We’ve been to a zillion (yes, a zillion) tradeshows over the years and have seen our fair share of spinning wheels, bowls of candies and branded swag – all with the goal of encouraging attendees to visit a booth and engage with that brand. Whether or not these efforts are effective, we believe it takes more than cute tchotchkes to garner the greatest return on your tradeshow booth investment. As noted in my previous post, we recently attended the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas and were happy to report that tradeshows are making a comeback for brands that know how to effectively engage customers. Now that it’s been a few weeks since we’ve returned from Vegas and have finally earned back the money we lost at the blackjack table, we thought we’d highlight what not to do when looking to attract an audience at your booth.

DON’T wait for them to come to you.

The staff at the Electrolux booth proactively greeted every visitor, scanned their badge and initiated conversations by asking open-ended questions to better understand the prospective customer. But it didn’t end there. What the brand did differently was immediately follow-up that conversation by sending an email that arrived in visitors’ inboxes the very next day. Of all the exhibitors that we visited at IBS, Electrolux was the only one that responded so rapidly with additional information while the brand was still top-of-mind for visitors.

DON’T have “booth babes.”

Sure, good-looking women may attract the attention of passers by but oftentimes the result is limited to a double-take glance, whistle or quick photo opp – all without resulting in any dialogue surrounding the brand and products that are being showcased.

DON’T bring an unmotivated salesforce.

In most cases, a sales team serves as the primary tradeshow booth workforce. It is critical to ensure the sales team is fully briefed in advance of the event and expectations are set surrounding engagement approaches, conversations to be had and goal-setting. There are few things that can represent your brand more poorly than having a sales team that stands (or sits) around fiddling with their cell phones or doesn’t acknowledge a prospective customer when he or she approaches the booth. It’s amazing how many sales representatives I saw at the Builders’ Show who did not engage with me when I approached their booth. These events are swarming with leads yet I’m fairly confident that most brands didn’t take advantage of the foot traffic and build a focused and disciplined approach to activating the sales force.

DON’T use gimmicky games.

Your marketing team came up with a great game to “engage with your brand.” Did you ask yourself if anyone would even care to play it? Sure, prizes are great, but doesn’t everyone already have an iPad? You are wasting dollars and man hours to have people spin a wheel to win a prize unrelated to your brand. Instead, use the time and effort spent on brainstorming these “creative ideas” to refine your message and determine how best to speak to your core audience, not the people at the show looking for free stuff to take home to their kids.

Don’t use a child leash.

This one is obvious isn’t it?

Trade show don't.

Enjoying what you are reading? Want to talk about how it applies to your business?