Knowing the common mistakes most event goers make when it comes to planning, preparing, and running their exhibit booth, and then avoiding those mistakes, will allow you to fly through each stage with ease, confidence, and a much better booth ROI.

Here are 30 exhibit booth mistakes to avoid:

  1. Picking the wrong shows.  It’s important that you know why you are going to exhibit at a particular show. Attendance should not be your key factor but rather the potential quality of the leads. In other words, are the people going to that show really going to be interested in what you have to offer?
  2. Missing tradeshow deadlines. Missing deadlines can cost you money.
  3. Going to a show because you did it last year.  Let’s face it, habits are not always good, either personally or professionally. Before you decide whether or not to attend a show your company went to last year, know how good your ROI was. And if it wasn’t great, then have a clear idea of why and how to make it better—otherwise you’re likely to have a repeat of last year’s low numbers.
  4. Choosing a low traffic location.  To the best of your ability, select a booth that has more traffic flow. Think about where people congregate or the places they frequently go to, such as by snack tables, bathrooms, corners, by doorways, or by another hot vendor.
  5. Ignoring the senses.  Appealing to attendees’ senses makes your booth more memorable. Try and draw in more than the visual—include something they can touch (like touch screen monitors) hear, feel, or taste.
  6. Being too complicated.  If you stand back and look at your booth, are your eyes clearly drawn to a focal point? Or is there so much going on that it’s a visual free-for-all? Your message should be clear, engaging, and obvious.
  7. Poor graphics. This speaks for itself.
  8. Outdated display. Booths need to look fresh and have the feel of being current. This means that you need to keep every aspect of your display up-to-date, clean, and freshly painted.  Technology such as iPads or display screens need to be current also or you risk having viewers think your entire company is out of date.
  9. Holding a contest that is totally unrelated to your brand or message.  Relevance works – don’t give away something because everyone else is. Make it matter, make it relevant to your brand and/or message.
  10. Not training your staff.  Your booth staff will make or break the success of your trade show. The best booth in the world will fall flat if your staff doesn’t know what the goals are and how to get people to come into your booth. Too many companies spend a lot of money going to trade shows and then man them with staff merely because they are available. These people are going to be your front line, so put in staff that has the right training, the right personality, and the desire.
  11. Not having goals.  The biggest mistake you can make is planning for a booth that has no rhyme or reason and hoping for a good ROI. Know your objectives, how you’re going to reach them, and what will indicate success.
  12. Not doing pre-show marketing is a major foul. You should do a major reaching out campaign with your current customers, on your social media channels, via your website, and any other place where you have potential customer reach.
  13. No follow-up. It’s astonishing how many companies do everything right until after the show. Then they pack up, go back to headquarters, and call it a day. Follow up with leads quickly – even during the show if possible.
  14. Not qualifying leads. Not everyone who walks into your booth is going to be a potential customer. Part of staff training needs to cover this so that effort is going where it will have a higher payoff.
  15. Letting hot leads slip through the cracks. You don’t have to wait until the trade show or event is over to follow up with hot leads. You can schedule a meet-up over coffee the next morning or at other break times during the show.
  16. Going too big – either literally or budget-wise. Big booths can be impressive. But if you don’t have the budget or staff or the ability to really use and maximize such a space, then chances are good that you are throwing money away.
  17. Being too small. On the flip side, going so small that you can’t generate the numbers you need can also be a mistake. Booths are like the three bears, you need the one that is just right for your company, your goals, your budget, and your staff.
  18. No daily booth prep. Booths get messy. Each morning the booth should be cleaned and straightened BEFORE the show opens. Period.
  19. Too much partying. You and your staff are at the event as professionals. Everyone needs to remember that 24/7 because everything reflects on your brand.
  20. Poor packing.  When you are packing to get ready, pack the things first that you will need last. Then when you are packing up your booth after the show, don’t just heave everything together. Pack in the reverse of what you did to prepare for the show.
  21. Not checking out the competition or cruising the exhibit hall. It’s always good policy to walk around, make yourself visible, and see what everyone else is doing. At the very least, it’ll trigger some good ideas for your next show.
  22. Not investing in the right technology.  Know what your goals are and then rent the technology that supports your objectives and branding.
  23. Not leveraging social media. Your company should be using social media before, during (in real time), and after every trade show.
  24. Not having a backup plan. Things happen, so make plans accordingly. Staff gets sick, WiFi goes down. Be prepared.
  25. Using the wrong words in your graphics. With one quick glance, viewers should know what your product/service benefits are.
  26. A crowded booth. We’re talking about your booth supplies here, not the visitors. Make sure visitors have ample room to move around and get the information they need.
  27. Lack of a customer experience. What do you want a customer to experience when they come into your booth? Determine that before you start designing your booth.
  28. Not having fun. If your booth staff is having fun, your visitors will have fun. How many booths have you walked by because the staff was sitting listlessly, or worse, just whining amongst themselves and not even attempting to engage viewers? Happy people draw in happy people.
  29. Blocking the entrance with a table. It’s amazing that so many companies do this, considering that it effectively puts up a barrier between them and a potential customer.
  30. Staff letting low traffic slow them down. Every person who walks by your booth might be a potential buyer, so don’t let what feels like a really slow exhibit hall ruin your mood or make you turn to your smartphone for company.  That pretty much defeats the point of being there at all.

Every trade show or event is a great opportunity to create a new influx of leads and customers. Your staff should be seasoned, well trained, and know how to capture a lead and close a sale. If you are aware of these 30 pitfalls and avoid them, you will be well ahead of the competition at any show.