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3 Trade Show Etiquette Basics

When singer and guitar player Dave Carroll took an airplane with United Airlines in 2008, he found that his expensive Taylor guitar had been damaged. He pestered United’s customer service for months demanding that they cover the expenses of fixing his guitar, but they refused. A year later, Carroll published a video on YouTube called “United Breaks Guitars.” The video went viral, with over 17 million views to this date. Not only that, United’s stock went down by 10% and lost its value by $180 million.

The moral of the story? There’s never a good reason to ignore or to be rude to a customer.

In order to make sure your custom trade show display experience is successful, you need to be helpful. Acknowledge both current and prospective customers’ concerns, questions, and complaints. These are some trade show etiquette tips that the experts recommend for businesses of all sizes:


#1 Be Helpful 
It is a known fact that people are more willing to review their experiences with a company on the internet when they have had a bad experience. So don’t give them the chance! Satisfied customers will be happy to share their experiences and recommend your services or products to others, which is obviously great for business.

Of course this applies to tradeshows as well. Be as helpful as you can, both with your booth visitors as well as with people on social media. Volunteer to give a presentation or to be on a panel, and don’t simply pitch your product: give helpful tips, be the one who people with questions will turn to.


#2 Look Good
People will be more willing to talk to you if you are helpful, but also if you look approachable. Not everyone will know at the beginning that you are willing to patiently answer questions, but if you are standing at your booth with a smile, people will talk to you. In order to look open and available while at your boot:

  • Don’t play on your phone or on your computer in between visitors, it will make you look oblivious and uninterested
  • Don’t be too pushy either. Remember, nobody feels comfortable being pestered!
  • Don’t have a messy booth: make sure your surface areas look neat. Get rid of garbage quickly; have an organizer to put your papers and supplies in.

Remember, you only have one chance to make a good first impression!


#3 Be an Industry Leader 
By using social media you can answer concerns that not only customers have, but competitors as well. Let’s say you dealt with an issue in the past and learned from the experience; don’t be stingy with the information. Be the company that others will turn to when they are in need.

At a tradeshow, visit with potential customers but also with potential partners. Let other vendors know what you do and how you can be of help to them. “Synergy” has become one of those fluffy corporate-speak words that we tend to glaze over when we come across it, but the truth is that synergy can be incredibly effective if used correctly.

A study released in the Journal of Marketing Research in 20071 found that partner brands working in a complementary way could be more successful than working on their own. Complementary products, such as a digital camera and a compatible digital photo printer, snowboards and snowboard boots, etc., can increase sales by offering needed extensions to the parent product and also by offering add-ons that the customer might not have been aware that existed or that they wanted. As far as I know, the first iPod dock speaker wasn’t even made by Apple, and yet, most iPod and iPhone owners I know have one.

You can never go wrong being the most helpful person at the tradeshow, before—through social media—and during the event. And since looking good is an essential component to being approachable, at ExpoMarketing we can help you not only to have the best looking booth at your next tradeshow, but also an effective social media presence, so people know how helpful you are even before they set foot at the event.

Start planning your next trade show using our free Trade Show Budget Checklist. And don’t forget, smile!

Trade Show Budget Checklist -- Website

1 “Brand Synergy Effects in Multiple Brand Extensions,” by Byung Chul Shine, Jongwon Park, and Robert S. Wyer Jr. Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 44, No. 4. Posted on the AMA Publishings’ website at

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