Trade Show Etiquette: 12 Lessons for a First-Time Exhibitor

December 14, 2013 | By | Reply More

trade show etiquette

Trade shows are big business today and you probably already have a number of invitations from upcoming conferences asking if you would be interested in renting space to hawk your wares.

Over the years I have resisted these invitations. They require money and manpower and the return on investment may or may not be there. In these difficult times vendors are looking at their budgets and struggling with that decision. Obviously, you can’t grow your business unless you are in front of potential customers in person or online.

Lessons on Trade Show Etiquette

This past year I decided to participate in three vendor shows. All were exercises in salesmanship and people watching. I must confess that I enjoyed the latter most. I made a number of observations which I promised to share with you before the holidays. Here is a sampling of what I learned about trade show etiquette from vendors to attendees.

1. Start off on the right foot by setting up your booth on time.

What kind of impression will you make with the trade show host and the attendees if you are still putting products and promotions out when the show opens?

2. Avoid eating and drinking in your booth.

The message you send when you are munching on lunch is, “Oops, I don’t have time for you now. I’m busy.”

3. To the extent possible, keep standing.

Stand up during the event no matter how bad your feet hurt and your back aches. A vendor sitting down appears lazy, disinterested and unapproachable.

4. Stop chatting.

Save your idle chatter with your booth mates until after the show. No one passing by will care enough to interrupt your conversation for a sales pitch.

5. Be considerate of other vendors

Be considerate of the other vendors by saving your sound and light presentation for another occasion. During one trade show, the fellow in the next booth had so much audio and video going that it felt like half-time at the Super Bowl.

6. Draw passersby to your booth through your professional appearance and positive attitude.

Wear your most professional attire and greet everyone with eye contact, a smile and a greeting. “Hi, how are you?” as a greeting will generate the classic response, “Fine.” There goes your prospect. Be original.

7. Be aware of your body language.

Pay attention to your body language and maintain open posture-no crossed arms. Stand forward in your booth with hands relaxed and at your sides.

8. Listen to the customer

Remember the 80/20 rule – listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time. Otherwise, you will never learn what your prospect wants, needs or thinks.

9. Use a name tag

Wear your name tag, the one that everyone can read without having to squint.

10. Learn the prospect’s name

Use the name of your prospect in conversation so they know that they are the focus of your attention.

11. Be consistent.

You are your company. If you are selling a clown act, be funny no matter how grumpy you may feel at the end of the day. If you are promoting business etiquette, be gracious regardless of other people’s inconsiderate behavior.

12. And finally, stay out of other companies’ booths.

Wandering into other people’s exhibit area is disruptive and gives them permission to barge in on you when they get bored.

When the show is over, the dust has settled and the aches and pains are subsiding, follow up with your prospects so that all that effort is not wasted. Turn your contacts into clients.

Recommended Books on Trade Show Etiquette:

 About the Author: 

Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, corporate trainer and author of MANNERS THAT SELL – ADDING THE POLISH THAT BUILDS PROFITS. She has been quoted or featured in The New York Times, Investors’ Business Daily, Entrepreneur, Inc., Real Simple and Woman’s Day. For more information about her programs, products and services, e-mail her at or visit her web site Article originally published on April 2, 2005
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