When you open a popup store, run a booth or take part in a trade show, conversions and engagement provide the accurate measurement of your success. Anything else, while it might "get you in the feels," does little for your company's bottom line. It may sound counterintuitive, but the decision to attend a trade show requires you to figure out which attendees, if any, fit your customer base before you design your booth. Once you know that, you also have to select the right colors, signage, tables or counters and banners to bring your customer to your display and close the sale.

Tour a Show

Touring a show online or in person always provides actionable data. The action might consist of what not to do, but eliminating the dealbreakers turns the battle for customers to your favor. Knowledge is power. Browse the photos from the show's previous years. What catches your eye? What makes you ask "What are they selling," while you stride toward that booth?

First Impressions

Look around the trade show floor. What do you see? Where do your eyes look first? How far up the wall do the signs and banners reach that catch your eye the quickest? What colors catch your eye fastest? Which colors make you look longer? What images from the various graphics catch your eye? How large are the banners and images that make you walk toward them?

Look at two signs or two tables side-by-side. What messages do you get from each table? Do you see a table with too much, too little or just the right amount of stock to make you want to spend more time there?

Look at the vendors. Do they appear well-groomed and professionally dressed or like they just grabbed their clothes off the floor after a hard night of partying? Do all the staff at the booth have ID badges and a uniform look that says "I'm here to help you?" Or do they look like they just walked in from a game of three-card monte?


If you notice attendees ducking or skirting around a booth, that vendor has failed. The tallest, most massive person in the room should pass under your banners and walk past any counters without changing their path. Otherwise, your booth subtly signals that you do not welcome them. If your product line can stand on its own with half the available attendees, no problem. However, if you gear your products toward an all-inclusive market, then raise your signage and clear your aisles.

Use all your available space, both horizontal and vertical. Vertical surfaces should have eye-catching graphics, your company name and your contact information in a typeface large enough and readable enough to see it from across the room. Sans serif typefaces stand out best because they lack the extra strokes at the beginning and end of each letter.

Typefaces telegraph subtle cues, just like clothing. Using the wrong font feels as unprofessional as wearing your pajamas to a black tie affair. Consequently, you should avoid using Comic Sans unless your intended customer base includes children or graphic-novel enthusiasts.

Avoid brown, tan or olive table coverings, especially if customers over 50 comprise a significant portion of the crowd. Older eyes need higher contrast between the color of the merchandise and the color of the background.


When you walk into a trade show before the vendors arrive, a sea of identical, bland, featureless tables and gray, beige or white walls greet your eye. Your mission: make your booth an island of interest in a sea of boring. You should almost hear trumpets from a coronation start playing when you look toward your booth. But that's not enough, either.

Grab a few business associates and have them tour the same trade show. Ask them to note what catches their eye and what makes them say "meh." Listen for the wows and whistles.


Look around the room again. Where does your head turn first? Realistic graphics that combine bucket-list locations and larger-than-life, high-resolution photos of merchandise in use stops the show and funnels traffic past your booth. Have at least one of these off to one side of your pop-up store as a selfie station and your booth design provides endless ad reach every time that photo gets shared.


Plenty of studies discuss the power of color in sales and advertising. Use the right colors to make your products stand out when displayed. Avoid busy backgrounds and stick to the primaries: red, blue and yellow, and their complementary colors: purple and green.

You might wonder why orange did not make that color list. Trade shows serve as extensive research of your product and extended interviews with you and your staff. When Harris Interactive surveyed nearly 3,000 hiring managers and HR professionals in 2013, a full 25 percent of responders viewed orange as unprofessional. That number of turned-off customers can eliminate your profit margin in one show.


Every person staffing your booth must be a killer closer. All staff members need to reflect your company's products and values in their dress and demeanor. Have a unified, professional appearance, with all shirts tucked and pants pressed. Have all hats facing forward if wearing any at all.

Your closers must be fluent in the language of your products and your industry. Every encounter should begin with some qualifying questions, and not just whether the customer can afford to buy. You want to learn where that customer stands in the buying process. Identify Joe Sawmill, Jennifer Plumbing Contractor and Ellen Self-Educator. Make sure they each get a flyer and a business card with full contact information in their hands. After that, it's demo time.

Your closers present your entire product line to new customers. Focus on a single product or a new product line with a repeat customer. At any point in the demo where a customer starts talking unit numbers or prices, your Killer Closer asks "Which of our products did you think would best fit your situation?"

Recap the product features that the customer mentioned and ask how many units the customer needs. Next, ask how soon they want to take delivery. Customers who give you those numbers are buyers. Sell your product to them now. When practical, have a fully-stocked van or truck in the parking lot and have runners take the product directly to the customer's vehicle. Otherwise, make an appointment for the closest possible delivery date and time. "Very cool, (customer name) we're going to make this happen (day, date and time). It sounds like you have a winning setup. I can't wait to see what you're going to do with our product."