Super easy ways to never again sabotage your trade shows!

Hybrid Island with Tension Fabric display Graphics and charging station

Modified VK-5095 Hybrid Island with Tension Fabric Graphics, MOD-1290 and MOD-1289 Counters, MOD-1316 iPad Clamshell, and (2) MOD-1408 Charging Stations

In our business, we attend a lot of trade shows. It just goes with the territory.

Mostly, we’re there to make sure our clients are well cared for and that everything’s going like we’d planned.

But we often see other exhibitors struggling with problems that could have been eliminated, avoided or diminished, simply by using a little common sense.

In the post below we’ve identified ten situations where exhibitors shoot themselves in the foot on the show floor. Most of these problems are the result of poor strategy, logistical oversights or just unfounded overconfidence.

Our years of experience have taught us to never underestimate the power of Murphy’s Law to throw a wrench into the gears of your trade show program. If you experience just one of these problems, it can sink your exhibiting efforts completely.

1. Beginning Your Planning Too Late:

Most trade show managers have the presence of mind to pick their space early enough because, if they don’t, the booth will be in the wrong hall, facing the wall, with a column in the middle of it. The problem is, once this decision is made, many managers stop pre-show planning.

It’s difficult to get others interested in the details of a show when it’s still months away. But waiting until the last minute almost inevitably leads to a series of hastily made decisions and thorny problems that require overtime work and over budget expenses.

2. Going To The Wrong Show:

How many times have you heard management say “Our competitors will be at that show, so we have to be there, too” or “We need to support the industry”?

These are the wrong reasons for going to a show, and they can cost you dearly.

If at all possible, visit a show before you decide to exhibit there.

Talk with other exhibitors and attendees. Ask show management for documentation of the types of attendees, as well as the quantity and quality.

If it’s a good show this year, it may be even better next year—once you’ve made an informed decision about whether to exhibit.

3. Going To The Right Show With The Wrong Exhibit:

It’s pretty much a given that if you go into a trade show with a product or service well targeted to the show’s market, with a properly staffed and attractive booth, you’ll get your share of the available traffic.

If you’re going into a good show with an exhibit that is too small or poorly planned, that may mean you really don’t think the show is right for you. Subconsciously, you’re just cutting your losses. If the show’s worth exhibiting at, it’s worth the best booth that makes sense for the show, your industry, and your products.

4. Using Rookie Staffers In Your Exhibit:

Time and time again, we’ve seen well-known companies make this mistake—perhaps the worst of all mistakes!

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They invest the time and money in doing a show, and then send inexperienced personnel to staff the booth.

Again, if the show is worth exhibiting at, it’s worth sending the best people you’ve got to do the job that’s required.

This is not the place to “break in the rookies.”

5. Skipping Pre-Show Promotion:

You want to buy cheap insurance for the success of your show?

Spend some money on pre-show promotion.

There are countless ways to do this, from mailers to emails, to special landing pages on your website, to advertising in trade publications.

What you do to stick out from the crowd BEFORE the show will help you AT the trade show too! Share on X

6. Working With The Wrong Display Supplier:

Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company.

Check their credentials.

Have they been in business for at least ten years?

Do they have a solid client list?

Are their production facilities sufficient for your build?

Ask for references, and check them.

You’re spending a substantial amount of money, and it pays to be thorough.

7. Not Following Through With Suppliers:

How many times have you simply assumed that everything was running smoothly with your booth build and the equipment you’ll need for the show, and that all your service orders had been received and acted upon?

One of these days, that attitude will turn around and bite you.

Being an effective trade show manager means riding herd on a large group of people.

You’ve got to check and double check.

Keep excellent records of everything you discuss with suppliers and colleagues. Whenever a decision is made or a change order is discussed, get it in writing.

8. Using An Ineffective Exhibit:

As we walk through trade shows, we see dozens of booths that are poorly designed, poorly lit, poorly identified and often, deserted.

Having an effective exhibit means solving all those problems (and others), so your booth works as a sales tool—even without staffers.

It should tell your story to passersby with a clean design and a simple, clear message.

Then, staffers can invite interested attendees in to learn more.

Those staffers should then be able to offer attendees a simple and convincing demonstration of your product or service.

9. Not Getting There Early Enough:

Murphy’s Law is most likely to hit at the worst possible time.

That’s why arriving Sunday for a show that opens on Monday is a very bad idea. It doesn’t matter if it’s a neat location that  you haven’t visited before – take the time to check out your booth first, make sure everything arrived, in good condition, and got setup as planned.

If there are any problems (and let’s face it, aren’t there always a few problems?), it can be difficult to reach the exhibit company or replace items that are missing or damaged.

If you arrived on Friday, you’d know what the problems were, and you could use the weekend to get things ironed out. Saving you a night or two of hotel room charges may end up being the most expensive item in your trade show budget!

10. Not Following Up On Show Leads:

In the old days, we saw countless fishbowls full of business cards that were considered “leads” by the companies that put those fishbowls on their counters.

But merely having contact information doesn’t make for a good lead: more data is necessary, whether you’re gathering it in a fishbowl or with a badge scanner.

However you collect leads for your company, it’s imperative that—as soon as possible following the show—those leads get into the hands of sales staffers who can provide the appropriate follow-up.

If you can avoid these mistakes, you’ll be a happier—and better—trade show manager. And if you need help with any aspect of your trade show exhibit, from a complete new build to a couple of banner stands, literature racks or new lighting, call us at (425) 556-9511 or email [email protected]. We’d be delighted to help you make a great impression at your next show!

Check out our article on trade show blunders to avoid and remember to not let negative reviews break you.

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