steven powell

The Big 8 Trade Show Mistakes to Avoid

By Steven Powell

Exhibiting at a trade show doesn’t have to be a win or lose situation. Understand the primary reason you’re there, know the primary motivations of the visitors and exhibitors you’ll meet and remember that part of the ‘job requirement’ is to project a cheerful, confident impression that’s going to last past a brief encounter.

No matter how much you pay for your space, you’re going to invest both time and money into something that may (or may not) offer you a sizable return on your investment.

Here are a few things to avoid for a more fulfilling show experience.

1. Forgetting to ask what comes with the booth
Some shows will supply a couple of chairs and a table for the money you pay to exhibit at the show. Many will just provide an empty space. Before agreeing to exhibit, always ask what is supplied with the booth. That way, there are no surprises.

2. Expecting a financial windfall from immediate product sales
Don’t go in thinking you’ll make enough sales to cover the cost of the booth. People attend a show to gather information and learn what’s new on the market, not to go on a huge shopping spree. Instead, take small samples of your product to the show, or offer a package containing your brochures and coupons for those who leave their email or phone number with you.

3. Not displaying a banner
What, are you crazy? Spend all that money on the space and don’t spend the small amount necessary to get a big, bold banner announcing what you’re selling? People want to know who you are, even if they don’t understand what you’re promoting. Having a banner that prominently displays your company and/or sales message will invite people to at least slow down as they pass your booth.

4. Expecting to sell expensive products or services right there, right then
Unless the show or expo is specifically geared toward point-of-sale purchasing, you’ll quite probably go home with a car full of inventory and disappointments. Of course, it’s a wonderful thing when a sale comes through on the floor, but for most exhibitors immediate sales shouldn’t be the objective. Starting or strengthening relationships should be the focus.

5. Not offering to lead a seminar at the show
This is an excellent way to showcase your expertise. Choose an interesting topic that ties in nicely with the product or service you’re promoting at your booth. Offer 30-45 minutes of truly helpful, ad-free information, then use 3-minutes at the end to pitch yourself. If you’ve presented well, conversations and relationships should follow. Audience members are also more likely to ‘stop by’ your booth afterward. A ‘bunch of visitors’ is nice, but a select group of qualified contacts can be even better. They’re pre-qualified, for crying out loud!

6. Sitting and looking bored
People will avoid your booth like the plague if you’re just sitting there with a bored look on your face. Tuck the chairs to the side if necessary, stand up and greet attendees with a smile. Make them know you’re happy to be here. Make them feel they’re important. Sell!

7. Not having a lively booth
On the flip side, just standing there with a smile, a banner and some giveaway pens isn’t usually enough. You need to entice people to stop. Be creative and be colorful — you want the foot traffic (and other exhibitors) to stop and really listen to what you have to say.

8. Focusing on too many products or services
You have a finite amount of booth space (often 8’x10’) and a lot of clutter to cut through— focus on just one line of products or services. Too much is…too much. You’ll overwhelm people and they’ll tune you right out.

(Bonus) Exhibiting at a show in its rookie year
Sometimes there are strategic reasons for just being there. But, generally speaking, ‘rookie’ shows aren’t a great bet. They have no track record, no guarantees and it may just turn out to be a waste of your time. Many shows don’t make it into their second year and there’s a good reason. There are always exceptions, but you’ll do better to stick with trade shows that have an established reputation if you’re trying to make every dollar count.

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