For many years now, I’ve had extensive experience in doing promotional stands or stalls, at expos or conferences, or in shopping centers. I want to share with you the tips and tricks that I’ve learned over that time, they can make all the difference in the success for your Expo stand.

1. Why Little is More

Little is always more. Don’t inundate your store with lots and lots of information, don’t have every possible brochure out on display. Lots of signs with different messages.

Most people make the common mistake of I’ve got to make sure I get every message across to any possible person that might see it, we’ve got to make sure everything is out there, so we don’t miss any opportunity.

The problem is when people walk past your stand. It’s information overload, it is just too much information to decipher what’s going on. Essentially, it’s visually noisy, and people just switch off.

You need to create a soft aesthetic, something that is nurturing, simple, clear, visually interesting engaging and provides curiosity.  People then feel just drawn to come into your stand, by this lovely aesthetic that you create which should be simple, clear, and visual as possible. Use lighting and different decor aesthetics to create that lovely, warm, engaging space that people just want to go and visit, see, touch, and feel. You don’t want too much writing, you want to limit it to one or two phrases, maybe, but not lots of writing and signage.

The message everywhere needs to be as visual as possible.

2.Why you should Limit your Supplies on your Trade Stand

Make sure that you limit the supplies that you have within your space.  Don’t have every brochure out every promotional product and every sample. It’s too much.

Now here’s a really interesting story that was shared with me about a promotional campaign that was done in a remote area in Africa, where there was a particular health condition that a lot of the community was being affected by.

What would make a significant difference to their health was wearing sunglasses. What this health organization did was put out a table in the community marketplace with lots of sunglasses on them and said, “Free take them.” But they really didn’t get the take-up because there were too many different glasses to choose from. So, what they did was just put out one or two different sample designs of these sunglasses. They limited the amount of choice or the abundance of supply.

This means that a sense of scarcity is far more enticing. It also shows you’re not as desperate to get your supplies out. If you’ve just got one or two of something out there, then people are going to be more inquisitive about what that is.

3. Visual Communication

Make sure you visually communicate your message as much as possible. You don’t want lots of words, texts, and brochures. I think the best thing that you can have in your Expo stand is pull-up banners and make sure the pull-up banners visually speak to the problem you solve.

That way, when you are in conversation with people in your stand, and you’re talking to them about some of the problems that you solve for them, you’ll be able to point to visual pictures.

Now here’s why this is very powerful, especially for the foot traffic that goes past your stand. If I see written text, my mind can easily switch off and choose not to read. However, if it is visual, it’s hard to turn off. You know the saying, “You can’t unsee something” when you see a visual image, it’s already entered your cognitive process for you to analyze and understand what’s going on in that picture.

You just can’t help yourself. Visual representations of the problems that you solve for your target market is the best way to rapidly communicate what it is that you do.

You really want nice big images on pull-up banners, and maybe have about four or five images that communicate the top problems that you’re solving or the prize that your target market will get from engaging in business with you.

4. Resisting the Urge to Tell & Sell

Resist the urge to tell and sell is difficult. You want to enter into a conversation with people and get them to engage with your stand. The best thing that you can do is ask a question to engage people in conversation.  Don’t start selling them and hitting them over the head with your message.

You want to understand the challenges they are experiencing. So, ask them something specific relating to your product. For example, I’ve done a stand where I’m selling stress management, I might ask them something like…

  • Is stress something that you’ve wanted to address for yourself?
  • How do you experience stress?
  • When do you know that you’re stressed?
  • What are some of the stress triggers within your work or personal life?

I’m just asking questions to find out if I can help them, if I’ve got what they need, or what specifically, I might have, that is going to address the problems that they’re facing.

It’s not going to help people if I just hit them over the head with what I’m trying to sell them.

5.How & Why to be Interactive

The most important thing that you can do if you have a trade stand or Expo is to make it interactive. You really need to think about how you can interact first, with the foot traffic that’s walking past.

Now, in the old days, people used to do things like competitions. That would get people in, and they’d have those conversations with them and get their details. But sometimes that’s really shallow and does not generate good quality prospects.

The best thing that you can do is have something that is enticing and irresistible to interact and engage with. For example, tests, like blood health checks, or how fast can you ride on this treadmill.

Now, to give you an example, I had an Expo for women’s lifestyle event. I had a sign that said,

“Get your free stress test. Determine how likely stress is to impact upon your health.”

It was a free test that they were able to do. And while they’re completing that test, I’m able to start a conversation and engage with them.

Try some activity that will engage the foot traffic and bring them in to start a conversation. You can slip in questions about the product that you’re selling or the problem that you’re solving.

6. Create Intrigue

Now, here’s another example of something that I did.

I had the stress cards and simply handed them out to people. They simply say ‘Expect a Miracle” on them.  They have nothing else on the back. They don’t have my name or phone number, nothing. They’re just a little gift that simply says, ‘expect a miracle’.

As I’m handing these out to people, they think I am handing out business cards or promotional things. They’d say, “Yeah, thanks” and walk past, you’d see them stop and look at the card, turning it over. Some of them would walk back to me, look at me and say, “What is this?” or you’d see them stop, turn around, look at the stand, up and down. When it’s all about making them investigate my stand to find out what it is that I do.

It’s creating that engagement, that intrigue that’s so enticing that they want to come in and try more.

7. Be Ready for Conversation

It’s really important when you have a trade stand or Expo stall that you are inviting an open conversation. A common mistake for people with trade stands, is either standing behind a table like it’s a desk front and or talking to their colleague. These two things are subliminal messages that might be misinterpreted by people as unavailable for conversation.

That is, as far as you possibly reasonably can go beyond the space of your stand or your store. You want to make eye contact with people and smile. The next step will be to invite them to interact with something, with you or with your stand. Not to sell them something, but to invite them to participate in something that’s going to be fun, interesting, intriguing, or valuable for them.

The mistake that people make is handing out promotional materials or having all of those free hats, pens, stress balls, or bowls of lollies on the table.  This kind of thing does bring people in, but it’s shallow and meaningless. They take it and they don’t enter into conversation. You want something that’s going to interact with them so that they come in and talk to you, but you need to be available to speak, you need to be at the front of your stand.

If you’ve got a colleague, and you want to have a chit-chat. Don’t turn and face them, you can just be side-talking to them saying, “So, where are you going for lunch today?” Smile, smile, smile.

8. Don’t Sabotage your First Contact

If you have a trade stand or Expo stand, it’s important that you are clear of the objective you want at the end of the day.

Now for most trade stands, the thing that you want is either a phone number or an appointment with that person. Don’t make the mistake of handing out business cards or promotional material and saying to people, “Here, give me a call.” That’s the last thing that you want to hand out. You want to have a nice conversation with people, and then get to the point where you can say, “Hey, if you’ve got a business card, I’d be more than happy to give you a call and talk to you about this further. How about I give you a call Tuesday.”

Don’t hand over your card, say, “Hey, take my card, give me a call sometime.” They never will. They probably have a bag full of promotional material and cards. You want to get their number and or make an appointment with them. The goal for you at your Expo is to determine how many contacts or appointments do you want to walk away with at the end of the day.

So, let me know what’s worked for you?

What has been a disaster for you?

Because there are always lessons in mistakes too. I’d love to hear from you about your tips and tricks for managing an effective trade stand or expo stall.

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About the Author

Barbara Clifford - The Time Tamer

Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a co-founder of The Hinwood Institute. She is the lead trainer and coach in Time Management. She is a recognized leader in Stress Management. An experienced coach, speaker, columnist and facilitator, Barbara’s work with The Hinwood Institute assists people to unclutter mess, make order from chaos, and swap the shackles of overwhelming for freedom. Barbara’s clients move from the relentless hamster wheel to waking inspired, motivated, making decisions with purpose and achieving peak performance. She lives in the desert of Alice Springs, Australia working with people around the country.

Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships


  • Create a soft aesthetic, that’s nurturing, simple, clear, visually interesting, and engaging.
  • Limit the supply within your space.
  • Ask lots of questions.


  • Overload your stand with too much information.
  • Talk to them just sell your product.
  • Hand out a business card to give you a call.

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