In today’s social networking age, some think investing in a tradeshow isn’t necessary. We have dozens of ways to interact with other people, from Twitter feeds/DMs, Facebook and LinkedIn groups to membership sites and online meeting technologies. Some are even conducting virtual tradeshows in an online environment. In this world of instant connection, you might be asking yourself, "Are tradeshows really worth it?"
We certainly think so! Not much beats the enormous value of meeting clients and prospects face-to-face. However, just buying a booth and showing up is not making the most of your investment.
The old school tradeshow booths might as well be dead. You know what I’m talking about. Those days of yesteryear where you’d pay for a spot with a sign, two bar stools and a little table—maybe a computer to do your demo on.
Sure, there are hundreds of these setups that continue to pop up, but the results speak for themselves as people pass by their booths leaving exhibitors scratching their heads as to why they aren’t getting a return on their investment.
The short answer: A boring tradeshow booth experience simply will not do.
Customers want to experience the booth in different ways, and on different levels. Some may simply want to go to a tradeshow, walk the floor, and take in the booths with their eyes as they go along. They just want to peruse, and not be engaged by a brand ambassador or have their badge scanned. Some come into the booth and say, “What’s your product?... Well, I have this problem… I hope your product can help me.” And still others may be a tad curious, “Hey, what’s your product about? Can you give me a demo?”
Your booth needs to be able to address all of these scenarios in ways that are both engaging and entertaining. This is why investing in your tradeshow is a must. And make no mistake, tradeshows are a large investment—both in time and money. Too often, it feels like brands are skimping on the budget for tradeshows, which leads to stale or uninspiring booth designs. Exhibitors should give as much energy and resources to the tradeshow as you would any other event.
Another consideration is your target audience. Who are you trying to entice with your tradeshow display? Sales reps? CEOs? If you are targeting multiple audiences, make sure you have appropriate information to meet the needs of each demographic. (Nothing is more infuriating for booth designers than exhibitors not knowing who they should be targeting—they're paying this money and they just miss the mark on who will be attending.)
“A key first step is knowing who’s attending the show,” said Michelle Watson, Art Director, ITA Group. “The best way to achieve the results you want is by understanding your target audience so you can create the experience they are seeking.”
Once you understand the attendees, you can work to design your booth to best attract your ideal audience segment. To make the strongest impact, your booth should be appealing, inviting and engaging.
Be Appealing: Give Your Booth Some Curb Appeal
Go Big: Everything is getting bigger and bigger, and it's pushing the envelope of awe-inspiring booth design. These days, it’s not uncommon to see people who are stacking shipping containers or building multi-level tradeshow booths. Different levels make your exhibition space more diverse, allow attendees to be drawn in, and give guests more to look at and are often more inviting.
Go Bold: Stand out with your booth design. Whether you have a striking all-orange space, a booth shaped like a giant picnic basket or an exhibit that features an interactive wall art installation, your booth design needs to make a strong visual impact.
Go Live: There is an appetite for live content, especially with exhibitors who don’t get the chance to take the stage. Why not make the booth your stage? Attendees can break away from breakout sessions and interact with live demos or presentations right inside your booth. By hosting mini live events within your space, you can reach both those in the know and those attendees who are merely roaming the aisles.
Be Inviting: Create a Welcoming Atmosphere
When exhibiting, making your booth as welcoming as possible is vital to increasing visitors and leads. Even something as simple as lounge seating in your area can go a long way. A place to sit and rest your tired feet can be one of the more sought-after spaces on a tradeshow floor. People will avoid exhibits that seem intimidating or unwelcoming as a whole. Brand ambassadors should be friendly, enthusiastic and informative, but not overwhelming.
“Knowing who you are as a brand is a key factor in selecting booth staff,” Watson says. “The team is an extension of your organization—a literal face to your name. This should be something you consider when identifying your booth’s brand ambassadors.”
Another way to create a welcoming atmosphere is to design a space that does double-duty. A typical booth where exhibitors sell or demo a product during the day, can turn into a happy hour space in the last two hours of the tradeshow. Or a place to sit and rest can easily become one of the more sought-after spaces on the tradeshow floor.
When you create a space that feels inviting, you immediately put people in a better mood to interact and engage with whatever it is you’re offering.
Be Engaging: Draw Them In With Irresistible Activations
Trend-savvy exhibitors are rising to the challenge of redefining “tradeshow” to be entertainment focused, rather than simply showing off goods and services. While many exhibitors may rely on the use of technology to boost engagement, booth visitors are drawn to unique offerings such as games, giveaways, demo stations and other hands-on engagement.
Swag is going next level. Not just a free coffee, but an artisanal latte that’s personalized with your face in the foam. It’s all about unique experiences—and having something that is Instagram-worthy is an added plus.
The important thing is that whatever your attendees are engaging with, it should connect with your message. Free stuff and cool activations are fun, sure, but it’s critical to get the messaging around the offering in some clever way.
Stay Innovative with Creativity
In addition to these ideas, don’t forget what you learn from non-tradeshow events. It is remarkable how often event planners can take a component that works really well in a high-touch party and just change it around—give it the Rubik’s Cube twist—and fit it in the tradeshow. Bringing new elements that come from outside the tradeshow world into the tradeshow world, or simply coming in with something atypical of a tradeshow, can often result in meaningful connections between your brand and attendees.
Looking for more tradeshow tips? Read on to stop wasting time trading business cards and start making connections today.