Recently I was privileged to have many hours of pure idleness while my wife and her art collective tried to sell paintings at an arts festival. Since idleness doesn’t suit me, I sat in a chair across the street and watched with wonder at the strangers stopping by and passing the booth.

When everyone was wrapping up, I gave them some ideas for improvement for the next time. You can use these same ideas in your business or trade show booth.

1. Create One Entrance and One Exit

It might seem too simple to start with with, but it’s crucial for people to be told where to go next. In fact, people respond to this kind of advice. Have a nice sign that let’s them know where the entrance is. Also place one over the exit to let them know the entrance is on the other side. Over the entrance, be friendly and inviting (Welcome, Come on inside!).

2. Create a contest, give something away

They actually had a basket of art to raffle away. In return for a raffle, they received potential customer’s names and email addresses. My only critique was that the Give-A-Way basket was a little hum-drum. Not the art inside, but the idea of a basket. The best idea is to create something that has a high intrinsic value for your potential customers, that is also somewhat unexpected and piques their curiosity.

In this case an original painting by the person’s favorite artist would have been an interesting idea. By having to think about their favorite, it’s more likely that the person entering the drawing would look at the work to find their favorite artist. This leads to more eyeballs on the work, and potentially more sales.

3. When you collect emails, have a plan to do something with them

Don’t just get emails or names to add to a general mailing list. Think of this as building a friendship, a quality relationship. Find ways to personalize and connect with each person. Social media also offers multiple ways to do that.

4. Create a takeaway that continues the conversation

Remember, it’s all about the relationship. If they don’t want to sign up for the raffle, don’t just give them a business card, or if you do, make sure it has a link to a website that offers free downloads of your product in exchange for email. You want to keep the conversation going, and not just hope that they might call you back.

5. Place signs inside that guide the customer

When people find themselves in a new and confusing situation, they naturally look for direction. Placing signs that focus attention and show (tell) people what to do will help them immensely. Even something as heavy handed as “Start Here” would be better than nothing.

The goal is to help them tell a better story to themselves as they look for things that they want.

6. Eliminate any friction

There’s a conflict when you’re selling expensive items and you only accept cash. There’s a conflict when someone buys a large or a breakable item and then has to figure out how to transport it. There’s conflict when people worry that what they bought won’t look right in the house.

Conflict often ends in people not buying. That is unless you remove the conflict, or friction to buying, at every level. Offer to take credit cards, offer free or low cost delivery, offer a money back guarantee. And make sure all these things are highlighted in the booth.

7. Tell your unique story

People only pay attention to something that’s new or interesting. If your booth looks like everyone else, then people won’t look twice.

What separates you from the others? How can you make them feel differently than anyone else can?


More than anything, you need to have some fun. So many booth operators looked tired and down-trodden. The more successful ones (the ones with people around them) exemplified the opposite. Whether you use these ideas for your next trade booth or a store, remember if you focus on the customer and not on selling, you will be better off.