Like everything else in this world, there is a science behind the art of a successful trade show. I have attended several hundred trade shows in my career and I often see some of the biggest mistakes happening over and over. Many times there are simple fixes to increase traffic and engagement.
That said here are my top 5 mistakes you are making at trade shows.

1: Blocking off your potential customers.
Usually but not always a booth at a trade show will come with a table and two chairs depending on the size of the booth. A basic instinct would be to keep the table facing the aisle and put all of your marketing and SWAG on the table for the people passing by. I call the people who come by just for SWAG “swipers”. They come by and swipe your stuff and keep going. The way to increase engagement and save your SWAG is to put the table in the back of the booth. This will force the individual to enter into your booth and engage or have an uncomfortable silence.

2: Uneducated staff working the show.
You may not want your star employees at the booth but you need to have the booth staffed by individuals who can answer the tough questions that may come up or if they can’t they have a protocol in place to handle this situation. Nothing kills creditability like not knowing your own product or company topic.

3: Not willing to take chances
So many businesses are not willing to take chances when it comes to trying promotions, giveaways or some other form of marketing at an event. If it works it works and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t. Always be on the lookout for what is trending in your industry and how to capitalize on these opportunities. A few years ago iPad raffles were everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. We ended up raffling off a choice of dinner in NYC for 4 or an AMEX gift card. We received over 1200 entries in a 2-day event with 25,000 attendees.

4: How much time is too much time?
Potential vendors will eat up a giant amount of time if you let them at these shows. I always hand them a card and tell them to email me an overview and move on. Also, you have the attention seekers. The individuals who will come to your booth and want to chew the fat. This is a time to gather leads not let some attention starved person ramble on about nonsense. This is also not a time to catch up with old business acquaintances. That is for the open bar after the event.

5: Should you have an after event, event?
I have hosted several events after the actual show. Once we held an open bar meet and greet which was a total bust because the attendees were bouncing from event to event. We tried breakfast but that was a bust also as many attendees do the work they are missing in the office in the morning before the show. What did work well is that we hosted a private dinner at a very expensive steak house with targeted individuals we identified as potential customers. The 3 times we hosted these events we excellent and we closed several deals at the table. I would not recommend any type of location where the invitees are trapped. I remember this one time in Atlantic City NJ a company had a booze cruise where they packed a fishing boat and went into the ocean with an open bar, dj, etc. The guests complained that it was too cold, too long and boring. This killed the rep of the company.

So those are my top 5 mistakes I feel many people make at trade shows. Let me know your feedback. I would love to hear your horror or success stories.