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Trade Show Basics: Rules & Tips to Know


Participating in trade shows can be a great way for you to build brand awareness and get people interested in your company. In fact, 97 percent of marketers have said that trade shows offer unique values that other marketing media does not.

Are you getting ready to head to your first trade show? Are you a little nervous about what to expect? Do you have questions about what you should or shouldn’t do while you’re there?

If you said “yes” to any of these questions, here are some key trade show tips and regulations you ought to keep in mind. They’ll help you fit right in with the seasoned pros and have a more positive experience. Following these tips will also help you ensure you don’t break any rules and get stuck with fines that could bust your exhibiting budget.

Make Your Trade Show Booth Accessible

When you’re putting together your booth for an upcoming trade show, make sure it aligns with the guidelines put in place by the 1990 Americans with Disability Act.

This means making sure your booth is accessible to people with disabilities, including physical disabilities, hearing impairment, and visual impairments. An example might be including a ramp if your booth is on a raised platform so that everyone can access it and learn about your business.

Research Electrical Regulations

Every trade show venue has different regulations when it comes to the type of electrical equipment (cords, power strips, etc.) that you can use.

Check the guidelines for the trade show you’re attending to see what they will and won’t let in. This helps you ensure everything at your trade show exhibit can operate properly, and you won’t have to worry about scrambling to buy new equipment if you arrive and find out what you have isn’t up to code.

Make Your Trade Show Display the Right Size

When putting together trade show exhibits, many businesses take a DIY approach to help save money on the cost of their booth construction. There’s nothing wrong with this. When you’re building your booth, though, make sure that you take height requirements and restrictions into account.

This will save you from showing up with a structure that’s way too large for the space in which it’s set up. Check the height limits early so you don’t get hit with a fine or asked to alter the construction of your booth at the last minute.

Consider Royalty-Free Music

Playing fun, recognizable music is a great way to catch people’s interest and get them over to your booth. Remember, though, that the music you play is subject to copyright laws, and you may have to pay a lot of money to use a particular song.

If you’re working with a limited budget, this probably isn’t a wise use of your funds. You’ll be better off using royalty-free music to avoid a lot of unnecessary fees (and potential fines if you don’t have permission to use a song).

Follow the Line of Sight Rule

In simplest terms, the line of sight rule says that you cannot place any items that are taller than four feet in the front half of your exhibit. You also cannot set anything up that obstructs the view of the people in the booth next to you.

Sometimes, you can get around this rule if the people in the booth next to you agree to let you set something up in a particular space. You’ll need to get them on board, though, to request a variance from the trade show authorities.

Stay in the Confines of Your Booth

In addition to abiding by the line of sight rule, you’ll also need to make sure you’re staying in the confines of your booth.

Basically, you cannot utilize any “guerilla-marketing” tactics to try and get people over to your booth. You need to stay in the space you’ve rented and let people come to you.

This doesn’t mean you can’t call out to people or invite them over. Running around the trade show floor and dragging people to your booth or giving them samples of your products is a frowned-upon practice, though.

Approach Food and Drinks with Caution

Trade shows tend to have strict rules that you’ll need to abide by when it comes to food and drinks.

The specific rules vary from show to show, but most require you to get a waiver and pay a fee to the venue’s caterer before you can serve any kind of refreshments at your booth (unless you’re in the food/beverage business, specifically). If you plan to serve liquor at your booth, it’ll need to be served by a bartender who works at the venue, too.

Keep Your Booth Well-Maintained

No matter how large or small your trade show booth is or what kind of products you’re giving away, be sure to keep it neat and well-maintained at all times. Not only does this reflect well on your business and help you build credibility with potential customers, but it also saves you from incurring potential fines from the trade show venue.

Make Sure Your Booth is Well-Staffed

Your booth should be well-staffed, too. Make sure you always have enough people going to the trade show to keep the booth manned . You don’t want to lose out on potential sales/lead generation opportunities because the booth was empty while the one lone worker ran to grab a drink or use the restroom.

Practice Good Communication

Finally, be sure to practice good communication when talking to everyone who visits your booth. You only have about seven seconds to make an impression on them, after all, so you need to make your time count. And, remember, a smile is communication too!

They’ll be talking to lots of different businesses over the course of the event as well, so you’ll need to show them that you’re enthusiastic and excited about your product or service if you want them to remember you once the event is over.

Remember These Trade Show Tips and Rules

Going to your first trade show can be a pretty intimidating experience, but don’t let fear hold you back from having a great experience.

Remember the exhibiting rules and regulations listed above and you’ll have an easier time fitting in, avoiding unnecessary fees, and feeling at home at your upcoming event.