11 Things Great Exhibitors Avoid

August 9, 2014

Great exhibitors are not necessarily the biggest brands, the biggest booths, or the ones with the biggest budgets. And they certainly are not the ones who are the busiest.

Great exhibitors are identified as much by what they avoid as what they do. They have the insight and character to say “no” to their bosses and their colleagues when asked to make poor choices – and they take the time to educate their teams on what makes other choices better.

Great exhibitors avoid:

1. Exhibiting at more shows than they can do well

Just as it takes a lot to make a house a home, it takes a lot to make a trade show exhibit into a successful trade show event. You have to pick the right shows; set measurable objectives; select, train, and shepherd your booth staff; design, purchase, ship, install, dismantle, and ship your exhibit back; fulfill your leads; measure your results; and more. Each show requires a lengthy to-do list, so great exhibitors won’t commit to another show if they lack the time and resources to do it right. Otherwise, it wastes their overall trade show investment.

2. Poor communication between sales and marketing

While not the same level as the Hatfields and the McCoys, there is often a disconnect between sales and marketing. As the trade show manager, it’s essential to have completely open lines of communication between them. What information does the sales team need gathered from booth visitors? How should booth staffers position your brand? How are leads going to be followed up? Which sales people would make excellent booth staffers? You can’t achieve greatness by allowing poor communication.

3. Choosing vendors solely based on lowest price

While it is easier and perhaps more defensible to choose the lowest-price vendor, that low price may end up being higher in cost further down the line. Great exhibitors know that buying for the best quality and service will pay significant dividends, in terms of time saved, problems solved, quality, and results generated. Great exhibitors defend the higher cost these vendors seem to have, by sharing with management all the added value they provide.

4. Choosing shows based on cost per square foot of space, or which is the biggest show

Choosing a show based on price (cost per square foot) or size (most attendees) is the easy choice of finding the smallest or largest number. But great exhibitors are willing to dig deeper and find the shows that have the highest concentration of their target audience, and shows that deliver a great return on investment.

5. Assuming leads are followed up

Good trade show exhibitors will make sure everything goes according to plan before and during a show. Great trade show exhibitors know that much of the value created from their activity is the stack of leads generated. So they avoid tossing the leads over the sales transom, and instead regularly check in to make sure the leads have been followed up, and to see if sales are happening.

6. Exhibiting without promotions

As mentioned in point #1, there are a lot of things exhibitors need to do to succeed. Great exhibitors avoid forgetting to use pre-show and at-show promotions to get more than their fair share of each show’s attendees in their booth. If you’d like a free new book to show you how to do promotions better,click here.

7. Accepting every potential booth staffer offered

Great exhibitors are a gatekeeper to their booth staff team. They want only the best staffers: staffers who will work hard the entire show, have a great attitude, and know their products, clients, and industry. So when a great exhibitor is offered a booth staffer that lacks these key criteria, they pass in favor of someone who will contribute better. If you’d like a free new book on selecting and training your booth staff, click here.

8. Choosing trendy promotions

Great exhibitors resist the urge – or their boss’ urging – to get some cool new trinket for their trade show giveaway. Instead, they go for promotional items that are tailor-made to appeal to their target audience. Great exhibitors therefore put more effort into understanding what makes their clients tick, rather than going for trendy tchotchkes.

9. Trying to do too much with their exhibit

A hard choice that great exhibitors embrace is limiting how much goes into their booth. Rather than trying to do everything they are asked to do or bring into their booth, they limit the exhibit elements, company products, and activities to those that can successfully be achieved in their booth. Otherwise, without careful prioritization, your booth can turn into a flea market or a 3-ring circus.

10. Bolting technology onto their booth

Just as there are hot new promotional products, there are new technologies that exhibit managers can feel pressured to include in their booth. Great exhibitors bring in only technology that adds value to the attendee experience, and integrate technology from the beginning of the exhibit design process.

11. Doing the same thing at every show

Finally, great exhibitors know that trade shows continue to evolve, and they must take calculated risks to stay relevant and successful. Great exhibitors have persuaded their management to grant them permission to fail, but fail when trying viable new exhibit marketing ideas, not fail to ship their booth on time.

Great exhibitors are the ones who make the best choices and relentlessly pursue effective marketing strategies to achieve their goals.

It’s been said that half of the art of it is knowing when to stop. Learn what activities to avoid, and make your trade show program a masterpiece.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.