Could Old School Exhibitors Damage Your Expo Brand?

I think this would take a huge mind shift – but great food for thought.


I just Googled “Trade Show Sales Tips” and retrieved 2+ million results.

No big surprise, as hardly a week goes by without spotting articles like these. Unfortunately, the people who need to read these articles never do.

Does Acceptance Of All Exhibitors Come At A Cost?

Some expo floors are run like well-oiled machines, where every element is inspected and perfected to ensure high satisfaction for both attendees and exhibitors.

Others copy last year’s playbook, rinse and repeat. Often they look like flea markets where the same vendors show up and run the same tired plays.

Let’s face it – booth sales generate revenues. For some shows, expo revenues subsidize attendee registration fees. In today’s economy, turning down exhibitors sounds crazy, but does our grand scale acceptance of all exhibitors come at a cost?

Too Many Old School Exhibitors Spoils the Attendee Experience

First impressions are lasting and sometimes they’re very difficult to erase.

Have you taken a good hard look at your expo floor through the attendee’s lens? Too many product pitches and attendees feel like they have a target on their backs. Too many same-old, same-old tactics and they’ll wonder why they’re there.

Now, imagine if exhibitors had to vie for an opportunity to participate in your expo. Imagine if your expo was truly a think tank where learning discussions and breakthrough ideas flourished. Imagine if you only accepted exhibitors who…

  • Have something new to introduce?
  • A breakthrough idea, concept or solution?
  • Agree to help (teach) more, sell (pitch products) less

Tough Questions To Consider

You probably have a Call for Presentations to evaluate speakers and session submissions.

  • What if you re-purposed that same model to vet exhibitors?
  • What if you had a Call for Exhibitors, where you identified topics and categories of greatest interest to your audience?
  • What if you raised the ante (booth fee), but you limited the number of exhibitors for each category?
  • What if you asked exhibitors to hold back on the product collateral (people can get this stuff easily on their website) and instead, asked each one to contribute at least one thought leadership piece? These could be case studies, whitepapers, infographics, audio/video interviews, etc.
    • What if you highlighted these thought leadership pieces on slides as people entered session rooms?
    • What if you archived these on your mobile app for fast retrieval?
    • What if you dripped these valuable nuggets out again in the days and weeks following your conference?

Our audiences deserve (and are demanding) a richer expo experience. Accomplishing this kind of transformation in a single cycle will be difficult, but how about raising the exhibit quality bar just a little bit higher each time? Maybe a good starting point might be a special best-in-class exhibitor pavilion?

What steps are you taking to transform and enhance the expo experience? Do you see long-term benefits in getting more choosy about the exhibitors you accept?

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