A More Welcoming Trade Show Booth

Conferences can be rewarding, powerful opportunities to interface with new and existing customers, discover trends in your market, and capitalize on valuable interactions in ways we can’t during our typically siloed work days.

Obstacles to these benefits abound, threatening to detract from an otherwise positive show experience. Small mistakes can create large impacts. Fortunately, a few simple fixes can eliminate even the most complex challenges.

Audience Comfort

Trade shows promise miles of walking, sore feet, heavy bags of premiums, and staffer tedium. You can help by paying attention to how your booth solves some of these challenges.

A booth offering nothing but a pitch is empty and ignored. Add the gift of a bottle of water, small snack, and comfortable place to sit and you’ve quickly gone a long way toward showing an attendee how you value their time and interest. Before finalizing booth design with your builder, carefully analyze where to store drinks or food and what seating you’ll offer. If your builder suggests that potential leads will be happier and more comfortable standing through your message, question their logic. If they offer cute little mushroom stools in your theater, weigh that choice of an uncomfortable, unsteady seat with poor padding and bad balance against a practical. solid chair.

Assess your sound system. If you offer a theater or video, is the sound quality appropriate and inviting or cheap and off-putting? If the volume is too soft the guest won’t hear your message. If it’s too loud they’ll leave. If it’s tinny and cheap your credibility is undermined.

Invest wisely, with your next contract or current customer in mind. It’s not worth risking that customer’s comfort for a low budget or useless aesthetic. All that attendee will remember is how quickly they wanted to leave your booth.

Improved Message Delivery

Even the most dynamic, engaging speaker will occasionally lose an attendee. Days are long, decibels are high, and the flood of information can quickly overwhelm. There are a few ways to stave off lack of customer focus or distraction.

Take real care in who you ask to speak in your booth and why. The moment that expert gets on microphone they become your brand and your solution, for better or worse. A poor communicator has lasting negative influence on public perception of your company. The only speakers who should be allowed to engage your audience are the ones who bring energy, enthusiasm, and clarity to their story. A bad speaker bores your audience. A good speaker interacts with them in ways that target the heart and gut instead of the cerebral cortex. 

If those individuals are hard to find inside your company, bring in a professional. An expert corporate spokesperson will learn your brand culture and share your passion, along with a big vision that hits attendees where they live and solves their most pressing problems. The right speaker will work with you and your marketing team to build a strong, meaningful presentation that constantly reengages and delights your attendees rather than lulling them to sleep. You’ll see the payoff in crowd size, interest, and increased transition from theater to demos.

After poor messaging, there’s nothing that turns attendees off faster than a bad slide deck. Cheap visuals packed with statistics and brand-brag data kill communication and make a brand look like it doesn’t care about the customer. Simply put, your booth is not the place to deliver large packages of statistics. Encourage your speakers to take care in their slides, keep the message level high, and pay attention to cleanliness, visual impact, and strong design.

Better Use of Technology

Use mobility and apps, direct engagement, and any technology your budget and message can afford to reach a wider, more diverse potential customer base. This effort doesn’t have to break the bank; for example, rather than ask for hand-raiser Q&A following presentations, build a hashtag link that lets attendees ask their questions during your presentation. Then answer those queries live at the end. Attendees remain anonymous, stay to the end, and their question and need is recognized and addressed.

How about offering an online giveaway rather than a post-presentation drawing? This creates an opportunity to guide attendees toward your exciting new custom app where they can answer questions about your solutions or products in real time, just as they’re learning about your brand. End the presentation by encouraging them to post responses, and the most correct answers wins the prize. Everyone participates, your message is reinforced in the moment, and the audience stays to see if they’ve won.

In April, International Accelerator published a really fun list of the Top Seven Coolest Things on the 2018 SXSW Trade Show Floor. Talk about fun interactions!

Don’t Underestimate or Underfund Giveaways

If I had a nickel for every client who thought it wasn’t worth spending a nickel on free premiums. Booth giveaways work, end of story. If they didn’t, they’d have gone out of fashion long ago. The trouble in budget requests is that it’s impossible to track a giveaway directly to the final sale. Marketing Managers, who rarely attend the shows they fund, often mistakenly see premiums as a waste of money.

Attendees expect and seek out swag at a trade show. If you don’t offer it, that’s a conscious, strategic choice to cede attention to your direct competitors. Swag draws attention. It increases potential for a new handshake or demo opportunity. Premiums make attendees take notice, stop in the aisle, return to your booth for repeat visits, and create more receptive, engaged audiences. Ask yourself and your stakeholder how much that extra attention is worth.

If you’re at a loss for new ideas, here’s a recent list of popular swag from Metro Exhibits to get you started.

Giveaways increase crowds and scans, and because you never know where your next A-level lead is coming from you want to be ready when they show up. Without that expected premium they may pass you by, not notice your presence on the show floor, or spend their valuable time at your competitor’s booth instead. Offer something and you up your chances that lead will stop and listen.

Premiums are not sales tools, they are attention-getters. Swag draws eyes and feet, both of which increase odds of attracting dollars down the line. You or your stakeholder may feel they’re unnecessary and a waste of money, but to your audience they’re an expected part of the experience. And not offering a premium is subconsciously viewed as stingy and impolite. Even a small gift is appreciated. It helps fill your theater, drives visitors to your demos, and might encourage them to stay longer on your stand. It’s a wise and cheap investment.

One last word on this important topic. Just as pulling out of a trade show leads to unwanted press and analyst speculation (“Are they in trouble? Losing market share? In financial trouble?”), not offering your attendees a gift shows poorly on your brand. Don’t take the risk.

Transform your typical product pitch into a meaningful corporate story.

Download Steve’s free 5 Paths to Passionate Storytelling eGuide to quickly begin adding value, passion, and connection to every interaction and presentation.

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