Exhibiting at a trade show can be an exciting and fruitful opportunity for your business – it provides an ideal environment for you to interact with prospects and existing clients.

However, exhibiting comes at a cost and for it to be a success and provide a high return on investment you need to have a well-thought-out strategy and plan well ahead.  With so much to consider, here are our top 5 exhibiting mistakes and how you might avoid them!

  1. Spending too much on your stand space

When you plan to exhibit the first thing you will do is book your space with the show organisers – often at this stage it can be quite a long time before the show date – but it’s worth making sure you look at your whole budget so you don’t blow all of it on the stand space itself and leave nothing for the stand design and production.

Don’t always think bigger is better! Take a good look at the exhibition floor plan and think about where you want to be positioned in the show hall.  Think about traffic flow, seminar and refreshment areas where visitors might congregate. If you are planning far ahead, go to the show do some exhibition market research and look at which areas of the show floor attract visitors. You don’t have to have the biggest space to get noticed.  There is nothing worse than taking a big space and then not having enough money to have an impressive display.  A badly designed display or cheap-looking stand will mean you will fail to attract attention but it could reflect badly on your brand.

Ideally, you should aim to spend around 30% of your exhibiting budget on your space. This will then allow 70% for your other exhibition booth costs, to create an impressive exhibition stand, employ show services and for your marketing plans.

The design of your exhibition stand is the most important element of your exhibition. After all, it is a representation of your brand and will be the thing that makes you get noticed.

  1. Late Planning and Organisation!

Setting your exhibition objectives and goals needs to be your priority before you book your space.  Really think about what you hope to achieve and set targets and measure how you are going to meet your goals and gain a good return on investment – after all exhibiting is not cheap!

When you have a clear focus you must start planning. All too often we see a last-minute panic and tight deadlines to produce stand designs which cause unnecessary stress all around.  Lack of planning often results in an unsuccessful show.  The ideal time frame to plan an event is 12 months in advance but give yourself at least 6 months.

The planning is not just booking the space and producing the physical display, you need to consider all the services including electrics and flooring and other show services, your marketing strategy, and who is going to man the stand and travel and stay arrangements.

Read our blog on Planning a Successful Exhibition.


  1. Stand Design

The layout and graphic design of your stand are so important – you need to stand out from the crowd and be proud of your company and branding. Make sure you research companies that can help you with ideas and expertise on what has worked well for other companies.

Our team at Nomadic have a wealth of experience and we offer a free design service with 3D visuals.  You will work closely with our team to create the best stand design for your exhibiting needs.

A very common mistake we see is trying to put too much information and text on your display.  Your exhibition stand is not your brochure!  People can’t read small text or lots of words from afar and make sure your text is at the right eye level.  A busy stand can be off-putting and unwelcoming.  You need a high-impactful graphic that will draw people to your stand and want to find out more about you.  Of course, they need to know who you are and what you do so make sure this is bold and clear.

Make sure your graphics are up to date and in good condition – shabby or damaged graphics do not give a good impression! Make sure your display is well-lit and welcoming.  We have lots more information on our blog to help you create impressive graphics.

  1. Stand staff – who they are and how to train them

With so much planning and budgeting to consider when it comes to exhibiting, it can be easy to overlook one of your most important assets: your staff.

Even if you have the best stand at the show, it will be your staff that makes or breaks your exhibition’s success.  Remember your exhibition staff are your company ambassadors.

A very common mistake is not training staff effectively before the show. Ensuring your staff are trained to maximum effect will make all the difference! Make sure you incentivise them as there is more chance they will deliver! Also, make sure they have plenty of breaks – exhibiting is tiring!

Also think about who should man the stand- look outside your sales team – they need to have attributes of eagerness, positivity, high energy, resilience and a friendly, professional attitude and of course knowledge about your products and services.

The communication with visitors starts away from the stand…you only have 3 seconds to grab their attention. Hopefully, your stand design and theme or attraction will draw people to your stand, but your staff are crucial to achieving success.

This may all seem obvious but you only have to visit a show and see staff on stands huddling together, talking on their phones or eating and drinking – these common mistakes are off-putting to visitors – make sure your team is ready to engage and welcome people on to your stand.

Take a read of our blog posts on Training your Staff and Stand Management.

  1. Follow up

Research shows that over 70% of exhibition leads are never followed up, yet 90% of business gained is from the follow-up work that is done!  So after all the hard work you put into the show don’t let the follow-up let you down!

“Follow up” should be meaningful and consistent contact with the visitors who came and spoke to you at the show.  One follow-up email does not count!  You have to remember that the visitors spoke to many companies and also your competitors, so you need to make sure you follow up first and effectively.

Plan how your sales team are going to follow up before you get to the show – make sure there is a plan is in place from day one or even during the show.  Think about prioritising leads so you deal with the hottest leads first.  Gather information on the stand to help the follow-up process.

Plan your post-show marketing to tie in with the theme of your stand so that it is memorable, you must follow up promptly while the show and your company are still fresh in the prospect’s mind.

Read our blog on A Guide to Essential Follow up for more hints and tips.

With over 40 years of experience in the exhibition industry, at Nomadic we see these common mistakes happen much too often – but our team are always on hand to help you every step of the way – take a look at our Exhibition Project Management services.