8 Common Trade Show Mistakes

Whether you’re about to embark on your very first trade show, or have been at it for years, there’s still a lot we can learn from other people’s mistakes. Before you head off to your next show, take a gander at our list of the top 8 most common trade show mistakes.

1. Using tables

This mostly applies to small exhibits (10x10s), so if that’s you, keep reading. You might think that having a table with your pamphlets and product samples all laid out would be a nice way to get people interested in what you do. You’re half right, but consider the message that this table is sending to people passing by. First of all, a table that’s set up in front of your exhibit evokes memories of lemonade stands gone by, and could appear unsophisticated. A prospect might be put off by the “sales counter” look and walk right by. Also, if you have a little more space (10×20), a table restricting access could keep attendees from checking out the rest of your exhibit. Do we have to talk to the gate keeper at the table before we can come in? If you’re gung-ho on having a table, consider positioning it against a wall, or at an angle that doesn’t block the flow of traffic.

2. Not hiring the right people to work the booth

When hiring booth staff, it’s important to choose people who are comfortable talking to the public. You might have a couple employees who you would consider to be incredibly knowledgeable about your product/service and who have a positive, happy attitude around the office, but put them in a “sales” position and they just don’t have the necessary skills to collect leads. Hiring from an agency that specializes in promotional staff workers is always a good idea because you know that they know how to sell. Having a few “insiders” from your home office complements this tactic so any serious buyers can be directed to them to complete the sale. Choose people who you know will give the booth a positive, uplifting energy and you’ll find that you end up with more leads than expected.

3. Focusing too much on selling

On the surface, a trade show booth is meant to drive sales, but that shouldn’t be the only goal in mind when designing your booth and marketing plan. Additionally, you should be thinking of ways to engage the attendees and create a memorable experience for them. In fact, in a survey done by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, it was found that 59 percent of trade show attendees want interactive demonstrations. You don’t want to be the booth that’s jumping on every person walking by. Instead, focus on making your booth the “cool place to be.” Offer an interactive activity, a selfie opportunity with an oversized (but applicable) prop, games, or anything that seems fun and interesting. You’ll find that by focusing on providing a positive experience for your prospects, you’ll gain a ton of opportunities for sales without even trying.

4. Not following up with leads

Jackpot! You’ve got a large handful of leads from your last trade show. While some businesses will just input the leads into their email list, the smarter thing to do is to follow up with each prospect personally after the show is over. A simple email reminding them of your last conversation is a great way to show that you are still very much interested in working with them in the future. Don’t let those precious leads go to waste. That was the whole point of spending all that time and money on a trade show exhibit! Make the most out of them by following up and converting.

5. Going too small

Whether you’re looking to squeeze the budget or aiming for the “subtle look” this time around, going too small with your trade show exhibit can make for a lackluster trade show experience. Many companies will depend on their image or the appeal of their products to gain attention, but just remember that you are competing with the big boys. Every company thinks they have a special something to stand out and if you’re not above the crowd in both size and design, there’s risk that you go unnoticed. A good rule of thumb is to do more or less what everyone else is doing. If your main competitor is bringing a 20×20, you should strongly consider doing the same or more. If you can, get some information on the particular trade show you’re attending from an exhibit consulting company like Evo Exhibits. Or check out social media to  find out what other companies are doing and match your booth size to theirs. You don’t necessarily need to lead the pack, but you do need to position yourself competitively.

6. Picking the wrong show

A trade show that “seems” like the best bet for your company may not be what it’s all cracked up to be. As an exhibitor, your goal is to quite simply, go where the prospects are. If you’re planning to spend all this money on a booth, staff, and merchandise, you must make sure that there are big fish around to take the bait. A great way to find the perfect show for your business is quite simply…research! Scroll through the social media accounts of companies who have attended the show you’re considering. Look at the kind of people who are there. Also, ask colleagues or fellow entrepreneurs how their last trade show experience went and whether they would recommend any shows to you and why. Find out as much as you can about the show before you commit to attending and let’s face it, with the power of Google, it’s not that hard to do.

7. Packing up too quickly

You’ll be tempted to just “get the heck out of there” once the trade show has fizzled to a stop, but not so fast! Packing up your booth in a rush can cause confusion and delays the next time you assemble your booth. Make sure to keep your “stuff” organized or else you’ll regret it when preparing for the next show.

8. Not using social media

Basically everyone is on social media these days and yes, we know there are people out there who consider it to be a waste of time or frivolous. But it’s an excellent resource when it comes to marketing your trade show appearance. There are several ways that social media can help you come trade show time. For starters, teasing your booth weeks before the big event by posting photos on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is a great way to build excitement and interest in your company. Posting your company’s hashtag on the walls of your booth and encouraging attendees to use your hashtag when they take a photo is a great way to get some free marketing that spreads beyond your own followers. Post-show, it’s always a good idea to tag certain people who you exchanged contact info with in your posts, letting them know that you’re still thinking of them…and a potential sale perhaps.

So now you know the top 8 most common trade show mistakes. Some of you might be kicking yourself, wishing you knew about these before you went off on your first trade show journey. For all you novices out there, you’re welcome. Happy exhibiting!

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