18 Hidden Rules of Trade Shows

March 10, 2012

Hidden rules govern almost every area of our lives. They guide our behavior and expectations, yet are rarely written down for us in neat little books.

For example, there’s the 5 Second Rule:  When a piece of food falls on the floor, you can eat it if you pick it up within five seconds. There’s the High Heel Rule: if a woman is taller than her date, she is less likely to wear high heels. And there’s the Full Moon Rule: On days with a full moon, there are more crimes committed and babies born.

Uncover the 18 Hidden Rules of Trade Shows

Trade shows also are governed by similarly hidden, yet immutable rules. You may have already run up against them without realizing it, or discovered them through arduous experience.  Since forewarned is forearmed, here are 18 hidden rules of trade shows:

The more words you put on your trade show display, the fewer times they will be read.

The larger the crowd of people already in your booth, the more other people will want to visit your booth.

The person who complains the most about the value of trade shows is usually the one who knows (and tries) the least.

The more fun trade show attendees have in your booth during the show, the more serious business you will do after the show.

The effort each booth staffer puts forth increases as the distance between them and their boss decreases.

Your best booth staffers are usually the ones who talk the least and listen the most.

The longer a booth staffer stretches out their break, the fewer leads they will take when they are actually staffing the booth.

The colors of your trade show display will likely be determined by: 1. your brand colors, or 2. the latest design trends or 3. your company president’s spouse.

The length of time to design your exhibit expands exponentially with the number of decision makers involved.

The greater the distance a visitor has traveled to attend a trade show, the higher the level of hospitality you should provide.

Carpet belongs on the floor of your trade show booth, not on the display backwall.

The better-looking the booth staffer’s shoes, the more likely the staffer will complain about sore feet.

The more years you exhibit at the same show, the more you will have repeat customers visit you in your booth.

The more the trade show leads holder looks like a trash can, the more likely your booth captain will end up screaming.

The bigger the main visual image on your trade show exhibit, the clearer people will understand your message.

The older your trade show display, the less innovative your booth visitors will perceive your company.

The more aisle space bordering your booth, the more opportunities your staffers have to engage with attendees.

The faster you follow up your trade show leads, the greater the sales you will generate from that show.


Now that these hidden rules have been revealed to you, may you enter your next show hall with the open eyes of a seasoned exhibitor. And if you’ve discovered your own hidden rules of trade shows, please, please, please share them with us in the comment box below. There's no rule against it!

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: