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,