If there is one thing that is practically guaranteed to make trade show attendees turn around and leave your stall before you've even had a chance to make a good impression, it's clutter. A messy stand should absolutely not be the first thing visitors see, or they will assume you are unprofessional and sloppy.
You probably know not to have a stall covered in rubbish, but clutter can be anything that is out of place. Even members of staff can make your stand seem messy if they are sitting around bored or finishing off their lunch. If they are not working to improve your image, then they are actively harming it!
Here's a few rules you can abide by at your next trade show to make sure your stand doesn't seem cluttered. Remember, it doesn't have to look absolutely pristine, but you still need to make an effort!
Take your lunch elsewhere
This is probably the main offender when it comes to trade show mess. Eating at the stall not only makes you and your staff look unprofessional, it also results in crumbs, coffee stains and chocolate bar wrappers littering your table!
You should make sure you and all your members of staff are going elsewhere to eat, such as the conference venue's restaurant. As long as you do this in shifts and plan it out properly, you should be able to eat away from the stand without leaving it unattended.
Keep your piles nice and neat!
Most things on your stall will be organised in that time-honoured method: piles. You will have your business cards, pamphlets and any other materials you will be giving out all arranged in neat little stacks; at least at the beginning of the exhibition!
As time goes on, however, your stand will become messier and messier. Whenever you get any spare time, neaten the heaps of documents on your stand to make sure it doesn't look too untidy.
Make sure everything has a place
It is really easy to put things down randomly about your stand if they don't have a specific place to go. However, this will lead to a surface covered in clutter and a stall that looks very unprofessional.
You should instead have a system for organising things. Bring along a desk tidy and stationary pots if you think they will be useful, or even a miniature set of drawers to keep important documents in. You will also be given things like business cards on the day, so make sure you prepare for this and have a place to put everything.
Give staff something to do
Finally, you need to make sure you don't have members of staff lounging around looking bored. If the exhibition is not as busy as you expected, you might find that some of the people on your stand run out of things to do. If this is the case, give them a task!
You could get them to hand out some of your flyers at the entrance, directing more people to your stand. However, literally any job will do as long as it gets them away from the stall and keeps them busy!