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Monday, June 20, 2011

10 things Every Trade Show Rookie Should Know (Part 1)

I'm not sure where I got this information, but I sure wish I had written it. I came across it in an old file from 2005, so I'm not sure of the real source. If any of you know who originally penned these, please let me know so I can give proper credit. I'm happy to present them here - Part 1 today, the rest of it later this week. Enjoy.

1.  You won’t succeed at trade shows if you just show up.  A trade show first-timer may think that because they’ve paid a couple of grand to rent a 10 x 10 space for a few days, they automatically will reap leads and sales from the show’s attendees. If only. Surprise: you’ve actually only paid for access to this great audience of buyers. Now you have to do your part - train your staffers, create a promotion that attracts qualified prospects, and design your display to entice the right visitors to your booth.

2.  Trade shows are not as glamorous as they looked from the outside.  To the uninitiated, this is what trade show marketing looks like from the outside: Flying around the country to sunny or metropolitan locations, staying in top-tier hotels and meals on the company dime, and access to top-level company execs. But seen from the inside, trade shows are not so glamorous. Trade shows themselves are very hard work with a lot of stressful moments before, during, and after exhibit hours. There are so many details to master, and so many vendors you are depending on. You can sweat more during exhibit set-up than a month of work outs. And travel gets old fast when you are repeatedly away from home and your family. 

3.  Inertia determined much of your company’s show schedule.  In the many years before you were handed the reins to your company’s trade show marketing, your company cobbled together quite a list of shows. But are they all still worth it?  Were some trade shows chosen because your target market was there, or because your competitors were? Has your client base evolved away from the demographics of some of the shows you exhibit at? Have some shows eroded their attendee base by not reinvesting in strong marketing and educational content? Are there new vertical markets that you have yet to find good shows to market to? It’s up to you to break the inertia — and create some new momentum.

4.  Trade show labor is way more expensive than you think, and sometimes it’s even worth it.  It’s a eye-opener to find out how much you will pay someone else to set up your booth, hook up your lights, or rig that hanging sign, especially if it’s on a weekend, or God forbid, on a Sunday. The union rules in most venues require that you pay labor a wage that adds up in a hurry. You can minimize labor costs by getting easier to set up displays, trying to schedule your set up for straight-time labor, and by lining up dependable contractors

5.  You will blow your trade show budget if you don’t plan well.  You can never plan too far ahead, especially for overseas shows. Your budget was likely set with the best-case scenario for your trade show expenses, without room to pay for late fees and rush charges. That’s powerful incentive to quickly master show planning. Good trade show planning software will pay for itself within one or two shows.

It never hurts, even for trade show veterans, to review and ponder this information every once in a while.


Bob's Best Bites
"What'll ya have?" - It's more of a command than a question. Nevertheless, that's how you're welcomed to the Varsity Drive In, a huge throw-back hot dog stand in downtown Atlanta, not far from the campus of Georgia Tech. The place takes up an entire city block and even has its own double deck parking garage. Hot dogs and chili dogs are the order of the day, fixed in a myriad of ways. Be sure to order the fresh cut fries, which are every bit as good as those served by the "Five Guys" chain. Then, wash it all down with a Frosted Orange, a drink sure to give you at least one brain freeze, as you slurp down memories of childhood Creamsicles.

The Varsity is a one-of-a-kind experience, so be sure to soak it all in --- just be ready when they ask "What'll ya have?" or you might be asked to step out of line and wait until you're really ready to order.



  1. Hello Bob,

    Glad you liked this enough to share it! It's a blog post I wrote back a couple of years ago. It was so popular that I've given it also as a session at TS2 and a webinar. Here's the link: .

    Many thanks!

  2. Thanks, Mike -- I'll credit you in the second post on Thursday.

  3. Hi Bob,
    Nice posting. You might also check for more ideas on things to do and to avoid while exhibiting at a tradeshows.

    In addition, American Express Open's website has a video clip for both tradeshow exhibitors and attendees.

    Best regards,

  4. Nice ideas you have posted for trade show success. I really appreciate your work. This will definitely help trade show organizers to a great extent. Thanks a lot.