Why do companies spend shedloads of money exhibiting at trade shows – only to be let down by staff who are more interested in looking at their phones than talking to potential customers?

I went to a very big trade show recently and was appalled at the amount of exhibition stands where people who were supposed to be there to drum up business were instead hunched over their phones and ignoring passers-by.


So that’s why Union Systems stood out like a sore thumb.

They had a very simple golf game where people had to try to get a hole in one to go into a prize draw to win a Sonos sound system. And their stand was packed – I stood and watched for about 10–15 minutes and there were never less than two or three delegates waiting to try their luck.

It worked for three simple reasons:

  1. It was a great icebreaker. Staff on the stand could start conversations with passers-by simply by offering them the chance to try their luck
  2. Trying to get a hole in one was a very simple game of skill that anyone could relate to and was a bit of fun.
  3. The prize was something people actually wanted to win. Most companies who exhibit at trade shows wrongly assume that people want to win their products. They don’t. What are you going to do with a lifetime supply of widgets? We want cool stuff, and a Sonos system is definitely something worth trying to win.

Union Systems

Walking around the exhibition halls, it was clear that companies had spent thousands of pounds booking the space, paying designers to create fantastic stands and then shelling out for staff to be there. And for what?

When those companies analyse their return on investment, I bet they’ll all be saying “we don’t get much from exhibitions”, but how would they know? Just think of the opportunities they missed because their staff were ‘too busy’ scanning emails, checking Facebook or playing Candy Crush.

Well done Union Systems: theirs was a stand that delivered (sorry, I was going old school listening to Adam and the Ants whilst writing this).