Top 10 Tips for Successful Exhibiting

Candy Adams, The Booth Mom ®, is a veteran independent exhibit project manager, hands-on consultant, exhibit staff trainer, award-winning columnist, industry speaker and conference faculty. Contact her at CandyAdams@BoothMom.com. For more information, visit www.BoothMom.com

As a trade show exhibit junkie with a 25+year addiction, I’ve been asked to share my best advice to maximize exhibitors’ show results. Here are 10 simple – but effective – tips every exhibitor can use.

1. Know your audience and focus your exhibit on their needs.

Take the time to identify your perfect prospect for your product or service at each show. Select the most appropriate solutions to present in your exhibit to your target audience based on their challenges of time, money or hassles. Keep those solutions top-of-mind when creating your exhibit’s messaging, focusing on your products’ benefits – not features – and how they can help solve your attendees’ problems.

2. Identify and prioritize the top three reasons why you’re exhibiting.

You may be exhibiting to:

  • Gather qualified sales leads
  • Promote new products
  • Enhance your corporate brand
  • Educate your audience
  • Cement existing client relationships
  • Conduct business meetings
  • Obtain press/media coverage
  • Recruit distributors/dealers/representatives/employees
  • Perform competitive/market research
  • Attend educational sessions

Focus on these reasons when making your strategic and spending decisions. Ask yourself, “Will doing this help me reach my goals?”

3. Set strategic, measurable show goals.

Establish realistic goals based on your target market as a percentage of anticipated show attendance, the number of exhibiting hours, exhibit size, staffing and budget. Predetermine how you will measure success when the show’s over.

4. Identify the products or services you’ll showcase.

“New” is the most powerful word on the show floor. New products are attendee magnets! If you have a large product line, display only a relevant sample. Trade show attendees want to interactively experience your product or service in your exhibit, not just walk through or past it. How can you make them feel a part of it?

5. Design an attractive, functional, uncluttered exhibit.

Keep your exhibit open and inviting. Don’t block more than 20% of the aisle with counters, walls or surplus exhibit staff. Use color, light and movement in your booth to attract attendees. Then keep them there using engaging presentations, hands-on demos, “info-tainment” and a professionally-trained staff.

6. Use high-impact graphics focusing on your prospects’ needs.

Plan your graphics as large, colorful visual speed bumps to attract attendees’ attention and communicate your message. Effective graphics create an interest in your product or service by telling potential prospects what your product can do for them in about 3-1/2 seconds – the time it takes to walk past a 10’ wide booth. Test your graphics to see if they can be read and trigger a need for more information in that time; if not, back to the drawing board!

7. Promotion – Pre-Show, At-Show, Post-Show

Be proactive in inviting your most-wanted list of qualified attendees to stop by. Industry studies have shown that an exhibitor can double the number of qualified leads at a show with effective pre-show and at-show promotional campaigns.

8. Prepare your exhibit staff for “show business.”

Trade shows are a different model of sales opportunity with unique challenges. Just like you wouldn’t send an actor on stage without a script, plan an exhibit staff rehearsal with your other actors and exhibit props so they’re prepared to perform in your exhibit. Double your qualified leads by allocating a few percent of your overall budget for professional exhibit staff training.

9. Record all critical follow-up information on a lead form. 

Plan ahead with whomever will follow up on your show leads to decide what relevant information they will need, including contact info, product interest, current supplier, reason for changing vendors, role in the purchasing process, timeframe to buy and requested follow-up.

10. Provide promised follow-up within 48 hours of show close (if not sooner).

Industry statistics say that there is no post-show follow-up done on 80% of show leads! (No one seems to know if that statistics means 80% never receive any follow-up or they only follow up on the top 20% of leads!) Prepare your entire lead gathering and follow-up process before you leave for the show. Stand out by contacting your prospects by the agreed-to method – and no later than a week after show close.


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