Trade Show Tips with a Side of “Oh No They Didn’t”

I don’t go to a ton of tradeshows, but when I do I am amazed at the things that I see going on. You would think that if a company paid the money to participate in a tradeshow that they would put some time and effort into the way their company is represented once they get there. Well, you would be wrong.

Here are a few tips that I scribbled down so that you can learn from other people’s mistakes:

Put some time and money into your booth display

You could totally spend $10,000 and get the “mack daddy” of all trade show booth’s, but most people just don’t have that kind of money to sink into something that they only pull out a few times each year. Unfortunately, some people think that the only other option is to purchase a cardboard tri-fold from Staples and glue on some papers and brochures. Oh. My. God. Really? I made better displays when I was in middle school! I’m not even exaggerating; I saw multiple booths with homemade displays that looked like they let their kids put them together. Did I mention that the audience for this trade show was lawyers and judges? That doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of visual branding that is going to appeal to them, does it?

There are certainly a lot of really great booth options in the $1,000 – $2,000 range, but if you want to do something cheaper you can purchase an ‘economy grade’ banner stand and have it professionally designed and printed for a few hundred dollars. Another option is to pay a graphic designer for a couple hours of their time and have a poster designed and printed on foam backing at your local copy center. Once you purchase an easel to sit it on, you’re good to go with a professional looking design that is so much better then something you can make with glitter and a glue stick (true example!).

Brochures and handouts should be easy to grab

So, what goes on the 6 foot table that typically comes with every booth? Well, for one you should have your brochures readily available. Depending on the type of trade show you’re attending, it could just be your overview brochure or if you want to get really fancy about it, have your industry-specific brochures and newsletters. If you haven’t read it, you might want to check out Does my Company Really Need a Brochure.

Giveaway Items

Face it, many people at trade shows don’t really want to sit down and have an in depth conversation about your business and how you can meet their needs. However, if you have something really cool that you’re giving away, you have a better chance at having them approach your booth. When deciding what to give away, make sure that the item is appropriate to your audience. Ideally, it should be something imprinted with your company name and website (or phone number) so that when they see it again, they think of you. Added tip: raffle items and games to play are great conversation starters too.

Pick your people wisely

When deciding who is going to work at your trade show booth, be sure to choose the right person for the job. If the trade show is for a specific industry, make sure that the person representing your company is knowledgeable in the services that they would need. Also, make sure your booth workers are dressed appropriate to the event. If everyone attending the event is in a suit, you should be too. If the event is more casual, like at a beach hotel, company logoed polos work great.

As an added bonus, here are the most inappropriate things I saw that made me snicker:

  • I saw not one, but TWO men with their zippers down. I would typically tell someone that their zipper is down by quietly approaching them and saying it so that nobody else could hear. However, one of the guys sprinted away too quickly after grabbing our giveaway for me to say anything to him. The other stared at my chest for so long that I decided he deserved to walk around with his hoo-ha out.


  • One man was walking around with his event booklet shoved down the front of his pants, “Al Bundy” style. And not just placed in there, he had shoved his Buddha-belly aside so that it was really IN there, fully touching his man bits. Ewwww is an understatement.


  • Please for the love of all that is holy, do not come into a tradeshow directly from the beach wearing nothing but your bikini and flip flops. It’s just as inappropriate for someone in their early 20’s with perky bits as it is for someone older when stuff is… well, not so perky. I don’t care how comfortable you are with your body. Unless you’re a stripper, if everyone else in the room is wearing clothes you should be too!
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