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How to Make the Most of a Bad Trade Show Booth Location


Your trade show booth location is bad, really bad. Maybe you registered late, changed the booth size or just made a bad decision. For whatever reason, you are stuck with a location in the middle of nowhere, with little or no foot traffic. What do you do? Here’s how to make the most of a bad trade show location. And … be successful.

Do You Stay or Do You Go?

First, you have two options before you do anything. Do you try to cancel, contact the show organizers and try to break your commitment? Or do you change your strategy, go ahead and do the show?


If you are just doing the show to have a “presence” and to tell attendees that you are doing business, you may want to try to cancel. To be honest, you most likely didn’t have a major commitment to the organizers or the trade show in the first place. It’s going to be rough, but you may have to just write off your expenses.


If you are doing the show to actively make sales, increase your business, and serve existing and potential customers, you may want to double-down and do whatever you can to maximize the opportunity and your investment.

Shepard Expo Floor Design

No one wants a bad booth location. When Shepard designs an expo floor our goal is to develop innovative ways to stimulate traffic flow. We create special areas and mini-events to encourage attendees to spend more time at the trade show and enhance every booth’s traffic and visibility. We want to create opportunities for every exhibitor. But, for this example, let’s say it’s a traditional trade show where your opportunities get less and less the farther away you are from the entrance.

Maximize the Opportunities

Okay, let’s develop a strategy that lets you max out the opportunities you either have – or can create. Your problem isn’t your competition, other products or even the schedule – it’s the location. So first, don’t think like an exhibitor – think like an attendee.

The Rotten Location Strategy

You start by accepting five realities:

  • No attendee can go to every booth.
  • You can’t rely on foot traffic.
  • You have to find the specific attendees you need and bring them to your booth.
  • You have to give compelling reasons to come based on what they need, want or value.
  • You have to reward them for coming.

That might sound like a proven booth strategy, and it is. But you also have to do things differently and start early.

Forget the Old Rules

The old rules of trade shows center on generating a ton of traffic. “The more people I attract to my area, the greater chance I have of selling something.” So you run giveaways, give presentations, offer demos, and spend a ton of money to bring anyone and everyone to your booth. Okay, here’s the reality. The average success rate of finding qualified prospects using a “just fill up the booth” strategy is about 1-3%. That’s for your company and the biggest companies on the exhibit floor.

Activity Versus Results

There is a huge difference between activity and results. You don’t have the luxury of generating a bunch of activity because you are hidden in the back of the hall. You don’t want bodies – you want results. You want prospects who are already willing and ready to do business with you. So don’t try to attract them: capture them.

Capture Prospects

Take control of the situation before the show. Talk to your sales force, check the event attendees list, and drill down and do enough research to find 250 prospects at the show who are very well-suited to your business. Then use social media to locate information and contacts that would allow you to get introductions and referrals to the people on the list. This is basic market research. Who’s your sales team trying to contact? Whom are they speaking with who won’t give them an appointment? Who has shown interest but just can’t seem to make a decision? These contacts are your bullseye.

Target Your Efforts Where They Pay Off

Put your booth team to work as soon as you can. Have them email and make telephone calls to the most valuable prospects who are the most motivated to discuss their needs and your solutions. Make those people feel special. This is an exclusive opportunity. The big thing to remember is – don’t go into a sales pitch. I can’t stress this enough: The moment you start to sell, you will most likely lose them. All they care about is the value you offer them and what it means to them. Let me repeat that: All potential customers care about is the value you offer and what it means to them.

The key is this has to be a person-to-person effort. You can send invitation emails to everyone who is attending and be “just another exhibitor.” Or you can make it personal. Start interactions and conversations with prospects well before the show. If you do this, you are more likely to turn up 75-100 qualified prospects willing to discuss your ideas further at the show booth.

Appointments Plus

Remember, no attendee can go to every booth, so you have to give them compelling reasons to come based on what they need, want or value. Appointments are your power tool. Ask those qualified prospects to commit to an appointment in your booth. If you have identified what they really want and need, then showcase those solutions. “Ms. Evans, you told me that you have a real challenge with XYZ. I’d like to make an appointment to show you how you can do ABC.” You aren’t talking about your product or service. You are talking about the value you offer them and what it means to them.

A Big, Unexpected Reward

And now you can use your hook. The prospects who make and attend appointments are entered in your firm’s spectacular prize drawing on the last day of the show. This isn’t open to the public – they have to attend the appointment to enter. This works big time because you are giving away something unexpected and really desirable. Would you attend a 15-minute appointment for a chance to win a 65-inch HD flat-screen TV worth about $2,000? Of course you would.  Especially when you figure out the odds.

Ask yourself, what is one new sale worth? It’s like that old saying, “Go Big or Go Home.” I know this is a little extreme because it has to be. You have to motivate them to walk past all of the other exhibitors and all of your competition to keep an appointment with your company. If your idea of a booth giveaway is a pen, then it better be one hell of a pen. You have to stand out, so give out something big and attention-grabbing.

You Can Overcome a Bad Trade Show Location

Being stuck with a crummy booth location is a tough break. The world isn’t fair. But you can take the location out of the equation. By thinking like an attendee, making your booth experience about the value you offer and what it means, setting appointments and giving a big incentive for keeping them … you are taking control. Hey, that bad location might end up giving you the best show results ever!

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