Five bad habits of experienced exhibitors

Written by Susan Ratliff on May 26th, 2012. Posted in Attending a tradeshow, Booth Blunders, common mistakes

I just returned from a convention where I was an exhibitor myself.  This was an industry related show so the exhibitors were knowledgable and experienced.  Some of the mistakes I saw on the show floor confirmed my assumption that even the most seasoned exhibitors need some training or review about what to do and how to look at a tradeshow.  The veteran exhibitor is pretty resistant to suggestions or training and that is a shame. They will tell you they have been exhibiting for years and know what they are doing, but the honest truth is, they were never trained on exhibit marketing techniques and strategies so they have been doing some of the same WRONG things for all those years. Here are a few of my observations. Are you guilty of any of these mistakes?

1.  You know that black and white sign that hangs on the back wall of the pipe and drape in your booth?  That is not your company sign. Unfortunatly, many exhibitors did not get the memo.  That ugly cardboard sign is there to identify which company is to occupy that booth space. Before you set up your display, take it down and throw it away.  At the last show eight out of ten exhibitors keep it hanging.  There is was, peeking out from behind their beautiful displays putting a dent in their professionalism. The exhibitor across from me actually took the sign off the drape and hung it on the front of his beautiful $3000 pop up mural.  I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask him why in the world he would do that.  He said because his graphic only had the company name at the bottom so he wanted to repeat it at the top.  I tried to tactfully talk him into taking it down, but he kept it there the entire three days. 

2.  I guess many of the exhibitors were tired from hitting the roulette tables until 3 in the morning because so many company representatives were sitting down in their booth.  You are not very approachable when you are sitting down and certainly not when you are in deep conversation with your booth mate.  Get up, get engaged, get some energy going.  Greet each passing attendees with enthusiasm whether it is 9 am or 4 pm. Next time, take the chairs out of your space.

3.  What is the most important message you want to tell your prospective customers?  Is it the long list of every service you provide? Is it the four paragraph mission statement from your brochure?  Is it every feature your product contains? NO! The most important message your booth graphics and signs should convey is what you can do for the attendees at the show.  They need to know first, that you understand their problem, then they need to hear how you can solve it.  Can you remove their pain, resolve their challenge and give them what they need?  You have about 10 seconds to make that message very clear.  Use your display or banner stand graphics to tell them what they want to hear. Minimal text with the right message addressing their needs and large pictures to capture their interest will compel them to stop and talk to you.  That should be the goal of your marketing messages.

4.  Nearly every exhibitor had a table full of really cool give-a-ways. There were many fun freebees and some were relatively expensive. The most popular method of distribution seemed to be to leave them there free for the taking.  Some exhibitors handed them to attendees as they opened conversation. I did not observe one exhibitor that used those give-aways as a reward to obtaining a prospect’s contact information. They just left them there to grab and go.  Use your premium gifts as a reward for getting what you need from the attendee.  Give them as a thank you for listening to your sales information, playing a game or watching a demonstration. They are an ideal thank-you gift after the prospect gives you their contact information.  Your give-a-ways are a tool to help you engage the prospect and leave them with a reminder of you and your company. Use them, don’t just give them away.

5. I was a bit shocked at the end of the show when a number of exhibitors began breaking down their displays 45 minutes before the show closed.  The conference manager was pretty upset because once one exhibitor starts to take apart their booth, others follow. It is very uncomfortable for those of us who follow the rules and stick it out until the end.  It is disrespectful to the attendees, ruins the flow of the tradeshow floor and makes the organization look bad.  Sure it was slow and yes it was boring, but before you consider packing up before closing time, first ask permission from show management.  If things are winding down they will often make an announcement giving all exhibitors permission to break early.  You might want to take a look at your exhibitor contract because there is usually a clause that says any company taking down an exhibit before the published closing time will be banned from exhibiting in the future. 

Are you a show producer who wants to bring added value to your exhibitors or an exhibitor yourself who wants to know how to turn your booth into a powerful profit center?  Contact Susan Ratliff, The Exhibit Expert, to speak to your group or consult with your show management team.  Susan Ratliff, 602-828-1177,


A novice’s guide to working the tradeshow floor

Written by Susan Ratliff on March 25th, 2012. Posted in Attending a tradeshow, the value of exhibit marketing

Attending a tradeshow can be a daunting experience, especially for a newbee.  Time is money and no more so than now when many companies have reduced the time they allot for their employees to spend at a tradeshow.  Here are ten tips for maximizing that time and effort.

1.  Plan ahead.
Tradeshows are an assault on your senses and can be a brain drain for the novice attendee.  Before you go to the show look up the event website and review the list of exhibitors. Make a list of the companies that offer the products, services and information you are after.  Go to each company’s website for more information.  Make a list of the company names, booth numbers and aisle numbers. Compile a list of questions you want to ask them at each booth. 

2.  Check out the activities taking place at the expo and affiliated convention.  Are there educational sessions, demonstrations of products, celebrities in the industry appearing at the
show?  Are there any social mixers or first-timer events where you could mix and mingle with other attendees who might be new to the tradeshow experience? By researching in advance you are better prepared to get the most out of the show and you won’t  miss out on any once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to meet and learn from the industry pros. 

3.  Print out the show floor plan, take your list of must see exhibitors and map out your game plan. Design your route to each booth that maximizes your time and schedule. More importantly, bring along information to give to the company representative that will help them help you.  Your needs in writing with a description of your budget, delivery deadlines, quantity or other requirements and your contact information with a date by which to reply to you. This will be very helpful to the company and expedite the follow up process.

4.  Arrive the moment the doors open.  Use your map to visit each of the exhibiting companies on your list in the order you planned.  Ask your pressing questions, capture
the informtion you need and leave them with your request sheet.  

5.  Keep track of the timeline for the extra activities, seminars, appearances and demonstrations so you don’t miss a thing. 

6.  If you can attend two days, go back the second day and walk the entire show floor. If not, do this after your first round. Look at all the exhibits and take literature on
any programs, products or services that interest you.  If the exhibitors are using an electronic lead capturing machine let them send you their information instead of carting
it around all day. Take advantage of some of the super give-aways, games and contests that make tradeshows so much fun.  

7. Wear comfortable shoes. Bring a camera because you never know who you might get your picture next to or what fascinating things you will see. Be sure to check if there are any restrictions on photography from show management. Carry plenty of business cards for the drawings and for networking. Bring more than you think you will need. 
Carry a pen so you can write notes on the business cards you pick up and a notepad for extra details.  

8.  By the end of your visit you will have bags of stuff.  Much of it you won’t need. Dump it out on your hotel bed, review what you have, then toss what you don’t want. Consider packing an extra fold up tote in case you really want to bring it all home. Some events or venues offer shipping services so you can package it all up and mail it to yourself.

9. Plan to have some fun. Be pro-active, smile a lot, ask questions, soak it all up.  Make a note of what you liked and didn’t like about the show and if you would return next year. 

 10. Follow up on your hot leads within three days of your return.  Make a folder for the event with your notes and the event program.  You can refer to it next year to determine whether to attend again and what changes you would make or additions you would include.

For more tips on maximizing your tradeshow experience as either an exhibitor or an attendee contact Susan Ratliff, The Exhibit Expert.