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11 things exhibitors can do to make the ABC Show a success

The annual ABC Kids Expo, the biggest juvenile products trade show in the US,  is right around the corner. This year, unbelievably enough, will be my 8th trip to ABC. Every year, I look forward to exploring this gargantuan trade show packed with baby products, and trying to find the next big thing(s).

But year after year, some vendors make me shake my head. Why would you pay for space at a trade show and then make it anything but easy for buyers to engage with your products and (gasp) place an order?

Last year, I took notes about mistakes and best practices I noticed while I was at the show, and I think the manufacturers who read this blog may find this list helpful. As for the rest of our readers: here’s an inside peek into an important part of our business. Here are 11 things exhibitors can do to get maximum impact out of their investment in this (or any) trade show.

  1. Consider your first impression. The visual appeal of your booth is everything at a trade show. Do something to make your space different and exciting. Show your products in all their glory, and don’t forget to have good, visible signage with your company’s name and web site. Capture my attention or I’m moving on.
  2. Have printed catalogs and price lists. Don’t tell me I can download it (I won’t). Don’t tell me you’ll mail it to me (you won’t).  Don’t hand it to me on a thumb drive (I’ve never once looked at a catalog in this format, yet I have a nice collection of them). Also, collate your materials ahead of time – this will save time for both of us.
  3. Put your booth number on everything you hand out (a lot of vendors use stickers for this). If we like what we see, we’ll want to come back and write an order. But only if we can find you.
  4. Have a show special. As a retailer, let me tell you: there’s nothing as motivating as a good discount or free shipping (or both). If you believe in your product, your first priority is to get it into stores. If it sells, the discount at the outset will be more than balanced by the reorders that will follow.
  5. Don’t come alone. Your booth needs to be manned at all times, and a single person will find that practically impossible. Human beings need to eat, go to the bathroom, etc. Even if you’re just getting started, bring a friend, a cousin, your mother, anyone. An unattended booth is a lost opportunity.
  6. Think about how your product will be merchandised in a store. I can’t tell you how many companies show great products with terrible (or no) retail packaging. This is a show for retailers, and retailers need to think about how a product will look on the shelf.  Inspire us with brilliant packaging or display ideas and we’re much more likely to take the plunge.
  7. Be proactive but not aggressive. No matter how quiet the show gets, don’t sit down and read a newspaper or get absorbed in your iPhone. Make eye contact with people as they walk down the aisles and smile a lot. If I smile back and keep walking, don’t ask, “Do you sell baby products?” as a conversation starter. We all sell baby products. That’s why we’re at this show. If I like what I see, I’ll stop and talk to you.
  8. Embrace social media. If you have a Twitter handle, include it prominently on your booth signage so people who are tweeting from the show can reference your company and help you generate buzz. When buyers place an order, ask them for their company’s Twitter handle so you can tweet that your product is coming soon to that store. Use a similar approach for Facebook. If you want to be really whizzy, print QR codes that people can use to “like” you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter right from their phones.
  9. Serve refreshments. The dish of candy is ubiquitous, but if you really want to make a splash, do something a little different. A tempting treat next to an empty chair is the perfect bait to slow down a tired, hungry buyer for long enough to hear your pitch. Reciprocity can be a powerful thing.
  10. Understand the process. Some buyers are very decisive and will see your product and immediately place an order. We don’t work that way. We visit booths, collect (beautiful, printed, collated) information, make decisions in the evening and then return to place our orders at the end of the show. No amount of high pressure selling will change that, and it is most likely a turnoff in the long run.
  11. Stay organized. You’re going to collect hundreds of business cards at this show, not to mention a boatload of orders (you hope). You’d be shocked to hear how many vendors have lost our orders placed at trade shows. I know it’s hectic, but there’s no excuse for that. Bring a file tote box for the order forms and be diligent about using it. Bring a notebook and tape in business cards as you get them. Jot down notes about the conversations you had and follow up after the show.

With that said: Manufacturers, do you have any helpful hints to make the show better and more productive for buyers? We’d love to read your tips and tricks.


  1. This is great information – thank you! As a first timer this year, any information that can help me have a successful show is greatly appreciated!!

    Cheers, Vivian
    CEO Mamma-Kin LLC

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  2. I think this is a great piece.
    I have been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been a buyer (in a different industry – but avoiding exhibitors as I look around) and now I am selling.
    I know what you mean about don’t ask ‘do you want to buy baby products’ as a silly question but it also amazes me how many buyers just go to the names they know and walk past smaller outfits. It’s usually only when I’ve jumped on them and explained what we’re doing that we’ve managed to interact with some amazing companies.
    If you do only one thing as an exhibitor have passion for what you’re doing and don’t be afraid of the ‘heads down, I’m not talking to you show visitors’ you can win some of them and it’s always worth a go 😉
    As a buyer- please stop and talk to the smaller guys- we may be small now but we won’t always be (as I’ve found out in just one year and a bit of trading)
    Wishing everyone a fantastic ABC!
    Cara (

  3. What tips do you have for bloggers coming to the Expo as media? I’d love to hear what you think! We’re coming as first-timers and it’s pretty overwhelming!

  4. Great tips, thanks so much! Another tip is to get friend;y with your neighbouring booths as it makes the show more fun and can be great networking. Thanks again for these super helpful tips!

  5. Hi Krista,
    Great question. I sat down and chatted with my good friend Jamie Grayson about that very question tonight, and he wrote a post about it on his blog. You can go there to see some great tips for bloggers at trade shows. Good luck!

  6. Thanks for the great checklist! Look forward to seeing you at the show.

  7. gReAT info!! I’ve been on the manufacturer side of trade shows for years and am amazed by vendors who don’t follow these ideas for common courtesy, customer service, visual merchandising, all to have the best ROI. Really great info! I’ve emailed it to several friends, including one who is showing for the first time at ABC! Come check her out and see if she follows these suggestions:-) Mod Mom Furniture booth 2639 🙂

  8. I really enjoyed reading your tips and found them most helpful. This is my first time to participate in the show and it is good to have some advice.

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  9. Wonderful tips! This will be my third time at ABC Kids and I have learned most of these things through experience, but there are a couple of great new ideas here. I just made my first QR code and will put it in my (collated) paperwork I’m handing out!

  10. Here’s an article that gives some good advice to novice trade show exhibitors

  11. Very timely information! Thanks for the tips. I’m printing forms and adding booth #1833 to all the info.
    I’ve been before, and we almost always stand. It’s hard to interact with a table between you and the buyer.
    I’m really looking forward to building “relationships” with buyers and other exibitors.

    Cuddlecloth bath towel for baby’s safety Booth # 1833 Please stop by!

  12. Thanks. You’re advice is extremely helpful as I will be exhibiting at the show for the second time. Well, sort of a relaunch of sorts. My brand has already created quite a splash since I added a new dimension to my product line and moms are gaga over the concept. I will try to maximize the relationship building and exhibit experience with incorporating some of your tips this year. Thanks so much. If you get to step by my booth, it’s #6821. I’m adding stickers to my brochures! Thanks!


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