7 Lessons Exhibitors Can Learn from a Remodeling Project

Graphic: Digital Juice

Graphic: Digital Juice

This summer, my husband and I have been busy moving into our dream house. Although it wasn’t exactly a dream in the beginning … it actually started out more like a nightmare.

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While it had a great floor plan and lots of potential, the house had been a rental for the past eight years, so was in need of a lot of work. We knew this going in and were prepared for most of what we were facing, but that doesn’t mean we’re not wearing thin at this point … much like an exhibitor feels midway through the planning process. So here are a few of the lessons we’ve learned this summer which could serve exhibit marketers as well.

  1. Checklists are crucial. Now that’s not to say you have one, be-all-end-all checklist, but rather a fluid, running checklist that gets updated daily. In fact, you’ll probably need multiple checklists for things to do, people to contact, and things to purchase.
  2. Choose events carefully. Because we’ve had so much work to do, we had to say no to a number of invitations and want-to’s this summer, sticking to only those that really mattered, such as a family member’s graduation celebration. In the same way, an exhibit marketer needs to carefully select what shows to attend in order to avoid overcommitting, either in time or budget.
  3. Streamline to what’s essential. Back to the checklists, sometimes you have to give up the things you want to do in order to get the must-have’s done. That doesn’t mean saying no permanently to something, but perhaps just putting it off until a future show instead of piling more things on your plate.
  4. Good flooring is critical. For us, it was a matter of choosing new carpet throughout the house due to a previous four-legged resident who apparently had never been housebroken. (Be glad you don’t have smellivision!) Since we had to start over anyway, we opted for upgraded padding under our new carpet which makes for a more pleasant experience, just like it does for exhibitors after a long day on the show floor. (Check out this previous post on trade show flooring.)
  5. Know when to call on the professionals. Sure, some things can be DIY’d, but recognize when you’re in over your head. We knew that we needed an electrician to fix a couple of issues, the HVAC guys to check out the air conditioner, and also had to call in a plumber when the drain backed up. In the same way, exhibitors should know who to call when it’s time to design a new booth display, create pre-show promotions, or develop an overall exhibit marketing strategy. Don’t go it alone when you don’t have to.
  6. Keep the end result in sight. We’re not there yet in our quest for our dream home … there’s still a lot of work to be done. But at least we have moved in and are beginning to make it our own, with the hope of having things settled by the holidays. For exhibit marketers, you may feel like you’ll never make it to the finish line of show time. But if you use those checklists and rely on the pros, you can keep moving forward.
  7. And finally, be prepared for surprises. Even though you have checklists and a detailed budget, things can and will go sideways, so be prepared to deal with them. (And yes, they’ll probably go wrong at the worst possible times!) This is yet another way that having a team on your side can help tremendously when you get stuck, so you know who to call to get back on track. (Kind of like having the plumber or handyman on speed dial …)

While I wouldn’t recommend taking on a fixer-upper to anyone, I hope our lessons learned can help as you prepare for your next trade show.

© 2015 Marlys K. Arnold (from the July 2015 TradeShowTips Online; To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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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.


  1. By Marlys Arnold

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