15 Ideas for attracting a crowd to your trade show exhibit

Trade shows offer incredible value to exhibitors, like the opportunity to connect with prospects face-to-face and introduce them to your products and services.

In fact, 77% of executive decision makers reported finding at least one new supplier at the last trade show they attended, according to data gathered by SpinGo in 2018.

But before you can reap the benefits of your trade show attendance, you must first draw people to your booth.

Here are 15 unique ways to attract a crowd to your trade show exhibit—both before and during the event.

Before the show: 7 tactics to promote your exhibit

Exhibitor interviewed over 100 corporate exhibit managers for its 2017 Pre-Show Marketing Survey and found that 85% tend to use at least one pre-show marketing tactic. Of those who set measurable goals to track their success, 91% reported their efforts met or exceeded their initial expectations.

Take these seven steps to promote your own exhibit and ensure your pre-show marketing campaign does not fall short:

1. Attend potential trade shows to decide if they’re worth it

Not all trade shows are created equal, and not every event is going to be an ideal match for your business. That’s one reason to attend trade shows as a guest before pouring money into your exhibit.

You can find the top 100 trade shows in the USA here. This list includes the rank, date, location, industry category, rating, and number of followers for each event. You can even search by industry and country to narrow your results.

Honda exhibit at an auto trade show.

As you walk around the event and assess the crowd, ask yourself the following questions to determine whether it’s a good fit for your industry and your brand:

2. Research your competitors

A great way to attract an audience to your trade show booth is to focus on areas where your competitors are lacking. Take these simple steps to research your competitors prior to the show:

Learn more about how to set up Google Alerts to monitor your competitors.

Marketing team researching competitors in conference room.

3. Reach out to subscribers and existing customers

Alert your email or newsletter subscribers and existing customers about your upcoming trade show exhibit. You can do this by building a landing page on your site, sending an email blast, or posting to your social channels.

Providing details via landing page

On your landing page, be sure to:

Sending emails to current customers and subscribers

In the email, provide incentives for them to attend the show and visit your booth. Incentives may include product demos, educational workshops, giveaways, or planned entertainment.

Announcing your attendance on social media

Post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other social platforms where your audience frequently resides. Discover the best times to post on each social platform in 2019.

4. Contact relevant bloggers and trade publications

Generate interest in your booth by drafting a press release and distributing it to media outlets 2-3 weeks before the show. Be sure to follow these best practices:

Coworkers using laptop to contact product influencers before trade show.

Some trade show publications you may wish to contact include:

You’ll likely have more luck if you take it a step further and reach out to trade show publications and bloggers specific to your niche.

5. Be strategic about your exhibit’s location

Reserve your booth space as early as possible for the best chance of snagging a top-tier spot. Ask event management for copies of floor layouts from previous years, as they’re unlikely to change too much from year to year.

You can also ask which companies have rented the space nearest your preferred spot. If possible, increase your booth’s visibility by choosing a spot between two booths with smaller displays. Take note of any columns or other obstructions that may impair sight.

PRO TIP: If you are unable to score the spot front and center, choose a space close to other high-traffic areas, such as near the restrooms or an onsite restaurant.

6. Design your exhibit with strong visual appeal

Your goal is to first capture the attention of your fellow trade show attendees—then impress your audience. Take this first step by creating a visually appealing trade show booth that attracts a crowd.

Use eye-catching graphics and colorful banners as well as strategic lighting. Also ensure your booth reflects your brand’s voice, vision, and aesthetic.

Nutrex trade show exhibit designed by BTWN Exhibits.

One way to ensure your trade show experience exceeds your wildest expectations is to hire a trade show exhibit design company to craft your booth. A design company like BTWN Exhibits can work with you to translate your rough ideas into a custom-made design. We will set up and tear down your exhibit without requiring your supervision. We’ll even stay on site during the show, ready to fix any unlikely problems should they arise.

Learn more about our services and how we can bring your vision to life.

7. Prep your staff to be knowledgeable and engaging

All members of your staff should be well-groomed, clean-cut, and professional looking. Order matching shirts ahead of time so they’re easily identifiable as members of your company.

Also, make sure each staff member:

Manager teaching staff about the customer journey before trade show.

During the show: 8 ways to attract the largest trade show audience

Your key goals during the show should be to introduce prospects to your products and services and gather as much information about them as you can. But first you have to attract an audience to your booth.

Read on to discover eight tactics for drawing a crowd to your exhibit during the show.

8. Entice your audience with interactive activities

Interactive activities such as touch screens, videos, surveys, and quizzes are fantastic ways to attract trade show attendees to your booth, capture contact information, and qualify leads.

Touch screens or tablets

You can set these up to offer lead magnets that visitors can opt into by submitting their email address or other contact information. Your lead magnet may be a helpful how-to guide or product buying guide, for example.

Man viewing interactive whiteboard at trade show exhibit.

Videos are a great way to draw attention to your exhibit, show off your product or service, and provide a product demonstration.

According to 2018 data from video company Wyzowl, 96% of people say they’ve watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service. Likewise, 68% say video is their preferred method for learning about a new product or service.

Surveys and quizzes

Use surveys and quizzes as strategic methods of qualifying your audience. On your survey, ask questions like:

On the other hand, your quiz may ask questions about the event, the city where the event is taking place, your company, or your products and services. Offer a prize as an incentive.

9. Have a contest or giveaway

People love getting things for free. In his book Predictably Irrational, Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely writes that “Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is.”

This could be one reason why people react so well to spin-the-wheel prizes, raffles, and scratch-offs. When choosing your prize, make sure it’s relevant to both your audience and your product or service.

Ideas for prizes include electronics, vacation packages, tickets to shows, and even your company’s own products or services.

10. Hand out branded swag to booth visitors

There’s a big difference between thoughtfully choosing swag that your customers actually want and choosing the cheapest item that’s easy to mass produce with your name and logo.

The latter route can actually shed a negative light on your brand, while the former option can help you build brand awareness and establish a positive relationship with your prospects.

Gift bags full of swag for trade show booth visitors.

When choosing your company swag, keep these tips in mind:

Some examples of swag-done-right include car mounts for cell phones, water filtration bottles, yoga mats, reusable straws, and portable device chargers—all branded, of course!

11. Host an educational workshop

One key reason why people attend trade shows is to learn. That’s why we recommend hosting brief teaching sessions at regularly-scheduled times in your booth.

Educational workshops are a great opportunity to:

12. Perform a product demonstration

Live demos are a creative way to draw a crowd and present the advantages of your product or service in real time.

Man performing demonstration of technology product at trade show.

Conversation intelligence company Gong shares the following tips for successfully demoing your product:

13. Bring the entertainment

If you have the funds or connections, consider hiring a minor celebrity (or even just someone well-known in your industry) to spend time at your booth and interact with your audience.

You could also hire a musician, comedian, caricaturist, or another type of entertainer to delight your audience. Just make sure you choose a unique concept that complements your brand and is likely to appeal to potential leads.

14. Offer free Wi-Fi, a phone charging station, and a lounge area

One way to slide quickly into the good graces of trade show attendees is to provide free access to your Wi-Fi hotspot within your booth. Find creative ways to post your password throughout the area.

Visitors will also appreciate a phone charging station where they can revive their drained batteries. If you have the extra space, provide a small lounge area where they can sit by their phones as they charge, temporarily rest their feet, and engage your staff in conversation about your products and services.

Two comfy chairs in trade show exhibit lounge area.

15. Provide food and drinks

Add a food and drink station to your exhibit to attract hungry, thirsty, and weary trade show attendees.

Follow these do’s and don’ts when choosing your snacks:

If you follow the 15 tips outlined above, you should have no problem attracting a huge crowd to your trade show exhibit. Good luck!

Ready to get started?

Reach out to our team today to discuss your brand’s next live event, experiential installation, or trade show display.