By Tia Crawford

Trade show exhibits represent a significant investment for a business. Between the costs of renting a booth, the expense of the exhibit display itself, and the price of sending staff, it’s important to see a significant return on the investment. As with any event planning, it’s essential to never lose sight of the target audience and to always think from the perspective of the end user.

Use demographics as the basis for every aspect of your decision-making.

What age groups and job functions are you likely to encounter most on the trade show floor? Most importantly, what are these visitors looking for and what will attract them? Armed with knowledge about your potential guests, look at the following SIX GOALS and move forward towards MAXIMIZING business connections for your booth:

  1. Capture Attention – your booth MUST catch the eyes (and/or ears) of the streams of traffic traveling past. Without a feature that grabs the INTEREST of passers-by, show attendees will simply continue . . . passing by. Find a perfect reason for people to stop and linger at your booth. Instantly impress them and establish a benefit—a benefit that affects them immediately and demands that they stop right where they are and enter your booth. Here are some specific techniques:

o   Use Unique Technology – we’re surrounded by technology, and it continues to fascinate us. Outfitting your trade show booth with tech options that are new, or used in a new way, provides an immediate draw. We’re familiar with LED and plasma screens, but few of us have a seamless LED or plasma video wall in our home.  Booths that make good use of engaging, eye-catching technology will naturally draw attention.

o   Offer an Immediate Service – a charging station kiosk at the forefront of your booth offers a quick, valuable service that every attendee could find useful. While your new visitors are charging up their phones or devices, you’ve earned 7 to 12 minutes of their time.

o   Provide Excitement or Entertainment – raffles, games, quizzes, and challenges are all exciting and engaging. Many visitors attend trade shows for work-related reasons; giveaways and games allow guests to take a moment that’s just for them—to take time to have fun.

o   Supply a Need or a Luxury – if your booth can cater to visitors through food, beverages, aromatherapy, massage chairs, or a comfortable spot to rest for a moment, attendees will willingly and gladly accept your hospitality, becoming your guests!

  1. Send the Right Message – use digital signage to clearly define your company’s branding, logo, product, and purpose. All signage should come back to your booth’s critical point—quickly show trade show attendees what your business, service, or product has to offer THEM!
  2. Provide the Desired Experience – the desired experience will differ from person to person, which is why customer service and personalization are the foundations of this step. Once guests have become visitors to your booth, it’s time for your team to focus on learning FROM attendees. When staff members are willing to learn and listen, they take the most important step toward connecting with guests. None of us want to be TOLD, we want to be ASSISTED. Telling a person about your product is completely different from helping a person discover what product they need.
  3. Deliver Necessary Information – after your guests’ needs are discovered, it becomes time to deliver the right information in the right way. The best method for ensuring that you have the “right” way is by having ALL ways covered. Hard copy pamphlets and business cards are still a good idea, but putting your business literature into a digital document library is the ideal way of guaranteeing that any guest can receive any information in exactly the way that they prefer—the precise information they want, available for immediate download onto their own device.
  4. Create Impact – walking away from your booth, guests should be impressed with the personalized treatment that they received. They should feel that they got much more than they expected from their time—leaving them with the warm and fuzzy feelings that they got from special services and friendly individuals who truly listened to their thoughts. If these things happened, then a real connection was made!
  5. Achieve ROI – the final step of connecting contains all the vital post-event actions—follow-ups, follow-through, sales conversions, and data analysis. This family of actions is where ROI is proven, and our efforts are rewarded! Although data capture systems, such as attendee tracking and lead retrieval, may not affect a guest’s experience immediately, Event Planners and Exhibit Managers know that when we pay careful attention to attendees’ preferences and patterns, when we gather and analyze data on their interests and concerns, we’re helping to forge future events and products in the forms that they most want. Data gathering allows us to become intuitive about what visitors really want us to provide.

In conclusion, appealing to attendees’ individuality—the “me” factor—makes your booth more memorable. Draw guests in with tech that attracts, true customer service, and a fun customer experience! Making things relevant and personal is an action that’s becoming even more meaningful and taking to the next level that well-established custom . . . a handshake.