Most Common Exhibiting Mistakes

Attending a trade show or exhibition is a great way to boost your brand awareness and generate leads for your business. Showcasing all that your company has to offer in a room full of potential customers creates a unique opportunity that should be taken advantage of. But exhibiting is also a significant investment in terms of time and money. So how do you ensure it is successful?

Here are some of the most common exhibiting mistakes to avoid:

  1. Lack of Planning
  2. You should be ideally thinking about exhibiting at a trade show 9-12 months in advance. Booking the space early will give you an opportunity to pick the best booth location in an area with the most traffic. In addition, you may be able to negotiate an early-bird discount, many organisers offer discounts of 10-20% for early bookers so it’s worth trying to negotiate.

    Attending an exhibition should be treated like any other part of your marketing strategy, it needs clearly defined goals and timelines put in place to achieve them.

    • Make sure you leave plenty of time to design your stand, a hurried, thrown together stand will not create a good impression of your business.
    • Book travel and hotel arrangements for staff in advance or you may find no availability.
    • Leave plenty of time to get flyers or brochures printed and other promotional items delivered so that you don’t face last minute courier charges.
    • Ensure key staff have the event in their diaries so that they can attend.
    • If possible, find out which of your competitors will be there, and any product launches or innovations they might be showcasing.
    • Make sure you have a plan b for things that might go wrong.

  3. Not allocating the budget well
  4. There is no point booking a huge space at an exhibition only to find you don’t have the budget for a big enough stand to fill it. Or booking a small dark space in a corner that no one will see. Ideally you should allocate a third of your budget to hiring the floorspace, a third to the stand design leaving the rest for promotions, staffing, hotels, travel and sundries. An exhibition is a chance to showcase your business to the industry you are in, it needs a decent budget allocated to it to make it a success. Not investing enough in the space or stand design will create a poor reflection of your business when compared to your competitors at the show.

  5. Poor stand design
    • Your stand is the first thing potential customers will see at an exhibition so it’s worth investing in it to make a good impression. Ask for detailed 3D mock-ups from your supplier.

    • Consider the design from all angles, what is the first thing people will see? How will it look from close up and far away?
    • A common mistake is including too much text so the design looks too busy. People are unlikely to stop and read reams of text, save that for your brochure, make your stand eye-catching.
    • Another mistake to avoid is a cluttered stand – always keep your dimensions in mind, draw up a detailed plan, and avoid too much furniture and literature displays.
    • Consider the flooring – there is some evidence that flooring which dramatically contrasts with the exhibition flooring creates a psychological barrier for visitors.

  6. Lack of marketing
  7. Don’t just rely on the marketing efforts of the event organiser, use your attendance at a trade show as a reason to promote your business.

    • Email your customers, a show is a great place to build on existing bonds and upsell other products.
    • Advertise your presence in the event guide.
    • Use social media to promote your attendance, find out what hashtags and profiles are being used by the organisers to promote the event and use them too.
    • Contact trade publications well in advance to see if they are running any pieces on the show that you can contribute to.

  8. Poor staffing
  9. Your exhibition stand is a window into your business, don’t ruin the effect by having poorly trained staff on it. No-one wants to buy from a company that looks unprofessional.

    • All staff should be experienced enough to talk in depth about the business and products.
    • They should be trained to appear open and welcoming to visitors. Many a stand is ruined by staff standing talking to each other with their backs to visitors, or looking at their phones.
    • Ban eating and phones on the stand.
    • Don’t pack the stand with numerous executives but have enough so that they can take regular breaks – manning an exhibition stand is hard work.
    • Make sure they all look presentable and wear comfy shoes.
    • Set targets for lead generation with rewards offered, a bit of competition can go a long way for staff motivation.

  10. Failure to follow up leads
  11. After all the hard work that has gone into organising an exhibition, failing to follow up the leads you have gathered has got to be one of the biggest mistakes. Apparently 79% of leads gained from trade shows are not pursued.

    • Try to make sure leads taken by staff on the stand are properly qualified, that way you will know the ‘hottest’ ones to contact first.
    • Ensure all business cards, filled in forms, information from scanned badges and details written on scraps of paper are gathered together and entered into a database.
    • Aim to contact everyone within 3 weeks of the exhibition, otherwise strong leads may go cold and lose interest.
    • Still nurture any leads that aren’t immediately strong, you never know what will happen in the future they could still become customers eventually so keep in contact.
    • If you are going to invest the time and money into exhibiting at a trade show, make sure you maximise your return on investment by avoiding these common mistakes. To discuss your exhibition stand requirements with an expert simply call 0800 019 2141 or email

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