Trade shows are a huge investment for any tech B2B company in terms of both time and money. When done right, they are the perfect accelerator for your business, bringing in new connections, creating a buzz for your brand, and generating plenty of leads. However, if foot traffic is low and the results disappointing, you might be wondering if the effort and cost is worth it.
In these days of tight budgets, how do you ensure your trade show investment is worth the investment?
In this blog, we share tried and tested tactics to create a buzz for your brand at trade shows, backed by examples from experts. Let’s dive in.
1. Offer an interactive experience featuring your product or services
If you’ve attended trade shows before then you’re bound to have come across some impressive demonstrations. From fairground rides to virtual reality experiences, businesses are ready to pull out all the stops to grab headlines.
Fortunately, you don’t have to have a multimillion-dollar budget to create memorable experiences at your next event. Start with your product or service and ask yourself how you could make it come to life at the stand. If you sell a platform or software service, you could showcase one of your client’s products as a living use case, or set up an interactive screen to help visitors explore the technology behind your offer.
Here’s what some experts have successfully tried at events.
Example #1: display real products
“We display real surgical instruments—like the ARTAS robotic hair restoration system. This attention-grabbing, high-tech machinery always draws a crowd. It also opens people’s eyes to what’s possible in our business—which is always our primary goal when we attend trade shows. Although it requires a fair amount of logistical planning to transport the equipment, taking this initiative has always paid off for my medical practice.”– Jae Pak, MD, Jae Pak MD Medical
Example #2: host a demonstration
“Hosting an interactive product demonstration is best practice for trade shows. In our case, a fully equipped campervan with all the bells and whistles speaks for itself, but there also needs to be some showmanship and technical knowledge to accompany any demo.
You never need to go full carnival barker in terms of showmanship, just enough to show what makes your product or service cool and unique. The same goes for technical knowledge; always be showing your industry differentiators.” — Kevin Callahan, Co-Founder & CEO, Flatline Van Co.
2. Grab attention with games and contests
Trade show visitors like nothing more than being entertained, which is why games and contests are a great way to grab attention at large-scale events and ensure your stand is not overlooked. Whichever type of game or contest you choose to create, make sure you have clear rules and regulations in place, so it stays fun. And if you can tie the concept back to the location of the trade show, or your business, that’s a bonus.
Create an additional buzz by involving social media into the process. Create videos of your visitors taking part, ask your followers to respond to polls, or even ask them to vote for their favourite picture.
Want some examples? Here’s what some experts have successfully tried at events.
Example #1: don’t be afraid to just have fun
“A winner that has worked for us several times in the past is bringing carnival-like games to our trade show stand. However, I’m not talking about ring toss, wheel spins, and other boring stuff. I’m talking about weird, off-the-wall games that people are curious about.
One year we hosted a game where people had to stack sushi pieces 10 high using chopsticks only, in under 30 seconds. If they won, they got a $100 gift card for a regional sushi restaurant. Another year we did a saltine cracker challenge, where each person had 60 seconds to eat 6 saltine crackers, drinking nothing. Though it sounds dumb, people aren’t afraid to try, and it always gets laughs from the crowd.
Basically, we try to think up silly, simple games that anyone can try as they walk by, and ultimately gather small crowds.” – John Ross, CEO, Test Prep Insight
Example #2: create a wheel of fortune
“We have a wheel guests can spin to win freebies. It always draws attention because it looks like a smaller version of the “Wheel of Fortune” wheel.
We give away neat swag items that feature our logo, as well as healthy snacks. It’s an eye-catching feature that draws in many curious visitors. When people stop by to spin the prize wheel, it gives me the perfect opportunity to engage with them about our product. I highly recommend this idea to anyone looking for a fun way to draw people in.” – Stephanie Venn-Watson, Co-Founder, fatty15
3. Stimulate “all” the senses
Despite being like a big village, trade shows can quickly become monotonous to visitors. Grab their attention by stimulating their senses in an unexpected way. Whether that’s the smell of fresh popcorn, a catchy tune, or an intriguing video, there’s more than one way to leave a lasting impression.
Want more examples? Here’s what some experts have successfully tried at events.
Example #1: Big screens for big results
“We’re a neo-bank, so there’s not a lot of in-house “product” that we can rely on to draw sizable crowds. So we’ve had to get creative. Big screens with animated lottery tickets and dollar bills dancing around have worked well for us.
Do you remember those old Electric Company episodes in which an animated “Bill” sings about how a bill gets passed in Congress? It’s kind of like that. We use big screens that feature animation, singing, and musical accompaniment to get people closer to our booths—and then we sell them on the great services we offer.” — Trevor Ford, Head of Growth, Yotta
Example #2: Don’t forget about smell
“Visually, make sure you’re catching visitors’ attention with color, light, and movement. You could use a large LED sign or a rotating hanging sign, for example. For sound, use dynamic music or a great presenter to appeal to visitors.
Don’t forget about other senses like smell, either. Offer freshly popped popcorn or fresh baked cookies to draw crowds that can smell you before they even see you.
In many cases, you can also engage your audience’s sense of touch to give them a hands-on experience with your company. Make your engagements, presentations, or products accessible so visitors can engage with their hands and have a more memorable interaction.” -Thomas Samuels, President, Cardinal Expo
4. Give visitors the creature comforts they crave
Let’s face it, all those attention-grabbing tactics can also be exhausting for visitors. Instead of adding to the stimuli, you could go a completely different route, and create a haven for tired visitors: give them a place to recharge their physical and mental batteries. Provide visitors with access to charging points, decent Wi-Fi, a comfortable seat, or even beverages, and they will love you forever!
Don’t believe me? Check out this final example.
Example #1: Give visitors coffee
“Trade shows can be tiring. You’d be surprised at how many steps you can clock up wandering around the different stands. Plus, we often hold them in large spaces, which can get cold.
Offering good quality coffee, decent snacks, and a side order of interesting conversation is a surefire way to attract the crowds. Coffee is my business, so this is an easy decision for me.”
“Make sure that you have enough to keep up with demand and brand everything. Cups, napkins, stirrers, you name it. Make sure your choices align with your brand values; eco-friendly options work well here. Decaf alternatives are helpful and include a selection of snacks that are suitable for different dietary requirements. It can also help to make everything vegan and gluten-free, to save stress.
Free stuff always makes people happy, especially when they’re tired, cold, and hungry. Providing the perfect pick-me-up is an excellent way to promote your business.”- Alex Mastin, CEO & Founder, Home Grounds
Ready for your next trade show?
Grabbing attention at a trade show for all the right reasons doesn’t have to be difficult or costly. It simply requires a little imagination and empathy for those attending. In essence, the ideal trade show stand should be the sweet spot between your expertise and the trade show visitors’ needs.
Many B2B tech companies make the error of straying too far into either circle and ignoring that sweet spot between the two.
If you are fully focused on your expertise, this can generate a dull stand that doesn’t attract or engage visitors. At the other extreme, brands can focus solely on delivering a brilliant visitor experience with all the bells and whistles and forget to relate it back to their product or services. Neither extreme will serve your company well.
If you would like help finding the right way to make a buzz at your next trade show, we can help! Get in touch with us today for a 360° approach to your marketing at: [email protected]