Trade shows are a big part of the marketing budget for many companies, even in today’s digital age. Many companies go to these blindly year after year, and are always searching for ways to maximize leads to little or no avail. At a recent technology tradeshow I was taken back by a number of companies, who shall remain nameless, that appear to have no clue when it comes to tradeshow marketing. Here’s what I saw:

Lack of social presence: I went to the show excited to interact with different vehicle tech brands and very few were doing much of anything on social. There’s no need to explain why this is important. Make sure that you have a social strategy going into every event, and assign someone at the home base to monitor.

Equality: Treat everyone as an equal. Booth representatives seemed to spend a lot of time looking down at the name tags or once they knew you weren’t a lead became disinterested quickly. Anytime you have the chance to tell your company’s story, you should. It gives you a chance to hone your elevator pitch and you never know where someone will end up in the industry. First impressions matter. 

Too much talking: On the other end of the spectrum, some booth representatives would talk and talk for 5-10 minutes straight before giving the attendee a chance to speak. It makes leads think you only care about yourself.

Stealing: By no means should your marketing team steal popular taglines. I literally turned the corner down the third booth isle and I saw a small battery company using the tagline “May the force be with you.” It’s not only a bad business decision but it’s lazy.

Questions: Asking questions can be the basis for a great conversation. I went to so many booths introduced myself, asked a few questions, got the answers and then nothing.  If I ask u questions, continue the conversation. It’s that simple.  

Cell phone mania: Put the phone down. Period. You’re there to get leads not check your email, play Candy Crush and text.

Candyland: Having candy in a bowl at your booth doesn’t get people to stop. In fact, there was too much of it. One dude had his suitcase full of candy opened on the counter. The thought going through my head? Do you bring a separate suitcase or do you pack your clothes in there and then fill it with candy after you get to the hotel? I’m guessing the former. Gross. Find something to give away that sets your booth apart. One booth had a mini fridge and anyone they were having a good conversation with would be offered a can of pop or water. I’m sure everyone that left that booth remembered them.

Eye contact: If I look at you, don't look away. I won’t stop and neither will anyone else.

Cleanliness: Keep your booth clean. So many booths were messy and used as a stopping point for others from the company who were attending the show. Your booth is meant to represent your company so think about how you want it to look and make sure you have someone there to keep these thoughts in mind.  

Faux forward thinkers: Too many booths used taglines such as “The art of…” or “The future of…” or “This changes everything,” and that doesn't cut it. If you want to set your company apart, you truly need to be forward thinking or hire someone who is. Find a way to make your booth evoke that feeling without having to specifically say it. 

Sleepy time: Don't be sleeping in the back of your booth. I came across two such booths and when I saw the second one I actually just decided to leave the event altogether.

Trade shows are tough enough as it is. You'll need to explain the ROI coming out of the show. You should use everything you have to make your booth presence a success no matter your company size. Don’t let your team make these mistakes.