The dos and don'ts of exhibiting at trade shows

Having a presence at a trade show or exhibition – whether as an exhibitor, sponsor, or visitor – can provide valuable opportunities to generate leads, showcase your brand or product, and network with potential customers, colleagues, and even competitors.

Of the three, exhibiting is likely to take up the most time and manpower – so it’s vital that you ensure maximum impact is achieved. The ultimate goal of exhibiting at a trade show should be to ensure that visitors remember your business, or product, at the end of a full day of taking in information and resisting sales pitches!

So, how do you get noticed in a space that is saturated by other businesses, and sometimes competitors, all trying to stand out? Conscious Communications is here to provide some of the top ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of exhibiting, to ensure that next time you exhibit, you will be a show pro.


The ‘dos’

These tips, although simple, will make a lot of difference to how you are perceived by visitors at an exhibition. The most important thing to remember is that, when you are manning a stand, you are representing the business; it’s up to you to create a memorable impression (for the right reasons) for visitors – otherwise you’re unlikely to generate a warm lead.

  • DO – request the right stand position. For example, if your business is a primary education provider, you do not want to be in the section of the exhibition dedicated to higher education. Book your position early to avoid disappointment; scope out the space to ensure your stand is in an area that receives maximum foot fall (usually the front of the hall or around the perimeter); and make sure you are surrounded by businesses that will be attracting your target demographic.


  • DO – investigate all opportunities that the show can offer. To ensure maximum business exposure take advantage of opportunities such as sponsorship packages, which can range from sponsoring exhibition literature, or Wi-Fi, to sponsorship of entire areas. Also enquire about appropriate speaker slots – these can draw a large crowd and offer the perfect setting to show your sector expertise.


  • DO – plan your stand design. You need to entice people to your stand, and then keep them there long enough for them to hear your key messages. Consider your branding, and what message you are trying to convey. Don’t skimp on creating and printing attractive banners, posters and leaflets – bad graphics and a poor print job are not going to attract the right attention. Promotional giveaways can also help to attract visitors and extend your reach beyond the exhibition; think about items that visitors may display on their desks at work. Bottled water is a big draw in a crowded, hot exhibition space and, if branded, will direct traffic to your stand.


  • DO – be proactive. Exhibiting at events is by and large a networking exercise. Take an active interest in your stand visitors: find out each individual’s name, role, and company name and sector. Record all information you can glean to make follow-up so much easier – whether by using scanners provided by the exhibition, or taking notes and collecting business cards where possible. Remember to write notes on each conversation, so that follow-up can be made by the right person and can be tailored appropriately. Once you know why a person is showing interest in your stand you will be able to share the appropriate literature, or next steps, to aide their enquiry – and so avoid mindlessly handing out marketing materials that are not relevant and will no doubt end up at the bottom of the pile they have accumulated on the day, or, even worse, in the bin!


The ‘don’ts’

Exhibiting at events is hard work – the hours are long and you are often on your feet all day without a break – standards can easily start to slip. Be aware of the following trade show faux pas to make sure your business is being remembered for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones:

  • DON’T – eat, drink, sit, read or chat amongst your colleagues whilst manning a stand. You need to create a professional, approachable presence which will encourage visitors to enquire about your business. Be aware of your behaviour and body language at all times.


  • DON’T – speak ill of the competition, even to your colleagues. Not only is it bad business practice, you run the risk of portraying insecurity about your own business to visitors too. Spend your time highlighting your business’s attributes rather than belittling competitors.


  • DON’T – attend the show without a goal. Ask yourself what you are hoping to achieve from exhibiting. Are you looking to attract new customers; build brand awareness; or simply scope out your competition? Exhibiting at shows, especially the larger, well-recognised ones can be expensive and attending without a plan is ill-advised – and easy for visitors to spot. Make the most of your time, and money, know exactly what you’re setting out to achieve and avoid looking out of place once you get there.


But don’t just take our word for it – try these simple tips next time your exhibit and see for yourself!

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