The reasons of a bad experience exhibiting

Exhibiting at a trade show can be one of the most rewarding of marketing activities.  Nowhere else will you find a room full of hundreds or even thousands of people looking to source new products and therefore in buying mode.  Trade show veterans attest to the fact that, when done well, no other marketing activity brings the same ROI.

However, like any marketing activity, exhibiting requires careful planning and preparation, and it can go wrong if you fail to avoid common mistakes.  Exhibiting can represent a significant investment for a small company, so if it doesn’t achieve the results you expected, you are likely to be put off doing it again.

Here we cover some of the things that can go wrong at a trade show, and how to put them right.

1. No underlying objectives

The only way to measure whether or not a trade show has been a success is to have some clear objectives for the show in place.  What is your goal?  Do you want to gather a certain number of qualified leads?  Raise awareness of your brand?  Launch yourself or your products onto the market?  Or network with others in the industry?  Having clear objectives will focus your efforts on achieving them.

Working team setting up objectives for a trade show

Setting up objectives to get the best exhibition experience

2. Poorly trained staff

Your stand staff must be knowledgeable enough to talk at length about your products and business and work effectively as a team while on your stand.  They must also be trained in sales techniques and know how to qualify leads properly.  They must be aware of their body language on the stand at all times – bored looking staff standing with their arms crossed, their backs to the aisle, or chatting amongst themselves will put off prospective customers from approaching.  Staff must look open, welcoming and friendly.  Ban mobile phones and food from the stand and make sure staff have enough breaks, you will need enough people to cover these.

3. Inadequately designed stand

It is tempting to reserve the biggest space in the centre of the hall and think that this will bring you plenty of customers.  But if all your budget is spent on the space with none left for an eye-catching stand, this will be wasted.  Having a big space with nothing to fill it will not draw the crowds.  It’s a good idea to spend 30% of your budget on the space and 30% on a decent exhibition stand that will attract people.

Don’t make the mistake of having a stand that looks too ‘busy’ either.  Reams of text on your stand will make it look cluttered, and no-one will read it anyway.  Go for large format graphics and text that can be read across the hall.  Being taller than your neighbours can also help you to stand out.  Keep messaging short and to the point, try to come up with a catchy slogan that visitors will remember.

4. Picking the wrong trade show

Make sure you do your research and select the trade show that will most suit your business.  You can get an idea of the audience it attracts by researching online and asking the event organiser.  Make sure these are likely to be the sort of people who will buy from you.  If possible attend the event before exhibiting to get an idea of who it attracts.  Speak to others who have exhibited there to see how it was for them.  Just selecting the biggest show isn’t always the best idea, sometimes smaller, niche events can be more appropriate if they attract the customers you want.

5. Poor stand location

If you leave booking an exhibition until the last minute you may find that the only spaces left are on the back wall in the corner.  These aren’t going to have a huge footfall so you may not attract as many visitors as you hoped.  Booking early will allow you to select the best position.  Locating where people gather is a good idea – so near restaurants, toilets or close to the entrance can be good.  Also look for where the main industry players are located – they will draw the crowds so being near them can bring you benefits.

6. Not allowing enough planning time

Maybe you were organised enough to book the space in plenty of time but then sat back, thinking there was plenty of time to sort everything else out.  Suddenly a few weeks before the event you realise you have quite a lot to do.  As a consequence, the stand, promotional items and marketing materials are all rushed and don’t get the results expected.

Group of exhibitor team planning an exhibition for a trade show

7. Not marketing your attendance

In order to maximise the number of visitors you receive at a trade show, it’s important to let people know you are going.  Email all your prospects and customers a few weeks prior to the event to let them know you are going and where they can find you. You may want to send out a press release reporting your attendance and any special attractions you may be running on your stand.  Try to set up meetings, either on the stand, or afterwards at a restaurant.  Use social media to broadcast your attendance, you can link up with the organiser’s pages and hashtags.

8. Not following up leads

One of the biggest mistakes exhibitors make is not following up the leads they acquire at a trade show.  This will allow potential customers to slip through your fingers and reduce the ROI of the exhibition.  You should phone hot leads within a couple of weeks of the show so that it is fresh in their minds.  Cooler leads should be emailed to thank them for their time.  Even if the leads don’t result in immediate sales you should continue to nurture them by sending regular emails or newsletters – you never know when they might convert to customers.

Exhibiting at a trade show can bring a fantastic ROI when done properly.  However, it is easy to make mistakes which then reduce the returns you get.  Follow these tips to prevent you having a bad experience exhibiting at a trade show.

For help with your next exhibition stand, contact us on 01202 723 500 or email

Exhibition stand with large LED screens at DSEI London.

Exhibition stand with large LED screens at DSEI London.