Have you ever exhibited at a trade show only to find you are struggling to get people to your exhibition stand? Today I’m going to share some of the key reasons why this might happen (and what to do to avoid it). Grab a cuppa, it’s time to reveal the basic mistakes people do ALL THE DAMN TIME.

Could this be your worst nightmare?… You have paid for your stand space, invested in dressing your exhibit but as the double doors open and as the attendees spill into the show hall, you notice something peculiar. They are walking right by you and your stand! It doesn’t seem like they are giving you a chance. As each person that walks by you feel yourself get a little more uneasy and lose a little more confidence. You’re trying not to take it personally, but you can’t understand why other stands are getting all the attention? You have a good offer. You just wish they would give you a chance…

Now instead, picture this scenario! You are applying the finishing touches to your beautiful exhibition stand. You have planned for this moment for months. You are nervous, but mostly excited to greet your future customers. You know what you need to do. Your team are pumped because they know exactly what role they play in converting attendees. People are engaging with your team and you’re getting excited about all the leads you’re pulling in.

What is the difference? I can answer this in one humble word. Planning.

Unlike cramming for an exam, there is only so much “winging it” you can do when it comes to trade shows. They aren’t lemonade stands! Charm will only get you so far. They are a sophisticated balance of marketing, sales and carefully crafted planning that come to a singular moment… The Trade Show!

Your product or service isn’t in demand

One reason people may not be stopping by your exhibit is because your offering just isn’t on their radar. Picking the right show sounds a little obvious, but there can be some grey areas where some industries overlap and you just don’t know until you go. In this scenario, I would visiting a show as an attendee first to do a reccy.

A fact-finding expedition is invaluable – you can not only see the other businesses who have exhibited, but you will see their offering through the eyes of visitors and have the unique advantage of seeing how those visitors engage with the other brands exhibition stands. Are they lapping up what they have to offer or are they stand-off-ish? What is working? What is not?

Is it your marketing that is falling short?

Is your design not driving the desired behaviour? Do you have furniture blocking entry ways? Are you blocking yourself in with said furniture? (Seriously, this is a thing!) The flow of a stand is important and can make a huge impact to how people interact with your brand.

Or are people looking at your stand wondering what you do? If this is indeed the case you have a very serious problem on your hands. This is quite literally a disaster because you are then relying on your staff to explain what you do to ever single attendee at the show (impossible).

Is your key message lacking? The trick with having a killer key message is making sure it has the power to stop people in their tracks. It actually doesn’t have to be the traditional tagline so many strive for. If your branding allows you to be a bit cheeky, even a little aggressive (harsh word, but for lack of a better one it works). This is what gets people to pause, think and actually talk to you. You have to challenge people. And challenge the norm. Standing out is not about fitting in! Makes sense eh?!

Just like doing a Google search… You click on a business to view their website but you aren’t sure about what they do. If your brain has to work too hard, you hit the back button. The exhibition equivalent is simply walking by a confusing booth. It is mission critical for your messaging to be clear and for people to understand what your business does and why it is special. What reason are you giving someone stop?


Are your staff contributing to the lack of people on your exhibit?

The trade show environment has a way of making people feel as if they are the ones on parading around on display (regardless of whether you are a natural salesperson or not). If you’re struggling to get people to the stand there may be a few things your team are doing wrong. Believe it or not, being too eager can dissuade attendees… Have you ever seen someone stand at attention with a giant grin on their face? Unless you stumble across someone who is eager to learn more about your specific product this can scare people off. Nine times out of ten this behaviour oozes slimy salesperson and for the most part (especially us Aussie’s) we don’t like being sold to.

Another thing harming your exhibition stand results is spending too long with each visitor. If 20mins is spent on each person, you tap out at 3 people an hour, which is pretty dismal… Even if it’s people you do know, the show is actually too valuable to be spending time too long speaking to one person. Unless they are VIP’s who are impossible to lock down at any other time, the opportunity cost is too great.

There are not enough businesses doing staff training specific to trade shows. When we work with clients to up their expo game, we look at how their stand space can be utilised best. Where the bottlenecks will be and how staff can manage attendees at different stages of the sales cycle.

I hope by now you see the importance of planning. Not just your nuts and bolts kind of tick box stuff, but your individual exhibit strategy. It has to be mapped out before you even set foot at the event if you’re going to nail those goals you’ve set for yourself. For your team to work well together they each need to know what part they play in managing visitors ahead of time.

If you have been struggling with getting people to your exhibition stand (or would like to avoid this scenario in the first place) reach out for a quick chat to see how we might be able to help.

Yours in Exhibiting,