5 Outdoor Trade Show Myths Debunked

Mike Carr
August 5, 2014

It doesn’t seem that long ago we attended Action Sport Retailer (ASR) in San Diego for the last time. Prior to the recession, Action & Outdoor Sports (AOS) trade shows included expensive floor space, large booths, lots of free beer and high fives.  Fast-forward less than a decade and aside from ASR’s disappearance, not much has changed. With the current outdoor trade show season in full swing, we’re debunking 5 commonly held myths for you to consider this (and next) trade show season.

5 Outdoor Trade Show Myths Debunked

Myth 1: Bigger is Better

The long-standing debate doesn’t apply to trade shows. If perception is reality, bigger empty booths look stale compared with fuller smaller booths. Take an aesthetic lesson from SNEWS, and apply big ideas to smaller spaces. If your direct competition is growing their footprint, don’t get caught up in an arms race. Keep your footprint manageable and those extra dollars in your pocket (for now).

Myth 2: Booth Placement Matters

So now you’re at Outdoor Retailer in a smaller booth, but you’re behind the great wall of KEEN and wishing you could have sweet-talked or paid to be on the center aisle in the main hall. The reality is these spots are incredibly hard to come by and at the end of the day your position on the floor may not matter as much as you think. Consider alternative angles, do research on parking and note the exits. Consider ease of setup and breakdown along with commute in and out of the show. Instead of spending 30 minutes every time you need to get to your car, use that time to prep for the inevitable storm & build relationships during it. The reality is that as long as your brand and products are compelling, customers and scheduled appointments will find your booth.

Myth 3: If You Build It, They Will Come

Think that REI, Nordstrom, Zumiez, or Zappos buyer is going to stroll by your booth and place an order that’ll change your business forever? Well… that simply won’t happen today; everyone’s too busy. Instead, you should be focusing your energy on proactively setting up meetings with key accounts.  Light a fire under your reps to book appointments by having a sales contest – whoever schedules the most appointments prior to the show wins an iPad. Run the same contest with the internal team and huzzah, your booth is filled and sales are up.

Myth 4: Showing the Line is Enough, No Need to Collect Orders

We’re seeing a decline in order writing at trade shows because people are too busy showing line, making notes, and most don’t think they have the time to write an actual order. What’s wrong with this picture? Retailers have open-to-buy dollars available, reps want commission and managers need to hit pre-season targets. Not to mention, the marketing team put together a great booth and the product team delivered samples on time. So what’s missing?  Simple answer: Technology. Take the time to find a mobile app that works for your brand. Leverage technology to draft orders at the show and e-mail them to buyers immediately after so they can review, edit, finalize and submit prior to the fast approaching deadline.

Myth 5: You Need to Attend Post-Show Networking Activities 

Instead of widening your network, develop deeper relationships with those already in it. Take some savings from a smaller booth, combine it with additional technology driven income, rally your troops and put money where your mouth is, literally. Invest in the camaraderie among the people that make your business run successfully – your internal team, reps and retailers. Head out for pizza and beer or rent a private room for a fancy dinner, it doesn’t matter. If it’s just the internal team and reps, set expectations and strategize in order to ensure trade show success. This is a great time to get feedback from everyone on the team and although you’re in the middle of a selling season, think about how to make next seasons’ show even better. Trade shows are hard work. Whatever you do, take a minute to thank your team; the appreciation will go a long way. If you've been around the outdoor trade show block and have some insight to share, we'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Hopefully this season you'll think twice when faced with any of these common trade show myths. Good luck at this year's outdoor shows!