Home » Succeeding at International Trade Shows (Part 2: The Booth)

Succeeding at International Trade Shows (Part 2: The Booth)

In the first article of this series, I detailed the Pre-event Preparation practices that set up the foundation for successfully participating at an international trade show. The other elements that make up the Trade Show Participation Strategy are:

– The Booth

– The Staff in the Booth, and

– The After-event Follow Up.

We will focus today on The Booth.

Large companies with large pockets usually buy large spaces for massive booths in prime spots in the expo hall, relegating small companies to smaller spaces in less than desirable spots. It is impressive to see a massive booth, but size has nothing to with effectiveness.

Thus, it is critical for SMEs to avoid trying to compete with other exhibitors on booth size alone.

In my experience participating in trade shows abroad, I’ve learned that a small booth that clearly communicates to potential customers, produces better results than a massive booth that fails to clearly and quickly communicate the company’s reason for being in the trade show. How do you achieve this? I could list dozens of suggestions, but today I will focus on one of the most import and most overlooked elements for booth effectiveness. I call it The Silent Salesman. 

This booth lacks The Silent Salesman. Most companies use the booths’ walls to display the company’s products and information (Figure 1).



Figure 1. Booth without The Silent Salesman. 

Companies usually don’t account for a factor that will render the information in the walls hard to read at best, and useless at worst: people walking by! (Figure 2).


Figure 2. Even a small amount of passersby can obscure and block the information the company wants to communicate to potential customers.

The job of The Silent Salesman is to clearly and quickly communicate, regardless of how much people are obstructing the view into the booth, the reason the company is at the trade show, the company’s products and contact information. Even if the staff at the booth is busy with visitors, other potential clients passing by get the information they need without even talking to the staff. Hence, The Silent Salesman (Figure 3).


Figure 3. The Silent Salesman in action. 

Without The Silent Salesman, potential clients that did not plan to visit the company’s booth or didn’t know about the company will simply walk past the booth. They may, at best, give the booth a passing glance. A critical job of The Silent Salesman is to attract potential clients and facilitate face-to-face meetings, while keeping non-qualified candidates out of the booth.

Here are 3 recommendations regarding The Silent Salesman:

1. It should include at the very least the company’s logo, products’ pictures, contact information (phone, email address, and website) and the reason why the company is participating in the trade show (e.g., looking for distributors).  

2. The Silent Salesman shown in Figure 3 was made up of four panels. I recommend printing The Silent Salesman on Foam Core, which is light and cheap. It’s easy to carry the panels even in one suitcase. Here are a couple of examples of companies that print on Foam Core:



These panels are so light that can be attached to the booth with double-sided duct tape. 

3. Always ask for permission to install The Silent Salesman! It is a good idea to let the organizer know what you want to do and receive approval in advance. 

I’ve used The Silent Salesman many times and have shared this tactic with many of my clients. We all have found it tremendously useful because companies of any size can apply this tactic, it doesn’t cost more to put it into practice, it communicates the company’s most important information regardless of the crowds or time of the day, and it works!

The final two elements that make up the Trade Show Participation Strategy (The Staff in the Booth and the After-event Follow Up) will be reviewed in upcoming articles. Stay tuned!