The Ten Commandments of Trade Show Etiquette

The Ten Commandments of Trade Show Etiquette

The Ten Commandments of Trade Show Etiquette

The Ten Commandments of Trade Show Etiquette

You’ve got a perfect trade show booth, an awesome giveaway, and your marketing materials look amazing. There is nothing stopping this from being the perfect show. Or is there? A perfect custom exhibit and a good space will only get you about 50% of the way there. While your booth does matter, a lot, attendees will leave if you do not have any friendly knowledgeable staff there to engage with them. You’ve got to have the right trade show booth etiquette to guarantee a successful trade show.


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It’s really important that your exhibit staff know how to interact with and aid attendees with questions they will have about your products and/or services. Your show will fail if you do not have knowledgeable staff representing your brand.

Your exhibit space should also feel open and welcoming. Entryways obstructed with too much ‘stuff’ or a wall of staff do not make for a welcoming, open environment.

We want to help build that successful event staff team. Here are some tips, or what we like to call the “Ten Commandments of Trade Show Etiquette”, that you must do if you want to see success in your trade show exhibit.


1. Research The Event Clientele

Understanding who your event attendees will be before the event even starts can relieve a lot of stress on your part. Most trade shows will provide their exhibitors with a prospectus that covers attendee demographics, so you know who your attendees will be and what industries and companies they will be representing. This will help you better craft your messaging strategy and create scripts for your team. Knowing as much as you can upfront about your attendees will make for better conversations at the show which should generate more leads helping you to reach your show goals.

It’s also important to make sure you clearly understand who your overall audience is. Make sure you’re catering to the feelings and needs of you attendees. While people often forget exactly what you said or did, they will always remember how you made them feel.

Along with attendees are all of the other clientele at your trade show. This could be anyone from your current clients or prospects, new leads you’ve never met or seen before, current and prospective vendors, and even your own booth staff.

While this seems like an overwhelming amount of people to account for, it really boils down to how you balance your previously established relationships versus creating new relationships. Every single person at the trade show has a different relationship with you. Make sure you can identify all of those relationships before hand so nothing surprises you when the show actually starts. Good planning can go a long way here.


2. Be Hospitable

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but also super important. Make sure your staff are putting their best foot forward for the customer. Make sure to cover the following basics with your team to help make your exhibit space as welcoming as is possible:

  • Teach your staff warm greetings and conversational techniques.
    • Be standing or stand up and greet everyone with a smile.
    • Make eye contact.
    • Always be facing the walkways and be ready to engage with attendees that visit your booth.
    • Be enthusiastic, confident and polite.
  • Practice makes perfect!  Make sure you practice trade show attendee interaction scenarios with your staff. Training your staff will help them be prepared to address most of the needs of attendees.
  • Attendees are human beings, treat them like it. Don’t just try to shove your product down their throats.  Have a conversation with them, ask them if they are enjoying the show so far.
  • Talk to the attendees!  Do not ignore them to have conversations with your co-workers.  You are there for them and can talk with co-workers just about any other time.
  • Always say thank you! Be sure to always thank your attendees for stopping by your booth and let them know to feel free to come back anytime if they should have any more questions.


3. Be Presentable

There are not many trade shows out there where it would be okay to wear exercise clothing or pajamas.  It’s actually really easy to look presentable at a trade show. Always be dressed according to the professionalism of the trade show. Overdressing and underdressing is common in trade shows in different niches. You know your industry so you should have a pretty good take on how people dress in your industry. Go with what you know. If unsure, reach out to peers in your network who have attended the same shows and ask them for advice or look up photos from previous years’ shows on the show website or social media.


4. Use Body Language

Body language is extremely important for trade show staff because the wrong type of body language will repel attendees from your booth rather than welcome them in. The gestures, movements, and expressions you make will speak volumes about you: sometimes even more so than your actual words.

When engaging with attendees keep constant eye contact, use a firm handshake, and stand up straight. People will respect you for it.


5. Avoid Using Chairs

Many booths will be set up with tables and chairs to sit and have a conversation with attendees interested in your products and/or services. Your booth staff should avoid sitting at the table with their eyes buried in their laptops or smartphones at all costs. This is one of the most unwelcoming things to see at a trade show for attendees, and they will often walk right by your booth. Now, we are not saying there may not be some circumstances in which chairs are alright, but in most situations be attentive and stand when greeting and talking to attendees.


6. Don’t Solicit

While you want to engage with as many attendees as possible and want to get a good amount of leads at the trade show, there is a fine line between being engaging and being annoying. To a show attendee, there’s a difference between being forward and being intrusive. They are on a mission at a trade show, they are trying to see as much as possible while getting in all of their sessions. They know who they are there to see and what will be of interest to them. Don’t reach out to those attendees who might not otherwise be interested in your booth. You’ll be wasting your time and theirs.


7. No Food or Drink

We know, it’s been a long day and you’re hungry, but please do not eat or drink while at your booth during peak exhibit hall hours. This will drive attendees away from your booth.

Also, try to not have a lot of drink or food containers laying around. Even having a plastic water bottle at the table can be somewhat discouraging and looks messy.

We do, however, understand that you need fluid. Specifically, you’ll need water because you’ll be talking a lot. We have logo branded stainless steel water bottles that we give out to our staff to keep a refreshing beverage in. These logo branded bottles are a great way to represent your brand with a professional appearance. Branded water bottles are also a great giveaway item at trade shows.


8. Organize Your Booth

“Messy booths filled with clutter are the most welcoming!” said no one ever. This is an easy one.  Keep your booth organized at all times. This includes throwing out any trash immediately and keeping your booth clutter free. Keep your literature racks filled and giveaways visible. Keep supplies and staff personal items stored in podium cabinets or storage behind the booth backdrop out of site.

Make sure your traveling staff does not use your booth as luggage storage. Staff luggage should be stored at the hotel luggage check area. It should never be piled up at the booth visible to attendees.


9. Be Positive!

People tend to be drawn to other people and things that give off positive vibes. Sure, your pretty booth is vibing with positive energy, but your booth staff needs to be doing the same. Smile! There is nothing more positive than a smile. Make sure you and your staff are smiling and appear happy, especially during peak booth hours when you will be surrounded by attendees.

Don’t let rough moments at the show take a toll on your positive energy. If an attendee experience earlier in the day was negative, don’t let it affect the rest of your day at the trade show. Always look for ways to turn those negatives into positives.

Trade show days are long and feel even longer if you let yourself slip into a negative mindset that the attendees will pick up on. Keep your mind in a positive place. Take breaks and encourage staff to take breaks when feeling burnt out.

Make sure to plan out a staffing system where booth staff can take breaks without leaving the booth unmanned. The last thing you want is your entire booth staff to take a break together, leaving your booth empty of people. Any potential leads in the time your booth is unstaffed are now gone, so be sure to schedule your breaks.

It’s important to find ways to pick yourself up.  Remember that you’re at a trade show for multiple days with thousands of potential clients, many companies would kill to have the marketing budget and capabilities to exhibit at trade shows.


10. If Nothing Else, Be Helpful.

If for some reason you find that you can’t do any of the other tasks here, just be as helpful to your attendees as you possibly can. At the end of the day, attendees are walking around looking for guidance, and if you have the capability to be helpful, they’ll love you for it.



Trade show etiquette is one of the key factors in the success of your trade show. Now that you have learned about the “Ten Commandments of Trade Show Etiquette”, share them with your team, your network and get ready for your next trade show to be a smashing success!

The proper trade show etiquette can make or break your trade show experience. At the end of the day, if you’ve followed all of these commandments, your likelihood of closing the sale is going to increase greatly!

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