Biggest Booth Blunders

When I walk into any show, whether it’s a business tradeshow or a consumer retail show I am compelled to stop at any booth where I see an obvious, detrimental mistake being made that causes that exhibiting company to look unprofessional or unproductive. I know it’s a bold move, but I rarely have anyone react to my suggestions in a negative way.  Most people remark that they wish someone had told them about the problems sooner.  It really is a shame that more companies don’t train their staff.  Just a few simple changes can make all the difference in the world to the success at a show.

Here are a few of the Biggest Booth Blunders I come across most often:

1.  WASTING YOUR REAL ESTATE: If you are lucky enough to get a corner booth space in a show, or paid a premium for the privelege, by all means remove the side rail on the open aisle and give attendees the chance to come into your booth from the side and the front.  I just love showing an exhibitor how they can just lift that pole and drape out of the back upright and have show services cart it away.  They are amazed at how much room they now have and how people actually come into their exhibit more readily.  It’s your real estate. You paid for it. Use it.

2. LOOKING LAZY:  Nothing makes your staff look less attentive and approachable than sitting down in the booth.  Take the chairs away, unless you are offering consultations.  Actually, unless you are in a very large exhibit space with a conference area and a plan for closing sales you shouldn’t even be sitting down talking to people. You should be getting them in, getting a lead and getting them out.

3.KEEPING YOURSELF A SECRET Have you ever stood in front of a booth for more than 15 seconds looking everywhere for some clue as to who the company is and what they do?  What a waste.  Put you company name and logo where it is easy to see.  More importantly, make sure they understand what you do.

4. NO IMPACT GIVE-AWAYS:  Don’t waste your money on any old give-away.  Select something that ties into your theme or compliments your product.  Pens are cheap, but if I was a pest control company I would spend my money on an imprinted fly swatter instead. 

Think about these for awhile and I’ll share some more next time.  For more resources on how to exhibit better, visit my resources page at or



6 Responses to “Biggest Booth Blunders”

  1. 1 Eric Hundin April 12, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    I found your blog on MSN Search. Nice writing. I will check back to read more.

    Eric Hundin

  2. 2 Joan Koerber-Walker April 13, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Wow Susan – great ideas. With the 15th Annual Enterprise Business Conference and Expo coming up this month – April 23rd at the Phoenix Convention Center – this is really great information to pass on to all of our exhibitors! Lots of exhibitors and guests are signing up this month at

    One of the challenges at lots of shows is that there are peak times when lots of visitors are flowing though. Its alsmost like a school of fish swimming by. Do you have any proven tips for hooking them and realing them in?

  3. 3 susanratliff April 13, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Hi Joan,
    I love ASBA and all the benefits and training you offer small, emerging and large businesses across the state. Exhibit Experts will be exhibiting in the expo at the Annual Enterprise Business Conference so be sure to stop by our booth.

    Thanks for the chance to talk about tips for capturing customers on a busy show floor. Let’s start with three assumptions:
    First: The exhibitor has a professional display with eye-catching graphics that clearly state the benefits the company offers.
    Second: Promotions are in place to intice interaction and draw attention.
    Third: The staff has a set of goals to accomplish.
    I will give suggestions on those topics in another post, but with that said, the most critical skill required, the one that makes all other elements for exhibiting success less important, is the sales strategy used by the staff. If the staff is not ready to hook them and real them in with a prepared process, nothing else matters.

    The sad truth is that very few companies prepare their exhibit staff for booth selling or even understand why it is necessary. They send in their best sales people to sell in the booth like they sell in the field. Unfortunately, it is an entirely different selling environment requiring a very different set of skills. At the booth, unlike on a regular sales call, you are in a noisy atmosphere full of competitors and distractions. Add to that the fact that you only have seconds to get the job done. If there is no set script then it is a free for all with every salesperson using a different presentation. There is no way management can quantify results or determine what worked and what didn’t if goals aren’t met.
    When I consult with businesses about this or present my exhibitor training seminars (see info at http://www.susanratliffpresents) I teach a simple sales formula I call
    The Five E’s of Exhibitor Selling:
    Engage,Excite,Educate,Encourage and Exit.
    You must engage them in conversation by creating a lead line, question or statement that compels them to stop and talk to you. Then in a minute or less you must Excite them about how you will solve there problems (benefits) and Educate them about why they should pick you to do it (features) After qualifying and overcoming any objections you then Encourage them to do what you want (buy something, fill out a lead card, take a survey etc. These are your preplanned goals) If they are not qualified you must Exit. Find a polite way to disconnect and engage the next prospect.
    This entire pre-planned script should be brainstormed by the staff, written down, memorized and used consistently by every sales person in the booth. For anyone interested, there is an entire chapter with details and script ideas in my book -“Exhibit Like an Expert, Sell More, Look Great & Make Money at Tradeshows, Consumer Shows and Events available at Barnes and Nobel or on my website.
    That’s all for now

  4. 4 Mimi Meredith July 2, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Susan, the idea of using a new sales approach specifically designed for a trade show environment is so important! I have a client who has been wrestling with how to make the most out of an upcoming show. I am so glad to be able to offer your blog as a resource!

    Keep up the good work!

  5. 5 susanratliff July 15, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    I just caught this note and am happy to help your client so pass along my info anytime.

  1. 1 » Biggest Booth Blunders Trackback on April 12, 2008 at 8:22 pm

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