Essential trade show tips

by Lynda Kavanagh

Exhibiting in a trade show can involve a major investment of money and time, but the financial returns for your business can be excellent if you know the elements of success.

Whether you're participating in a trade show for the first time or have been a longtime exhibitor and looking to improve, here are some tips that you may find helpful.


1. Create an open exhibit. Make it a space people can enter comfortably without feeling trapped. If you set a table across the front of your booth and stand behind it, it's harder to draw customers in and involve them – so they tend to walk on by.

2. Keep your booth uncluttered so customers can focus on what's important – your product. When approaching your display, anyone should be able to discern immediately what your booth is promoting. No one is going to take the time to study it and guess, when there are hundreds of other booths to visit.

3. Before planning your booth display, find out everything you can about your allotted space. Know its dimensions, where it will be located in the building, what companies or organizations will be your neighbours, whether it's in a high or low traffic area, whether you have access to lighting and electricity, and anything else that will affect your setup.

4. For your first trade show, consider renting booth display components. Rental displays can relieve you of the issues of transportation and storage, and allow you to be a little more daring in your exhibit design than you might be if you were purchasing them.

5. Design your booth with an eye to keep shipping costs low. Oversized or heavy displays can be very expensive to ship and may require you to hire expo personnel to move once on-site. Opt for smaller, collapsible and light-weight displays as much as possible.

6. For the most professional image, create a unified appearance for your displays. Choose no more than three colours for your display elements and table coverings. This creates a professional looking booth that lets your products stand out in the display.


Your job begins long before the show starts.

  • Send invitations to all prospects and customers
  • Can you offer free samples, special discounts or a contest?
  • If seminars are available, can you find someone to man your booth?

Go to the show with a definite goal in mind.

  • Are you creating awareness?
  • Are you penetrating a new market?
  • Are you looking for new leads?

Select the right staff.

  • If you have other employees at your booth, they must be friendly and knowledgeable


Stand up straight. First impressions count. Stand, don't sit and always look attentive. You want people to feel comfortable enough to approach you.

Smile. Visitors want to approach and deal with pleasant people.

Don't gossip. What goes around comes around. It's better to listen than to speak.

Don't eat or drink in your booth. Booth duty is a sales call, not a social call.

Don't chew gum. Even if you sell gum, any distraction that breaks the brief concentration of the visitor can mean a lost sale.

Know what you’re talking about. Your company's credibility is on the line, so it behooves you to know what you know, know what you don't know and find out where the answers are in between.

If you don't know, say so. Then find out the right answer. Get it to the visitor in the most expeditious way.

Look at me when I'm talking to you. Don't look over my shoulder for a better prospect. Pay attention to me.

Don't use cell phones in your booth. The simple matter is you look busy and I won't bother you.

Phew! Who knew there was so much to plan for when it comes to being a trade show exhibitor? But, it is this type of planning that will make all the work and expense pay off.


Lynda Kavanagh has owned and operated WOW Communications & Training since 1994. Her company provides business coaching and training focusing on sales and marketing issues.

Wow Communications Corp.


WOW Communications & Training