So, you’ve decided to register for a trade show. You want to meet face-to-face with potential customers, see what new ideas and trends are happening with your product, and see what your competition is doing to determine how you can do it better. You want to maximize your time and money spent on the trade show, so the next question is: how do you get noticed on a crowded expo floor?
You’ll be vying for attention between hundreds, or even thousands, of other vendors. It can seem like a daunting task to wrangle consumers into your booth, but there are ways to improve your odds. Try out these ideas to turn your booth into a crowd magnet of future customers and ensure you have sales for the foreseeable future. The right trade show can bring invaluable orders, exposure, and even partnerships, but you have to get noticed first!
This doesn’t apply to just real estate. Most people navigate counter-clockwise (thanks to supermarkets), and you can position yourself near high-traffic areas like restrooms, food courts, bars, or lounge areas (more on that later). The more foot traffic going past your booth, the more eyes that will see your product.
You can also try to get a spot on the expo floor near the entrance or on a main aisle. You can share a booth, and the costs, with another business if a good spot is too expensive or you can rent a space in another partner or vendor’s booth. The end of a row is a good place if your booth is eye-catching and memorable because attendees can’t help to look at it as they mosey on down the aisle.
First, clutter is a no-no. We don’t like it at home, so why would you want to be around it out of the house? You don’t need a lot of tables or displays in front of the booth and it serves the opposite purpose of what you’re going for. Cluttered space is uninviting, while open space is more welcoming. It’s best to keep your booth simple, clean, and full of light. In this case, less is more.
Second, make sure your company and product are displayed well. Visual merchandising is essential whether you’re in a store or at a booth. Choose the right signage based on your budget and the space you have to work with. Make sure the signage is well-lit and can be seen clearly from across the expo floor. You can even go for digital signage, but try to get keep it professional and not tacky (i.e. flashing lights or obscenely bright).
A good location and an appealing booth will only go so far if your trade show staff aren’t adept at speaking with attendees. Staff must be able to start a conversation with the traffic that passes your booth. If possible, have outgoing staff members that are comfortable approaching others. Potential customers don’t want to be ignored, but your staff also shouldn’t be aggressive, so there is a goldilocks-zone to work within. Most people will engage from a simple, non-threatening approach, like “Enjoying the show?” The approach doesn’t have to overly elaborate to be effective!
It is also a good idea to work with your staff ahead of time so they know what is expected and how they should be interacting with attendees. It helps to have pre-written questions or scripts, go over body language, and have clear goals in mind for when they speak with new people. Along with pre-written questions for the customer, they should have answers to common questions and scenarios as it relates to your product. Set them (and your business) up for success before they even arrive at the expo.
While it may seem basic, having staff members in matching attire can also go a long way to provide cohesiveness to your expo booth. They don’t necessarily all have to wear matching polo shirts either. You can get creative with the theme of the expo and your product. For instance, if your business sells reptile and amphibian products and you’re attending the Global Pet Expo, your staff can dress up as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. On the other hand, if you’re attending SEMA as a vendor, your staff can wear matching, bright-colored ballcaps with the company logo (in addition to those matching polo shirts). It’s okay to be a little out there at expos, after all, you want people to notice you.
You don’t have to go wild and out to bring in potential customers. Here are some tips for simple trade show booth ideas that will get the job done:
Attendees will enjoy a cold beverage and bite to eat after walking around all day at the expo. Trade shows can be busy and hectic, and not everyone will be able to stop to eat. Your staff has the perfect opportunity to approach consumers when they stop at your booth for refreshments. You can go with something simple, like chips and soda, or more elaborate, like a coffee bar and hors d'oeuvres. Just make the drinks are cold (or hot) and the food isn’t stale!
This category is seemingly endless with what cool tchotchkes you can hand out to passersby. Regardless of what you choose, it’s a good idea to have swag that is appealing in some way, either useful, entertaining, or valuable. You can generate buzz at the trade show if it attracts other consumers to your booth. The best swag idea is unique so that attendees have to ask how to get it.
Something you’ll see commonly at trade shows are prize giveaways. They’re usually given from winning a raffle, scratch off, or some other game of chance, like a roulette wheel, slot machine, or prize wheel. Just make sure to have an accurate system for collecting entries and giving out the prize.
The type of attraction determines the quality of the prize, and prizes can range greatly. You can choose a physical prize, like electronics or tools, or an experience prize, like a vacation package or tickets to entertainment, such as a live music show or sporting event. You could even offer your company’s product or service at differing levels of value for numerous prizes. Like the swag gifts, the more unconventional and interesting, the more interest you will receive.
If you want to go a little deeper with some tips that have a little more meat to them, try out these interactive ideas:
It’s always fun to have a little healthy competition. Not only will you draw in those who like a challenge, but participants will attract attention from those walking by to see what the game is and who is winning. The style of game can vary from something like a trivia game, where you can ask questions related to your field of products or a game that is well-liked, like golf putting. You can use props and really draw attention to your booth, such as a jumbo board game or a money machine cash booth. A successful game will keep attendees engaged for longer than just a walk-by and your staff won’t have to work as hard to capture their attention.
While similar to games, a contest requires skill to win the prize and usually isn’t a physical activity. You can, however, combine a game with a contest, such as making a contest out of who can get the highest score in a game. Typical contests can be guessing the amount of something in a container (another chance to use a product related to your business), a picture contest, a matching contest, or solving a riddle by searching for clues. If you’re low on funds, especially after all the planning and costs of getting to the expo, you don’t always have to give a prize. Bragging rights can be a worthy incentive if the contest requires a lot of skill or has many competitors.
Quizzes take on more of a specialty approach and can be separate from a contest, or can be included as part of a contest. Quizzes generally test your knowledge about a specific subject and you can tie it back to your company, product, the event you are attending, or even the city that is hosting the trade show. In addition to being fun and competitive, a quiz can be informative for those both taking part in the quiz and walking past your booth.
You can use the quiz as an opportunity to inform the crowd of some particular aspect of your product or field. For instance, if your product differentiates itself in some particular way from similar goods than a quiz is a great opportunity to highlight what makes yours better (and why customers would use you instead of another vendor).
A quiz can be used as an added bonus to identify potential leads or customers. If the participant already has general knowledge of your product than you can infer that they are in your field and may benefit from your business. On the flip side, if the participant does not have knowledge of your product but seems interested in learning more, than they too may want to use your business in the future.
Games, contests, and quizzes are all different types of competitions but are usually planned off the cuff throughout the day, or days, of the trade show. A structured competition can be planned in advance and you can use pre-selected judges or poll the audience for the winner. The competition itself can be more in-depth as well and doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to your product. Some activities that are engaging, like cooking, anything sports-related, best dressed, etc., may draw in larger crowds where you could then turn their attention to your product.
You could advertise your competition before and during the trade show if you put a lot of time and effort into the contest. It is especially beneficial to advertise if your pre-selected judges are well-known. The judges’ presence help to sell your competition and allow you to spend time and money on other aspects of the expo.
We’ve covered some of the more standard ways to attract attention and get consumers to stop at your booth. Now here are some unconventional ideas that require more effort, but could also bear more fruit and make your booth stand out from all the others.
There’s not much that works better than a live demonstration. They draw interested viewers and create crowds, which draw even more people. Demos are particularly useful if you sell a physical product and if your presenter is charismatic. Remember Billy Mays and the power of OxiClean? Live demonstrations, where the presenter can engage with the audience, are more memorable than a video playing on a screen, which can be passed over.
But wait, there’s more! Demos are a great way to sell your product at the expo, if you brought stock to sell, or for attendees to place orders for delivery. You get more bang for your buck if you record the demo as you can post the video to your website or to social media. The video becomes a separate entity that can be edited for different media and gives more opportunities to advertise your product.
Workshops allow consumers to become even more involved with your booth. Instead of watching someone else demo the uses of your product, the consumer can take a hands-on approach and experience the benefits themselves. Demonstrations and educational workshops can both be scheduled ahead of time to capitalize on those who show up wanting to learn more. Many people attend trade shows to learn more about the businesses or field associated with that expo and you can capitalize on their desire for information by showing them exactly what your product can do.
A key component of a workshop is that it must be held to an allotted amount of time. This allows you to put the workshops on a set schedule and you’re more likely to hold the audience’s attention if they know it will only take X amount of time to learn the product. This is also an opportunity to provide branded worksheets or informational handouts to the consumers. It will refresh their memory of the workshop once they’ve left the trade show and keep you in their mind when it comes to the product.
You already know the basics of how to visually draw attention to your booth, but here are some ideas that really make a statement. Like the section above, this group requires more time and energy but may pay off more in the long run.
State-of-the-art lighting effects can really draw attention to your booth, but keep in mind that the lighting should be done tastefully and not be obnoxious. It’s human nature to be attracted to bright lights, but you want attendees to notice your light and become interested in what’s at your booth, not be annoyed that the light is flashing in the corner of their eye all day. You can use a spotlight to shine above and steer consumers to your booth or use color changing LED lights that people can’t help but look at. You can combine lighting with signage to have digital signage, such as an LED sign or slideshow on a monitor.
You could choose to use lighted framing around your standard sign or you could be really innovative and use lighting that is totally unique, such as specially shaped lamps or lights. For instance, if your booth sells tools you can have a large lamp in the shape of wrench that changes colors. Like the matching attire for your staff, it’s okay to be a little out there as long as it fits with your business and is done appropriately.
Now here’s the ideal opportunity to splurge, if it’s within budget. As with the structured competition, you can choose entertainment that is related to your business or choose something that will simply grab people’s attention. Of course, some entertainment can be a perfect match for your trade show. If your expo and business are food-related, you can have someone put on a show decorating a cake or if your expo and business are technology-related, you can have remote-controlled robots at your booth.
If you’re just looking to put as many eyes on your booth as possible, than an entertainer, such as a comedian, musician, or magician may be your best bet. The more well-known the entertainer though, the more it will likely cost you. Another possibly are entertainers on a smaller scale, like a caricaturist or face painter (if your trade show is geared towards children). Just make sure that if your entertainment isn’t related to your business you must have a way to rope consumers into discussing your product. Otherwise, they’ll come and go before you get a chance to sell your goods.
You can’t go wrong with using technology in today’s digital age of cell phones, tablets, and social media. Here are some more suggestions to add to your toolkit.
Interactive content can be combined with several of the ideas given before. One of the biggest interactive mediums out there today is interactive touch screens. Users will be fully engaged with a tablet as they move around the pre-programmed content and choose what to look at.
Combine a tablet with quiz or prize entry easily by exchanging their email for use of the tablet, and you can take it a step further to include a survey, video, or even an interactive demo. Aside from getting their email, you can offer content that can be sent to them electronically and downloaded for use outside of the trade show.
This idea is very simple but very effective. Having a free phone charging station next to your booth guarantees moving traffic through your area all day. Attendees will likely be on their smartphones for most of the time they’re at the trade show, either texting, emailing, or on social media, and that means their battery will run low. A recharge area provides a good opportunity for your staff to mingle, offer handouts, or hold product demonstrations when there is peak activity.
Like the tip above, this is both simple and effective. Trade shows are often held in large buildings, which don’t have good signal or Wifi. This also doubles as useful to your business if you use interactive content, such as the tablet idea above, that requires internet service. It would be awful to go through the trouble of setting up digital email sign-ups only for the service to be spotty and lose potential customers.
You can offer Wifi access around your booth by renting a 4G internet provider for a few days. Display the Wifi password around your booth and you can even use one of those digital signs ideas above to highlight that you have the magic key to the internet.
Using video has similar rules as the special effects lighting. Video can be used to draw attention, but just like you don’t want the lighting to be off-putting, you don’t want your video blasting into the next aisle. In addition to being plain annoying, this can hinder your staff’s conversations with consumers.
It’s a good idea for the video to be professionally created and edited, and video can be an excellent way to showcase products or services to passersby while your staff engages with potential customers. You can also include testimonials about your product or business by current customers. This would be a good time to reuse any footage that was created for use on your website or social media. Your video doesn’t have to be one long presentation. You can combine tidbits of clips you’ve gathered into one cohesive viewing unit.
These recommendations think outside of the box of how to bring in consumers, from inexpensive to big-ticket items.
This is a good idea if your trade show attracts a younger crowd. Place a physical wall next to your booth and allow attendees to write comments or messages on it. You can go with a traditional blackboard or new-age with a whiteboard. Either way, use different color writing utensils to provide contrast on the board.
You can offer prompts of what to write, such as “What is your favorite thing about our product?” or “Write down one word you associate with your our product.” It may be worthwhile to allow total freedom in what to write if you’re trying to gather intel on what your consumers are into these days.
The comment wall combines well with social media, as you can encourage writers to use certain hashtags related to your business and then take pictures of those writing to post on your social media. This provides good content for a video as you can set-up a time-lapse video showing the wall filling up and then post the video when the expo is over.
Special announcements are a great way to draw a crowd to your booth. The announcement can be scheduled and advertised ahead of time for prime involvement. You don’t want to make more than one special announcement at a trade show though, so it’s a one-time shot to broadcast your product or service offering.
Plan to give the announcement a few minutes later than the scheduled time. This allows staff to intermingle with the crowd and once the announcement is made, they can be prepared to answer any questions that arise from consumers. This is another instance that is worth recording via video. The announcement can be repurposed into several different formats and posted to various social media platforms.
These two areas can be a worthwhile investment. Having a meet-up area or lounge area by your booth can be expensive as you have to purchase the extra floor space. However, providing space for attendees to sit and relax for a bit after walking all day can be an optimal spot for branding. The area is meant to be relaxing, so it’s best not to have staff hovering. Instead, place signage and informational graphics around the chairs as a subtle advertisement.
The lounge area can double as meet-up area for those wanting to rest and speak in private. Place some type of identifying marker by the meet-up/lounge area so it can be easily seen across the trade show floor. Provide refreshments with the meet-up/lounge area to cause more people to linger and snack as they rest their feet and get refueled to head back into the throng of vendors.
This is likely the most expensive idea presented, so you’ll have to determine if the possible reward is worth the cost. You can combine a celebrity appearance with some type of entertainment theatrics. You can also ask the celebrity to mingle and sign autographs after their appearance. They’re already at the trade show, so it may not cost much extra to have them stick around for a little bit longer.
This tactic should definitely be recorded for future use and to put on social media. If you really want to get a larger audience, you can ask the celebrity to post the video you make on their own social media. That’s likely to cost more money though, so be prepared to shell out extra dollars if you want to try and reach the celebrity’s wide fan base.
A common concern many companies have before attending a trade show is that they will not get noticed on the trade show floor. After all, exhibit floors are covered in mobs of people plus the numerous other vendors that want their attention as much as you do. These suggestions and ideas will make you a step ahead of the competition, and you’ve got plenty of ideas to mix and match.
Be cognizant of how your business or field relates to the trade show you will be attending. Some categories and strategies work better than others depending on the exact expo. Like any business, the key factor in getting sales is to know your customer. Your product may not appeal to every single attendee at the expo, but you should know which consumers would want to buy from you, and why. Once you know exactly why someone would want to make a purchase, you can customize the tips to draw in the right buyer.
You’ve got plenty of attention-grabbing ideas to work with before the expo, so now it’s time to plan how you’re going to get all of those goods to the trade show. R+L Global Logistics can take care of any and all goods you need at your booth for the trade show. Our logistics services include the following:
We know how extensive the process is to get to a trade show, and we know we can take care of all your logistics needs for it. We’ve got you covered from shipping, to tracking, to transportation, and anything in between. Give us a call at 866-415-8986, email us, or chat with us about your trade show shipping and expo needs.