The Top 5 Mistakes Trade Show Exhibitors Make

Trade Show ExhibitorsWith 75+ years of experience in trade shows and in-person events, we’ve witnessed many mistakes made by trade show exhibitors. Fortunately, they’re easy to fix—the first step is to recognize when you’re making them.

At MEET, we help international B2B growth companies soft land and scale in the U.S. through trade shows and in-person events. We do this because we believe that trade shows deliver the most efficient way to get face-to-face with a target prospect.

Failing to fully leverage trade show opportunities is a huge waste of time and resources. Our goal is to help you avoid that mistake and maximize your return-on-investment (ROI).

Mistake #1: Thinking that “everyone” is a prospect

As social beings, we sometimes experience a sense of fear of missing out (FOMO) when we make a commitment. Some of us also have scarcity mentality, the fear missing even one prospect. Translate these tendencies to your business strategy, and they present as the fears that cause you to continually expand your sense of your best target customer, or buyer persona. The result is a substantially diluted marketing message.

In fact, the opposite is true.  A trade show strategy that fails to target narrowly defined buyer personas leads to more missed opportunities by literally clogging your booth with unqualified suspects while high-quality prospects walk by.

The challenge with remedying this mistake is that prospects aren’t labeled. As a result, you need to devise a booth offer that targets a narrowly defined buyer persona, triggering these individuals to self-identify and enroll in your marketing funnel.

The misconception that everyone who walks by your booth is a prospect = mistake number one.

Mistake #2: Failing to proactively select your trade shows

“Should we participate in this event?” is a question we get asked repeatedly. At MEET, we believe that question is best answered by a series of follow-up questions, specifically:

What other events are you doing?
How does this event fit into your annual trade show and marketing strategy?
Who is this event targeting?
Where does this event fit in our strategy? Or does it fit at all?
If we participate, how should we participate?

In essence, we aim to better understand the broader context, a.k.a the who, what, where, when, and why, to ensure that each trade show opportunity is a productive fit with your overall strategy.

Mistake #3: Misaligned (or totally missing) call-to-action.

Though seemingly straightforward, misaligned (or missing) calls-to-action are among the most common mistakes made by trade show exhibitors.

Also known as a booth “offer”, a well-aligned call-to-action will attract qualified prospects on the trade show floor to stop, opt-in and engage with your marketing offer by enrolling with their contact information.

For more on how to select a call-to-action that will attract high-quality prospects (not suspects), check out our Special Report: How to Maximize ROI with a Trade Show Strategy Plan, or reach out to us today.

Pro-Tip: At all costs, avoid enter-to-win booth offers for items that you do not sell. The iPad giveaway is the most classic example. Offers such as these will overwhelm your sales and marketing teams with contacts who have very little interest in your product or service.

Mistake #4: Placing salespeople in the booth.

Salespeople are trained to deliver the knowledge and expertise needed to sell your product or service. This takes time, which in the booth is your most valued commodity.

Placing sales people in the booth not only wastes time that could be spent enrolling greater numbers of qualified prospects, but it also eliminates opportunities to engage with those already in your sales funnel and those already doing business with you as well as build relationships with potential strategic partners, opinion leaders, and speakers.

Interested in seeing how many more qualified prospects you can gain by simply replacing sales people in the booth with transaction professionals? Here’s how we do the math.

Mistake #5: Inadequate follow-up and tracking

Perhaps the easiest mistake for trade show exhibitors to make at the end of an exhausting event is forgetting (or not fully leveraging) follow-up and tracking.

As with any commitment of time and resources, you want to know your ROI. Additionally, the contacts you make at trade shows are perishable. Coming up with an efficient system for immediate follow-up will help to ensure that hard work is not left to spoil.

Pro tip: Some trade show exhibitors choose to stay an additional day at the event location to get all their follow-up done. This guarantees timeliness and protects against these activities getting sidelined upon return to the office.

Trade Show ExhibitorsAt MEET, we’ve devised tools that allow B2B growth companies to calculate precise metrics for each stage of their trade show strategy plan and gain valuable insights into areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Contact us to learn more.

For more perspective on how to remedy the top five most common mistakes made by trade show exhibitors, check out our Special Report: How to Maximize ROI with a Trade Show Strategy Plan.

There’s a saying that mistakes are meant for learning, not repeating. Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is learning how not to repeat them.


MEET ( helps international B2B growth companies soft land and scale in the U.S. through trade shows and in-person events. MEET’s processes help its clients ramp-up sales quickly and maintain a steady stream of high-quality prospects going forward.  Contact Bill Kenney for a free, no-obligation consultation or +1 (860) 573-4821.

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