Why Exhibitors Fail

Graphic: stock.xchng/ilco

Graphic: stock.xchng/ilco

So many times I hear exhibitors grumbling that a particular show was a disaster. They blame show management for not doing enough to bring in the traffic. Yet they don’t seem to realize they have the ability to help turn that situation around themselves!

Why then do so many exhibitors fail?

  • Failing to set goals (or else setting unrealistic ones). This is probably the biggest reason. If you don’t have a goal, how will you know if you’ve had a successful show or not?
  • Assuming that people will magically show up. Yes, show management is responsible for getting people to the show. But how will they find your booth in the corner? Invite them!
  • Sending a staff that hasn’t been properly trained. You wouldn’t turn your teenager loose with the family car without a single driving lesson, would you? Then don’t turn your staff loose on the show floor without some basic education.
  • Being arrogant! Arrogance comes from being a know-it-all who needs no planning or training because “we’ve done this for 20 years.” Just because you’ve done it before doesn’t mean you can’t do it better this time.
  • Making assumptions. Another kind of arrogance comes from judging people negatively by their looks or name badge. Assume everyone has potential – remember, even if they aren’t the final buyer, chances are they will be able to recommend you!
  • Frightening attendees! The opposite of the arrogant booth staffer, these staffers are so desperate that they attack everyone in the aisles and send them scurrying away.
  • Over-pitching instead of listening. Yes, you need to let them know about your products and services. But more important, you need to listen to them. Find out their needs, whether or not they are in the market for what you do, and if they are a qualified buyer.

Once you’ve learned to avoid these common mistakes, you’ll never sympathize with all the exhibitors around you who are complaining about what a rotten show it was!

(Reprinted from Build a Better Trade Show Image © 2002 by Marlys K. Arnold)

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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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