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11 Things Great Exhibitors Avoid

Great exhibitors are not necessarily the biggest brands, the biggest booths, or the ones with the biggest budgets. And they certainly are not the ones who are the busiest.


Great exhibitors are identified as much by what they avoid as what they do. They have the insight and character to say “no” to their bosses and their colleagues when asked to make poor choices – and they take the time to educate their teams on what makes other choices better.

Great exhibitors avoid:

1. Exhibiting at more shows than they can do well

Just as it takes a lot to make a house a home, it takes a lot to make a trade show exhibit into a successful trade show event. You have to pick the right shows; set measurable objectives; select, train, and shepherd your booth staff; design, purchase, ship, install, dismantle, and ship your exhibit back; fulfill your leads; measure your results; and more. Each show requires a lengthy to-do list, so great exhibitors won’t commit to another show if they lack the time and resources to do it right. Otherwise, it wastes their overall trade show investment.

2. Poor communication between sales and marketing

While not the same level as the Hatfields and the McCoys, there is often a disconnect between sales and marketing. As the trade show manager, it’s essential to have completely open lines of communication between them. What information does the sales team need gathered from booth visitors? How should booth staffers position your brand? How are leads going to be followed up? Which sales people would make excellent booth staffers? You can’t achieve greatness by allowing poor communication.

3. Choosing vendors solely based on lowest price

While it is easier and perhaps more defensible to choose the lowest-price vendor, that low price may end up being higher in cost further down the line. Great exhibitors know that buying for the best quality and service will pay significant dividends, in terms of time saved, problems solved, quality, and results generated. Great exhibitors defend the higher cost these vendors seem to have, by sharing with management all the added value they provide.

4. Choosing shows based on cost per square foot of space, or which is the biggest show

Choosing a show based on price (cost per square foot) or size (most attendees) is the easy choice of finding the smallest or largest number. But great exhibitors are willing to dig deeper and find the shows that have the highest concentration of their target audience, and shows that deliver a great return on investment.

5. Assuming leads are followed up

Good trade show exhibitors will make sure everything goes according to plan before and during a show. Great trade show exhibitors know that much of the value created from their activity is the stack of leads generated. So they avoid tossing the leads over the sales transom, and instead regularly check in to make sure the leads have been followed up, and to see if sales are happening.

6. Exhibiting without promotions

As mentioned in point #1, there are a lot of things exhibitors need to do to succeed. Great exhibitors avoid forgetting to use pre-show and at-show promotions to get more than their fair share of each show’s attendees in their booth. If you’d like a free new book to show you how to do promotions better, click here.

7. Accepting every potential booth staffer offered

Great exhibitors are a gatekeeper to their booth staff team. They want only the best staffers: staffers who will work hard the entire show, have a great attitude, and know their products, clients, and industry. So when a great exhibitor is offered a booth staffer that lacks these key criteria, they pass in favor of someone who will contribute better. If you’d like a free new book on selecting and training your booth staff, click here.

8. Choosing trendy promotions

Great exhibitors resist the urge – or their boss’ urging – to get some cool new trinket for their trade show giveaway. Instead, they go for promotional items that are tailor-made to appeal to their target audience. Great exhibitors therefore put more effort into understanding what makes their clients tick, rather than going for trendy tchotchkes.

9. Trying to do too much with their exhibit

A hard choice that great exhibitors embrace is limiting how much goes into their booth. Rather than trying to do everything they are asked to do or bring into their booth, they limit the exhibit elements, company products, and activities to those that can successfully be achieved in their booth. Otherwise, without careful prioritization, your booth can turn into a flea market or a 3-ring circus.

10. Bolting technology onto their booth

Just as there are hot new promotional products, there are new technologies that exhibit managers can feel pressured to include in their booth. Great exhibitors bring in only technology that adds value to the attendee experience, and integrate technology from the beginning of the exhibit design process.

11. Doing the same thing at every show
Finally, great exhibitors know that trade shows continue to evolve, and they must take calculated risks to stay relevant and successful. Great exhibitors have persuaded their management to grant them permission to fail, but fail when trying viable new exhibit marketing ideas, not fail to ship their booth on time.

Great exhibitors are the ones who make the best choices and relentlessly pursue effective marketing strategies to achieve their goals.

It’s been said that half of the art of it is knowing when to stop. Learn what activities to avoid, and make your trade show program a masterpiece.


Whether you’re new to exhibiting or want to expand on your current trade show program, we have the educational materials to help you succeed!

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Trade Show Tips for New Exhibitors contains 25 articles on numerous key areas for trade show marketing for those new to trade show exhibiting. This book will provide you with a base level of  knowledge and expectations you can take to heart about the challenges and potential to succeed at trade shows. Click here for your free copy.


Request your free copy of the Trade Show Tips for Inline Exhibitors white paper to learn more about exhibit design, booth staffing, promotions, lead management, measurement, and more. Just because you exhibit in an inline exhibit doesn’t mean you can’t stand out! Click here.



Make sure you are prepared for the unique challenges faced by island exhibitors like you by requesting your free copy of Trade Show Tips for Island Exhibitors. This white paper contains 26 articles and three worksheets from Marketech to help you reach your full potential of your major marketing commitment. Click here for your free copy.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch is the Principal at Thimmesch Marketing. For over 25 years, he has created and implemented innovative marketing, lead generation, and exhibiting strategies that profitably grow company sales and brand awareness. Mike rose to Director level at Skyline Exhibits, where he helped generate over a half million leads, resulting in over $1 billion in sales. He published 11 industry white papers and eight exhibiting books, presented over 100 trade show webinars, and wrote over 200 exhibit marketing blog posts.

One response to “11 Things Great Exhibitors Avoid

  1. Great, great article Mike.
    Great exhibitors touch as many nets as they can. You exponentially increase the value of an action by the number of networks that your action flows through. Maximize the number of relations flowing to and from you, or your service or product. The objective is to introduce multiple touch points because, each touch point is a factory of possibilities.

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