Advice for First-time Exhibitors: 10 Costly Mistakes to Avoid Before Exhibiting At a Trade Show

Leesa Barnes

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You've just decided to attend your first consumer trade show as an exhibitor. You have money in your marketing budget to spend on booth space, but the hardest decision is deciding which show will give you the most bang for your buck.

Whether you pay as little as $700 or as much as $3000 for a 10x10 booth space, you're going to invest alot of money in something that may not offer you a sizable return on your investment.

Here's some mistakes and muckups you can avoid so your first exhibiting experience doesn't become your last.

  1. Exhibiting at a show in its rookie year. They have no track record, no guarantees and it may just turn out to be a waste of your time. Many shows don't make it into their second year and if you want to build a relationship with your target market, you'll do better to stick with trade shows that have an established reputation.

  2. Expecting a financial windfall from product sales. Don't go in thinking you'll make enough sales to cover the cost of the booth. People attend a show to gather information and learn what's new on the market, not to go on a huge shopping spree. Instead, take small samples of your product to the show, or offer a package containing your brochures and coupons for those who leave their email or phone number with you.

  3. Selling items over $20. If you expect to sell a few dozen gift baskets priced at $50 each, you'll go home with a car full of inventory. Instead, opt to sell a product that's low cost, say between $10 to $20. People are less hesitant about parting with a $20 or $10 bill.

  4. Not asking for incentives. The last thing the show organizer wants is empty booth space as it discourages attendees. So, wait until a few days before the show and ask the show organizer if there's any empty booth space. If the show organizer says yes, you're in a perfect position to bargain for a discount on the booth space or get it for free.

  5. Not offering to lead a seminar at the show. This is an excellent way to showcase your expertise. Choose a topic that ties in nicely with the product or service you're promoting at your booth. Offer 45-minutes of ad-free information, then use 2-minutes at the end to pitch your product. People will run to your booth and the mob that gathers around will only attract other buyers.

  6. Sitting and looking bored. People will avoid your booth like the plague if you're just sitting there with a bored look on your face. Get rid of the chairs, stand up and great attendees with a smile. This is much more inviting.

  7. Not having a lively booth. On the flip side, just standing there with a smile isn't enough. You need to entice people to stop. Be creative and be colourful so you can get attendees to stop and really take a look at what you're promoting.

  8. Forgetting to ask what comes with the booth. Some shows will supply a couple of chairs and a table for the money you pay to exihibit at the show. Most will just provide an empty space. Before agreeing to exhibit, always ask what is supplied with the booth. That way, there's no surprises.

  9. Focusing on too many products or services. In other words, if you have a 10x10 booth, aim to focus on just one product or service. If you don't, you're bound to confuse people and they won't approach you.

  10. Not displaying a banner. People want to know who you are, even if they don't understand what you're promoting. Having a banner that prominently displays your company will invite people to at least crawl past your booth.

Exhibiting at a consumer trade show doesn't have to be a total bust. Just understand the primary reason why you're exhibiting and know the primary reason why people attend these type of shows.

(c) 2005 Leesa R. Barnes. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Leesa Barnes, The Schmooze Coach™, helps consultants, virtual assistants, professional organizers, coaches and solopreneurs avoid cold calling by developing a fearless networking plan. Leesa is author of “Schmooze Your Way to Success: 9 Fearless Networking Tips for the Shy, Timid, Introverted & Just Plain Clueless. " Go to and sign up for her free 8-lesson ecourse called “From Clueless to Fearless: Secrets from the Schmooze Coach. "


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