7 Common Mistakes Exhibitors Make With Their In-Booth Activities

This blog post originally appeared on the CEIR blog.

As a developer of interactive trade show games, we’ve participated with hundreds of exhibitors as they research, select, and execute their in-booth activities. And while we’ve seen many succeed, along the way we’ve unfortunately seen exhibitors repeatedly make the same 7 avoidable mistakes. I want to share those with you, so you can avoid them:

1. Waited too long to start choosing their in-booth activities

Because trade shows require an astounding amount of details, exhibitors are notoriously overworked and time-starved. As a result, some exhibitors wait until it’s almost show time before looking for an in-booth activity.  By then they are so anxious to have any activity in their booth, they jump on the first passable idea they find.  With better planning, they could have taken the time to brainstorm and select a better in-booth activity.  Even worse? They may have waited so long that they throw up their hands and do nothing.

2. Chose in-booth activities that aren’t on-brand

While exhibitors’ main goal for their in-booth activities is to boost traffic, be mindful of the activity’s effect on their brand.  If you choose an activity doesn’t mesh with your brand, you will actually cause confusion — and damage — to your reputation. Instead, choose activities that will reinforce your company’s personality and brand attributes – not fight them.  And another aspect the activity should match, besides brand? Be appealing to the exhibitor’s target audience demographics.

3. Didn’t promote their in-booth activities before the show

While interesting and engaging in-booth activities pull people out of the aisles by itself, you can get even more attendees with pre-show promotion announcing your in-booth activity. Use trade show promotions across multiple media:

  • Emails sent to the show’s pre-registered attendee list and your own sales and marketing database
  • Social media messages, both free and paid, published on your major social media accounts, using the show’s hashtag
  • Postcards and dimensional mailers to your key prospects and customers
  • Telemarketing by your sales team to known prospects attending the show

4. Didn’t train booth staffers on their role with the in-booth activities

Booth staffer training is essential for successful in-booth activities.  Your booth staffers need to know what their roles are and how to actually do the activity.  You may think, “Our booth staffers don’t need to be trained, because our activity is completely performed by a third-party” (such as an entertainer or event agency). However, your booth staffers still need to know how to convert people who stopped to watch or participate in the activity into leads.  And if the activity is very successful, booth staffers need to know how to “work the line” and find the qualified leads among the people waiting to do the activity.

5. Placed good in-booth activities in the wrong spot in the booth

What’s the point of hosting an activity that can’t be seen? Since most exhibitors choose their in-booth activities to catch people’s eyes as they walk down the aisle, then your activities need to be placed next to the aisle.  Even better, place your activity next to the busiest traffic aisles.  That said, some activities are best situated in more private settings, because the exhibitor wants to prevent distractions and keep the attendee in their booth longer. Work with your exhibit designer to set the proper stage.

6. Lack enough staff to handle peak waves of traffic

Some exhibitors are fortunate to create in-booth-activities that really bring in a crowd.  Unfortunately, their flow of attendees is rarely uniform, but has peak times where there are more visitors than they can handle.  And then? Hard-earned leads are lost.  To fix this, your can scale up your booth staff rosters in anticipation of peak traffic needs, not just average traffic needs.  Your can also bring self-serve in-booth activities that can capture leads, so interested, unattended visitors can still ask to be contacted.

7. Didn’t capture lead data in exchange for in-booth activities or giveaways

Unless your overriding goal is raising brand awareness, it’s a big mistake to host an activity or giveaway a promotional item without capturing the attendee’s lead data.  And this is a very common mistake: in a recent SocialPoint survey, 61% of exhibitors said they had experienced not capturing lead data from visitors that took a giveaway.  Plan when and how during your in-booth activities you will request and gather lead data, or else attendees will slip away anonymously.

You can host successful in-booth activities that facilitates your trade show goals, if you plan ahead, stay on brand, promote your activity before the show, train your booth staff, place the activity in the proper booth location, anticipate peak traffic times, and capture lead data.


Written by

Samuel J. Smith is a thought leader, researcher, speaker and award winning innovator on event technology. In 2011, BizBash Magazine added Sam to its annual innovators list. Since then, Sam has won awards from Exhibitor Magazine, IBTM World, RSVP MN, International Live Events Association and MPI for innovation in event technology.