3 Trade Show Takeaways From a 1st Time Exhibitor

It’s true! Last month was my first time exhibiting in a trade show. I’ve heard everything from, “what an exciting industry to join,” to, “get out while you still can,” haha.

As the newest member to join the team of GraphiColor Exhibits, a proud Woman-Owned Trade Trade show marketing coordinator in Detroitshow display and exhibit design company, I attended the 13th Annual Great Lakes Women’s Business Conference at Suburban Showplace in Novi, Michigan. It was quite an experience! Below, I share with you some of my show takeaways, and whether you’re considering becoming a first time exhibitor yourself or are already a trade show veteran, I think you’ll find them useful or at the very least, entertaining.

Portable fabric tension display at trade show in Michigan


1. A “sweat-free” portable experience is only so if your setup crew has trained with the product before the show.

We decided to display our new exhibit at the show (pictured right). Despite the display being “portable”, it is more involved than a pop-up display that we are all so familiar with. I spent some time the day before in our Livonia tradeshow showroom dismantling and setting it up, so I wouldn’t struggle on the show floor. So on show day after I’ve set it up in fifteen minutes, I’m watching other exhibitors struggle with their displays. I’m not talking about struggling with large, cumbersome, modular displays either, but simple banner stands and table top pop-ups. It took exhibitors double or triple the time it should have to get their displays up properly. So, no matter what you’re displaying have your team (whoever is in charge of setting it up at the show) spend a little time with it. It’ll ensure faster setup, less frustration, and a truly “sweat-free” portable experience.


2. Your crazy custom trade show booth display means squat without clear messaging and branding.  Anyone with as much as a business card has suffered through this scenario. You hand someone a business card, they look at it, flip it over, smile and say… “so what is it that you do or sell?” The same ‘deer in the headlights’ look can happen at trade shows, after they’ve looked over your display.trade-show-takeaways

How? Your custom trade show booth has all the right bells and whistles. In the 3-5 seconds an attendee takes looking at them if they can’t identify what you do or what your product is, then somewhere in the bells and the whistles your messaging has gotten lost. Design your booth with your customer in mind. What do they need to know? Be clear and concise and then worry about bells and whistles.


bad booth behavior at a trade show3.  Your trade show booth staff is going to make or break your trade show success.  I took advantage at the show to check out other exhibitors. I wanted some tips – what were they doing right, or wrong, or best? Leaving my booth in excellent hands I set out and found that some exhibitors didn’t seem too thrilled to be there. It showed, and they had less prospects stopping at their booths.

Don’t pretend; it shows if you aren’t motivated! I saw exhibitors sitting behind their tables, playing on their phones, eating, drinking, and totally unengaged. They let attendees walk right by. Did you know that 86% of what a show attendee will remember about your exhibit relates to the booth staff’s performance, actions and comments? Not sure if your boothstaffers are setting you up for success or failure? Check out Exhibitor Magazine’s Eight Habits of Highly Ineffective Staffers.


To Recap:

1.      It doesn’t matter if you’re using a banner stand or a MultiQuad in your booth space, always spend time putting up and taking down the product before the show.

2.      Don’t lose your messaging and branding by crowding your display with bells and whistles. Be clear and concise and design your booth with the customer in mind.

3.      Hire and train the right booth staff. These people will be a direct result of your trade show success.

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