May / 10 / 2016

The 5 Ws of Standing Out at Your Next Trade Show


“Events done well turn into lasting experiences, which translate into long term ROI," said Chobani’s CMO Peter McGuinness at the recent Experiential Marketing Summit.

McGuinness is a fan of doing trade shows right: Going in with clear goals, getting creative, paying attention to details and measuring the impact.

Here’s some steps to achieving just that at your next trade show or event.

Why are you going?

Know your strategic objectives before heading out. Are you there to capture leads? Meet with clients? Splash your brand across the convention center to boost name recognition? Knowing what you want to achieve takes you a long way toward achieving it. Be realistic and communicate the goals to the whole team. People notice when the details are wrong but when they are right, they add to the overall experience that may not even be realized.

What are you doing?

• Details matter! How you set up your booth creates the environment for interacting with attendees and further communicates your brand.

• Any signage and graphics in your booth need to be clear and concise. Put yourself in the attendee’s shoes and be sure you can process the point in eight seconds.

• Lay out any furniture, kiosks or equipment in your booth so that it does not block attendees from coming in or enclose them in a corner. Attendees do not like to feel trapped.

• There are two schools of thought on carpet. Use either a color that serves as a foundation for bringing attention to your graphics and messaging, or make it the same color as the aisle carpet so attendees have no psychological barriers for entering your booth. The latter works well for smaller booths.

• Consider all five senses – not just sight. Use food, drink or product samples that smell or taste. Hit on the sense of touch with tangible products attendees can manipulate or an in-booth activity that encourages interaction. Hone your spoken message, use recordings or play appropriate music so attendees are hearing something meaningful.

• Activities are important to engage attendees, and many exhibitors are successful with games in their booths. Depending on the audience try crafts or interactive white boards upon which attendees can leave their thoughts.

• Technology devices are ever-present, and attendees always need power, so offering them a place to charge up adds another activity with impact.

• Bringing the outside in is a design trend not going away anytime soon. Live plants, earth tones and wood grains can create a peaceful and therefore attractive environment in the cacophony of a trade show.

When are you going to see this opportunity again?

Attitude is important. Pre-show, be open to rethinking what team members you are sending and what messaging you want to communicate. During the show, don’t let the team get worn down or into a same-old-same-old way of thinking. Attendees easily pick up on this kind of laissez-faire attitude rolling off booth staffers and out into the aisles. Ask open-ended questions about what attendees are looking for on the show floor to draw them into a conversation, then take it in a direction you want to go from there.

Who are you sending in?

Attendees may have heard of your company and may even have researched your products online. Be ready to dive into the details with some of them, who will appreciate talking to your product experts. But remember, communication is a two-way street. Send someone who knows how to listen, someone who can connect with attendees about what they need rather than just spouting off the features of your products. Train your team on how to help translate attendee needs to the benefits your company provides.

Where will you promote your trade show appearance?

Social media is a great way to promote your participation at a trade show. Be sure you know the hashtag the event or convention organizer uses so you can start communicating with the community even before the show starts. Again, make sure you’re not just tweeting your booth number every hour but really interacting with the community and commenting on other’s updates. Make sure your customers know where they can find you on the trade show floor with pre-show marketing of the digital or printed variety. Consider how your presence at the trade show can seem bigger than just those three days in time.

Dana Freker Doody is the VP of Corporate Communications at The Expo Group.