Event Marketing Part 2: Vendor Booth Tips

There isn’t an exact blueprint to successful exhibiting; however, attracting potential customers isn’t as hard as you may think. For first time vendors or as a refresher for those who exhibit regularly, we have documented our thoughts and experience on vendor booth tips that specifically cover what to prepare one month prior to your event. Following these tips will help ensure that your booth is a busy hub of activity!

Your Booth: What’s Inside

The Basics: Carpet, Tablecloth, Furniture and Electricity
Check with the event promoter on the following items:
Will the event be in a conference center and already carpeted, or do you need to order carpet and padding for your booth space?
Note: Before you begin setting up your booth, be certain that the carpet you ordered has been installed.

  1. The event promoter will most likely provide a plain tablecloth to drape over your booth’s table. However, we also recommend pre-ordering a tablecloth from a third party with your company logo on it to use repeatedly at events to help promote your brand.
    Note: Please check with the event coordinator prior to ordering a tablecloth with your logo on it as you might not be allowed to cover the tablecloth provided to you by the event promoter.
  2. Basic furniture is usually provided as part of your booth; however, you may want to order specific furniture pieces. Think about how you want to use your booth. Do you need a check-in counter in your booth? Do you need tables and chairs for meetings in the booth?
    Note: Although we encourage people to not sit (it’s not as easy to engage), we do think chairs in a booth are a good idea whether for meetings or for a brief rest. We prefer tall tables and chairs which make it easier for some to sit and some to stand.
  3. Think ahead about your plans to use media. For example, will you have a small monitor or laptop available to show a demo or a sales presentation? Are you bringing equipment that needs power? If so, be certain that your booth has appropriate access to electricity.
    Note: Before you set up your booth, be sure there is an outlet nearby or that you have been provided an extension cord to connect to a power source. If you skip this step, be forewarned that you may end up changing your booth space at the last minute – not fun!

Branding Display:
A stand-alone display or backdrop behind your table or toward the back of your booth space is a stellar way to tout your brand and key selling points. Consider how you might use a backdrop for this and other events and if it would be worth it to have one designed and produced. Please note that these can be quite costly but are worth the ROI if you plan to use it frequently.

A less costly alternative would be a pull-up banner which costs $200-300. Combined with table-top signage, you can get your message to your audience. Regardless of your decision about displays, think about creating the right first impression.

Your Company’s Collateral:
Plan out your content items for the event. Perhaps your company brochure or a flyer can be used to show more detailed information on your product. A print-out of a high value white paper can be used to highlight your proof points. Success stories or case studies show how a customer deployed your solution in their environment.

We don’t suggest you print multiple copies for hand-outs (we, and many of the conferences we work with, promote Green), but we do recommend you have a couple of copies handy to use as a reference.

Random (But Often Necessary) Supplies:
Paper, pens, tape, zip ties, something to hold collected business cards, mints. This is your office for the week. Lightly stock your office so you can conduct business.

Admit it, we are all intrigued and quite often amused by vendor “freebies”. Maybe there is a nifty desk item or something for people to take home to their kids. Or perhaps, you can be the booth that provides bags for attendees to put items in that they gather from the various booths. There are endless possibilities on items that you can order through promotional companies with your logo on it. Be creative!

Do Your “Homework”:
We recommend preparing 3-6 engaging questions before the event. Ask open-ended questions beginning with who, what, where, when, why, or how. Relate questions to the industry or the product/service you are promoting and its benefits. Design these questions with the intention of building rapport. Don’t plan to hit the attendee with your “sales pitch” immediately. Another good idea is to practice on a team member before the actual event.

Your Booth Representatives: What to Wear
Plan ahead for what your booth staff will be wearing to ensure it reflects your company’s image. It can range from business professional to a more casual slack and matching shirt with your company logo. Remember to take into consideration the type of event as well. You don’t necessarily have to blend in completely (as standing out a bit might be part of your plan to attract more people to your booth) but you definitely don’t want to stick out too much.

Bear in mind that the badges provided by the event promoter may be difficult to read. Have you seen ones where the font is too small to read or where the badge hangs really low? An option is to have your team wear a nametag with your company’s name/logo so it is visible to the attendees. Again, this is another opportunity to capitalize on promoting your company’s brand.

Tips for “Vendor Etiquette”
Most of these tips are common sense. But, it’s good to remind.

Be respectful.

  1. Set up your booth within the time allotted by the event promoter and do not break down your booth until it is time to do so. Arrive promptly and do not leave early even if other vendors are doing so. Keep in mind that an attendee may be planning to seek you out five minutes before the event is to end. It has happened to us!
  2. Staff your booth for the entire duration of the designated times set by the event promoter. Do not leave your booth unattended. If there are two of you, plan to alternate breaks. Cease personal conversation when an attendee is present.
  3. Do not eat in your booth. Typically, there are separate areas where you may grab a bite to eat. Talking a great deal will make you thirsty so plan to have a water bottler; however, keep your water bottle under the table and out of site. Don’t chew gum; it can make you seem unprofessional.

Be inviting and polite.
Keep this in mind: First impressions are more heavily influenced by nonverbal cues than verbal cues. In fact, studies have found that nonverbal cues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say!

  1. Greet attendees. Take an interest in each and every person. You have to put yourself out there if you want to capture the interest of the attendees, gain new clients, or sell your product. Remember that a smile goes a long way.
  2. At the end of your conversation, thank the person for stopping by your booth. Ask if you may follow up with them based on your discussion. Give them your business card.
  3. The most important thing to remember when you are staffing an event booth is that you represent your company. Everything you do and say, even if it is not in the booth, reflects upon your company. You are an ambassador and your behavior should be above reproach.

Working an event booth is very hard work.
You spend long hours on your feet talking to potential clients and generally being “on” non-stop. The days are long and the nights are too with networking events, client dinners, and meetings. It is important to be able to relax, see the sights, and have fun as well because chances are good that the conference is being held at a desirable location just for that reason! Remember to pace yourself, and you will be fine.

Need more help?
McMahon Consulting has a documented process for event planning that we have developed through our team’s many years of leading events as a team member or for our clients. It walks you through everything to consider when planning an event, not only for the event but the communications and digital marketing to drive booth traffic and leads. If you would like a free 30 minute consultation, let us know!

Happy exhibiting!


About the author: Kim McMahon has performed sales and marketing for more years than she cares to count. She writes frequently on marketing, life, the world and how they sometimes all come together.