Ask The Entreprenette

The 3 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make At A Tradeshow

So you finally decide to take the plunge and get a booth!   It might be a relief for you that you finally pulled the trigger, or it might be a total stresser – like it was for me each and (most) every time – and I did 5 shows a year when I had my handbag line.
Every show I did for about the first 3 years was as scary as the first one for me – in that I was never sure how I wanted to set up my booth, was worried about making sales and was always sure I’d sound dumb when talking to buyers.
So by year 4 I finally (almost) had it all down!   These 3 scary mistakes were always at the top of my HUGE list……and yes it goes on and on and on…….. I probably have at least 25 things to be aware of on my “Tradeshow” ready list.
Hope these help you make some better choices.
Biggest mistake #1: Booth Backlash
Do a dry run set up of the booth at home. Map it out. For me the biggest thing was figuring out the merchandising and making sure I had enough samples with me to look full but not overly full.  Be sure to take into account all your PR materials you might be taking, anything hanging on walls etc. Make sure you LOVE your set up – might be tables, shelves or even something more flashy and funky.
Biggest Mistake #2: Sales Slump
In order to be sure you have the best chance at the most money possible, be sure you have made strong connections with buyers prior to the show. Reach out to them, let them know you’ll be there and above all, do it sooner than later. This is not the time to be shy. There is a lot at stake here.
Biggest Mistake #3: What do you say dear?
In order to impress the buyers, you need to make them feel like you are 100% confident in your line and that you KNOW it is a rock solid! If they feel even the slightest hesitation from you, they’ll back off.    They will ask you tons of questions like what your best seller is, what inspired the line, why you used XY or Z, and possibly how long you’ve been in business. Prepare for anything and everything to be asked of you and be sure you have an answer…..and if you don’t, fake it ‘till you make it.
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    Written by Sarah Shaw

    There are 9 comments

  • Nicole says:

    I am thinking of doing some shows where I can sell my dog shampoo. Should I go to pet related shows, craft shows, or anywhere I can?

    • Sarah Shaw says:

      Nicole – I would stick with your “genre” and stay with pet shows. But that said, farmers markets and low cost events can be good to get the company more known in certain communities too.

  • This helps Sarah ~ thank you for the tips. I have my first show this fall in Vegas, and there’s a good chance I’ll be doing it myself….I’m really nervous due to IT’S MY FIRST SHOW. I’ve heard horror stories of over seas companies stealing, measuring etc…..

    Thanks for this heads up!

  • renee Lipp says:

    Hi Sarah-
    I really appreciate the heads up on the trade shows as I am diving into my first one in NY this august! I will definitely follow your tips but was wondering what you thought about renting (tables, displays ect.) from outside companies as opposed to the companies that are running the show? I was told the mark up is crazy!I also don’t know who to contact outside since I’m not from NY and will be shipping my product.

    Thanks so much!

    • Sarah Shaw says:

      Renee, I don’t know what to suggest. I’d google a few tradeshow supply places or party supply rentals in NY and see how the costs compare. I always rented tables or shelves from the show…… was just easier..they set it all up for you. :O)

  • Katy says:

    Hi Sarah, I think your advice is right on track! I did my first trade show in Dallas this January and have learned a lot in 6 months. I did a booth mock up at home and it helped ALOT! I also look at other vendor’s booths for neat and easier setups. Now if I could just manage connecting with my buyers prior to the show. Thanks for sharing!

  • Shermaine Davis says:

    Is it best to get your own tradeshow booth or get a sales rep and have them sell for you?

  • Allison G. says:

    Hahaha I agree with those 3 biggest mistake!!! Don't be too over confident during the trade show, it could make or brake you but mostly would brake! Just don't forget to prepare not too flowery answers to their possible questions.

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