By Candy Adams, The Booth Mom®

Aisle in ShoesI see it at a lot of shows (especially where I judge exhibitors), and it makes me sad. I’m sure you’ve seen it as well, maybe even staring across the aisle from your exhibit. It’s the exhibit that looks like a ghost town: no visitors, no one watching demos, no one even standing in the aisle looking at the exhibit. (Even sadder, I’ve even seen exhibits that weren’t staffed, or the staff was eating, or on their tablets or smartphones ignoring visitors trying to make eye contact.) The only thing missing was the sounds of crickets chirping!

What’s wrong? Why does one exhibit attract visitors with an invisible magnet – or maybe it’s not invisible? I think the answer is that we just need to think like an attendee instead of an exhibitor and look at our exhibits through their critical eyes.

Let’s look at the top six things that exhibitors do – or don’t do – that, like a magnet, can either attract or repel visitors on the show floor:

1. If you invite them, they will come. Did you do your homework by inviting your top prospects and current customers to your booth? Did you give them a compelling reason for them stop by to see your product or service? Did you announce a new product with a clear message of why it will save them time, money or hassles? Will you have a new demo running, be offering them some type of hospitality while they visit, or have a thank-you gift for them for their time? (It’s said that we call it a trade show because we trade their time for our swag…) If not, you may have missed your chance to get short-listed on their schedule of must-see exhibits.    

2. Could they find you? Did your pre-show mailer, email and exhibitor profile all have your booth number and hall boldly printed on it? Do you have a corporate ID sign or logo high enough up in your exhibit that it’s easily spotted? If not, expect to get passed by as they concentrate on the next booth on their short list to visit that was easier to find. 

3. Who are you…and what do you do? I see exhibits all the time whose identity is a mystery. I can’t tell who they are, what they sell, or what they do differently or better. Please don’t make me guess!  Be clear on your exhibit graphics that I can easily see your company name, logo, product and your USP (unique selling point). What makes your product better than what your competitors offer? Keep this information at the above-the-shoulder level of your exhibit staff and visitors so they aren’t blocked from those walking down the aisle trying to see it.

4. Do your product graphics tell visitors what’s new? Three-quarters of show visitors say they come to see what’s new on the show floor, and if they can’t quickly see that you’re displaying anything new, you’ve just lost your edge. And don’t forget to add the word “NEW!” to any pre-show promotion, too!

5. Is your key message clear, or are your graphics overwhelming with too many words? I call it visual clutter. The show floor as a whole is already overwhelming, but when you look at a wall of words, it just becomes a blur. Think of a billboard whose maximum effectiveness is seven words or less and clone that style, along with easily-readable fonts, large print and single lines of text. Less is truly more.

6. The most memorable part of your exhibit is your staff. Attendees expect to be greeted as they approach your exhibit in a professional way by knowledgeable staff member who can answer their questions without a long wait. Is your staff easily identified in branded boothwear? Is there sufficient staff to handle visitor traffic, and have you trained staff members to engage with multiple people at the same time? 

Before you plan your next exhibit, try walking an aisle in your prospects’ shoes and see what they see! It definitely will change your perspective. 

Candy Adams, CTSM | CEM | CMP | CMM, affectionately known throughout the trade show industry as “The Booth Mom®” for sharing her expertise and experience with rookie exhibitors, is the definitive source for exhibiting best practices. With 25+ years’ experience as an exhibit project manager, 450+ shows under her belt, 20+ years as EXHIBITOR Magazine’s award-winning columnist penning “Exhibiting 101” and conference faculty member for EXHIBITORLIVE, she's the go-to guru for exhibit management. Candy provides hands-on freelance exhibit project management, consulting and exhibit staff training to companies without a dedicated in-house exhibit manager through her company, Trade Show Consulting. Learn more about Candy at: and

follow her on Twitter @TheBoothMom”