Have you been to a tradeshow where the people in the booths act as if they are bored and really don’t want to talk to anyone? They only put the effort in to bring business cards and you get the feeling it was too much work to even do just that?

Or maybe there was a booth you were afraid to walk up to because they were already engaged with another attendee. You may have also hesitated because you didn’t want to interrupt their conversation with their booth mate or their social media on their phone.

Don’t be these tradeshow vendors! Use these negative tradeshow attendee experiences as a precautionary lesson on what not to do and practice the following event hero tips to be an inviting tradeshow booth host:

1) Location, location, location: you know this!

There is always the decision and race to get the right location for your booth. There are many opinions on where the best location is, but I like center of the room at the end of an aisle. This way I can stretch out a bit and I usually buy two booths to be one of the bigger players in the room.I also like to set up an activity in my booth that will attract visitors.

2) Get the LOOK!

Make sure your booth is attractive so you can attention from attendees. Use bright colors as well as some fun or attractive graphics. Be bold in your booth design!

3) Make your message easy to read and understand

Create some intrigue, make the signage POP with cutouts or big bold letters. AVOID small type or hard to read graphics. Keep the typeface for signage clean and easy to read from a distance.

4) Make your booth approachable

Have you seen the booths where the vendor stands behind the table like they are afraid you will approach them…don’t be that guy! Stand in front of the tables. Move the tables back into the booth and encourage people to come talk to you. Remove the chairs, you don’t need them. If you want chairs, bring in high bar stools, these are much more sociable.

5) Who’s hosting your booth?

Make sure your booth host is warm and friendly and will be able to engage the people that stop by. Not all of the hosts in the booth need to be well versed in your product, but they need to be able to attract those passing by. Having one or two people who know the product inside and out and a few that are outgoing and can bring in the people will work just fine.

Consider using costumed characters, models, or host and hostess dressed to convey your brand. For example, at a dog food booth for a pet expo, we had a guy dressed in a dog costume handing out free samples. Make sure the character is in alignment with your brand.

6) Offer show specials

You’ve put in the time and money to have a booth, consider what you want to accomplish with your booth. Do you want immediate sales? Offer a killer price for your product if they buy on the spot or a coupon at a lesser discount if they buy in the next 10 days.

7) Have a contest or promotions

Everyone loves to win something and that includes tradeshow attendees. If you want them to stop by and put their name in (for your later use) make sure what you are giving away is something worthwhile.

8) Treats and Alcohol

Read the fine print on your vendor contract. Make sure the facility allows outside food and drinks to be offered and that the show allows it as well. You don’t want to bring all the goodies only to be shut down on show day. The show promoter or the facility may have rules you need to abide by so really, read the fine print.

9) Offer your giveaway but make sure it is of value

Most tradeshow attendees have done this before and have seen all the items that are available. Yes, you should have a giveaway but make it something they will use and won’t just end up in the trash!

10) Put Your Social Media to Use

Work your social media connections to share where you’re going to be located and what your booth number is. Connect with as many of the show attendees you can find to introduce yourself and start communicating before the show. It’s always fun to meet someone in person after interacting with them over social media.

11) Print promotional items

Keeping with the traditional items we get at the tradeshow can be a bit mundane but they are still a giveaway. Get creative for the show and produce something that won’t get tossed on the way to the car.

I love the cute stress balls that I get at tradeshows. Especially if they are in the shape of something that relates to the company. They actually are a great massage for your hands.

Pens with your logo on them work well because people are always in need of a writing utensil and it keeps you top of mind. Other options include bags to hold all the other stuff they will get, thumb and USB drives (with this you could add a small advertisement that would play when they plugged in and opened the thumb drive), cups and mugs, badge holders, notebooks, folders and binders.

Think outside the box on your giveaways.

12) Follow up with booth visitors

The attendees that stopped by your booth and took their time to visit with you are hot leads, make sure you take the time to follow up with them. There are many ways to complete follow-up that can be set up in advance for larger shows.

Choose to do personalized emails to the attendees at the show if there weren’t to many to follow up with. Don’t let those business cards fall to the wayside. They stopped for a reason to visit with you, now go make the sale.

The cost of time and money spent on a trade show are all part of your marketing budget. It should be well thought out and well delivered. It’s all a waste of time if you don’t follow up or follow through.  If you find yourself in way over your head, enlist the help of an intern, a part time employee, or someone else on your staff to handle the follow up.

In conclusion, make sure your time and money are well spent at the trade show that you’ve picked to be an exhibitor. Check it out in advance, find out who they are inviting, how they are publicizing the event and how many they expect to show up based on past experiences. Connect with past vendors for their opinion of the show and discover the pros and cons for yourself before signing the contract.

On final note: Read the fine print on the contract to make sure what you are being told you will receive in exchange for your time and money lines up with what the contract outlines.

Happy exhibiting!

Planning and managing a tradeshow can be both exciting and overwhelming. There are a lot of details to provide prior to, during, and after the event. One of the most important aspects is managing your vendors. Because they’re taking their time and resources to be there, you want to be sure to manage their expectations and provide them with accurate information throughout.

Our Vendor Experience

We’ve been vendors at numerous tradeshows throughout the years and wanted to share one of our latest experiences as an example of what not to do and help you learn how to better serve your vendors.

We recently attended a tradeshow as exhibitors in order to meet and network with event and meeting planners in a different part of the state.

It was a one-day show that promised to bring in as many as 500 event and meeting planners. In order to extend our reach and visibility in the community we took the plunge and paid the booth fee, hired labor for travel and hosting the booth. On top of this, we created new graphics for a fresh look and produced flyers and additional collateral to furnish our booth. Preparation wasn’t cheap – we put in several thousand dollars to make this happen as vendors.

One cost saver was that the event was from 3-7 PM and didn’t require an overnight stay. We arrived and setup in four hours, had a pleasant check-in experience, and were able to grab lunch at the local café before the show began.

Less Than Expected 

After doors opened, there was a VERY light crowd. We thought attendance would increase, but boy were we wrong. The expected crowd of 500 turned into a potential 100 and by the end we only saw about 25 meeting planners.

To say we were disappointed in the turnout is an understatement. To say the show was well organized, well, I’m just not going there. This was especially surprising with a room filled of vendors with extensive meeting and event planning experience.

Taking Advantage of Our Situation

To turn this negative experience into a positive one, we spent our time visiting with other vendors. We were able to set future appointments with them and have in depth conversations with the few meeting planners we were able to find in the slim group that attended.

Vendors are the core of tradeshows, so it’s important that you understand how to best serve them in order to ensure the success of current and future tradeshows. Learn our top tips for vendor management and appreciation from our most recent tradeshow experience below.

Here are a few ways tradeshow organizers can better serve their vendors:

1) Offer a vendor hospitality room

Although we weren’t there for a long amount of time, a place to put our coats and grab a water and small snack would have been nice. Any time you have people standing on a hard floor for a long amount of time, it’s nice to have a place for them to get away. Even for five minutes.

2) Underpromise and over deliver

Gather friends and friends of friends that are in the demographics you promised and make sure you deliver on the promises of attendees made. Trade shows are expensive ventures for your vendors so make sure you deliver the crowd.

3) Pay special attention to noise levels

Keep music and presentations to a level where the attendees and vendors can have a conversation. We could not hear the people that attended our booth and they couldn’t hear us over the very loud bands that had been booked to play during the event.

4) Make sure your deliverables are outlined and clear

I was told by the tradeshow intern that I would get a list of attendees. In this group the attendees this probably didn’t make that much of a difference, as they turned out not to be my audience. However, there was one person whose business card I didn’t get that I would have really liked to communicate with later. I was later told by the organizer that no list would be delivered. I understand that several of the other vendors were expecting a list as well. This should be clearly outlined for both the vendors and the attendees.

5) Offer incentives to help pull in attendees

For the companies and meeting and event planners in this area, an educational series or discussion might have made the difference deciding to attend. Tapping into the speakers’ or performers’ social media followers could have also increased the opportunity to reach more of the audience and incentivizing them to attend.

6) Don’t forget signage and/or mapping

Make sure there is a banner for each booth to hang on the drape at the back of the booth. If the vendor has their own signage, this is a waste of money but if they don’t, this would have certainly helped to identify the vendors. In this case, those were not provided and several vendors didn’t have any signage to identify them.

We know it’s a lot of work to put on a tradeshow, we know that there are a bazillion things to manage, but keep in mind that your vendors have paid you money to attend and are expecting what you promised in return. They too, have taken a risk of time and money to be there and it can be quite costly for them. Make sure you deliver!