We’ve all been to trade shows where we walked by countless booths without being tempted to stop, or even slow down. With all the technology and information we have today, it’s surprising that so many businesses still rent exhibitor space and then put so little effort into creating a stand-out booth.

Here is how many businesses seem to follow this same tired 3-step routine:

  1. they put up last year’s poster or graphics
  2. they set up a table with some hand-outs, a bowl of candy, and an empty container to collect business cards for a drawing
  3. they proceed to have a drawing where they give away something that has little to do with their brand or business.

Since trade shows often have hundreds of booths for attendees to visit, it doesn’t make good sense to invest the money it takes to exhibit without also putting in the effort to be one of those top 10 talked-about booths.

Yes, perhaps we’ve all been guilty of the tired 3-step booth routine at one time or another. But there are so many tools you can leverage to engage that walk-by traffic and improve your ROI so that, with a little planning, there’s no reason you can’t go from being a booth to be ignored to being one of the best booths at the trade show.

Before the Trade Show

Booth Location

If you have any control over the situation, do your best to select a booth location that naturally lends itself to foot traffic. People gather near doors, food, bathrooms, and big- name vendors. Selecting this type of location will give you a starting edge. However, that is just the start, and even if you can’t get one of those prime traffic locations, there is much you can do to overcome that issue.

Make Your Display Up-to-Date

If your booth display does not appear up to date, people will assume your brand or products aren’t either. Everything you use should look new and clean, and your display should include cutting-edge elements, such as technology or innovative designs and graphics. If your display pieces are old, retire them and start fresh.

Work hard to come up with something edgy that supports your brand or products. For example, if you’re going to highlight a new product, don’t just have a video playing on an old computer monitor. Think in terms of quickly capturing an attendee’s attention and then engaging their interest. You can do this easily with large touchscreens or iPads if you want people to engage individually with your product information. Or for more of a group impact, consider a video wall to show off your product.

During the Trade Show

Booth Flow

First things first – DO NOT put a table across the front of your booth. This has the same effect as a sign that says “you are not welcome here.” Aim to create flow within your booth layout so you can accommodate the largest amount of foot traffic without having a jam. People should be able to move around, talk with staff and get the information they need, interact with your technology, and move through your booth without keeping new people from walking in.

Your Staff and the Fun Factor

It should go without saying that your staff needs to be well-trained on the objectives your company has for the trade show. And they should know your products and services inside and out as well as how to use any technology equipment you are renting for the show. They should also be well-versed on how to qualify buyers so they don’t spend all their time chatting with one person who isn’t actually a prospective buyer, while real buyers go through unnoticed.

All very important stuff. But beyond those basics, something that too many companies forget about when exhibiting is having fun. Yes, trade shows are work. But they are also supposed to be fun. When the staff at your booth is having fun, then the people walking by will be attracted to your booth and they in turn will have fun.

Give Attendees a Reason to Visit

Giving attendees a reason to visit your booth, beyond having a great product or service, is an ideal way to create that booth everyone wants to visit. When you create a reason for them to linger, it gives you the opportunity to have an in-depth chat with them and develop the beginning of a relationship which can result in loyal customers. Here are some effective ways to give attendees a reason to visit your booth:


Rent a charging station. We all need to charge our devices; from phones to tablets, everyone now carries multiple pieces of technology that need charging. If you are the booth where everyone can rest for a few minutes while they recharge their smartphones, you increase the opportunity for those in-depth conversations. The average time spent at a charging station is 7-12 minutes, which is considerably longer than the normal time people spend at any given booth.


Create a Social Media Lounge. To create a social media lounge, think in terms of cushy chairs, coffee, and a large screen live-streaming social media channels. Have a social media person who is posting information about your company along with useable tidbits. You can also set up a method for rewarding those who post about your booth while they are lounging there:


“#booth747 great coffee and valuable trade secrets-come find out”


This not only encourages more booth traffic but also boosts your social media profile.


Create a Digital Document Library. A key method for elevating your brand is to be insanely useful to your clients. One way to do this is through a digital library, which can be offered through an interactive kiosk, touchscreens, tablets, or mobile devices. This allows you to capture leads while engaging the user and offering them real-time information about the trade show and other valuable content.


Given the number of companies that don’t always take the time to update their exhibit booth, it doesn’t take a whole lot to create more visibility for your brand and to become one of those top-ten booths.