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.
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:
Is the show well established? Has it attracted a decent number of attendees?
Is your target audience in attendance?
Does the expected cost to exhibit align with your budget?
Are your competitors exhibiting? If so, will you be able to stand apart from them at the next show?
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:
Visit your competitors’ websites and blogs to see what kind of content they’re producing.
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:
Include teasers of any special announcements or fun giveaways you have planned.
Consider highlighting your booth location by including an image of the event space floor plan.
Link to any published press releases that talk about your company’s upcoming presence.
Include a contact form for leads to request more information or schedule an appointment with you.
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.
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:
Incorporate the name of the event into your headline.
Explain your brand, provide your booth number, and include your reason for attending the trade show.
Don’t bury the lede; include the most alluring details of your pitch up front. The publication will be more receptive to your pitch if you are offering a compelling giveaway, competition, or some kind of entertainment at your booth.
Utilize product images, video demos, or infographics to entice readers.
Use natural language—no jargon!—and short, easy-to-read paragraphs.
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.
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.
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:
Is well-versed in your products and services
Can recite their sales pitch or lead generation script from memory
Can communicate your unique value proposition
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.
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:
What prompted you to attend this event?
Are you hoping to find an answer to a problem you’re having? If so, what is it?
Have you attempted to solve this problem in the past?
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.
When choosing your company swag, keep these tips in mind:
Make sure it’s high-quality. People don’t want to accumulate a bunch of items that will fall apart after a week—even if they’re free. Quality items will stick around longer, thus giving more people the chance to see and talk about your brand.
Make sure it’s useful and exciting. Sure, most people could use another pen, but are they going to run to their friends and coworkers and tell them about it? When you provide something valuable, you’re more likely to generate discussion about your brand. And if your swag is actually useful, your prospects will use it often, which garners more exposure for your company.
Make sure it aligns with your company culture. If your brand is all about sustainability, make sure your swag is eco-friendly, as well. If your shtick is being quirky and unique, try to think outside the box.
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:
Showcase your expertise, thus positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Provide value to visitors and turn them into leads.
Give useful and branded information to visitors, such as worksheets, cheat sheets, helpful checklists, and product brochures.
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.
Don’t build up to a grand finale. Start with the outcome to capture your prospects’ attention immediately. Let the conversation unfold from there.
Keep your demo short. Stick to a 9-minute rule for your main demo and then allow questions.
Don’t discuss your product benefits ad nauseum. Focus your message on the pain points of the status quo instead.
Record your demos and use them to promote your products down the line.
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.
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:
DO brand everything you hand out, such as napkins and coffee sleeves.
DON’T choose food with an overpowering scent.
DON’T serve messy or sticky food. Stick to finger foods that don’t require electricity to heat or elaborate setup.
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 create your next global brand experience?
Reach out, we’d love to help get your first exhibit underway.