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8 tips on how to maximise your tradeshow investment

Exhibiting at a tradeshow event is a great way to showcase your business. However, your stand will just be one small dot on a huge map of engaging and exciting attractions. You need to draw people in to get your message heard. Here are eight top tips on how to increase footfall to your stand:

1. Pushing your brand pre-event

Don’t wait until attendees are walking past your stand to get noticed; target them before they even enter the venue. Most venues will have a central destination that delegates will travel through: an airport, tube or train station for example.  

Get on their radar early in the day by having well-placed advertisements or guerrilla style tactics to draw attention to your brand before they even get to the show. 

Disney achieved this by packing out Custom House tube station with posters for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead of Comic Con convention at London ExCel in October 2015. 

Branded shuttle buses, taxis or tuk tuks to transport delegates from the airport/train station to the tradeshow is a great way to increase brand awareness before they even get there. 

If you’ve got a lower budget, research the list of tradeshow delegates from the previous year and drop them an email or LinkedIn message inviting them to your stand. Similarly, engage in conversations on the event’s social group. But don’t just say, “Come to our stall”, show some genuine interest and insight in your prospects, perhaps offer an incentive for the first 50 delegates to visit the stand. 

2. Guerrilla marketing 

Once attendees are inside the venue, the mission is to get people to stop at your stand. But when you’re a small fish in a big pond this can be challenging, so you need to go one step further and bring your product to life, literally. 

For example, Workfront (formerly AtTask), hosted a Workplace Zombie Invasion event, which plunged delegates into the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Attendees were split into teams and had to complete numerous tasks, all the while being hounded by hoards of the undead.

3. Your own branded barista

Everyone needs a caffeine fix at full day event. If drinks are on offer at the event, it’s usually basic, boring, instant coffee and water. Entice people over to your stand with your own personal barista: nobody can resist the smell of fresh coffee. 

Then when they take the coffee away, ensure it is in branded cups: a perfect bit of free advertising as delegates walk around sipping their coffee and the one instance when littering may be a good thing if the branded cups don’t make it to the bin. 

MG Design Associates set up a coffee stand with a barista and branded coffee station at EXHIBITORLIVE in 2015. The stand’s served over 600 coffees and exceeded its lead count from EXHIBITORLIVE 2014 by 24 per cent and conducted 25 one-on-one meetings with clients and prospects during the show. 

If coffee’s not your thing, then you can perhaps offer branded phone charging stations. 

4. Use the latest technology to bring your product to life

It’s essential to make sure that you have a live demo of your product at your stand, but you should be using the latest technology to enhance interactivity and engagement. 

Siemens Healthcare Services interactive iPad wall at the Healthcare and Information Management Systems Society Exhibition in 2014 helped launch their new CareXcell system. This is a fantastic example of using technology to enhance a demo. The CareXcell software it were promoting worked on an iPad, and attendees saw a live demo of the product in action on the tablets. The iPads were then added to a magnetic wall on the stand and when the individual iPad screens all joined up to form one large screen which showed a presentation on ‘connections’: as CareXcell programme was promoting connecting healthcare professionals and allowing them to share information with ease. The stand attracted 800 targeted contacts and earned 43 media mentions and 20 media interviews. 

5. Virtual and augmented reality

Allowing delegates to try out the latest technology at your stand is a great way to get people queuing up. The VR and AR trend has well and truly launched, with the VR market estimated reach a value of $1 billion this year with 2.5 million devices expecting to be sold.

But don’t jump on the bandwagon and offer a VR or AR experience just because it’s popular. It needs to have a genuine link to your brand, and add some value to your stand, and demonstrate your offering. For example, Land Rover incorporated it into their exhibition stands by allowing users to wear a VR headset while sitting down that gives you a 360 degree look around the inside of the car. It allows users to experience the car even if there isn’t space for one at the exhibition. 

6. Interactive and ongoing activities

Give delegates a reason to return to your stand later on in the day. Offer some sort of interactive activity that they can contribute to and will come back to see the finished result of at the end of the day.

For example, a digital graffiti wall, where each delegate writes or draws a message on a laptop or tablet and each square is uploaded onto a projection on the wall. You can encourage them to write their own brand name or something about your brand, which can make for great PR, especially if it’s shared on social. 

EWI Worldwide used the StoryBoard Experience at EXHIBITOR2013 to attract attendees to their boothThe brand’s tagline ‘Your Story. Alive,’ was incorporated into its exhibit by getting attendees to tell them something unique about them and draw it onto the wall. All images drawn onto the walls were recoded digitally and people were sent a QR code so that they could save an image of their artwork. The stand helped EWI meet its goals for post-show client meetings and exceed its lead objectives by 50 per cent.

7. Social engagement

You should be engaging with your social media followers before the event and promoting it to raise brand awareness. On the day encourage social engagement at your stand by using a hashtag on your banners and displaying a social media wall that shows all tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts that use the hashtag. 

You can further encourage people to share photos and information from the stand by running a competition through social media. Photobooths and GIF machines are also popular and create instant virality. 

8. Competitions

Competitions are a great way to get people’s contact details. You can transform your stand into a real-life landing page by offering a valuable prize in exchange for their details. 

To draw people in to your stand for a prize draw or competition, you can take a leaf out of GoodGame’s book and do as they did at Unite Europe 2016. Flyers were distributed to delegates as they enter the exhibition in the goody bag. Each flyer contained a press-out cardboard key and the flyer will tell delegates to come to their stand and try their key in the treasure box. If the key fit the lock then the delegate won a prize inside. For the 2000 delegates, there were 10 winning keys to ensure that good word of mouth spread throughout the conference.

After the event

Just because everyone is packing up their stands at the end of the day doesn’t mean that you have to stop the client schmoozing at that point. Offer to take your top prospects from the day out for dinner or drinks so that you can get some valuable face-time in with them in a more relaxed atmosphere.