In a recent coaching session, my client started telling me all about the different products he was going to be showing at the trade show he was preparing for. I listened patiently and then asked “which is the most important one?” “They all are” was my client’s response.

Over the years I’ve seen this mistake played over and over again at various shows.  Booths stuffed full of stuff, different stations and activities that makes it look like a three-ring circus. Presented with this jumble, the visitor may or may not try to figure out whether the exhibitor has something of interest to offer.

According to psychological research, when the brain is presented with too much information to absorb, it easily becomes confused. And at a trade show, a befuddled mind often takes the easy way out, and together with the body, moves on to the next booth.

The message I get from these types of exhibitors is three-fold – ill-prepared, lazy, and selfish. They are ill-prepared and lazy because they haven’t taken the time to focus on one specific product or message for their target audience, and selfish because it’s all about them and not about their prospects and customers.

To avoid buyer confusion at your next show, here are three important keys:

1.    Take time to plan and crystallize your exhibiting goals and objectives.  The purpose of your booth is to attract the right buyers so that you can have a meaningful conversation about their needs and wants.

2.    Have one clear message and focus for your booth.  Remember that according to trade show research, over 76% of visitors go to shows to see “what’s new.”  With this in mind, present something new, exciting and different.

3.    Keep your booth open and welcoming.

a.    Get rid of chairs to avoid the sitting temptation.

b.    Keep tables at the sides or at the back of the booth (tables at the front act as a barrier).

c.    Make sure your booth isn’t overflowing with your own staff who stand around chitchatting with each other when the show is slow.

Finally, as you prepare for your next show, remember to keep focused on what’s most important to your target audience – not you!


Written by Susan A. Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, working with exhibitors and meeting & event planners to improve their event success through coaching, consulting and training.