7 Horrible Mistakes to Avoid with Your Trade Show Event

There are few things worse than putting a ton of time, money, and effort into something, only to have it go horribly wrong and result in all that investment being essentially wasted. Yes, you may have learned some lessons from the debacle, however some of the best advice I’ve ever received is: “Learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” Trade shows are the type of event that, if you haven’t done them before, can be very intimidating. And because of that, there are a lot of mistakes that can be made when preparing for and executing a trade show. So today, I’m going to share with you some of those mistakes that you can learn from so that you won’t repeat them!

DON’T – Not Set Goals

Ok, I know it is a double negative and that’s bad grammar, but you get the point! Going into a trade show not knowing what you want to get out of it is setting yourself up for failure. Before you head off, ask yourself a couple questions – what am I hoping to get out of this show? What will make this trip a success? Write the answers down and review them during the show. Now that you have a goal, you can check and make sure that your actions every day push you toward those goals.

DON’T – Pinch Pennies

Let’s just get this out of the way right now – you are going to drop some money going to a trade show. There’s just no way around it! However, where people really go wrong here is by trying to skimp and save on things that they really should not skimp or try to save on. A couple extra hundred dollars could go a long way in making sure your booth is everything that it can be. What you must look at is your lifetime customer value. How many more clients or customers would you have to get through the event to make your expenditures make sense? Looking at it that way will allow you to spend the money you need to.

DON’T – Block People Out

Many, many people make the mistake of taking their table and putting it at the front of their portable trade show display. However, doing this creates a blockade between you and your potential customers. This is what you don’t want to do! You want your potential customers to feel welcome and invited. Coming up to a roadblock does not accomplish this. If you turn the table 90 degrees (against the wall of the booth) from where you usually see tables at trade shows, you will open your booth, make it more inviting, plus you will stand out from the other booths around!

DON’T – Put the Introvert in the Booth

There are people who cringe at the very thought of giving a branded pen to a stranger. These people are probably not who you should pick for your front people in the booth. That doesn’t mean they can’t come along and help at the booth, it just means that you should do some thinking to determine who would be the best fit for starting up the conversation with passersby. This leads nicely into the next point –

DON’T – Make Passersby Feel Uncomfortable

If you have the introverts helping with more of the behind the scenes, don’t just assume that means you put your most extroverted person at the front of the booth and tell them to have at it. You want customers to WANT to talk to you, to want to come to your booth. So how do you do that? Well you most certainly do not do it by ambushing people. Instead, try having a giveaway or interactive function to your booth. Whether it’s a game or a contest or whatever, people will have a reason to come check out your booth and conversations can begin naturally, putting your potential customers at ease.

DON’T – Make It Hard to Connect

When people come to your booth and you can engage them in conversation, you want to make it easy to get a lead out of the conversation. Exchanging business cards is one way to do this, however a better way is to leverage social media and email addresses. Having a signup form has become quite outdated. Plus, sometimes people’s handwriting isn’t exactly stellar. Instead, have a tablet handy where people can easily punch in their email address and/or social media handle of choice (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). With this tactic, you will come away from the show with a nice list of people you have made a connection with!

DON’T – Forget the Follow-Up

The trade show is over and all you want to do is go home and crash. However, there is a final step to ensure your time spent was time well spent. Take the nice list you’ve made and be sure to send out a little note to each person saying that it was nice to meet them and thanking them for coming by your booth. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and it should not be anything sales-y. Just a little note to remind them of you and why they need your services!


Whether this is your first trade show or your hundredth, it is always a good idea to be reminded of some of the pitfalls to watch out for!
Aurice Guyton

Author Aurice Guyton

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