Top Ten Tips For Newbie Trade Show Exhibitors

crowded trade show booth  (No tips for newbie trade show exhibitors needed here! )

Is this what your booth looks like at the show? (No tips for newbie trade show exhibitors needed here, due to the gifted trade show magician!)
Image from, Used with permission


There’s a lot of tips for newbie trade show exhibitors out there (and right here, in our own searchable blog archives).

But what I thought I’d do today is go over a few of the most important things you should put into action if you’re new (or relatively new) to the trade show exhibiting business.

1) Your booth staff is on the front line
Here’s a statistic from the Center for Exhibit Industry Research (CEIR). Almost 80% of what visitors remember about their exposure to your trade show exhibit is their interaction with your staffers. So be at your best when you’re representing your company. If you’re bringing others from your organization to the show, put your best people on the job. And make sure everyone working your trade show booth knows how to give each attendee who visits your display an excellent experience.

2) Be attractive
If you’re blessed with good looks, you’re in luck. But anyone can be more attractive when they’re dressed nicely, well groomed and (here’s the important part) smiling. People naturally react positively to other people who are smiling and friendly looking. Walt Disney knew this. That’s why you’ll always see employees (they’re called “cast members”) at Disney parks smiling. So take a tip from that expert here, and if you want to attract people to your trade show exhibit, wear a friendly smile and see how many attendees respond.

3) Initiate the conversation
Even if it’s just a “hello,” be the first to offer it. Other exhibitors will be doing the same thing, of course. But by starting conversations, you’ll be much more successful than many exhibitors. The newbie trade show exhibitors with the real problems are the ones who sit behind a folding table that blocks the entrance to their exhibit. They may even be talking on their cell phones or chatting with another booth worker. They stand no chance of convincing attendees to stop and consider whatever they’re offering.

4) Keep the conversation going
Once an attendee has stopped by your booth, you’ve got your one and only chance of making the sale. Every attendee is there at the show to find a solution to a problem that’s making his or her life difficult. This is your opportunity to share what your product can do to solve that problem. I’ve written at length elsewhere  about how to engage the prospects who visit your trade show booth. The important thing to remember is that your booth visitor wants what you have to offer. But only if you can effectively communicate how you can help.

5) Keep it conversational
People are repelled by canned sales pitches. If at all possible, scrap the script and just share with your booth visitor on a one-to-one basis. Focus on asking questions, which will help you understand what the prospect’s needs are. Those answers will give you the opportunity to show how your product or service can meet those needs.

Here's a hardware tip for newbie trade show exhibitors - Gravitee Modular Islands are great modular booth for changing configuration requirements.

Gravitee Modular Island

6) Questions, questions, questions
Without coming off like an inquisitor, keep the conversation going with questions about your prospects. Ask what brought them to the show? What’s new at the company they work for? Have they’ve been to this particular trade show before? This is one of the key tips for newbie trade show exhibitors – the more you know about your prospect, the better you’re able to position your product as the answer to his or her problem.

7) Don’t let them get away
By this I mean, don’t let the conversation end without capturing the prospect’s contact information. You can do this in different ways, from simple to sophisticated. At the least, a fishbowl for collecting visitors’ business cards can do the trick. The more high tech approach is a badge scanner. This allows you to capture the prospect’s contact data. But it also lets you add more information (such as notes on your conversation). This information can then be transferred to your CRM database for easier follow-up.

8) Follow through on follow-up
It still amazes me to discover that many companies do absolutely no follow-up at all. And some exhibitors just cherry pick through their contacts and allow the rest to wither on the vine. This means that the time and money expended on your trade show participation goes down the drain. How you follow up will be different, depending on your specific situation. It could be a call, a mail-merged letter, an email, or even a handwritten note. The important thing is to do it.

9) Go with premium premiums
Forget about cheap, generic premiums. They’re a waste of your money. And not everyone who visits your trade show exhibit is worthy of receiving a token of your appreciation, anyway. You want something that will be used or seen by the recipient as often as possible. Not something tossed out or shoved in some box or drawer, never to be seen again. Work with a knowledgeable premium seller. They can help you tailor the giveaway to your marketing message and budget.

10) Make sure your booth does its job
I can’t overstate the importance of this one. Your booth is the second most important factor in memorability (behind interactions with booth staffers). So be certain the environment is conducive to business. The exhibit should be attractive, clean and current. If you’re making do with an older trade show booth, you may be doing your company a disservice. And don’t skimp on your graphics. They are crucial to telling your story effectively. If budget is a factor, explore the option of renting a booth that is high quality, up-to-date, and customizable.

For more, learn how to leverage your resources or whether you should rent or buy.

If you’re looking for more tips for newbie trade show exhibitors, check out our Exhibiting 101 series. And remember that your exhibit has a big job to do on the trade show floor. Don’t go to the show with a trade show booth that isn’t up to the job. We can help you improve what you have or start over with a beautiful display. You’ll have a booth that will tell your story and help attract attendees with great graphics, lighting, literature racks and much, much more. To see how we can help, give us a call at (888) 977-8076 or email [email protected].