How to avoid and correct these common trade show exhibiting mistakes

Falling victim to these faux pas is more common than you think.

Even the most experienced trade show exhibitors will tell you that there is always something that can go wrong when attending a show. The biggest challenges, however, are sometimes the ones that we do not notice. These problems tend to go unnoticed as an exhibitor. Even with plenty of time planning and organizing problems sometimes find a way into your trade show exhibit program because they are noticed by the attendees and not the people involved within the exhibit space. What are these unseen issues and what can you do to prevent them?

Too small of an exhibit space

If you are a startup exhibitor, you may be limited financially and possibly may lean towards using a smaller exhibit. It is a common thought process that is an unseen mistake for a few reasons.

Larger trade show exhibits tend to get more foot traffic and are in many cases are located in the main isles and placed closer to the entrances. This encourages people to visit both just arriving and leaving the venue. You maximize your brands prominence when it is seen twice as many times as the exhibit spaces in the center of the floor.

Another reason to go larger – if you are using a 10×10 space you could be pushed to an area on the trade show floor that is not industry related. That is not ideal at all. Just sitting next to a major competitor has been proven to increase brand awareness and encourage more traffic.

We recommend that you try to match the floor space covered by your major competitors to give the appearance that your company is substantial enough to gain appeal.

Your exhibit is outdated

You have been exhibiting for years using the same floor space and same trade show booth repeatedly. Through the years you have used your custom exhibit with great success, but it just has not changed in any way. This can become an issue around year three.

Typically you can use an exhibit design arguably for about 3-4 years, then things need to change. Without the change there is no reason for anyone to enter the floor space as the perception is that your are stagnant. How can you resolve this without abandoning your exhibit you have put time and effort into creating?

One solution is to modify the exhibit with an engineer at your local exhibit house. Sometimes some thoughtful and clever additions and subtractions can bring things to life again without a complete rebuild.

Another is to use a trade show rental to get a clean, modern-looking trade show exhibit that gives you a new and refreshing visual appeal for your next show. New materials, spanning fabrics, monitor walls, interactive kiosks can all be part of your exhibiting program with rental properties.

Keeping your exhibiting space clean and organized

As is the case with all exhibitors, we tend to clean up well on our first day when setting up the booths. But what happens after one or two days? It is a common scenario where you find many exhibits looking cluttered and disheveled compared to when the exhibition started a couple days earlier. It’s the little things that matter though. Every day is a new day in the exhibit world, and the guests should find it cleaner than it was yesterday. Assigning the cleaning duties to specific individuals and using a checklist to check the progress should just about do it. This is extremely important.

Lack of effective pre-show marketing

Most guests know exactly which booth they want to visit before the exhibition day. This makes pre-show marketing an important factor to consider if you are to achieve set targets and attract more traffic. The only way to do this is by: Using social media as a marketing tool, writing blogs to show your expertise in your area of business and getting the word out by engaging with your prospects and clients directly. The more attention you give the people you want to attend, the more that are going to show up. Its that simple. Your marketing team can fill the content that is delivered – the hype – or whatever you want to promote.

Poor visual appeal and location

We touched on part of this earlier. Trade shows can be extremely busy and in some larger venues your company could get lost in the multitudes of booths. With so many prefab exhibits similar in design and size, it might prove difficult to stand out in a crowded floor. How can you get your exhibit noticed? Here are a couple strategies you can easily employ.

Spend time developing thoughtful and eye catching graphics. Visual appeal just does not include the structure – it is the whole package that builds a stunning booth. Get that wow factor by getting an early start on your graphics and display presentations. The more effort the better they get. Last minute graphics tend to flop, so take the time and get them spot-on months before your shows.

Getting ready for your next show appearance 10-12 months before the show, understanding the traffic flow, and identifying the best locations a year earlier then capitalizing on getting onto those locations is going to pay off in spades. Early bird catches the worm.

Booth staff

People can make all the difference. If all else is lost – your staff can absolutely make a memorable experience for any attendee. That can be just the difference that makes the show for someone. How many times have you seen huge exhibit spaces with staff sitting using their phones ignoring the people within their space? Its a common problem. If your staff is energetic, enthusiastic and attentive to everyone it is going to win the day and that can add up to big contracts and clients.


Things sneak up on you, be prepared to squash those hidden issues and put your best foot forward at every trade show venue you exhibit at.

Matt Smith has been a professional Graphic and User Experience designer for over 28 years who works closely with trade show and event companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Denver Colorado.