Things to do (and not do) with your next trade show booth


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At least year’s Dreamforce, I picked up a number of best and worst practices from participating exhibitors (summarized here). This year’s event is even bigger, with more vendors doing smart and dumb things (intentionally and otherwise). Here are some of the things I’ve picked up in the past couple days.

Good Ideas

  • Qualify booth visitors up front. I was impressed with a few vendors who pleasantly introduced themselves, and asked me to quickly do the same. This helped them know who I was, what I did, and understand how to then approach how they’d describe what they do. The conversation would go differently if I was a prospective enterprise customer vs. a potential partner vs. an industry analyst or reporter. Kudos to those who qualified up front.
  • Unique outfits break the ice. Lots of booths have themes, but smart vendors customize booth staff attire (without going overboard) to align with theme but also quickly break the ice with those walking by. Great way to get prospects to quickly engage, make fun of yourself for a couple seconds, then earn the opportunity to qualify and discuss what you actually do.
  • Send the industry veteran roaming the halls. Most shows prohibit vendors from shilling beyond their booth space (this includes handing out collateral or giveaways, etc.). But smart vendors actually sent their most well-networked employees through the halls to meet people they knew, catch up, and send more traffic back to the booth. Great way to spread your brand and presence beyond the walls of your booth without violating show rules.
  • Ditch the swag and give away a souvenir. I don’t need another pen, or mouse pad, or water bottle. But the autographed guitar from Metallica? That was sweet. Not everyone is going to take it home, but I do have a picture (see above). Nice move, InsideView.
  • Use Foursquare. Kudos to Optify for “claiming” Dreamforce as a venue early enough to feature their booth and a rotating selection of “come visit us” promotions. Literally, every time someone checks in to Dreamforce via Foursquare (and thousands are doing so every day), Optify’s promotion pops up. Great, guerilla tactic that can work at almost any event or venue.

Bad Ideas

  • Embarassing outfits. There’s a line between professional, noteworthy and ridiculous. Following the theme of your booth is fine, but if people snicker when they walk by, that’s not good. If your booth staff visibly looks uncomfortable and uses an apology for their appearance as their ice-breaker, that’s not good either. One booth at Dreamforce this week has a Harry Potter theme, complete with staffers wearing full wizard robes and hats. Hmm.
  • Talking amongst yourselves. Incredible to me that people still do this, especially when spending tens of thousands (if not six figures) to be there. A couple booths were literally impossible to visit and engage with because of the wall of employees talking to each other. If that “wall” had literally turned around (in this one case), they could have instantly had 5-6 prospect conversations from people who just passed them by.
  • Failing to share pricing. Didn’t a question about price used to be a buying signal? Why do I have to ask four times to get an answer? If you’re too expensive, you have a bigger problem than figuring out how to talk about price when someone asks. But if you’re worth it, share the price when someone asks the first time and be ready to justify the price with a quick ROI story or two from current customers.
  • If I ask a question, you should scan my badge. I don’t want to be on everyone’s follow up list, and if your very first question to me as I walk by your booth is if you can “scan me”, I’m likely to say no. But if I engage, if I ask good questions, you shouldn’t let me walk away without asking who I am and to either get a business card or scan my badge for follow-up. At least six booths this week should have read the interest signs from me, but have no idea who I am.
  • Dress pants with white tennis shoes. You’d think this would be a given, but it’s not. Don’t do this. It kind of makes you look like a doofus.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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