Are You an Invisible Exhibitor?

February 23, 2013

Almost every exhibitor will tell you they go to trade shows to raise their company’s visibility and build their corporate image.

Those visual metaphors are not coincidental.  It’s essential to be seen at a trade show.  And yet, despite their best intentions, too many exhibitors end up … invisible.  Could that be you, too?

Let’s throw a light on what makes exhibitors invisible, even when they really want to be seen:

A Camouflaged Trade Show Display

Your trade show display will fade into the background like a soldier’s camouflaged uniform in a dense forest on a foggy, moonless night, unless your display has enough visual appeal to stand out from the crowd.   Even if you are trying to be noticed, somehow you may end up with an unremarkable display, with a boring shape, too little lighting, bland colors, either no images or too many small images, unreadable text that is too small, too busy, too plentiful, or too close in color to its background, or simply a boring message that doesn’t appeal to your target audience.

It’s not on purpose that trade show booths end up invisible, but it happens all too often because exhibitors try to put too much on it.  Unfortunately that backfires and makes the display a muddled mess that might as well be invisible for all the stopping power it retains.

A Lack of Promotion Before and at the Show

Your trade show display is one of hundreds, and sometimes even thousands that attendees can decide to visit.  But attendees’ limited show floor time is precious.  You must make them see the value in visiting your booth.  They won’t know to look for you if you never call, mail, email, post a social media message, or advertise what great things will befall them by seeing you at the show.

If you have no visually intriguing and valuable giveaways to entice them, they will walk by your booth to visit those who do.  If you have no promotional activity to arouse their curiosity, their eyes will skip your booth to look for more entertaining and engaging displays.  If you haven’t invested in promotions that help you break out from the clutter, you risk fading in the background behind the few that promote themselves well.

Invisible Booth Staffers

Are your booth staffers as hard to see as The Invisible Man?

Claude Rains was the star of The Invisible Man, a classic 1933 horror film.  It’s also a horror if your booth staffers share Claude Rains’ ability to elude the eye.  Your booth staffers will disappear from view if they hide behind tables or sit with their heads down rather than stand alert by the aisle.  Worse yet, they duck their heads behind laptops and smart phones, avoiding eye contact with any potential passerby.

Not everyone is cut out to be a booth staffer.  Some are too scared to engage with strangers, and no matter how much training you give them, they will do their best to avoid being seen, let alone talked to.  That’s not to say you should not bring any introverts – actually some can make excellent booth staffers (see here).  Just make sure you bring staffers who can and will engage with attendees as they walk by, no matter if they are gregarious or shy.  Because you want booth staffers who are Rainmakers, not Claude Rains.

Exhibiting at The Wrong Show

What if your best buyers don’t see you as they walk down the trade show aisle because you’re exhibiting at a different show than the one they attend?  Do your homework and find out which shows you’d want to darken with your shadow.   Check the demographic reports of your shows’ audiences – do the attendees match your best prospects, based on job title, company size, and geography?  You may get lost in the crowd at the big industry show, but sparkle at a smaller show attended by your best vertical market buyers.  And ask your best customers which shows they attend when they go looking for suppliers.  That’s where you really want to be seen.

Keeping A Low Profile With Your Internal Team

Not only do you want to avoid being an invisible exhibitor in the show hall, you also want to avoid being invisible about your exhibiting to others within your own company.  Could your sales group pick you out from a lineup, because you asked them what qualifying questions they want booth staffers to ask prospects?  Have you stood in front of them to lead booth staff training, or continued to see them when you ask what happened when they followed up on your trade show leads?

And have you caught the eye of your management team, as you report your trade show results, ask for resources, and justify your trade show budget?  Because if you don’t, your budget may shrink until it is now longer in view.

Be Seen and Succeed!

While exhibiting can involve all the senses, it is still very much a visual medium.   Do everything you can to ensure your exhibit, staffers, and promotions catch the eye and get noticed.  And be sure you are visible to your best buyers and your own internal team.  Do that, and you’ll be much more likely to see trade show success.

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Partner Voices

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