Blog with Paul Gertner

Three Costly Trade Show Mistakes…That You Are About To Make

Paul Gertner stopping crowds at a trade show with a card trick

Trade Show Mistakes – #1

Paying for a Premium Exhibit Space

In terms of trade show mistakes, this could be one of the most costly. Have you ever paid a premium price for an exhibit location right at the entrance to the exhibit hall and then wondered why the crowds seemed to be passing you by?  Most trade shows charge a premium for the show locations right at the front of the hall.  But when you analyze traffic flow patterns you might be surprised that you are probably not getting a good return on that investment.  The truth is, you are much better off with an exhibit space just a few aisles into the hall, by other large exhibits (the sweet spot) instead of one right at the entrance.  Why?  When people walk into a trade show they already have an agenda in mind… a booth they want to visit… a person they need to see… a problem they want to solve.  Unless you are literally on their agenda, chances are they will walk right by your expensive exhibit and into the hall.   Conversely, the only other time they will be near the main entrance (by your booth) is when they are on their way OUT of the hall… again they are on an agenda, find a restroom, going to lunch etc.  Of course, if you are one of the big players in the industry and your goal is to be very visible, wave the corporate flag and make sure everyone knows your company is there at the show… then the premium space may be worth it.  But if your goal in going to the trade show is to generate as many sales leads as possible and to have an exhibit filled with people… that expensive front of the hall location may not give you the best bang for your buck.


Trade Show Mistakes – #2

Disappearing BEFORE the show is over

This is one of the most common trade show mistakes I see. It’s last day of the show and it closes at 4:00pm.  But the booth across the aisle is all packed and ready to go by 3:00.  Considering the cost of attending a trade show, I always find this to be insane.  It’s also insulting to the attendees who have paid for their registration and expected all the exhibits to be open till 4:00, PLUS they are prospective customers.  Better still, some of those last-minute trade show attendees are there because they really do have a problem… and they are motivated buyers. I cannot tell you how many times one of those final day stragglers ended up being a very serious sales opportunity and if your booth is all packed, they are going to walk right by.  Besides, there is another very good reason to avoid leaving early.  If you break down your booth early many shows will issue a fine or a penalty, which could negatively impact your place in the cue for next year’s booth selection at that show. So play it safe and stick around until the bitter end.


Trade Show Mistakes – #3

Failing to hold a daily pre-show meeting with the booth staff

This one is critical for a successful show.  I have done presentations at more than 1,000 trade shows over the past 40 years and the clients who hold a pre-show meeting are dramatically more successful at the show.  Remember your sales staff might be coming in from all parts of the country, and some have never worked a show before.  You need to have everyone staffing the booth all on the same page.  A 15-minute pre-show meeting with mandatory attendance is the way to go.  At the meeting you will actually set sales goals for the show so everyone knows how many leads per hour they are expected to collect.  Having a specific goal to aim for motivates sales people.   See my FREE Video Three Minutes to More Leads.

You should also address behavior in the booth like explaining there should be no eating, no cell phone use and no huddling in groups. Behaviors like these will make prospects walk right by your exhibit.  It’s also helpful to give the sales team a few suggestions for opening questions they can use at the show—questions that open a dialogue.  Most importantly make sure everyone knows how to operate the sales lead system.  It’s painful to watch a prospect stand there while the booth staff tries to figure out how to swipe their badge or scan their expo card. Those details should be handled BEFORE the show opens.  And finally if you really want to step up your game you might want to also have a post-show meeting each day after the show closes.  At this 10-minute meeting, you announce how many leads were generated, if goals were hit, as well as take suggestions from the group of any changes that will make tomorrow a more successful exhibit day.

Paul Gertner is nationally recognized speaker and corporate magician, whose honors include multiple Tonight Show appearances, performing at a presidential inauguration, and winning three international competitions. He can be hired as a trade show magician or keynote presenter. For more information, visit


Posted in Trade Show Booth Ideas on November 1, 2016 by Paul Gertner.
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