Monday, March 12, 2012

Tradeshow Fails!

I recently attended the RSA conference in San Francisco and although I spent most of my time at my company's booth, I managed to walk around and take in the rest of the exhibit hall. It never ceases to amaze me the scale of this show and the amount of awesome booths that scatter the floor. As you can imagine, I also managed to capture a couple of fails!

Chowing down on some food... right at the booth!
People have different opinions on tradeshow etiquette, in terms of what is acceptable and what's not, but I couldn't believe this one. Three people from this company sitting around the reception table at their booth eating their lunch (sidenote: the food looked delicious).

Okay, maybe this is a cultural difference, however most attendees at this conference were from North America and would be unlikely to interrupt someone's meal to have a conversation about that company's products and services.

Booth space at this conference is really expensive so every second you can be talking to prospects needs to be used. There are three people at this booth so they could have alternated when they ate and done so away from their booth.

Screen of death.
A couple of booths had these cool & interactive iPad-like screens where you could get information about the company and in some cases send yourself the datasheets and white papers. I think this is a great way to engage people on the tradeshow floor, get new names into your database and it's way better than cutting down a forest for all your brochures.

However, my former employer IBM seemed to be having some issues with theirs, and as I went to discover 'What is Watson' I was presented with a 'Not Responding' screen. Everyone has technology issues now and then, but it was unfortunate that it happened as I actually wanted to see what it would do.

Anyways, I always strive to bring the positive alongside the fails, so here are 3 tips that are guaranteed to make your next tradeshow more effective: 

1. Give attendees a reason to stop in and check out your booth
Give away a small/inexpensive prize on a regular and consistent basis. In order to win the prize, people need to stick around and listen to a quick overview about your company. This is your opportunity to educate attendees, make them familiar with your company, attract a big crowd and build your brand. You are already paying a lot to get the booth space, so put aside a little money for prizes and it will be well worth your while.

2. Follow-up with your attendees in a timely manner & make it engaging
Scott Stratten wrote a great marketing book called Unmarketing, where the focus is on engaging with your prospects. Tradeshows offer a great opportunity to do this, and you should use it to start a conversation with the people who stop by your booth as opposed to just blasting them with your brochure. Do it as soon as you can, on the same day they stopped by if possible, and you will be amazed with the results.

3. Speak at the conference
Although speak ops are usually expensive, there is a reason for that. It positions your company as a thought leader, and someone who is trying to solve the problems that attendees of the conference are having. As long as your presentation is not 'salesy' it will shift attendees view of your company from 'trying to sell me stuff' to 'trying to help me with stuff'. And that is a major difference.


  1. It is a good example of an eye catching design with a clear message.

  2. Yeah I also agree that these are epic trade show fails. It looks like the exhibitors were not at all serious about their business. Anyways, I also took part in annual expo and it was just fantastic. I use DIY trade show displays for my booth that helped me grab attention of good number of visitors.