5 Things You Should Never Do At Trade Shows. EVER.

I attend a LOT of trade shows. Some of the things I see at them make absolutely NO sense. People working the booths seem to be doing everything possible to sabotage their chances of making sales.

Here are my TOP FIVE trade show NO-NOs. These are things that should NEVER happen in trade show booths.

1. NO working on laptops or tablets — or chatting on phones.

What could be less welcoming than walking up to a booth and finding someone looking down, working (or responding to emails or checking social media or playing games) on their laptop or tablet?

Even worse, imagine having to interrupt a phone call to get attention from a rep!

Consider the message it sends to trade show attendees about your brand and the level of service your business provides.

It communicates that your reps are too preoccupied to care about their business. What could be worse than that?

Think about it: Most people think of themselves as shy. They’re uncomfortable approaching others. How can you expect them to connect with your business unless your reps are available to make the first move and welcome them?

If people need to do work when they’re at trade shows, ask them to step away from the booth and find another place to get it done. This includes taking business or personal calls. Find someone to replace them when they leave the booth. The only thing worse than a booth staffed with inattentive people is one that’s understaffed.

2. NO big rectangular tables or counters.

Most trade show booth displays include tables or other surfaces to facilitate meetings. It makes it easier for reps to share information on laptops or tablets. People also find it more comfortable to sit or lean when they’re having conversations.

What booths don’t need are barriers to reaching your reps, which is what large tables or counters usually are.

Instead, use smaller tables or high tops. Place them well inside your booth. This will encourage people to enter and provide a welcoming environment for conversations.

Tip: Avoid having sales literature on tables. This encourages “show and tell” sales rep monologues rather than honest dialogues with prospects. Remember, your booth is not an order pick-up counter. It should be a welcoming environment that encourages conversation.

3. NO literature racks.    

It’s not a newsstand. It’s a trade show booth.

You DON’T want people to walk by, pick up a brochure and move on. You DO want them to engage with your sales reps and brand.

Plus, nothing seems more low-tech and out-of-date than a rack full of pamphlets. Think about it: Who wants to carry a load of paper around when they navigate trade shows?

If you still depend on brochures, it’s time to rethink your philosophy. Sales support materials should be used to do just that: support sales conversations. Make them accessible on laptops or tablet devices so they’re readily available when reps need to explain key points about what your business does and how it does it.

Tip: Do your sales reps staple business cards to sell sheets and use them as handouts? I see it all the time. Most handouts are tossed into the next available trash can. Invest in a business card scanning app like the one offered by Mobile Locker. Simply take pictures of each card and the app transforms the photos into data and information marketers and reps can use. Follow-up with booth visitors after the show by sending a friendly email that includes pertinent sales information.

4. NO handwritten lead sheets.

Do you ask trade show attendees to write down their contact information? That’s so 1986!

Not only is it low-tech, but you could also be leaving your business vulnerable. Your valuable lead sheets could go missing, taken by an ambitious sales rep — or worse — a competitor.

Instead, develop an interactive, tablet-based experience, such as a game or quiz, that trade show attendees will want to engage with. Make it a requirement that they input their contact information to win prizes or view their results.

Tip: Leverage Mobile Locker’s easy-to-use software to create experiences. It makes it simple and easy to develop and deliver quizzes or games attendees will enjoy. Plus, it collects data and delivers it to your reps in real-time so they can leverage it to have informed conversations with visitors to your booth. It takes your trade show experience to the ULTIMATE level.

5. NO excessive badge scanning.

It’s not reasonable — or sensible — to expect your trade show team to work the aisle outside your booth, scanning the badges of everyone passing by. It’s completely unnecessary to hire people to do this, as well.

The reason you participate in trade shows is to identify qualified leads. It’s NOT to interact with everyone attending. After all, not every trade show attendee is a potential buyer.

Think about it: If you provide your sales reps with too many bad leads, they’ll question the value of spending time and money on trade show marketing.

Instead of scanning badges, have the people on your team take a picture of attendee business cards using Mobile Locker’s cutting-edge app. The software will scan the internet in real-time, gathering information about the people visiting your booth. It provides more valuable data than a badge scanner ever could and helps qualify leads on the spot. It’s an ideal way to improve efficiency and optimize your investment in participating in trade shows.

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