Exhibiting No-No's

  • Feb 13, 2024

Last month, I attended the big, annual trade show for the promotional products industry. It's an amazing show where I not only see an array of new, "new," and classic promotional products; I also have opportunities for networking and professional development. It's a great show and a do-no-miss on my calendar every year.

That being said, I always wonder at the exhibitors who pay good money and put in time and effort to be at the show in the hopes of getting valuable leads and then disrespect (yes, I said it) the attendees by showing poor exhibiting skills and/or poor planning.

So, in no particular order, here is my list of exhibiting no-no's:

  • If you pay the money to be there, BE THERE. I was dumbfounded to see exhibitors packing up (or just gone) at 12:30 pm on the last day of the show when it didn't end until 2 pm. I know their contract said they're not allowed to start dismantle until 2, so what's up with that. There were people in the aisles (other than me). When I asked one why she was packing up so early, she told me she had a plane to catch. What? There were at least 3 exhibitors I wanted to chat with and I passed them right up without a word when I saw them packing. Wonder how many other valuable leads they missed out on?

  • Don't have your head buried in your phone or laptop or tablet. If you look too busy or disinterested to talk to me, then I don't need to talk to you. There are other exhibitors on the floor who do what you do that are paying attention to the people walking by. (I'm a solopreneur who has to attend to client needs when I exhibit. That's done before or after show floor hours or a quick break from my booth if necessary while my friend mans the booth alone for 5 minutes.)

  • Eating is not an in-booth activity. I get it, we get hungry when show floor hours correspond to meal times. Meal breaks should be scheduled and taken away from the booth. If you don't have the staff to take a real break, than a quick snack away from or behind the booth is the way to go. I saw one exhibitor bring in a pile of pizza boxes which were placed on a table meant for client/prospect conferences in their booth. Tacky. While eating should be avoided, do be sure to stay hydrated - those exhibit halls can be very dry. Water in a closed container is the best option to avoid sticky situations or the possibility of spills that stain.

  • If you spent the night before at a mixer or bar-hopping or just enjoying the hotel bar, please don't show up smelling like a distillery. Yup, one exhibitor had one staffer who smelled like he might still be drinking. (Maybe he was - it was in Vegas.)

  • Standing in your booth is hard on your feet. I will even concede that it is harder on your feet to stand (or pace) in a booth than to walk the show floor. That being said, unless you have a medical reason to do so, stand up when working your booth. It makes you more alert, allows you to better see approaching prospects and clients, makes you less likely to check your phone and just makes you seem more approachable.

Those are my pet peeves and ones that we've all seen happen at trade shows. Paying attention to these details can make a successful show better and a "lousy" show a success.


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