5 Trade Show Myths Exhibitors Need To Know

Trade shows are getting more expensive by the day. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) 1996 and 2014 research, the exhibit space was 29% of the total event cost in 1996 compared with a 39% cost in 2014. This means more money being spent on just buying the space and less on other necessary items to make the event successful.

But is that your aim? To spend money just on the space? Possibly not, hence you need to strategically come up with a plan that ensures you meet your goals with the marketing budget you have mapped out for an event.

To help you achieve your aim for getting an exhibition space at trade shows, conferences, and expos, here are some common myths that you should know and look beyond:

Myth 1: Most attendees are just looking for information, they’re not ready to buy

This is not true. CEIR 2016 Attendee Retention Insights show that 81% of attendees have buying authority, 68% are prospecting for suppliers and 57% are interested in buying products and services at the booth.

The problem (1):

79% of attendees wanted to talk to technical experts but only 52% of exhibitors offer such staff (CEIR 2017).

Solution: Position the right staff on site at high traffic times to meet customers and respond to their queries. Ensure your staff is asking the right questions that engage and qualify the customer. Let the focus be on the customer’s business, problems, and needs. Identify how deep the customer’s pain point is and how your product/service can help address them.

The Problem (2):

57% of attendees want to be able to purchase a product on the premises but only 19% of exhibitors offer this (CEIR 2017).

Solution: Increase the chances of closing deals at your booth and where you can’t do this probably due to the nature of your business, make sure to get strong commitment and book the meeting needed to close right there at the tradeshow. Don’t fail to collect all the details you need as well.

Myth 2: Plan for the follow up with potential customers only AFTER the event

Gathering qualified leads is the primary goal for businesses at most events, yet about 60% of exhibitors don’t follow up with a phone call and 33% don’t even follow up with an email.

To mitigate this, you must plan to provide high-quality follow-up via calls and emails with customers before the event happens.

The problem:

The primary tools for collecting a person’s information such as a scanner or business cards are not sufficient to follow up because they don’t make it easy to ask important qualifying questions and retain this data.  Especially if you have hundreds of people stopping by your booth.

While 74% use scanners and 59% use business cards, only 30% collect qualifying information.


Consider how and why you will follow-up with customers before the event.

  • What type of valuable content and research can you provide them? You can ask attendees to fill out a short survey at the event and offer to give them the results of this survey. The survey should have industry critical questions that would be valuable to your target segment. You will not only gain valuable insight about each person, you will be able to use the anonymous and aggregated data to create content on your website and offer this to future clients.
  • Use a digital survey at the event to collect basic follow-up information, key answers to qualification and preferred mode of follow-up. With a digital survey, nothing will get lost and all the valuable information will be there when it’s time to follow up.

Myth 3: You need lots of printed material

While printed materials are popular and useful, most exhibitors miss the opportunity to engage with customers via digital content and materials.

The problem:

In this digital age, research shows that 46% of attendees prefer digital information and 40% want to self-select what information they receive. Unfortunately, only about 10% of exhibitors offer these opportunities at the booth.

It is normal to see most attendees pick up printed materials at a booth but often the data on what the customer was interested in is lost because frankly, you can’t really keep track of every document every customer takes at your booth.

Another reason printed materials aren’t the best thing since sliced bread for you as an exhibitor is because they are the favorite form of intelligence your competitors are likely using – that is why you should consider an alternative approach.


Allow people to self-select what documents they want to receive via email through a digital survey. It’s simple and gives you great insight on what they really want when you follow-up with them.

Myth 4: It’s very hard to generate a buzz without spending a lot of money

Many smaller companies think that to generate engagement and buzz, you must have large booth spaces, expensive giveaways, and fancy evening events – but that’s not entirely true.

The problem:

Attendees value entertainment, more so if it ties back to the product you’re offering.

67% of attendees are engaged with educational games about an exhibitor’s products but only 7% of exhibitors offer this. Another 58% of attendees are engaged through fun games with no link to the product, but sadly only a meager 10% of exhibitors provide this.


Create a contest with a high-end prize (you only need one for every day), then display the winner and runner-ups on a screen so they can brag about it to their friends creating more awareness for your product.

Use a digital survey to create a game relevant or interesting for your customer -for example:

  • Guess the closing price of the Dow Jones Index
  • Guess the combined score of a sporting event happening that day or night.

The idea is to use any outcome that is hard to predict but aligns with the interest of your audience.

You can also make your guessing games educational – for example:

  • Guess the number of gigabytes that your firm processed that day
  • Guess the total number of customer inquiries your firm handled that day

See more ideas for educational games (Hyperlink to landing page)

Myth 5: Just showing up is already a good start

Woody Allan said that 80% of life is just showing up but showing up to your booth space at a trade show does not equal results not with the dozens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of competitors surrounding you at these events.

The problem:

Attendees expect more from exhibitors as technology at trade shows becomes more widespread. They need a different kind of experience – something that sticks with them long after they’ve left your booth and even the trade show. You must make sure you give them something so valuable, entertaining, or different that they easily forget about what your competitors told them.

Second, to providing a stand-out experience, you must track specific metrics that are important to you at an event to measure if you are achieving your goals during and after the event.


  • Create a plan with measurable goals such as qualified leads. Create a contest for your representatives that align with these goals.
  • Enhance user experience by utilizing the ideas suggested in Myth 4 above
  • It’s easy to scan every passerby or simply ask for a business card. It takes more commitment from a customer to agree to fill out their information – which is the critical component that shows interest in your products.
  • Use the digital survey to make sure sales management has a record of everything that happened at your booth.

Now that we’ve busted these myths and shown you how to get the most of your booth space at trade shows, nothing stands in your way of cultivating and converting those leads.

Begin a free trial with our digital survey tool


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