Our perspective at VantagePoint

5 tips for your next trade show

 width=A number of us from VantagePoint attended a nearby national trade show last week, supporting our client T&S Brass. As I walked the show floor, I was struck by the good — and bad — of the companies exhibiting there.

A trade show presence is a huge investment. Renting the space, buying or leasing the booth property, designing the marketing materials and shipping your samples and booth costs a big chunk of change. And then when you add in the travel, lodging, meals, and salary costs for all your staff that will be at the show — suddenly we’re talking some real money.

But I couldn’t look past the number of respectable companies that put on a very poor “show” at the show. Which, in my opinion, just wasted all of that investment they had made. I’ve listed a few observations which hopefully will help you keep from making the same mistakes others have in the past:


  1. Build a fortress. No one wants to have to scale a wall in order to get into your booth. They’ll keep walking right on by. The best booths were those that were open and allowed folks to enter from all angles.
  2. Assault passers-by. Nothing makes me avoid a booth more than having to dodge over-eager sales folks prowling the perimeters, trying to scan your badge, shove literature in your hand, or ask if you’ve ever seen their widget.
  3. Start a club. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I passed a few booths full of matching-shirt-clad salespeople hamming it up around tables with their backs to the aisles. You felt as though you were interrupting something if you dared venture into the booth.
  4. Ignore the venue. Many trade shows have some sort of theme, or are in a “destination” location. But too many exhibitors carry around the same booth property from year to year with no acknowledgement given to the theme or location. We were quite proud when the booth theme we created for our client was awarded “Best Themed Booth” at the ASPE show — and we were able to do it mostly as add-ons to their existing booth property.
  5. Assume trade show attendees are not also consumers. The most attractive booths were those that followed the principles that major retailers know and abide by. Attractive colors. Light. Open floorspace. Attentive but not overbearing salespeople. And, it seemed appropriate that those “attractive” booths were also the busiest. Just because people are at a trade show doesn’t mean they turn off their human nature!

So, next time you plan for that 6-figure outlay for your industry’s big national trade show, might I suggest you keep these tips in mind? Your investment is too important to waste.

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