The Trade Show Paradox

Concrete trucks are spinning on the show room floor. Virtual reality headsets are transporting people to worksites around the world. Cranes are taking turns lifting gigantic rocks. Screens and signs are filled with fun, dynamic graphics. Business cards are exchanged for chances to win smart-tablets and gift-cards. And the Commercial Truck Trader table is handing out our famous color-changing cups (blue when warm, purple when cold).

The scene of your typical trade show is pretty well known, but it also demonstrates a compelling and complicated paradox that we don’t always talk about, related to just how important the set-up of your booth really is.

CTT Booth Resized

On one side of the paradox is the fact that you absolutely need a good-looking booth in order to not get lost in the sea of exhibitors. A sloppily put-together display reflects poorly on the professionalism of a dealer and is easily overlooked when so many other presenters have put better effort into their booths.

To attract quality connections, successful displays usually:

  • highlight the company name, the main goods or services the business provides, and the website or other primary contact information,
  • hand-out fun pieces of “swag” to draw in prospects,
  • provide an abundance of informative collateral – pamphlets, business cards, etc. – to provide greater details about the business to attendees,
  • and are ready with show-badge scanners or a simply notepad to take the personal information of connections who specifically ask to be contacted with more information.

The list of trade show presentation recommendations can go on and on. The point is that successful dealers have professional, high-quality trade show booths. But the other side of the paradox is the fact that while you need a good-looking booth to keep-up with your competitors, the appearance of a booth is rarely going to set you dramatically apart from the other displays around you.

Yes, there are the extra-ordinary booths that blow everyone’s mind with advanced technology or dazzling entertainment, but a typical, down-to-earth dealer will have to find another way to standout beyond display appearance. That’s where customer service comes in. In fact, the best ways for a dealer to make a lasting impression on attendees is to:

  • display a commanding knowledge of the company’s ins-and-outs,
  • clearly communicate how the prospect can best be served by the business,
  • demonstrate enthusiasm for customer service and passion for the industry
  • and indicate appreciation for attendee interest and an intention to follow-up on the conversation with a later phone call or email.

A dealer’s display set-up is all-important for drawing attention to the booth, but it only puts the dealer on an even playing field with all the other exhibitors who have high-quality booths. Professional appearance is absolutely necessary, and absolutely not enough – that’s quite the paradox. And yet, the solution is clear:

At trade shows where almost every exhibit looks decent, but not every exhibitor bothers to generate productive conversation once an attendee has approached the booth, customer service is the key to success. Making the most of a trade show requires a dealer to not only prepare signage and hand-outs and displays, but also must prepare their minds and tongues for turning attendee prospects into genuine leads and connections. Do that, and you’ll crack the trade show paradox.


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