Debriefing a Bad Trade Show Experience

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tradeshowtoolsA bad trade show experience feels uncomfortably like an awkward middle-school mixer. You’re all dressed up and ready to make a connection, but no one’s even looking at you — let alone asking you to dance.

When an event goes poorly, treat it as an opportunity to analyze and hone your trade show strategy so you can succeed next time. The key is always, always collecting quantitative data about each trade show experience: not only the number of leads but the number of brand impressions, the close rate, the sales value of each lead and the cost of attending, including all travel, personnel and exhibit expenses. Then, analyze your numbers and your own observations to figure out where things went wrong.

Common Trade Show Problems (and Solutions)

Overall show attendance was down. This happens all the time, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the entire industry is in a slump; sometimes the trade show is being held in a city that’s just not very popular (think Minneapolis in January).

Solution: Next year, reconsider attending that show. Carefully read attendance projections and demographics — is the show organizer providing averages, or year-by-year counts?

Your booth was placed in a bad location. If the show’s booming, but no one’s even walking by your booth, then your problem is location. In Chicago and D.C., for example, large shows typically have exhibits in multiple halls: one main area, then a secondary room. If you’re in the ancillary room, traffic is going to be lower, and people have to come looking for you.

Solution: Do some reconnaissance and find out which are the best locations in the main hall. Then, reserve your spot early for the following year’s show. First-year attendees with small budgets typically get pushed off to less desirable locations, but return attendees have a better shot.

Your trade show booth design failed to attract people. What if plenty of attendees are walking by, but almost no one is pausing at your booth? Then your booth design may be the problem. Step back and look at it in context: Is yours the smallest booth? Or does it look virtually identical to its neighbors?

Solution: Talk to us about how you can stand out. You may not need to purchase an entirely new exhibit — instead, you can freshen your booth design with new elements, graphics or monitors. You just need to make sure your booth is well laid out, delivers a strong message and reflects your brand.

Your booth staff didn’t work hard enough. Your team members were glued to their phones, lounging on chairs and sofas or hiding behind the drapes.

Solution: Change — or train — your team. Your people need to be working the aisles, and building buzz even before the show begins. Hustle is everything! One of our international clients came to their first United States trade show with a modest 10×10 display, but they saw tremendous success because they outworked everyone around them. You can do the same.