Trade Show Takeaways: 12 Lessons from Past Successes and Failures

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Searching for ways to ramp up your trade show performance? One of the best ways to improve is by learning from the successes and failures of past exhibitors. We’ve seen some amazing trade show performances over the years. We’ve also seen some that made us cringe. To help you avoid these mistakes and capitalize on the wins, here are 12 trade show takeaways that you can apply to your next event.

1. Success: Make a Great First Impression

Trade show lessons one

That old aphorism “you get one chance to make a good impression contains a lot of truth. As we all know, it only takes a few seconds for people to form a first impression. Even more daunting is the fact that first impressions tend to linger. Once made, these initial judgements can be difficult to correct.

The same can be said for your brand. A positive first impression can go a long way toward building stronger relationships with your clients. Make sure that you consider every small detail to ensure that your brand is putting its best food forward.

2. Failure: Lackluster Display

Trade shows are packed with booths that feature eye-grabbing displays. If your display is lackluster, no one is going to give it a second glance.

To make your booth stand out from the crowd, make your branding prominent and use exciting visuals, product demonstrations, and useful promotional giveaways to grab the attention of attendees. To maximize interest, consider holding a special drawing for some cool tech gifts to capture more quality leads.

3. Success: Use Social Proof to Build Trust

Consumers have grown increasingly cynical and distrustful of brands. According to one study, nearly 70 percent of consumers don’t trust promotional advertisements. These days, people use social proof to influence their interest and loyalty to a company.

At a trade show, everyone wants to visit the booth that is popular. It’s busy, so it must offer something valuable, right?

This is social proof in action, and your brand should leverage it for upcoming shows. You can also feature client testimonials at your booth to illustrate the value of your products and service.

4. Failure: No Social Media Buzz

You aren’t going to get the social proof you need if no one knows about your booth. Use social media tools to start generating buzz for the event far in advance and let everyone know exactly where your table or booth will be located so they can find you.

To encourage people to visit your booth, consider providing an incentive. Tease that you have something special for people who visit your booth and ask visitors to enter a drawing. Promote your giveaway by upping the ante with high-quality and desirable promotional gifts, like a custom iPad case with your logo on it.

5. Success: Pre-Show Meeting

Alexander Graham Bell said it best: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” A lot goes into a successful tradeshow event. For it to be successful, you need to hold a pre-show meeting to ensure that everyone is prepared.

Pre-show meetings can occur days before the event or 30 to 45 minutes before the doors open. This is where you prepare your team for the big show. Just be sure to cover the clearly defined objectives you want to prioritize and how you expect your sales staff to achieve them.

Don’t forget to make the meeting fun! Pumping up your team’s morale is another key to a successful tradeshow.

6. Failure: Undefined Goal for the Event

You’ve spent so much time and money securing your spot at a tradeshow. The last thing you want to do is let it all go to waste by not setting any goals for the event.

Before you commit to an event, define your goal and create a strong strategy that will help you reach it. Be sure to set both quantitative (increase leads, ROI) and qualitative (improve brand recognition and awareness) goals. Use an event management platform that simplifies the process of collecting the data needed for post-event analytics.

7. Success: Create an Experience

Create a unique experience at trade shows

Consumers want more than a product — they want an experience. This means your booth needs to do more than simply show off your products.

To make a memorable impact on your audience, your exhibit should provide them with an immersive experience. Consider adding interactive components to your display, such as touchscreen devices, swag giveaways, contests, and fun games. These will lure attendees to your booth and get them interested in your company.

8. Failure: Staffing Errors

With so much going on at a tradeshow, booth managers may forget to properly prepare their staff. This is particularly the case if you’re using employees who don’t work in sales roles.

Your event staff will be the first touchpoint for your prospects. Set them up for success by teaching them basic sales etiquette. This might include body language, sales pitches, and how to properly greet people.

On a similar note, make sure that you have enough staff at your event. Having ample people manning your booth will reduce the stress on everyone and make things go more smoothly.

9. Success: Be Hospitable

Your booth staff should be upbeat, attentive and approachable. Remember, the goal is to attract prospects and get them interested in your product or service. Once you’ve engaged with them, listen attentively to their questions or concerns and answer them honestly.

10. Failure: Aggressive Selling Behavior

We’ve all been approached by a salesperson who was far too aggressive in their approach. Not only is this type of hard sell generally ineffective, but it can hurt your brand’s reputation and make people avoid your booth. It’s important to teach your team how to recognize when they should pull back on their pitch and the best way to pursue a sale.

11. Success: Bring Your Best Clients

Trade show success - invite your best clients

Here’s an industry secret for getting new leads at a tradeshow event: Invite your existing clients to attend. Existing clients can be powerful brand ambassadors for your company if you give them a chance. They also act as another form of social proof.

When people see happy clients at your booth, they tend to have a more positive impression of you and your company. Send an invite to your current clients and offer to get them into the event for free.

12. Failure: Lack of Follow-Up

The event has come to an end, and you’ve acquired plenty of new leads. The tradeshow itself was a success, but the work isn’t done yet. Once you have these new leads, it’s critical that you follow up with them promptly. Don’t wait until they have forgotten about your brand — catch them while their interest is high!


It always pays to be prepared. Tradeshows aren’t something that your company can throw together on a whim with a high expectation for success. They require a significant amount of time, money, and planning to be successful. By learning from the past successes and failures of other tradeshows, you can increase your chances of winning big at your next event.

Kelsey Stage is the Vice President of Development for PROMOrx. Outside the office, you can find her dropping in on local yoga studios on the road and trying to eat healthy - one açai bowl at a time.

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Originally published on Webbiquity, republished with permission.