Trade Show Booths – Don’t Waste Your Investment!

One of the most valuable marketing tools for a company, product or service can be a exhibiting at a trade or consumer show. It can generate a great amount of interest through product or service demonstrations as well as allow you to reach a targeted audience. Trade and consumer shows put you directly in front of potential customers and provide an opportunity to develop relationships with them.

While there are many more benefits to exhibiting at these types of shows, a few companies don’t make great use of their investment, and then complain about how useless it was. Yet, the exhibitor in the booth right next to them had the exact opposite experience, having the best results they’ve ever had. So what is the difference between these two exhibitors? It really comes down to who is in the booth, and what are they doing while they are there.

Here are some tips:

    Nobody can sell your company like you can – and if someone can, than they should be in your booth if you can’t. Not all staff will have the same enthusiasm about your company, product or service. Whoever is in your booth should have an outgoing positive personality, can engage people in conversation, and is authentically excited about your brand. 

    Many attendees avoid booths simply because the people in the booth don’t look very approachable. They’re not making eye contact, not smiling, and look downright miserable. You can almost hear them saying; “I can’t believe I’m here doing this stupid trade show when I’m such an important person” or “I’m so tired, my feet hurt, I hate smiling” etc. etc. The worst thing you can do, is hire someone to man your booth that is not engaging and really doesn’t want to be there. If a staff member shows any signs of negativity towards the task – get someone else to do it otherwise you could be wasting your investment.

    Having the right people in your booth can make all the difference in the world, and can dramatically impact your exposure and sales. These people represent your brand and if they look bored and uninterested, what does that say about your company? Remember – first impressions are usually made within the first 90 seconds of meeting someone. The timer starts the moment they see you! (Whether you see them or not)

    So you’ve found the right person – they are energetic, engaging, funny, full of positive energy, and most importantly they just love your company and believe in your products or services! They are your dream sales person and you have high hopes for them. 

    Do they know what your mission is? Do you have any measurable goals for them to strive for? Do they have the answers to potential questions customers may ask? Do they understand the products and services inside out? They may be fantastic relationship developers, but without some training on why they are there and what your expectations are, you’ve really given them free reign to say and do what they want.

    Some companies invest in exhibit space and assume that the staff member they’ve chosen has all the answers and knows exactly what the goals are. Even if they are your best sales person, it is important to establish and explain objectives for the show. Trade and consumer show sales can be very different than what they are used to. For example; They could be speaking to eight people at one time rather than only the one which they are accustomed to. This could prove overwhelming for even the most seasoned sales person, especially if they haven’t done trade show sales before. Your dream staff has now turned into a disaster! Easy solution – train them!

    Train them on what to do and what not to do in a trade show booth, on what to expect, and how to handle customers differently. If you’re not sure what to do yourself, there are many trade show and exhibit companies that can either refer you to the right person or provide you with the necessary training themselves.

  3. Image Copyright Digital Juice

    Don't Do This In Your Booth!

    At every single trade or consumer show I’ve ever attended, there is always at least one booth where the staff are either playing or talking on their phone, or sitting at the back of their booth reading a paper and waiting for customers to come in. News flash – People are not going to visit your booth if you don’t look like you want to speak with them. In fact, you might as well leave the booth completely empty, as it would have the same effect and net the same results. One of the points of these shows is to meet customers and develop relationships with them. Here are some suggestions on a few basic guidelines that you could provide staff;

    1. Cell phones, PDA’s, or other devices should be turned off and stored away from the client’s view. A client will not approach you if they feel you are too busy for them or that they will be interrupting you.
    2. Stand at the front edge of the booth. Never wait at the back of the booth or sit behind a table. Make yourself approachable without any barriers or great distance.
    3. Greet every single person that walks by. You don’t need to invite them in, but a simple “Hello”, or “Hi! How are you enjoying the show?”, is enough to spark a conversation without making the client feel that you are immediately laying on a high pressure sales pitch.
    4. Always stay positive, even if the client is not. The client might like to complain, but at the end of the day, they likely don’t really care if you’re tired too. So change their mood or perspective with some positive comments. For example: “Well, it’s definitely been a long day, but I’m really having fun here. It’s a great show and I’ve met a lot of fantastic people!” as opposed to “ Yeah – I hear ya! My feet are killing me. I’ve been here since 7 am and haven’t been able to take a break yet. I’m so tired and I still have to be here for the tear down until 9pm”. Clients probably won’t sympathize or empathize with your situation. Stay positive and smile.
    5. Fell free to talk to your neighbouring exhibitors, but stop immediately when there are customers approaching any nearby booth. You should focus on meeting attendees.  Also – don’t fall into the trap of complaining about the show with your fellow exhibitors. You need to stay focused and positive. Complaining will only drain you and will also provide others with a perception about you and your brand. You never know who they know, or if they could become a customer. So speak with other exhibitors in the same way you would your best client.

There are many more ideas for guidelines that you can create depending on your industry, needs and company goals. The point is that if you want your staff to behave or represent your brand in a certain way, then you need to tell them and not assume that they already know.

One last tip;

    It is important that you observe what is happening with your investment as well as the attitude of the staff at your booth. Are they representing your brand correctly and in a positive light? How do you know? |

    Do you have a manager or someone locally that could act as a secret shopper? If you can’t do it yourself, you can either ask an industry colleague or hire someone to observe what is taking place. This won’t be necessary for everyone, since you’ll likely trust most of the key employees you’ve selected to run the booth. The only thought for you to consider is – How do you know?


I’ve heard exhibitors complain about the lack of traffic at shows or how they didn’t get anything out of it. These are the same exhibitors that I observed letting me walk by their booth without saying hello or inviting me in. The same people that looked miserable or busy on their cell phones – and yes, I can tell when you’re on your Bluetooth headset! It’s annoying oh big and important one… so why would I want to talk to you? The show had a lot of traffic, but you were too busy complaining and checking email to notice.

Trade shows don’t provide you with automatic customers. It takes effort on your part. They simply provide access to a target market, and you’d be a fool not to take advantage of that.  Unless you’re a vending machine, don’t except customers to walk up to your booth and hand you cash.  You need to work for it and develop relationships with attendees.

In short – Don’t waste your investment! Hire the right people, train them well, set some guidelines and policies, and make sure that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. It’s the people in your booth that will have the largest impact and net a greater return on your investment.


:: Learn From Mike ::

Mike Granek, CSEP has 18 years of experience in the special events industry while specializing in technical production, sales & customer service. Mike is often invited to deliver seminars and workshops on industry related topics.

Click Here for Mike’s full bio.

Click Here for more information about Mike’s speaking engagements.

Click Here to contact Mike about having him deliver a seminar or training workshop for your organization.


Author: Mike Granek, MBA, CSEP

Michael Granek, MBA,CSEP,PID is a successful entrepreneur and an award winning event producer with two decades of experience in the special events and entertainment industry as well as in business. Michael brings a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree with Management Consulting specialization, a Diploma in Adult Instruction (PID), and is an internationally Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP). For a complete bio, please visit:

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