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11 All Too Common Mistakes To Avoid Making At Trade Shows

Business  -  April 3, 2018

Trade shows are an awesome opportunity to showcase your business, make new relationships, and collect leads, so of course you’re excited! Who wouldn’t be? However, trade shows have their pitfalls and there is a lot you can do to turn a potentially lucrative outing into a total waste of time. I’ve listed twelve common mistakes businesses make before, during, and after trade shows. You’ll find that each one is totally understandable, but worth avoiding. Here it goes!

1: Planning Too Late

Late planning


Once you’ve finished with one trade show it can be easy to lean back and relax, but before you know it, the next one will be right around the corner, and don’t you want to be as prepared as possible? Once you’re home and unpacked and have given yourself a day or two to rest, run head on into planning for next years’ shows. With 12 months to prepare you can take your time and make sure every aspect of your exhibit is perfect and that the people running it are trained and raring to go. Another benefit is how much stress being this prepared will cut out of those last few days before the trade show. 

2: Going Too Big or Not Big Enough

It’s hard to analyze what you might need for your business at a tradeshow the first time around. Yes, we all know that central exhibits are going to get more attention, but if you don’t know exactly how you are going to utilize that space, it might be less beneficial and more of a money waste. I’m not saying you should buy the smallest space in a dark corner or anything, we certainly don’t want that for your business, but it’s important to know what you NEED, rather than just what you want. Evaluate what you think your booth MUST have, determine how much space it will take up, and work from there. You don’t want yourself or visitors to feel cramped, but you also don’t want to be left with a lot of empty space. It’s all about what’s best for your business. 

3: Not Setting Specific Goals

When preparing for a trade show you need to create specific and targeted goals outside of increasing sales and generating more leads. It’s likely that you already know what those goals are and they are reflected in your goals for overall marketing. What needs to change is that those goals have to be brought into a personal and face to face environment, where often less centered goals can feel safer to a business owner. However, it’s important to remember that your goals can make an impact on whether you get that lead and whether that lead turns into a client. Having defined goals makes you come across as a business who thinks about every aspect of itself, and that is an admirable quality. 

4: Ineffective Interactive Marketing

Interactive Marketing


While traditional printed products are still important to your work at a tradeshow, social media is now critical, and if your interactive marketing falls flat, so will your business in the eyes of potential customers. Combine a Facebook event page with live streaming from the event, publish some blog posts about the event (linking to the facebook event,) come up with a twitter hashtag and be sure to keep your Linkedin page fully updated.

5: Not Having a Plan B

Are you prepared for the worst case scenarios? What will you do if one of your employees, or something you really need doesn’t show up for whatever reason? It’s important to think of what could go wrong and how you will solve it if it does LONG before you arrive for the tradeshow.

6: Cluttered Graphics

A tradeshow is a loud, crowded, and very stimulating event to all the senses, so with your graphics, you want to go for the exact opposite of that mood. Cluttered and busy graphics that are difficult to read or take time to decipher will make people keep walking to the next booth. This isn’t to say that your graphics can’t be colorful or fun, but be sure to keep in mind when designing them that people often have a split second choice to make when looking at booths, and the easier it is for people to determine who you are and what you do, the more likely it is they will stop.  

7: Not Thinking Through Your Giveaways



It’s easy to look at other booths overflowing with swag and feel insecure about what your business is offering, but more often than not, a lot of that swag or promotional products are going right to the trash, we only need so many pens and stress balls, so if the swag doesn’t fit, than quit. Don’t spend your hard earned money on something that won’t make you memorable. If you’re going to do giveaways or drawings, make sure that they are for useful items related to your business that will keep your brand at the forefront of someone’s thoughts. Are you an accountant? Give out calculators with your name on them! A veterinarian? Maybe some dog treats with your practices info on the bag? Whatever it is, be sure to be thoughtful and get something made that won’t be easy to ignore or throw away. 

8: Not Having Well Prepared Staff

This might seem silly because your staff is your staff, they know the products and all about the company they work for, but do they know how to sell them? Train your staff to approach people promptly, ask open-ended questions, and listen well. No matter how nice your booth or giveaways are, if the staff in the booth isn’t welcoming and great at their jobs, the booth won’t have a chance to impress anyone. 

9: Not Walking the Show and Talking to Competitors, Suppliers, and Potential Partners

It’s safe and easy inside your booth, I get that, trust me, but you can’t forget that a trade show isn’t a one way street, you need to step out of your booth. Yes, potential customers are there to learn from you and about your business, but it’s important to not forget that you are also there to learn. Check out what the competition has to say, what they’re offering, and how they offer it, you might not only learn something, but you could make potentially valuable connection while you’re learning.  

10: Failure to Properly Follow Up

A shocking 79% of leads are not followed up on after a show, and the longer you let them sit the less likely it becomes that you will be able to convert those leads to customers. Immediately following the show be sure to organize your leads so you can target them with the right content about their specific interests and business. 

11. Forgetting to Celebrate Success. 

Celebrate Success


Don’t demotivate your staff by nitpicking at every small thing that didn’t go exactly as planned, such is life and next time you will improve! Focus instead on the positive results of the trade show and what was done right. Reenforcement encourages your employees to work harder and they deserve to see that their labor does not go unappreciated. Nothing demotivates staff more than singling out every imperfection from an otherwise stellar event. Remember to focus on the positive outcomes of every exhibit, and pat your team (and yourself) on the back for a job well done!

Tell us about your most memorable trade show experiences in the comments. 🙂

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