Select Page

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

Trade shows can be a very exciting thing for anyone in network marketing.  As a vendor trade shows are a great way to market your product if promoted properly.

You have the opportunity to make a favorable impression to anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of attendees. Unfortunately, many vendors will unknowingly commit a variety of booth blunders that may have a lasting effect on their business image and reputation. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” could never be more true and the words may be right there with the picture/video- on Facebook or YouTube or any of the other social media outlets so many people use daily! One never knows when they are being photographed or recorded while attending to their booths.

Trade Show Etiquette |


To help guide you towards a successful exhibit at your next trade show, here are some of the top ways you can improve your trade show etiquette:

Dress Appropriately

It is impossible to impose one dress code on the variety of trades there are. As the exhibitor you must use use modesty and taste while making choices appropriate to your industry. The best practice in most cases would be to wear name tags and dress in business casual attire – clothing that reveals too much cleavage, your back, your chest, your feet, your stomach or your underwear is not appropriate for a place of business (which is exactly what a trade show is for you as the vendor).

Clothing should be pressed and never wrinkled. Torn, dirty, or frayed clothing is unacceptable. Clothing that has the company logo is encouraged but stay away from clothing that displays sports teams, other companies, etc. Jewelry, makeup, perfume and cologne should be in good taste, with limited visible body piercing. Remember, that some people are allergic to the chemicals in perfumes and make-up, so wear these substances with restraint. Conservative athletic or walking shoes, clogs, sneakers, boots, flats, dress heels, and leather deck-type shoes are acceptable but steer clear of thongs, flip-flops, and slippers!

Maintain Your Booth

Unless your particular industry is “Organizational Skills” and you are demonstrating the “messy look” for effect, your booth should be well-maintained, free of clutter, and appealing to the visitor.  Remember to keep boxes, cords, refills and other set-up tools, hidden under a skirted table.

Never leave your booth unattended!  If you are the only rep (not the best case scenario) to  man your booth, you will need to make “booth buddies” on either or both sides of you.  Hopefully, they are not your biggest competitor.  No one expects the neighbor to answer questions or sell product.  The idea is to get out and get back briskly so your customers are happy to wait…or to come back shortly.  Choose a slow time so as not to distract your buddy from his own work and don’t take advantage by stepping out for an  hour long lunch at the nearby oceanfront bistro!  Make your necessary stops at the restroom, grab a quick lunch and head back with abundant gratitude to your neighbor

Keep your booth fully stocked at all times. Never run out of anything.  Brochures, fliers, cards, candies, samples, raffle tickets, entry forms, novelty items, samples-  everything needs to be readily available until the last customer has left the show.

Put Down your Cell Phone!!!

It is impolite to use your cell phone when in the company of others. PERIOD. There is rarely such an urgency to take or make a call that cannot wait until more private circumstances permit or to have to check in on the multitude of social media apps that you have on your phone.  Facebook can wait until your show has concluded. Avoid checking your cell phone or smart device during your show. Admittedly, the urge to check the time on your phone, leads to checking your emails and text messages, which leads to answering correspondence. But as the show attendees walk by they may keep walking if you have your face buried in the screen of your device!

As an attendee steps into an exhibit they do not want to watch the vendor on their cell phones talking, surfing and texting away. They are seeking your undivided attention. If they feel unimportant and not wanting to interrupt you as your buried in technology they will walk away from your both. I understand it’s difficult to totally stay of your phone during a show but be discrete and ask yourself can this call, e-mail or text message wait. I strongly recommend exhibitors to pocket their phones while they are working in their exhibit. You only have one chance to make a first impression at a trade show and talking on your cell phone is not a good one.

Food and Drink

You should never be caught eating or drinking in your booth.  While it is difficult to manage “manning your booth” all day without help or food, just keep in mind the operative word here is “caught”.  Once can’t expect you to work a 12-14 hour day setting up, breaking down, and greeting thousands without a bit of sustenance!  Look for the appropriate time that you may be able to discreetly eat fruit or something quick unless you have arrangements for your booth for your absence.  When you do eat meals avoid alcohol, spicy food and garlic.

Never Chew Gum!

If you’re a gum-chewer, please, refrain from doing so when you are meeting, greeting, explaining, or just standing and smiling. Gum, by its very requirement of chewing it like cud – over and over until it forms a ball of tasteless rubber in your mouth, can knock the “polish and panache” quotient down significantly.

Don’t Oversell

Not a one of us wants to be “oversold”.  The vendor that talks too much and offers too much too soon…will likely sell the least.  Be approachable, friendly, ask a few questions to engage your customer or simply ask them if you can have a moment of their valuable time to demonstrate a particular product.  We all know the “massage chair” guy has them lined up, right?  They don’t have to say much…just listen to the customer in the chair ooohing and ahhhing for 10 minutes!

Try using the 80/20 Rule – Listen to your prospects 80% of the time and speak 20% of the time. Ask open-ended questions to help build a rapport with your visitors.

Always be ready to engage your potential customers with a smile, a firm handshake and a warm and sincere greeting.  Welcome them to the show, and thank them especially, for taking the time to stop by your booth.  Make sure you make direct eye contact during the handshake – not so long as to scare them with your fixed eyeballs, just the few seconds it takes to shake their hand in 2-3 movements.  Like in every social situation,  never underestimate the power of the first impression; which takes place in the first seven seconds.  Be enthusiastic, confident and polite.

Keep yourself in check

Be sure your posture is appropriate. Avoid crossing your arms and keeping your hands in your pockets, instead keep your hands at your sides and be natural! Don’t lean on your booth or fidget with various items. Also if you are attending with a significant other (or are looking for one haha) keep in mind that trade shows are not the place for romance.

Visiting the Competition

Touchy situation here.  It’s pretty tempting to want to take a little time to see how everyone else is displaying, sample some yummy treats or grab the fliers/cards/brochures of our competitors.  Remember, word spreads fast.  Someone knows someone who knows you, your booth, your product and your reputation.  While it’s not illegal to visit the competitor booths, it is highly unethical to whisper to others in their area to stop by your booth and check out your great prices!  That goes for negative gossip about your competition as well.  I’m more about honesty and integrity in these situations.  I’m happy to pass by a booth and if addressed by the vendor or some mutual silent dance of interest has been displayed, I will politely introduce myself,  my company, where on the floor our booth is, compliment their own booth and wish them great success during the show.  Small talk among peers and competitors is expected, just know your boundaries.  Keep it short, polite, and positive.

I hope that this article gives you some of the basics skills you need to pay attention to when setting up a display at an event or trade show. Sometimes the smallest details can make or break your day!