Weekly News & Insights: What Drives Exhibitors Crazy

Photo: FreeImages.com/greyman

Photo: FreeImages.com/greyman

Any experienced show manager knows … most exhibitors don’t hold back in sharing their opinions about a show, and sadly it’s often negative and extremely vocal.

So how can a show manager head off these complaints? Think like the exhibitor and be proactive about the most-frequent problems. BizBash has compiled a list of 23 of the most common things cited by four seasoned exhibitors. Be sure to read their article for all their insights, but here’s my own Top 5 based on the comments I’ve heard from exhibitors at shows across the country over the past 15-plus years (besides the obvious, never-ending issues regarding cost).

  1. Venue aggravations
    Believe me, there are certain convention centers which inspire groans at the mere mention of their name to experienced exhibitors. Whether it’s because of poorly-structured loading docks, union labor issues, or horrible Wi-Fi, venues can inspire a lot of grumbling that show managers have little, if any control over.
  2. Unsupported attendance data
    Trade show organizers have a bad reputation (although often well-deserved) of over-inflating attendance numbers. Even though show audits have been around for many years, there are still very few shows which use third-party audits to prove their numbers.
  3. Frazzled logistics & communication
    With the ability to move all paperwork online now, there’s really no excuse for not having everything streamlined and simple to access. But at the same time, exhibitors want to feel like there’s someone to reach out to when they have a question or concern. It’s important to maintain clear channels of communication, both inbound and outbound from the show management team.
  4. Lack of show-only hours
    While this has improved tremendously at most shows, there are still some that try to cram far too many activities into the schedule. Unless exhibitors can see there are times where the show floor is not competing with anything else, they will get frustrated — and rightly so! I’ve participated in shows where we spent large chunks of time each day looking at empty aisles while attendees were in sessions.
  5. Not appreciating exhibitors or giving them a voice
    Show organizers must always remember that without exhibitors, there wouldn’t be a show. Offer ways to reward and acknowledge exhibitors and let them have a role in the overall success of a show, such as having an exhibitor advisory board or offering unexpected perks like a plush exhibitor lounge or roaming ice cream cart on setup days.
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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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