Don’t Make this Trade Show Mistake

As you prepare for the start of the Trade Show season you’re likely inundated with the final details — is the booth design right, is the collateral ready, do you have the giveaways yet, who’s going, where are they staying …. the list goes on.

But are YOU ready?

Aside from equipment, display, and logistic issues, the biggest fear at a trade show is an unhappy customer making a scene. It happens. How you handle it can make or break your company.

The Scene: An Angry Customer Visits. 

The customer comes to the booth, riled by seeing your brand, and immediately begins to make a scene. He relays his grievance, and wants to know what you’ll do about it.

What do you do?

You take his information and assure him you’ll review everything and get back to him after the show.

The Outcome:

You have taken an angry customer, given him no relief, barely acknowledged the issue, and unleashed his displeasure to be spread among all your customers and prospects at one of the biggest shows of the year. The potential damage to your business, your brand, is extraordinary, as he is now interacting with colleagues, peers, competitors, feeding them all negative stories about your brand. Others may join in.

So what should you have done?

The very first thing you should do is acknowledge the customer’s issue, and apologize. You may have done this. But did you make him feel important? Did you seem surprised, since this type of situation is unusual for your business? Our first instinct is to quell the scene, deal with it in a different setting, after the show, but it’s often the worst approach.

Address the situation right then and there. Others are watching, they will see the attentiveness, and the resolution. Pull up your CRM. All have mobile versions now. Use it. Address and resolve it on the spot.

At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou

The Reality:

This example is from a real life experience. The irony of the sales rep acting to quell the scene was costly, and truly addresses the need for specific training and preparedness for the booth staff, from the reps to the execs.

In this case, if the rep had taken the time, he would have found out some interesting facts. The customer wasn’t actually their customer, it was, in fact, the competitor’s. The anger, frustration with the issue is misplaced. If this had been reviewed right there, with the customer, then made an offer to rectify their experience WITHIN YOUR INDUSTRY, the outcome would have been very different.

Instead of having an angry customer who will bad mouth you throughout the duration of the show, you now have a converted customer who will speak highly of your brand and service. He will talk about his experience to others, and might even mention the disgust with the ACTUAL brand that did him wrong.


Trade shows are more marketing, PR, than sales, yet it’s the sales team that takes over the public face of the company. Make sure they are prepared.

Tell us your trade show story