3 Common Tradeshow Mistakes


We’ve all attended a tradeshow or two.  The luckiest of us all have had a booth at a tradeshow.  Tradeshows can be a fantastic way of generating new clients and educating your audience about what your company is and does.  It also is also a great way to rub elbows with your clients and get valuable marketing intelligence.   But this article isn’t here to review all the benefits of a tradeshow, now let me ask you this…

Why do some booths generate a crowd while other booths look like a desert, complete with tumbleweeds blowing through their booths?

Are the busy booths giving away an iPad to each person that they talk to?  Not likely. Your company is just as interesting and valuable to these individuals as that busy booth is. Their service offering is no different then yours, so why are they so much busier?

There is a chance that they are not doing anything overtly special, it’s possible you might be doing one of the 3 Common Tradeshow Mistakes. Take an honest look at how you run your booth and see if your booth falls into any of the 3 Common Tradeshow Mistakes


Mistake #1. Trick or Treat: In all my years of attending tradeshows I have never understood why the practice of setting out a bowl of candy at the front of your booth has become such a standard at tradeshows. Fun sized Candy bars and dumdum lollipops are the staple of any tradeshow,  If youshow up a little late in the day, you’ll only get the blue Crunch bar or the Hershey chocolate bar, the Kit Kats and Twix’s are long gone.

This practice has made you into a Trick or Treat-ers heaven.  There is no valuable engagement with prospective clients, and don’t forget that almost every other booth has candy too.  So the candy does nothing to represent you or what your company does.  Individuals will take a piece and never remember who gave it to them.  You have effectively wasted your time at the tradeshow by not giving items that will help individuals to later recall your brand and services.

The only real benefit of giving candy, is essentially you’re feeding the hungry, which you can now write that off as a charitable contribution on your taxes. Congratulations…


Mistake #2. Booth Language:  People respond to your booth layout a lot like they respond to body language.  Is your booth language saying I am not open to any interaction?  It can easily say “yes come talk with us”, we are open for business!

If you’re just putting up a table and chairs at the front of your booth, STOP and lets rethink this.  I see this booth layout all the time and it is a shame; your booth language is saying,  “STAY BACK” or “DON’T BOTHER ME!”

By making a couple of simple changes you can go from projecting a closed off booth language to “we are open” booth language.  This is probably the biggest culprit to keeping a booth void of possible clients.

This is a common booth Layout for a 10’ by 10’ booth. (Exhibit A)  By simply moving your table to the left or right or pushing it all the way to the back you have quickly increased your area of engagement and also changed your booth language to “I would love to talk with you right now”! (Exhibit B)



DisplaysMistake #3. What do you do?  No one loves your business and brand more than you!  More likely than not, your company’s brand services aren’t as recognizable as a Google or an HP.  So why do companies only have their logo displayed?  Having a clean design is fantastic, but if you give no clues as to what industry you are in, or services you provide, people will just keep walking.

Most people only have so much time to visit a tradeshow, regardless of how cool and awesome you know your brand and company are, they won’t take the time to find out what you do. Utilize simple and clean design elements to convey what your business does.

The 5 Second rule: Someone should be able to identify what your company name is, what your product or services are, and/or what industry you’re a part of, in under 5 seconds.


If you or your booth at the tradeshow falls into any of these 3 common mistakes, then it is time to go back to the drawing board and review your tradeshow goals and strategy and redesign your booth.   You may even find it valuable to receive some professional consultation on tradeshow strategy.

If you are attending or displaying at a tradeshow in the near future look around and see who is falling into the 3 Common Tradeshow Mistakes.

What common tradeshow mistakes have you seen?  Tell me about them in the comments.

This is the first installation in a multipart series where I will dive into what it takes to make a tradeshow a successful part of your business marketing strategy (or just “business strategy”).  We will cover things such as the strategy behind your tradeshow, how to generate more business or leads, tips on techniques, etc… So stay tuned in and I look forward to working with you.

Author: Ricky Hacking

One thought on “3 Common Tradeshow Mistakes

  1. All great points. Instead of a bowl of candy, how about a branded promotional product? As long as it’s useful, people will hold on to it and it keeps the brand name top of mind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Complete the equation below to submit your comment * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.