Sooner or later you will take part in supporting a booth at an upcoming trade show.  This mini-manual is an easy-to-read guide to exhibiting and will help you and your team members prepare a successful exhibit that can be enjoyed by thousands of visitors. it will help you sell your products and ideas, face to face. These guidelines have been collected from businesses which take part in trade shows, expositions and commercial exhibits.


As part of your organization’s presentation team, it is your job to show people how your programs operate. The exhibit is not an advertisement with live people, it is not a sales department or showroom in miniature, not a static array of accomplishments. The exhibit is your expertise in action. It’s primary purpose is not to sell but to inform and build new relationships.

You need to use every technique possible to bring your display to life. Static displays are often boring. Visitors want to get involved with dynamic displays with live, sincere, interested and knowledgeable people in them.

The visitors who walk into your booth may have come to you for information, or they may just be curious.  In either case, this gives you a chance to begin a conversation and direct it in ways that best serve your visitor. Note that this sort of encounter is an entirely different situation from a visit to your office or showroom.

The visitor has come to you and is, in one way, on your territory while at your exhibit.  Yet at the same time, the visitor is under no obligation to stay, even for a few minutes. A trade show display is less threatening than walking into a showroom or corporate headquarters.  The passers by may take the time to converse with you a bit, yet they are always free to step out of the open display and continue on their way.

Since the booth is just one of dozens, many visitors are bound to have a feeling that they need to divide their time among the other exhibits at the event. In spite of this freedom, or perhaps because of it, the value of such a program as a demonstration site is unexcelled.

A quick response to consumers' questions is one reason why these special events can be such excellent educational opportunities. Your representatives can answer questions promptly, demonstrate techniques, even call in other specialists who are often on hand at such shows to back them up.

The opportunity to meet prospects in a trade show setting has both educational and public relations value for you. Here are just a few reasons why exhibits are important:

They introduce new services to the business community.
They build and hold awareness of your area of specialty.
They keep you in contact with existing clients, prospects, and supporters of the organization.
They may provide ways to demonstrate complicated procedures that clients might otherwise never see.
They give visitors and clients solutions to their problems.
They demonstrate an interest in two-way communication with the business community.
They help find new uses for services through feedback from visitors.
They provide an opportunity for prospects to meet and better understand people in your industry.
The best of these public events help build the morale of personnel who participate in them.
Some events are a means to recruit new employees.

Your key reason for exhibiting is to shorten the decision-making process of potential clients. Things work for you at such events that might not occur anywhere else. The people who talk to you at these events have selected themselves. Those visiting your exhibit may have taken several hours out of their schedules, perhaps traveled many miles, to attend. They have made a commitment and small investment of time and money to the event. They want that involvement to be worthwhile. Even if they have never needed your services, many will take the time to look over your display.

Of all the activities you can have at your exhibit, display specialists agree that nothing is better than a demonstration to attract an audience. Showing some equipment or devices in action is one of the great benefits of a trade show or industrial fair. People are invariably fascinated by machines in operation, and it is all the more fascinating to people who have a serious desire and ability to become involved in what you have on display. Consider what many portable tests and demonstrations which can be appropriate for such events.  Real success at an event depends on imaginative demonstrations that provide tangible proof of your skills and concern. Your display needs to show how detailed, inexpensive, fast, durable and reliable your efforts are. Use your imagination and realistic showmanship here to create fascinating demonstrations which really involve visitors. A well-thought-out demonstration is essential. How you set it up is critical. The average visitor will pass by a 10-foot wide booth in about eight seconds as he or she strolls by. In that brief time, amid all the distractions of a typical event, your display must make an impact on that visitor.
Visitors must see what you have to offer and immediately grasp why it is important to them. You must have a simple, clear and interesting concept. One of the most common ways to demonstrate a service is to have a specialist talk about the process while doing it. This includes pointing out features of the equipment and answering questions. A sign or chalkboard in the booth could be used to indicate when the next demonstration will start.

Involvement is a powerful addition to any demonstration, just as it adds great pulling power to an advertisement.  When you can provide your visitors with action steps in demonstrating your company’s abilities, do so.  In short, do more than just show and tell -- get the visitor to take action.
Information is not nearly as valuable in marketing and public relations as is involvement. Visitors love participating in demonstrations. With planning and safety precautions, you may be able to allow visitors to operate the devices you have on display.  What better way to show that your processes are safe to operate?

Even if you cannot let visitors participate in demonstrations, you can encourage them to touch, lift, move, hear, see or dismantle your devices. Humans have five senses. The more of these you involve, the more visitors will remember about your exhibit. Before committing yourself to an eye-catching involvement step, ask yourself if it will help the public to better remember and understand your project. Does the activity you have in mind relate to your work properly?

Passing out brochures, flyers and other information on your projects and services may be part of your exhibit activity. Be careful in distributing it, however. Many exhibitors see literature treated too casually by visitors. Most of what is picked up at your booth ends up discarded at the snack bar.

Provide samples if you can. Visitors at shows love them. However, souvenirs are not helpful if they do not relate to your project and the benefits provided by your products and services. Select your samples to demonstrate features of your projects or services: lightness, flexibility, preciseness, strength, etc.

Do you need magicians, clowns or celebrities in your booth? All these entertainers do the same thing—they draw a crowd.  The key question is, do they draw the crowd that will do you the most good?  Is there a logical and appropriate tie between such entertainers and your exhibit?

Consider providing various thoughtful services to visitors — especially if they tie to your organization's projects.

A game or activity that is closely related to your exhibit's theme can build visitor involvement.  See if your people can come up with games relating to your projects and services.

Form follows function. 
That is a key to many communications tools.  It applies as much to your exhibits as it does to the design of an airplane or a car. What is it that you want your booth to do? Are you interested in having several people at once watching a demonstration? Or does your project lend itself better to quiet one-to-one discussions?  Will you be attempting to attract just about anyone to your booth or will you be trying to limit your visitors to those most likely to be seriously interested in your efforts? Consider the physical limitations of your display.  Most events have limits on the structures within the exhibit booth space or display areas. Be sure to check the guidelines the sponsoring organization has issued.

Build your booth around your theme or a specific project.  The best advertisements show off a product, making it the star of the ad, the focal point of the message.   In a similar way, your exhibit can do the same. While this seems obvious, many exhibitors get carried away with flashy displays.  These can keep visitors from getting involved in the projects or services being offered.

Keep the exhibit simple. Visitors may not be in a great hurry, but they won't linger at your exhibit if it is complicated or mysterious.  They want the facts about your programs in a quick and convenient form.  Show visitors often complain about disorganized and cluttered exhibits. Be sure to have someone on duty who is responsible for keeping your booth clean and neat. Do not rely on artwork or visitors' imaginations to replace the actual services in your display. Photos are not the answer, either.  Have the actual people and equipment on hand wherever possible.


After all the effort which must go into the materials in an exhibit, the people to operate it might seem an afterthought. That must not be the case.  We cannot stress enough the skill level of the team in the booth. These representatives must turn crowds of mildly interested people into tomorrow's clients and advocates.

As you can see, there is a motivation job to do. Your booth staff members need to see that being part of an exhibit is good for both the organization and them personally. They must be hand-picked for exhibit work. They must feel that it is an honor to be selected.

Training your exhibit team must begin weeks ahead of time. It is essential that everyone involved in the exhibit be thoroughly acquainted with all the devices being demonstrated — even if they will not be handling the equipment themselves.  Visitors will ask questions of everyone, and no one should sound ignorant.

Consider holding training periods a week or more in advance of the event. Ask the team the kind of questions typically asked by visitors. Practice until everyone is poised and accurate. A major visitor complaint at business trade shows is the poor quality of information available from exhibit attendants.

• Know yourself
• Know your program and services
• Know the needs of event visitors
• Relate your specialty to visitors' needs
• Know about services offered by other organizations
• Demonstrate your services in an interesting way
• Keep booth staff alert and technically qualified
• Keep the display neat and clean
• Be confident and enthusiastic
• Be courteous to everyone — whether they are prospects or not

1. All booth workers should have complete technical knowledge of your services. Hold a coaching session with homework assignments for all participants.

2. Booth staffers should be able to demonstrate equipment and projects.  
This calls for practice sessions.

3. Only your enthusiastic and dedicated people should be selected for exhibit duty. Don’t work them to death or bore them to death.   You may want them again next year.

4. Make sure the exhibit is scheduled with enough people at the right times. 
Visitors have little time to wait around for your representatives. 
An empty booth is frustrating. 
A booth crowded with people is threatening.

5. Tell your exhibit team everything they need to know about the event. 
This includes how your exhibit works and where they can find food, bathrooms and other conveniences.

6. Provide technical support for any complex equipment on display.  
Visitors will sometimes ask some questions even an experienced staffer cannot answer.

7. Keep the presentations relaxed and fun. 
Keep your communication factual and honest.  Find ways to tell your story in an entertaining, involving way.

8. Dress your team well.  
Make sure everyone is in a clean, properly maintained uniform with an easy to read name tag.

9. Set a schedule for booth staffing.  
The work is not easy and people must stand longer than they may be used to.  The commonest schedule is two hours on and one or two hours off. Visitors expect representatives to be alert, interested, interesting and ready to talk.

10. Make sure off-duty people leave the booth area. 
Off-duty people tend to slouch in chairs and sit on tables.  Being off duty, they feel no obligation to help visitors--who think everyone at the booth should be available to answer questions.

11. Instruct booth workers to avoid standing around in a circle chatting. 
Visitors are reluctant to interrupt.  Representatives should only sit down in the booth when they are talking to a visitor who is also seated.  Visitors often pass by a booth where everyone is seated -- they don't want to disturb anyone.

12. Appoint at least two exhibit managers. 
One booth supervisor should be on duty at all times. Exhibit manager responsibilities begin long before the show.  The person in charge of the exhibit must set deadlines, organize schedules and coordinate with everyone involved in preparing the exhibit.

13. Have your exhibit team meet immediately after a show.
They need to prepare a detailed critique of the event. Give each representative an evaluation form to complete.  Ask about visitor qualifications, exhibit support, training adequacy, time spent on duty, observations on other exhibits, and other factors.

14. Use bar stools.
This allows people to rest a few moments without sitting down.   People walk by booths where people are resting — they don’t want to bother anyone!

If we can help you — please contact us
If you have any questions about the material above,  or on any aspect of marketing communication, we welcome an opportunity to speak with you.



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