How “Fake It ‘Till You Make It” Brings Trade Show Success

Posted by Tom Hand on Jun 30, 2016 7:30:00 AM in Trade Show Success


If you feel like you shouldn’t be somewhere, fake it. Do it not until you make it – but until you become it.

– Amy Cuddy

Who hasn’t heard “fake it ‘till you make it” a bazillion times? It pops up every time there’s a new challenge to overcome: job interviews, speeches, presentations, sales meetings. It helps us contend with uncertainty and vulnerability while moving us towards success.

The kicker is, there’s truth in it. Thoughts are powerful things. Acting as-if (a.k.a. faking it) produces the mindset (thoughts/outlooks/ideas), behavior, and confidence needed to “make it.” Quite often, the results exceed our wildest expectations.

Although not as overt, fake-it-til-you-make-it also works in the business world. Whether your company’s development goal is to attract better paying clients, promote a new product or break into a new niche, harnessing the power of pretending can expedite the process. Think it and you can become it.

Which brings us to trade shows.

Trade shows are perfect fake-it-til-you-make-it venues. They’re big, intimidating, and completely overwhelming, especially for the trade show novice. It’s easy to let fight-or-flight (or freeze) kick in, to cling to your status quo, and ultimately go small. Exactly what you don’t want!

So how do you attain the success you’re striving for? How do you attract that new level of client? How do you convey your new-found expertise? How do you align your team’s thoughts and behaviors with these new, uncertain goals?

Fake it!

Keep in mind “faking it” is about bolstering yourself and your team. It’s about reminding yourselves of your capabilities. It’s seeing yourselves and your company differently. It’s going to feel uncomfortable, different, unpredictable.

This doesn’t mean you throw yourself into faking it willy-nilly. You’re going for optimal results. There needs to be an intentional plan to your pretending. You want touchstones for measuring progress, benchmarks for determining effectiveness, criteria for establishing standards. Your business acumen still comes into play. In fact, it’s vital to getting you over the trade show newcomer’s hump and into the pro category.

Ready to give this a try? Here are six tips to ensure your fake-it strategy comes off without a hitch.

1. Be organized

Here’s the great thing about being organized: it’s an automatic confidence booster for you and your team. It eliminates the tension and frenzy associated with uncertainty. Clearly defining duties, functions and assignments imbues your booth with relaxation. A clear plan allows your team members to relax, smile and focus their energy on the people (potential clients!) visiting your booth. And confidence is attractive. Attendees may notice your display, but they’ll be drawn in by your calm happy people.

2. Manage your time

This dovetails with being organized and could save you a lot of money in the long-run. Discovering you missed a printing deadline, a shipping deadline or, even worse, an entry deadline is a recipe for heartburn. Missing any deadline not only leaves you feeling testy and frazzled, but inevitably incurs extra expenses. Definitely not pro behavior!

3. Embrace social media

We guarantee every experienced trade show presenter is using social media to garner booth traffic. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, blogs… these are virtually free advertising venues. Ignoring them, or worse, downplaying their relevance is a beginner’s mistake. Their benefit is twofold: they help push visitors your way and they demonstrate your savviness. If that’s not a perfect fake-it technique, what is?

4. Bigger isn’t always better

Equating display size with success is a neophyte response. Big and fancy does not indicate experience. In fact, many novice trade show presenters fall prey to this false assumption. A thoughtful, simple booth design can be highly attractive and compelling. For instance, a wall of banner stands or an array of outdoor banner stands can be show-stopping. Even better the graphics are replaceable.


Stand out with creativity: You can make a whole new look for the next show by combining displays.

5. Pros know the power of simplicity

They plan for it, exercise it and reap huge rewards from it. Think Dior, Chanel, Armani. They’re synonymous with experience and sophistication. Exactly what you want to convey. Better to use one display effectively than a host of them pell-mell. Any of our hybrid displays or backdrop displays can be used alone with stunning effect. The replacement graphics also make them a cost effective choice. Another pro move!


6. Skip the paper

It’s so tempting to have brochures and fliers touting your company’s message on-hand. You want to tell your story, right? The truth is attendees rarely look at the paper they’re given at trade shows. It’s a huge expense with a minute ROI. Better to develop a paperless system (showing your tech acumen again!) that allows you to collect contact information and create an opportunity for post-show interaction, like emailing an online fact sheet or special offer.

If your trade show strategy does include paper, be smart about presenting it. Use a materials stand or interesting shelving unit to make the materials enhance your display, not detract from it. Pros don’t have clutter.

7. Pertinent promotional products

If you’re going to invest in promotional products, make them relevant to your brand, make them pertinent to your potential clients. You want them to work for you after they leave the show. If you need ideas, check out our blog post: The Proven List of Trade Show Giveaways and Swag.

If you want to stretch your fake-it skills, try incorporating your swag into your booth design. This could be a pyramid of coffee cups, t-shirts hanging from the ceiling, or even a wall of magnets. Demonstrating your creativity, innovation and humanity with everyday objects is a great way to dispel any suspicion that you’re the new kid on the trade show block. Look how our client, Collected Threads, created a powerful, professional-looking booth on a newcomer’s budget.


How’s that for faking it?

Warning: Be cautious using food and beverages as promotional items if they are not integral to your business. They seem like sure-fire ways to attract visitors. However, most people will stop for the free nosh, not because they’re truly interested in your business.

You’re stepping into the trade show environment for a reason: to make an impression and develop relationships. The keys to success! You really don’t have a choice: you have to fake it (at least initially).

Making a conscious, planned, intentional decision to do so will shorten your learning curve and ensure your first trade show experiences are successful. So what are you waiting for? Go strike a pose!

Are you new to trade shows? Have you had to fake it to make it? We want to hear your story. Share it in the comments. Alternatively, if you have questions or need help putting together a stellar display on a beginner’s budget, contact us. Our expert designers are on-hand to help. You can Live Chat with them on our website: Or talk to them live at 844-204-2258.

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