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Trade shows: booth design and staff readiness

International trade shows remain a cost-effective channel for generating leads, making sales, and showcasing company offerings. The booth is central to creating a business friendly ambiance that will attract visitors and generate new clients.

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Published by ConnectAmericas

Creating an attractive booth and preparing a solid staff are key elements to getting the most out of trade show participation. In Trade Show Boothmanship and Follow Up and Trade Show Planning and Preparation, Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) outlines several strategies for creating a successful experience, as does ProMexico in its Online Guide on preparing visits to international fairs.

Choosing a booth designer. In its online guide to preparation for participating in international fairs, ProMexico recommends utilizing professional booth designers to assist in developing a display and offers some of the following guidance. If the international fair is hosted in your country, choosing a designer operating domestically may be the most sensible choice. For shows held abroad, you may find that local designers operate abroad. Otherwise, you will need to consider the costs in time and money related to transporting a locally produced exhibit, materials needed for on–site construction, and any documents required for temporary importation. Also be sure to compare these services to that of any official designers made available by the show itself.

After settling on a designer you will need some of the following baseline following information:

  • Goals for participation
  • Budget and timeframe for delivery of final product
  • Type and quantity of products to exhibit
  • Character, weight and dimensions of products/materials to be displayed
  • Restrictions on height, space, dimensions, types of materials used, and safety regulations imposed by the show organizers

Clarity over confusion. AAFC reminds us that it only takes visitors a few seconds to decide if they want to approach a booth when walking, and offers some advice on how to make the most of those moments.

  • Display distinct focal points that convey the spirit and personality of your company rather than competing designs that may confuse a passerby.
  • Make sure that free-standing or decorations like flowers or vases do not stifle visitor access or booth visibility.
  • Develop a balance color scheme and remember that the “eye appreciates and is drawn to less aggressive colors”; if exhibiting under a pavilion, be sure to coordinate with its organizers to ensure coherence with the pavilions overall aesthetic.

Materials and audience. ProMexico advises exhibitors to have materials appropriate for the audience(s) at the show in question. Some are focused on carrying out business and coordinating contracts while others emphasize product and service showcase. Marketing materials and sales literature should be printed in the local language when participating in fairs abroad.

Staff training and execution in the booth. According to AAFC, happy clients can be a company’s best ambassador. Having friendly, pro-active staff can go a long way in creating the type of positive interactions that will make visitors more willing to conduct business with you and more likely to speak well of your company to others. Here are some tips that AAFC and ProMexico share for building an effective staff.


  • Provide staff with sample engagement and qualifying questions to better target potential clients in advance of product sampling or demonstration.
  • Verify that staff can answer basic questions about products and services.
  • Verify extensive competence and ability to communicate knowledge of company capabilities, export intentions, market exposure and expansion efforts.
  • Develop standardized system to keep track of visitor details weeks in advance to best track contacts and evaluate attend profiles.
  • Provide business cards and other appropriate promotional material that can be shared with visitors.


  • Focus energy on interested customers and samples on qualified visitors with high clientele potential; smaller sample sizes can create a higher perceived value.
  • Ensure staff are appropriately identified, properly dressed, and approachable.
  • Limit staff size to one per five square meters of space to avoid overcrowding and unapproachability. Listen actively and be attentive to body language, tone of voice, and choice of words.
  • Don't let the process of sharing samples/written material distract from lead-building dialogue.
  • Keep booth attended to at all times, never leave vacant.
  • Allow staff to take an occasional moment for rest and amusement to keep them refreshed in an energy intensive setting.
  • Provide stools rather than chairs for eye level contact if staffers need to be seated.

Follow up. Be pro-active and timely in following up with leads after a trade show. Try developing an in-show lead management system where staff can categorize leads by potential (i.e. high, medium, low) client time and resources for post-show lead follow-up. Lastly, be sure to conduct a debriefing where successes and areas for improvement can be discussed, preferably while the event is fresh in everyone’s head. This evaluation will be helpful in gauging the progress in participation from previous shows, as well as of the quality of the leads, sales, and overall utility of the show.

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