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Five Things You Absolutely Cannot Do at a Trade Show


Ben Goldstein


By Katrina Manning

If your business is struggling to find new customers and new contacts, you might consider exhibiting at a trade show. Every year, there are thousands of trade shows across the country that offer the opportunity for developing or growing companies to market products to sellers face-to-face.

The best part is you get to share your product or service with a targeted and interested audience, while scoping out your competition and building relationships with new customers. Yet, there are certain things that are complete no-nos at trade shows. Here are five things you absolutely cannot do when exhibiting at a trade show.

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1. Do not talk or text on your phone

Think of your company’s goals. Then, think of all the time, preparation, and money you’ve invested in garnering the opportunity to exhibit at a trade show. Now why would you waste this valuable time and space talking and texting on your phone?

Sure, there will be downtime and slow periods as crowds ebb and flow through the trade show floor. This may even last for hours. It can certainly be tempting to call someone or browse your Instagram feed to ease the boredom. Yet, it always seems to be the case that the moment you turn your attention to your smartphone, a potential customer will walk by.

Think of sales clerks at a department store: Would you ask for their help if they were on their phones? Wouldn’t it cause you to leave the store? That would be the exact impression you give if you use your phone at your trade show exhibit. It makes you appear uninterested in your own business, so a potential customer will assume you aren’t interested in theirs.

Instead, keep your phone on silent. If there is an emergency, only take the call away from the booth. It looks better to have an empty booth than to have someone present but ignoring potential clients.

2. Don’t eat at your exhibit

Again, think of the department store example. How unprofessional would it look if sales clerks were eating at the cash register? Plus, do you really want to see someone hunched over, trying to stuff a sandwich in their mouth?

Don’t be that person. You can’t talk to potential clients if your mouth is filled with a scone and a latte. Eat a big breakfast before the trade show, and treat yourself to a nice dinner when you’re done. If you are starving, get away from the booth to eat. No one wants to shake a hand that’s covered in mustard.

3. Don’t have a boring stand

The objective here is to entice potential customers and clients with your product offerings. Put the effort into making your stand as attractive and relevant as possible, with visual elements like bright-colored banners and video screens to catch the eyes of attendees. It will be worth your time, and people will see that you care about your business and your image.

This can also stand true for promotional products. Use giveaways that represent your company in the best light. Don’t give away the same boring polo shirts with your logo that no one will ever wear.

4. Don’t have long conversations with colleagues at your booth

If you look too busy to help customers, they will walk over to someone who has more time for them. If you are working your booth, you should be ready to work and not to socialize with your co-workers, friends, or the people working the booth next to yours. You can save the socializing for later when you’re celebrating all the new clients you’ve found. Save your talking for your future customers.

5. Don’t feel defeated

Trade shows can be exhausting. If it’s your first one, you might find that you aren’t as prepared as businesses who do this every year. Perhaps you don’t get as many visits as you had hoped. This can happen to anyone, but it doesn’t mean you should get negative about it. The last thing you want to do is convey a sour, grumpy attitude to the trade show attendees passing by. Focus on the positive and always carry yourself like a great business leader — especially when things get slow or tiring.

Exhibiting at a trade show can provide a great boost to your company. Take heed of the above tips to ensure that your booth is as successful as possible.

Special thanks to Zintel for their input on this article.