A key indicator trade show marketers must focus on to really be successful at an event is to draw an audience to your booth. The goal after all is to increase the audience you have influence over, whether that comes in the form of leads or customer.
There are numerous ways to generate an audience at your booth. We have put together a huge list of ideas that you can try to draw a crowd. Not all of them will be appropriate to all audiences.
When selecting a method for attracting and engaging with people in your trade show booth, remember to first know the audience you are trying to attract. Know the types of people that will be in attendance, why they might be there and what they want or need to come away from the trade show with. Then, know which segment you can serve and how.
Make your attraction methods line up with what your target audience wants. After reading the list below, we are hoping you will have the inspiration for the perfect crowd magnet to use at your next trade show booth.
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#1 Use Visual Appeal
Having an attractive booth designed to work perfectly with your location on the trade show floor is the first step to providing a great trade show experience for attendees. Graphics should be appropriate and eye-catching to draw potential customers over to you.
Also, make sure that your staff are well groomed, clean cut and professional looking. They should have matching shirts or other means of identifying themselves on site as part of the booth staff. Also, make sure they are well conversed in your products, services, sales pitches, lead generation scripts, etc.
#2 Interactive Content
Interactive touch screens, like tablets, scattered throughout your booth, are a perfect way to engage with trade show attendees on their own terms. They can come up to the touch screen and engage with the pre-programmed content.
The content offered can be interactive demos, videos, surveys and quizzes, or prize entries. They are a great way of generating leads, especially if you offer content downloads they can opt into like other traditional digital marketing lead magnets.
#3 Valuable Giveaways
In this section, we are referring to what has often been called swag. This is the cool stuff you can pick up while walking around trade shows. The ideas are almost always branded and nearly endless.
The key here is to make the giveaway desirable in some way, whether it be valuable, useful, entertaining, or fun. The more people that want your giveaway, the more likely you can generate attendee buzz about you and your giveaway. Make sure that the giveaway is audience appropriate, and generates as many leads as possible.
Some fun and useful ideas include smart wallets for phones, lip balm, reusable water bottles, keystands for phones, well designed bags, USB chargers, mints, etc. You can also tier your giveaways so that not everyone can walk by and grab it. Instead, make them do something easy to get the giveaway. And make sure the giveaway is unique. You want other people to ask around on how to get it.
Everyone loves the idea of a game – competing to win. This idea might seem simple, but it works. According to Dougie Portwood, “Games benefit humans cognitively, socially, motivationally, and emotionally, leaving a lasting effect and encouraging us to seek out more of these experiences.”
Games used in a trade show booth can range from a simple games like trivia, jumbo board games, golf putting; to casino-style games like a prize wheel, a roulette wheel, or a slot machine; all the way to “The Price Is Right” style games like a Plinko board or a cash grab machine.
Successful gamification will offer rewards, inspire competition, or both. So choose based on what your audience might really enjoy.
A contest is a form of competition that requires skill to win. It is usually paired with a prize that is equivalent to the amount of skill necessary to compete. It can be in the form of a game, but it doesn’t have to be.
Contest ideas include: guess the amount of something in a container, photo contest, a contest that involves searching for clues and solving a riddle, a matching contest, the highest score in a game, etc.
The draw for a contest will be the bragging rights of winning, especially if the contest requires a lot of skill or how many winners there will be, or the prize that you can win in the contest.
A quiz can be a form of contest, however it is a very specific type of contest that tests your advance knowledge of something. A quiz about the event, your company, your product or service, or the city the event is taking place in can be a popular draw to your booth.
Quizzes are entertaining and engaging. They can trigger our competitive instincts and give a memorable experience with your brand. The best part about a quiz is that it is also informative, when done right. Is there something you want your audience to learn about you that you can pull out through a quiz?
Quizzes can also be used to qualify your audience as potential leads or customers. What do you need to know about someone that marks them as a potentially great fit with your company? How can you use a quiz (not a survey) to find this out?
You can hold more structured competitions in your booth and allow your audience to judge the competition. What would your audience love to see people compete on (think cooking, playing music, singing, best hairstyle, best makeup, etc.)?
You can pre-arrange contestants before the trade show event and then advertise that the audience will be the judge. While this might not attract us for prizes, it can provide a lot of fun and entertainment for your audience. Add in the fact that they get to judge and your audience will be engaged.
Entertainment can cover a wide gamut of styles and budgets. A simple search turns up quite a list. There are magic shows, Rubik’s Cube art displays, chocolate carving, robots, caricaturists, comedians, musicians, and the list just goes on.
For those with huge budgets, We have seen clients go big and hire a popular musician and just plaster the event with ads for it. You can scale down to something like dancing robots patrolling the trade show floor or have the entertainment locally in your booth.
What you need to remember with entertainment is to make sure the value of the entertainment is in line with the type of audience you are trying to attract.
#9 Prize Giveaways
Prize giveaways are usually done via a raffle, scratch offs, or some other game of chance. In this case, the value of the prize will most likely determine the attraction you receive to the giveaway.
Make sure that there is a game of chance involved and that you have a system for collecting entries. And, like everything else we have listed, make sure the prize is appropriate for your target audience.
Prizes can be electronics, vacation packages, sporting goods, your company’s products or services, utility items or tools, tickets to entertainment, etc. Be unique and be relevant.
#10 Pre-Show Media Coverage
Pre-show media coverage can be used to generate interest in your other methods of attracting an audience. If your presence at the trade show event is compelling enough because of the giveaway or announcement or entertainment or competition, then you could draw some media attention before the event.
One way to find out is to draft a press release detailing your compelling reason for attending the trade show event and what you plan to do there. Distribute it to media outlets that you know are covering or have covered before the event.
Offer media pre-event interviews and sneak peaks, and also invite their attendance to the trade show event to cover it live. Depending on the media coverage you receive, you can really boost the attendance you receive. You can probably also win some love from the event coordinator for the added exposure of the event.
#11 Free Wifi Access
If the trade show event or hotel does not offer free wifi for attendees, create a mingling space at your booth and offer access to your wifi hotspot for free. You can display the wifi password at various places in your booth so attendees need to come around to get it.
You can rent 4G internet providers for a few days to be able to offer wifi access to your booth attendees. Use the time that people are near to network.
#12 Free Phone Charging Station
If trade show attendees are engaging with their smartphones during the trade show, they are going to be using up a lot of the battery. They might be texting, emailing, posting to social media, taking photos, etc. When their battery gets used up, they are going to look for more power.
If you have a place setup where trade show attendees can lounge and recharge, both their phones and their bodies, you are sure to attract a crowd. You can then take the time to mingle, pass out literature, offer product demos, or just engage in conversation.
#13 Pre-Show Outreach
As we discussed in our free guide How to Use Digital Marketing to Rock Your Next Trade Show, your time before the start of the show should be spent promoting both the trade show event and your attendance of it.
Using your email lists, social media channels, website and other assets to reach out to those you would like to see at the trade show. Send out invitations for meetings or product demos, give VIP access to your entertainment, or hint at a special announcement or offer only available at the trade show.
#14 Comment Wall
Have a physical wall on your booth to allow trade show attendees to write personal messages or comments on. The wall can be a whiteboard or blackboard. Encourage passers by to come write something. This can be used to gather unique intel about show attendees, depending on what is written.
As a bonus, advertise custom hashtags for users to include in their posts as well as search to find what other trade show attendees are sharing. This is a great way to draw attention to both your booth as well as the trade show event and engage with trade show attendees.
#15 Formal Invitations
Use formal invitations for your most important trade show attendees. Send out an invitation like you would to your wedding or your kid’s graduation. If possible, include free trade show tickets or other super beneficial perks to attending the trade show as your guest.
This is one of the ways you can pull out all the stops in creating an experience for someone that you are really trying to impress. If your budget allows for it, create a VIP experience of the trade show, starting with formal invitations. These offers can be very hard to refuse.
#16 Food & Drink
What better way to attract people to your booth than to offer them refreshment? Trade shows get very busy and a lot of people don’t get around to eating or drinking as they should during the day. By providing a refreshment stand of some kind, you will inspire people to stop and take advantage.
Take this time to engage with them and perhaps qualify them for your sales. Ideas can range from simple water bottles and chips to more elaborate coffee artists and bartenders. Just be sure you are mingling in the refreshment area.
#17 Trained & Outgoing Staff
Being able to start a conversation is key to staff performance at your booth. Because of your efforts promoting your booth, there will be a large amount of traffic in your booth. The last thing you need at that point is for your staff to be too shy or introverted to talk to anyone.
Train them on how to approach people openly with curiosity and look for ways to connect with them. Which questions should they ask? What scripts do they need to know? How should they use body language? What is their goal when speaking with new people?
Make sure your training before the show gives them the answers to these questions.
#18 Booth Location
This might be a no brainer, but I wanted to mention it anyway for anyone that may be new to exhibiting at trade shows. Where your are on the show floor matters! If you are tucked in a corner without much foot traffic, you are going to have a poor show.
When working with the event coordinator, try to get as close to either the floor entrance, main aisles, any lounge or networking areas, restrooms, bars or food courts, or any other area where you can reasonably assume that there will be a decent amount of foot traffic.
Have you ever been walking through a store and noticed a crowd gathering in a certain area? You are attracted by the crowd and go closer to get a peek at what is going on. In the middle of this crowd is a guy chopping up fruits and veggies with a cool looking knife. You got sucked in by the power of the live demo.
Giving live product demos at trade shows is a great way to draw an audience, especially if you can also make it entertaining. People will remember your demonstration long after the event vs just seeing the product or a video demonstration. It’s also a great way to sell direct if you brought inventory to sell.
Take the opportunity to record any live demos you do at a trade show. These videos can be used to promote your products long after the trade show is over.
#20 Special Announcements
As with live demos, making a special announcement at the trade show is a great way to draw a crowd to your booth, especially if you did a good job with pre-show marketing. This is going to be a one-time shot to get that big crowd to gather, so plan ahead what your strategy will be with this crowd.
I would most certainly give my staff some time to mingle with the crowd before the announcement, so make it a few minutes later than scheduled. Also, have your staff prepared to answer questions about the announcement after it’s been made.
Be sure to record the announcement so that you can use it for your marketing efforts after the event is over. Video of this type can be repurposed into other content marketing pieces.
#21 Celebrity Appearance
Having a celebrity attend your trade show booth is an awesome way to draw a crowd to your booth. But, depending on the celebrity, it is going to require a huge budget. This is probably best combined with the entertainment tactic.
If you can book a performer to do an event during the trade show, ask them if they would be willing to mingle in your booth for a while and sign autographs. Since you are already paying them to be there, it might not be too much more to get this added on. You won’t know unless you ask!
As with the previous few tactics, can you record this to use for further promotion after the show?
#22 Meetup Area
Do you have room to add in a small networking or mingling area in or next to your booth? Having an area that people can stop and rest or speak in private with each other is usually in short supply on a trade show floor.
By providing this, along with refreshments, your booth will become an unplanned destination. While you don’t want to intrude with salesman in this area, take advantage of signage and graphics to really spread your company’s message in this area.
#23 Lounge Area
As with a meetup area, having a place for attendees to sit and relax for a few minutes can be a life saver for those on their feet all day long. Provide a comfortable lounge area and some refreshments and you will see quite a lot of attendees over the course of the trade show.
These last two tactics can be expensive because of the added trade show floor space you will need to buy. Some businesses might be better served offering a lounge as their booth instead of a traditional booth. This really depends on your goals for the trade show.
#24 Educational Workshops
If you can teach something valuable in a decent amount of time, you should be holding workshops at regularly scheduled times in your booth. People attend trade shows for many reasons, but one of them is to learn.
Teaching gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise and provide value for those who attend. Value is the essence of relationships and relationships are the essence of business.
You can also use this opportunity to get your branded information, such as worksheets or cheat sheets, into the hands of your audience.
#25 Use Video
Videos are a versatile tool in your trade show arsenal. They can be used to draw attention to your booth. They can be used to show product or service demonstrations. They can be used to communicate with your audience.
If you are going to use videos, be sure to have them professionally created and be very mindful of sound. You want people to be able to hear them without being blasted by them.