Material Handling Form, directing the show to accept your incoming displays, and route them to your booth at the show.

It is also important to let the show know how your displays are leaving the show site after the show is over. If you’re shipping the displays using the show’s service, then tell them that, and tell them where to ship the displays.

If you’ve arranged a 3rd party to ship the displays, then indicate that on the form. If you goof this up, your 3rd party carrier will arrive at the show and be told to leave – they will not be allowed to pick up the display cases.

But you WILL be charged by that carrier for the pickup attempt – sometimes several hundred dollars, if they are forced to wait in line for a couple of hours, only then to find out they can’t pick up the shipment.

And typically, the show’s carrier will charge more than your scheduled shipment – so if you took the time to get a quote and schedule a shipment, make sure to fill out the forms correctly!

For more check out our article on trade show planning mistakes to avoid or our article on trade show bloopers.

We get a lot of pleasure out of helping our clients become more successful in their trade show efforts. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us. And if you’re in need of a trade show booth, banner stands, graphics, literature racks or any other trade show supplies, get in touch. You can reach us at (425) 556-9511 or email [email protected]

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