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9 Trade Show Tips for Vendors and Exhibitors

There are many ways you can advertise as a new business. Maybe you’ve tried all the tricks of the trade. Your commercial starring a talking monkey aired on primetime cable. A giant billboard of you in a contemplative pose is above the busiest highway. Plus, you have a loud, slightly annoying ad running on Spotify. The natural next step is for you to promote your business at an elaborate trade show.

If you’ve never attended a trade show, just know they can be loud, exhausting events. However, there’s no better way to get the word out there about your company. You can be sure to make a valuable impression by simply being personable, choosing the right people on your team to bring along, and advertising with free promotional giveaways. Still, that’s not all you can do to win over the crowd!

Without further ado, here are nine surefire ways to come prepared and stand apart from the competition!

#1 Be in Front of the Table:

Be personableSitting like a bump on a log with your arms crossed in front of you isn’t going to do much to make people feel welcomed. In fact, it takes only 7 seconds for someone to make a judgement about a person when first meeting them. You’re representing your brand, and if people think you’re grumpy and unapproachable, just imagine how they’ll feel about your business. Body language, tone of voice, and your overall enthusiasm are going to be what make or break every visitor’s experience.

#2 Bring Enough People: 

Bring Enough PeopleDuring a trade show, it’s difficult to imagine how busy you might be. Maybe someone becomes completely fixated on your product and wants to get as many details as possible. Meanwhile, other people are walking right by your booth. Make sure you have enough hands on deck to keep up with the demand. Even more, only recruit those on your team who have big personalities and really understand your brand.

#3 Give Out Free Items with Your Logo: 

Give Out Free Promotional GiveawaysOf course, your business is the center of the universe. However, not everyone feels the same way yet. Visitors at a trade show will see hundreds of booths within a short amount of time. Yours isn’t going to stand apart from every other Tom, Dick, and Jane unless you give them something they can take home. Bring along trendy promotional giveaways that make an impression like iridescent water bottles or practical canvas bags.

#4 Stay Well-Nourished: 

Stay Well-NourishedBe prepared to stand on your feet for hours on end without a break. With that said, you might not have time to run down to a deli and grab a quick sandwich. Make sure you have quick, energizing snacks like protein bars, apples, or almonds in your bag. Plus, bring plenty of water! The last thing you want is to pass out from dehydration when people are excited to visit your booth.

 

#5 Wear Branded Jackets: 

Wear Branded JacketsThe convention hall is either going to be ridiculously hot with all those sweaty bodies so close to each other, or impossibly cold. For some reason, trade show venues haven’t quite mastered the art of proper ventilation. You’re going to want to have comfortable jackets, just in case it gets chilly. Think of it as another way for people to instantly recognize your company.

 

#6 Build a Crowd: 

Build a CrowdThe old saying holds true: birds of a feather flock together. When a bunch of people surround your booth with positive energy, more will naturally follow to see what all the buzz is about. The only way you’re going to earn that kind of attention is by having something fun to show. Whether you’re hosting a game or providing entertainment with a live singer, it’s important to build a crowd around your brand.

 

#7 Make visitors Feel Comfortable: 

Make visitors feel comfortableAttendees have likely been on their feet all day and are sure to be exhausted by the time they find your booth. Make a space for them to sit. Even better, offer some kind of entertainment while they are there. They’re not going to want to listen if you sound too salesy, but if you play a funny video you’ll keep their attention. You can make it even more exciting by giving them a snack, just be sure to check the rules/regulations of whoever is hosting the trade show.

 

#8 Network and Connect: 

Network and ConnectIt might seem easier to scowl in disgust at your competition and say mean things behind their back. Don’t fall into this trap! These are colleagues who all work in the same industry. They might know a few tricks of the trade that you could have missed. Take the time to shake hands, introduce yourself, and build up those connections.

 

#9 Look the Part: 

Look the PartWhether you wear a three-piece suit or a hot dog costume, the clothes you choose to wear reflect your brand personality. Ditto for the way you decorate your booth. If you have a giant stand with corporate imagery and nothing else, you’re not likely to get a lot of attention. However, if you go the extra mile and decorate with lights, balloons, or in extreme situations, fog machines, people are going to be instantly drawn to your brand.

It’s worth taking the time to make sure you’re a shining star at the next trade show. These promotional events have roots in ancient civilizations, where people made a living by selling ceramics, art, food, and fabrics at bazaars outside of city walls. Today, they are major advertising events that draw millions of visitors every year. By making sure your brand is the talk of the event, you’re sure to make new connections and grow even more as a company.



Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa loves food. A LOT. Particularly pizza and popcorn, but she knows beggars can’t be choosers. When she’s not stuffing her face (which is rare), she loves watching movies, playing volleyball and softball, and engaging in any number of interesting shenanigans. If she had to pick a spirit animal, she’d be an otter because they are playful and love to laugh. Most of the time she’s laughing at herself, whether other people are laughing with or at her is to be determined.

Comments

  1. JPorretto

    “It’s not okay to expect attendees to guess who you are and what you do. ”

    A GREAT point that cannot be reiterated enough. There’s a design principle that basically says “Never blame the consumer for not using your product correctly.” If they don’t understand it, then it wasn’t presented correctly. Of course there’s caveats to this, but the general idea is a rock solid one.

    NICE post Jill. A TON of excellent points. (Clap clap clap clap)

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Jeff! 😀 Glad that you agree with me. If I see a completely ambiguous booth, I keep on walking. And I’m sure there are others who do the same!

      P.S. Would you be so kind as to provide me with a list of locations where I can redeem my excellent points? I’d like to get something excellent with them! Teehee…

  2. Juliette

    Once when I worked PPAI Vegas I had a distributor tell me that he just had to come into our booth to find out more because I caught his eye while he was hurrying past but I smiled (genuinely) at him the whole time he was walking. Just as he was almost gone he turned around and came back and told me why he turned around. I gotta say, a smile and eye contact can go a long way. 🙂

    • Jill Tooley

      Eye contact and smiles do wonders for vendors, and you’re living proof of that. It shows that you’re approachable and ready to lend a hand. I would have turned around and come over to you, too!

  3. cyberneticSAM

    Nice job! There is a lot of great information in here! I have never been to a trade show, so I had no idea there was so much to think about! Great post! 🙂

  4. ASneed

    Nice post Jill! =)

    These tips are all great, and I agree with them. These tips apply to craft shows and flea markets too I think. If their space is a mess, and if I can’t tell what they’re selling, or they don’t smile, I don’t stop at their booth! Plain and Simple. I especially like the booths that give you a sample of good smelling soaps and lotions that also have their name and website on the package–so later at home, I can check out all of their product offerings. I love freebies and samples! 😉

    • Jill Tooley

      Me too! By the way, I agree that there’s nothing worse than a messy flea market space. How do people expect to sell anything if it’s all cluttered and chaotic? You’d think they’d WANT it organized!

  5. Jana Quinn

    The tip I loved most of all was making the small seating area. Not only will people love to get off their feet, but they’re also more likely to engage in conversation with you if they’re comfortable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done at a convention, but it’s an original idea. Nicely done!

    • Juliette

      Sadly some booths don’t have room for chairs or such. But I’ve discovered that when I walk the tradeshow floor I tend to linger in booths that have padding under their carpet. It’s silly, but man, that can make all the difference after being on your feet all day. And when you linger you end up in conversations. I’d suggest if the budget allows, padding under the carpet is a great investment (particularly if chairs won’t work).

      • Jill Tooley

        That’s an excellent idea, Juliette! Not all booths will have the room for chairs, but padding is a great compromise for limited space. Thanks for the tip! 🙂

        • Ivan Chan

          I bring sections of linoleum flooring which is almost always better than the trade show flooring plus it helps me stand out. The chairs is a great idea, and my original plan was for me and/or friends, but based on your advice I’m going to stand up more and rotate the barstools so it faces the booth more. Great article, Jill!

  6. Joseph Giorgi

    So many great tips here, Jill! Anyone planning to run a booth in the near future should be using this as their go-to guide. I like that you mention that “it’s okay to have some fun while working your booth.” A more casual and relaxed atmosphere is always a good thing.

  7. Lisa

    Great tips! One thing I’ve seen a lot of people do and I think is one of the worse things is to start the sales pitch right away. No one wants to be hit with that right away.

  8. Todd Billingsley

    Great info! Another tip I learned at my first trade show was to make sure your booth is staffed every single minute that the exhibit hall is open. One night, the staff of every single exhibit cleared out to attend a concert, but the program listed that the exhibit hall was still open. The exhibit hall was a ghost town except for one of my employees and myself. We sat there for nearly an hour without seeing a single soul. My employee kept asking if we should close shop, but something kept telling me to sit tight. Sure enough, five minutes before closing time, two men entered the hall and walked straight to our booth. Our reward for staying? A $600 order!

  9. Carolyn

    I’m new to craft show vending. I found all the tips helpful, especially the chair tip. Some craft and flea market events, do lend themselves to setting up a few chairs. Thanks for the tips.

  10. k.hill

    I totally agree with your 1st tip about sitting like a lump on a log inside your booth. I wish more vendors and customer service reps would take note of this. It makes a HUGE difference indeed.

  11. Janice

    I have been working, assisting, and then running a vendor booth at the county fair for 15 years and one thing that I has always stuck with me is to set up your space in a way that invites people in. Don’t put a table across the front of your space as a barrier and sit behind it like a receptionist. I always set up the display around the perimeter of the space so that people can come in, look up close, touch the products, and stand out of the way of traffic walking by.

    I also do my best to refrain from sitting because I am not as attentive to passersby and do not look as available if I am sitting tucked away in a corner. I have a chair to sit on or a stool to lean on if needed, but try to keep it behind the display and only bring it out when necessary. I have found that, if the chair (I normally only have room for one) is accessible, some passersby will ask to sit and rest, giving me a moment to talk to them, so that is definitely a good tip for others.

  12. Jessica Walter

    I would like to share one advice for exhibitors, which will help them to reduce their staff cost, maximize leads as well as increase leads. In order to convert your visitor into leads, exhibitors keep following up them through mails, messages, calls, etc. All this task are like a mess, but what if you can do all this thing during exhibition only? Download the app ExhiAsAp, this is the only app which helps exhibitors to send instant follow up mail to the visitor along with the welcome message before they leave your stall. And as all work can be done smoothly with mobile app, no need to hire more staff. As an exhibitor one just need to add their products, customize the mail. Become a smart exhibitor and give a try to this app, download the free version available in Play store and App store.

  13. The Promotions Guru

    Fantastic points. The best way to determine what gifts to give to visitors is based on 2 main factors. The visitor profile and budget. I always quote on additional products when a client requests costs for free gifts so that they have more options.
    A well manned stand with branded staff draws more attention than those that are not or have 1 busy person trying to attend to every visitor passing.

  14. Tray

    I put the wrong email last time….LOL! Good Evening! Any tips on getting attendees of a festival to visit vendor booths that are not in the most high traffic area of the festival? Maybe create some type of incentive or fun reason for visiting most or all vendors? Let me know if you have any ideas!

    Thanks,
    Tray

    • Todd Heim

      Giveaways always work! 🙂 Be creative about it too, though. Don’t just offer a blanket gift for showing up, make a game out of it! I remember a vendor at a festival that gave away free temporary tattoos of their logo and they made a contest where the person who had the most creative tattoo location won a prize (t-shirt iirc). Got people to talk about it, interact with the brand in a unique way, and return to the booth!

  15. myfairtool

    Great tips Jill!
    It doesn’t matter how many articles you read or advice you listen to: you will never be fully ready for your first show.
    Organizing your company’s booth is among the most difficult project you’ll have to do – planning the booth location, carpet color, electricity, lighting, decoration, hotel, plane, logistics, lead capture, samples, staffing… that can quickly become overwhelming!
    At myfairtool we offer a platform to streamline all these efforts and make it much easier to get your event organized smoothly. You should have a look before your next show!

  16. Linda Brabon

    I had a craft booth at a farmer’s market two years ago. A customer was looking at my walking sticks acting like was interested in one. Suddenly from the booth next to us the vendor yelled to the customer “If you really want to see some walking sticks, come on over here and look at mine ! What is the term for this reprehensible act ?

    • Gianna Annunzio

      Our word for this act would be “competition.” One man believed his walking sticks were better than the other mans. He needed to prove it to your potential customer and stick it to you! Competition.

  17. Théo

    Love the fun part! That are some really good tricks for people like who are new in the industry. Thank you very much.

  18. Alexandra Gault

    question for you! If you have the option, is it better to set up next to vendors that offer different services, or the same services of you?

  19. imagecraftexhibits

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing these.

  20. Megan Bell

    A good round-up with all important points. Trade show executives are sometimes single-handedly responsible for bad performance. It is important to stay hydrated and well-fed, but staff should make it a point of not eating at the stalls. That greatly annoy customers.

  21. Trade Show Exhibits

    That all are very important, it can help to design trade shows display thank you so much for sharing it.

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