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The Book of Trade Show Proverbs

December 05, 2010 | | Comments 15

The book of Trade Show ProverbsThe show was over, my trade show booth was packed away, and so I headed for the door, clinging to a bundle of leads tucked tightly under my arm.

However, I soon found the exit clogged by an angry mob.  At the apex of the bottleneck was an aged man, dressed in an outlandish plaid suit, desperately trying to squeeze his pair of battered exhibit cases through the narrow revolving door.

The crowd was hurling curses upon him, which only disoriented him further.  As he swayed in his turmoil, his matching plaid hat fell to the floor.  Instinctively I pushed through the throng to pick it up.  While near the floor, I discovered that his case wheels were jammed with garbage.  I plucked the garbage out, took the handles of his cases, and helped him through the door.

We pulled to the side in a quiet spot away from the flow of traffic.  I gave him back his hat, which he placed on his head, regaining his composure.  He sat on his cases and even smiled, as if he had finally solved a dilemma that had long gripped him.

“Thank you, young man, for your help,” he said in a voice stronger than I would have expected.  “I had thought before coming to this event that perhaps my time on the show floor was at an end.  Now I know it is.  While I have spent many, many years and uncountable days ambling among the trade show aisles, I fear it is finally time for me to go to the great marshalling yard in the sky.  I am grateful for you coming to my aid.  Therefore, I feel it only right that I pass this on to you.”

From within the folds of his plaid jacket he pulled an ancient, leather-bound book, its cover adorned with an embossed border and its ragged pages edged in gold.  The book reeked of incense and myrrh that evoked open-air markets and tented bazaars thrown up at desert crossroads in centuries past.

“When I was but a lad,” he continued, “fresh off the farm and newly commissioned as a travelling salesman, I was most fortunate to have befriended the silver-haired concierge at the great Conrad Hilton hotel.  My first trip to a Chicago trade show was his last day on the job.  Perhaps he saw something in me that made him trust me, for he gave me this book, which had been passed down from many others to him, and that I now in turn give to you.”

On the book’s cover, in golden letters, glowed the words, “Trade Show Proverbs.”  I opened it and turned its yellowed pages.  Some pages held words certainly older than the man before me, while a few appeared to have been written on by him, or perhaps his most recent predecessor.

The book began with proverbs to help calm the nerves frayed during a set-up crisis:

There are no competitors on the show floor during installation

Its no use crying over a spilled crate

It takes a villiage to raise an island exhibit

A booth on time is very fine but a booth thats late is cause for hate

Don't spoil a display for a half roll of velcro

Many of the venerable book’s trade show proverbs aimed to illuminate the booth staffer:

Early to hotel and early to show floor gives a man leads sales and much more

Never judge an attendee by his looks

A lead in the booth is worth two in the aisle

One lead does not make a show

A hungry booth staffer will work no faster

Clothes make the booth staff

Don't count your leads until the show's over

Several trade show proverbs had sharp words of caution for those unfocused in their exhibit marketing:

Failing to exhibit is exhibiting your failure

For want of a staffer the lead was lost, for want of a lead the show was lost, for want of a show the company was lost

If you can't stand the competition get out of the show

You are what you exhibit

'Tis better to light up your exhibit than to curse the darkness

Exhibit design unaccompanied by marketing is like a flower without perfume

The final two proverbs commented wisely on the human condition as found in the trade show world:

Exhibit design unaccompanied by marketing is like a flower without perfume

Nothing is certain except for show closing and overtime charge

The words I read were new to me, and yet they rang so true, it was as if I had known them all my life.  Riveted by the old book, I did not stop reading until the last page.

When I looked up to thank my benefactor, I discovered that he had silently rolled his cases away.  But he had not really left me alone, having entrusted to my care the book of Trade Show Proverbs.

What Trade Show Proverbs do you cling to dearly, that you would add to the venerable pages of this book?  Please enlighten us with your wisdom in the comment box below.

What's Working In ExhibitingThe trade show floor has changed since the days of plaid suits and men with hats.  Find out what gets results now by clicking here to get your free copy of the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper, filled with today’s proven trade show marketing methods.

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Filed Under: CreativeTrade show booth staffingTrade Show Planning and Logistics

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About the Author: Mike Thimmesch is Skyline Exhibits' Director of Customer Engagement, with 25 years of Marketing and Trade Show Display Marketing experience.

RSSComments (15)

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  1. Alison Graham says:

    This is absolutely brilliant – I had a real chuckle over some of these – having worked on many trade show booths in my time, ‘a hungry booth staffer will work no faster’ really resonated with me (I am sure there should have been one about a staffer with aching feet!). Thank you, really loved it!

  2. Richard Allan says:

    -The sooner you can get your visitors to sit down on a comfortable seat, the sooner they will be comfortable to leave you information, leads and yes even an order…
    - Nothing attracts female visitors like chocolate. Having lots on hand will draw lots of adoring chocolate lovers and make them all the more sweeter on you….
    -A tasteful lighting effect that can be seen upon the ceiling of the exhibit hall will create curiosity and for you to be noticed and remembered by all in attendance without disturbing the peace of those around you.

  3. Perfect timing to read these fun and helpful Trade Show ‘proverbs’. My trade show schedule is gearing up and it is a great reminder of what they are all about!

  4. Very clever, nicely done. You took a lot of ‘common’ knowledge and presented it in an enticing way. Definitely worth tweeting!

  5. Negative thoughts inspired by aching feet can be easily turned to selling smiles by a 10′x10′ roll of nice, thick, carpet.

  6. Chuck Pinnow says:

    Hi Mike,
    I think I must have come across the same fellow all those years ago.

    Regarding overall booth and personal appearence, I was told by him that I have 3.2 seconds, (the time it takes to walk 10 ft), to catch a buyers attention and stop him/her. Failing to do so the first time could mean you won’t have another chance to do so at that show.

    His advice to me was when you first get to your booth, before you set up one table, get rid of all the chairs. He said, and I quote, “This real estate is far to expensive to sit” After 15 yrs of shows, I will never forget his words, and I have never seen him since.

  7. irit Cohen says:

    This is really a great post. Thank you Mike. I’m curious to know if the lovely old book is available for purchase??? Just joking..
    I have one to add : High heels ARE sexy but won’t bring you more sales just more pain. This isn’t from personal experience , I can’t survive more then one hour on high heels or any heels. But I’ve watched a lot of women suffering great pain in shows, and for what?

    irit

    • Irit,

      It’s been said Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels. But no one should have to endure high heels while staffing a trade show booth. That’s going above and beyond the call of duty!

  8. Tess Williams says:

    It’s cheaper to buy a small vacuum cleaner and trashcan at the local WalMart and leave it behind than to ship it or rent it.

    Chocolate is the first food group, not the fifth :)

    Be as nice to the convention center staff as you are to potential customers. Strike that, be nicer!

    And for traveling in general. Put 1 change of clothes (at least the undergarments) in whatever you carry on an airplane in case your checked luggage is lost.

  9. docholly says:

    If you only book “by appointment only” you will never expand your markets.

    A loitering booth staff never catches the lead.

    A booth bum is worth 2 bunnies.

    Never underestimate the power of great swag.

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