Trade Show DISASTERS: How to Avoid Them

When sales and marketing teams participate in trade shows, it can be incredibly stressful.

There are so many details to manage. 

  • Booth location
  • Travel arrangements
  • Deliveries
  • Scheduling
  • Special guests
  • And so much more.

What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, something always does. That’s why it’s important for sales and marketing reps to plan for anything that could happen at trade shows and be prepared to take action in an instant.

Here are four of the most common trade show disasters along with ideas on how to prevent them — or recover from them if they happen to you.

A special guest cancels at the last minute.

Your marketing teams has booked a celebrity or industry expert to appear at your booth or to participate in a breakout session.

Celebrities, even minor ones, and industry pros, have busy schedules. It’s common for them to have scheduling mix-ups — or to get better offers — and not show up.

A no-show will have a negative impact on your brand if people plan their trade show schedule around your guest only to be disappointed.

What you can do to prevent this.

Plan for a few people to appear at your booth or have a group of panelists participate in your breakout discussions. While a talented team may not be quite as attractive as a single superstar, it will help insulate your business against the embarrassment of an empty booth or stage.

If all else fails…

In the end, if you decide to rely on a single presenter or draw, the marketing team should have a back-up person at the ready. While he or she may not have the same cachet as the original, don’t be apologetic. Introduce them in a way that makes them seem intriguing, and maybe even a better choice than the original. You may be able to find an interesting replacement working at your own firm. Many people have side hustles you don’t know about. Simply ask around.

Tip: Marketing should have a lawyer draw up contracts governing your work with celebrities or experts. Include language about what recourse your firm has if they don’t show up or don’t meet expectations. It may not completely prevent no-show situations, but it will make them less likely.

There are too few people visiting your trade show booth. Or your break-out session has empty seats… 

A lack of visitors to your booth or an empty auditorium will create a negative impression of your brand. It might seem invalid or out-of-touch. It will also limit your prospects for participating in next year’s trade show. Who wants to book a company that adds little or no value to the event?

Most trade shows today are highly competitive and it’s hard to stand out and deliver meaningful experiences attendees will be attracted to.

What you can do to prevent this.

It might seem obvious, but plan a booth concept and breakout events that align with attendee expectations. Get profiles of typical attendees from trade show sponsors. Figure out what you can do that will help them live their lives — or do their jobs — better. Giving attendees something they find meaningful will help you break through the clutter and get people to engage with your sales reps.

Did you know: Mobile Locker works with businesses to create engaging interactive booth experiences? Contact one of our trade show experts to find out how we can help you.

If all else fails…

Keep track of RSVPs, along with activity on your trade show web page and social media accounts prior to events. These demonstrate interest — or lack of it — in your trade show offerings and other activities. If you find something is falling flat, be bold and adjust your concept so it’s more appealing. If you’re not sure what to do, connect with some attendees and ask!

You trade show booth is overcrowded or your event is overbooked.

Having too little interest in your trade show booth or event is a bad thing. Having too much is equally concerning. It creates a negative impression if people can’t get near your booth because it’s too crowded or find seats when they arrive at your breakout session because it’s overbooked.

What you can do to prevent this.

Monitor responses to invitations along with interest in your trade show marketing efforts. If you find that it’s running too hot, cut back on your marketing or arrange for additional sessions to handle the overflow. Also, plan for how to manage traffic flow around and through your booth.

If all else fails…

If your booth proves to be “too” popular, work with your team to find ways to control crowds by focusing on the best prospects and politely moving less likely buyers along.

When too many people show up for a breakout event, find polite ways to turn away overflows by recommending other sessions and providing an opportunity to watch an online video of yours after the trade show is over.

Tip: An interactive booth experience is a good way to identify the best prospects. The experts at Mobile Locker can help you develop one that will engage trade show attendees and make your sales reps more efficient and productive.

The unexpected happens.

  • Terrible weather
  • Transit issues
  • Late shipments
  • No equipment
  • Lack of WiFi.

What could go wrong?

Who knows? When it comes to trade show logistics, almost anything!

Most trade shows take place in major cities. This multiplies the number of things that could happen and makes it harder to resolve them when they do.

What you can do to prevent this.

Even the best-laid plans can be wrecked by a change in weather, missing giveaways or technology gone wrong. That’s when it’s time to improvise and make it work.

Have a Plan B for handling common problems. Brainstorm with your marketing and sales teams prior to trade shows to come up with ideas about how to handle issues such as an exhibit that’s lost in transit, a damaged graphic or a key staffer getting ill.

Don’t stop there. Consider the “unprecedented” things that are becoming more “common” every day, such as hurricanes, snowstorms, infectious diseases, fires, floods and terrorist attacks. 

If all else fails…

Develop communication plans prior to trade shows. Make sure you know how to reach the sales and marketing people on your team any place, any time, so you can strategize and come up with solutions to your problems. Also, identify a trade show representative you can reach 24/7 to help out with emergencies.

Tip: Use social media to provide trade show attendees with updates when emergencies happen. It’s a good way to explain what’s going on and demonstrate your concern for people’s well-being.

Want to learn more about preventing and managing trade disasters? Stay tuned for our Trade Show Emergency Checklist that will be published on July 16th!

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