Trade shows are a huge part of many manufacturers’ and distributors’ marketing budget, and there’s huge pressure to succeed at these events. So what are some of the biggest trade show mistakes that exhibitors make? In this article, we outline nine common missteps and how to avoid them.

9 Common Trade Show Mistakes

1. Underestimating the importance of pre-show marketing.

The most successful exhibitors at any trade show will always be those who’ve done their homework before the show has even begun. Create an effective pre-show marketing plan to build anticipation, notify attendees that you’ll be at the show, and include a call to action to visit your booth.

Sending out direct mailers to both existing and prospective customer can be another great pre-show marketing tactic, You can even set meetings and appointments before the show. Remember, time is money, so planning out your time at the show beforehand can be a great way to ensure you get a return on your trade show investment.

2. Starting your trade show booth design without a clear goal in mind.

If you aren’t sure what you’re trying to achieve with your trade show booth’s design and graphics, the design process is going to be long and torturous––for both you and the exhibit house.

Having a clear vision in your head beforehand will help you provide clearer feedback, preventing multiple (expensive and time-consuming) redesigns. Also make sure that all of your internal stakeholders sign off on ideas before giving directives to the exhibit house.

3. Forgetting to calculate shipping, drayage, and labor costs.

Trade show budgeting is incredibly important and in all the chaos surrounding the process of designing a booth, creating marketing collateral, and making travel arrangements, it can be easy to forget about the logistics involved in getting your booth materials to the show, moved into the event space, and assembled.

Make sure that you’re factoring these costs into your budget, and remember that the size, weight, and packing of your exhibit will all have huge impacts on cost.

4. Going overboard on technology.

When used effectively, technology can have a big impact on your ability to engage attendees at a trade show. But it’s also possible to waste a lot of money on technology that you either don’t need or are unable to use effectively.

You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on touch screens or virtual reality experiences, only to have them be ignored, improperly installed, or simply unable to add value to your booth experience.

5. Focusing on lead quantity, not quality.

It’s pretty easy to lure people to your booth with offers of drinks, free samples, prizes, and other giveaways. It’s also easy to ask people to drop business cards into a bowl or add their name to an email list.

These efforts, however, don’t work alone. It’s important to qualify those leads in order to get a real understanding of whether or not someone is a potential customer. Make sure that if you attract people to your booth, your booth staff is engaging with them one-on-one long enough to know if they are actually interested in your offering. This will also make following up after the show much more effective.

6. Too many giveaways.

Giveaways are a constant presence at trade shows. Brands spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on water bottles, bags, car chargers, pens, stress balls, and other little trinkets to give away to any attendee who stops by their booth.

But what are those giveaways really doing for you, especially if you’re handing them out to anyone who walks by the booth––even those who may or may not be in the market for your products? Try diverting your investment to better incentives reserved only for your top prospects––the people you’ve had actual meetings and conversations with.

7. Not engaging with attendees

This one seems like an odd “mistake” to bring up. Isn’t the whole purpose of going to a trade show engaging with the attendees at that show? Well, just take a minute to think about how your staff is actually conducting themselves at a trade show.

Are they on their phones? Are they gathering in groups and talking among themselves? Are they eating in the booth? Are they sticking to the booth interior, rather than standing on the outer edges and in the aisles? While this may seem obvious, it’s crucial to train your booth staff to ensure that they are actively engaging prospects, starting conversations, and projecting the right attitude and body language to welcome attendees to learn more about your brand.

8. Forgetting about social media.

Most trade shows have a social media presence, with thousands of followers. For brands that forget to tap into that audience, there can be huge opportunities lost. Make sure to engage with the show’s hashtags on social media in advance of the show, track conversations, and find out who influencers are. Continue that engagement at the show and use social to share content, invite people to your booth, and notify attendees of promotions, etc.

9. Haphazardly packing and unpacking your booth materials.

You’re stressed, tired, and all you want is to get set up (or dismantle) quickly. But taking enough time to properly set up and dismantle your booth is critical. This will make assembly and repacking at the next trade show much easier, and present any costly damage to your booth.

What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes people make at trade shows? Let us know in the comments!