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10 of the Most Common Trade Show Mistakes

In the more than 35 years that Skyline has been in businesses, we’ve designed thousands of effective trade show displays for our clients. However, the best booth design won’t make up for a poor trade show strategy. To ensure your exhibits are a success, watch out for these 10 most common trade show exhibiting mistakes:

  1. No Overarching Goal. Your trade show or expo presence needs to accomplish more than just raising brand awareness for a handful of attendees. Whether it’s expanding your prospect list, acquiring a set number of sales-qualified leads, or solidifying a new partner relationship, there should be a clearly defined and attainable goal each time you exhibit.
  2. Planning Too Late. While it can be relief to put a recently completed annual trade show behind you, that’s actually the best time to make concrete plans for next year’s event. If you put that show out-of-mind for six months, you’ll likely forget the key insights you gained from that show. By beginning your planning 12 months in advance, you’ll also avoid much of the frantic, last minute preparations that are too common in exhibiting.
  3. Placing Form Before Function. Overly bright or dark lighting, abstract colors, or nontraditional layouts may seem like a way to set your booth apart, but they may create a psychological barrier to attendees. Studies have shown that booths that contrast too greatly with the hall carpeting or are surrounded by high walls can often be intimidating to show attendees. Rely on a professional designer’s insights for creating an inviting display.
  4. Ineffective Interactive Marketing. Postcards and other traditional forms of marketing are still important. Today, though, social media is king. Combining a Facebook event page (with livestreaming from the event), a series of advance blog posts, an event-specific Twitter hashtag, a dedicated landing page on your website, and regular LinkedIn updates are critical to building awareness. If you make your updates playful and entertaining rather than promotional—and incorporate user-generated content when possible, you’ll get much better social sharing and brand awareness.
  5. Bad Graphics. Graphics that are cluttered, damaged or out dated have no business on your exhibit and can be trade show deal breakers. In addition, graphics that are small, poorly lit, displayed below eye level, or that don’t clearly communicate your benefits will hinder your trade show effectiveness. Take a look at your current graphics to decide if they need an overhaul before your next show.
  6. Sending the Wrong Staff. Many sales directors think that sending a new hire to the show is a good way for that person to hit the ground running. However, you need people who are experienced in the process and are focused on success. By all means, get your new hires up to speed on how you manage your trade show, but don’t let the newcomers lead the way until they learn the ropes.
  7. Not Having a Plan “B”. What are you going to do if your display doesn’t show up? What if one of your booth staffers gets the flu? What’s your plan if you run out of brochures or your exhibit is out of regulation? You’d better have a back-up plan for all of these situations and more.
  8. Failure to Properly Follow-up. Approximately 79% of leads are not followed-up after a show, but blasting show attendees with the same boring email doesn’t count as an effective follow-up. Instead, immediately after the show organize the list of leads so you can target people with content tailored to their product interests or market.
  9. No Post-Show Marketing. Just like not following up on leads, a lot of people fail to continue marketing after the show. Attendees who were on-the-fence after the show may be swayed your way with your post show marketing. In other words, those B & C leads should still receive contact from you to be nurtured into sales-ready, A, leads.
  10. Forgetting to Celebrate Success. Nothing demotivates staff more than singling out every imperfection from an otherwise stellar event. Remember to focus on the positive outcomes of every exhibit, and pat your team (and yourself) on the back for a job well done!
About the Author

Natalie Jedlenski worked as a project manager for Skyline's internal creative services agency.

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