Trade Show Secrets, Part IV: Creating an Experience

So far in our trade show series, we’ve been mainly talking about planning and logistics. These are obviously important to have for a successful trade show, but what are you going to actually say when the booth is set up and everything is in place?

You’re fully prepared for travel, setup, management and outreach. Now it’s show time. Are you going to stand out from your competitors? Are you going to have a booth that everyone wants to stop and see, or are you going to be just another exhibitor? In the complex process of planning a tradeshow, you may be overlooking the most important aspect of all: Creating an experience for your visitors.

Think back to the basics. What goes into a successful trade show anyway? Getting your customers interested in your products and services of course. And you are fully prepared to sell: You’re already an expert on your own business, you have already written and printed your promotional materials and you know your value proposition, inside and out. Your booth displays all the necessary items, what could possibly be missing, if anything?

Creating an Experience. An exhibit on a trade show floor isn’t just a booth of “stuff.” It should really be a total experience. Something people will notice, stop and check out, get engaged, remember and talk about. What are some of the things that create an experience?

The experience really begins with the invitation. It’s when you invite visitors to your booth with a custom mailer, e-blast, video or other promotional materials. Our first rule of thumb about a trade show invitation is: Make it personal. The more personal it feels, the more likely the visitor is to stop by the booth.

The experience takes off at the trade show – your big first impression. They see you, recognize you and now they can’t help themselves: Your booth is so awesome they are compelled to walk over and continue the experience. What is your Big Wow factor? What are your visuals like — do they really stand out in the crowd? Are your graphics and displays unique? Are they easy to approach, and simple to understand? Do they really make people want to come over and engage?

Here are some examples from Exhibitor to spark your imagination:

Looking at an exhibit that looks back.
Savvy exhibitors make use of their overhead space.



The experience continues with interaction. Your booth should incorporate an interactive aspect with attendees that will get them engaged. Yes, your staff is going to speak to visitors, but it should be more than that. People experience these events on conscious and subconscious levels, mentally and physically. Give them something to interact with that isn’t merely someone speaking to them, or handing them a sheet of paper.

Combine high and low tech effects that speak to your brand for a less one-dimensional experience. Think of ways to use non-verbal effects in an exhibit. Utilize taste, smell and audio to add subliminally to the ways people will “see” your brand.

Here are a few ways that we’ve helped some of our clients creatively engage with trade show attendees:

Attendees walk the red carpet as they see marketing materials come alive.
Create a virtual real life experience and add an educational video.
Treat them like special guests. Get creative with a recipe and serve a delicious sample.
Get their attention from afar with a mobile branded sign.

Check out this link on Exhibitor for more experiences that have been used to get the customer interested.

Now that the wheels are turning, you’ll want to review some of our other trade show tips. Please see our Trade Show Success Guide, and check out our Trade Show Gallery. Marketing Plus has been designing and managing trade show experiences for the better part of 30 years, and we don’t mind showing off our stuff.