There is nothing like starting a new job with a ticket to Las Vegas and being dropped in the middle of the largest construction trade show in North America. CONEXPO-CON/AGG was six weeks away, and attendance that year was recorded at more than 144,000 industry professionals.

No matter the industry, trade shows tend to follow a familiar pattern, yet there are so many ways an exhibitor can make each show unique. On the flipside, there are ways an exhibitor can fall down at a trade show and miss opportunities to leverage their brand and get leads. These are the top five things NOT to do:

1. Just put your sign up and expect attendees to be interested

Picture Main Street USA, where a store owner puts out an “open” sign that catches the interest of window shoppers. Yeah … those days are long gone. You need to provide a reason for prospects to visit your booth. Whether it’s new products or a one-of-a-kind experience, you have to offer something that pulls attendees into the booth. The best way to accomplish this is to determine the needs of the attendees and provide something no one else has. For example, one exhibitor at CONEXPO this year installed charging ports in their booth for attendees to charge their electronic devices. No other reason than providing a needed service to very busy industry professionals.

2. Expect attendees to know who you are and care about your brand

Depending on the show, you may have a difficult time rising above the noise. Referring back to number 1, make sure you give attendees a good reason to visit your booth. If you have new products or have an in-booth event to promote, consider show sponsorships and at-show advertising. Also make sure any advertising you do includes your booth number with a call to action to visit the booth.

3. Don’t have a plan

You need a plan, and you need to start planning six to nine months prior to the show. Starting early will provide time to determine show theme (user experience), booth layout, new product introductions, technology needs and promotional strategies. Also set your expectations and put realistic objectives in place.

4. Don’t introduce anything new

You need to introduce new products at trade shows. This is why industry professionals attend. Does that mean you should skip a show if you don’t have new products? No, but determine what has not been seen by a particular audience. If you launched a product at a show geared toward tree care contractors, it is still a new product six months later at a show attended by rental business owners. Just make sure your product has a market for the show you are exhibiting at.

5. Ignore trade media

If there is a large contingency of trade media covering the show, make sure to invite them to your booth and spend time talking with them. At shows, the primary focus of editors and journalists is reporting on new products and innovations; however, it’s also their chance to get one-on-one with industry experts to discuss trends and challenges facing the industry. The key to being a thought leader is to provide knowledge and insight that will benefit the readers of the trade media — your customers and prospects.

The takeaway here is simple: Set your objectives, define your audience and promote your brand. With those key elements in place, you won’t need to worry about the five “don’ts.”

About Two Rivers Marketing

Two Rivers Marketing is a full-service business-to-business (B2B) marketing communications agency. Email us with your thoughts or questions at