Creating an A+ Trade Show Exhibit

Studies confirm prospects and customers attend trade shows to learn. 60% of attendees surveyed say they come to shows because they want to increase their own professional knowledge—and that their efforts at trade show learning include an average of nine and a half hours per show viewing the exhibits.

However, despite prospects’ and customers’ desire to learn at trade shows, it isn’t easy to draw or hold their attention. Not when they are being bombarded with hundreds of exhibits and thousands of products and marketing messages.

To overcome this competition for attendees’ attention, you need a solid event marketing strategy. Here’s how you can create an A+ exhibit to distinguish your company from the crowd and persuade visitors to stop by:

Set Your Goals and Objectives

What do you hope to achieve from your trade show participation? Always start by articulating your goals clearly. Do you want to increase company awareness? Generate qualified leads for your sales force? Launch a new product?

Be SMART about setting your goals. Make sure your objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

Even if you’ve set goals in the past, check-in with senior management. Business plans change and priorities evolve. Make sure your goals still track with management’s.

Create Your Plan

With objectives clearly defined, it’s time to create a strategic plan to achieve (and hopefully exceed) those goals.

Forbes author and consultant Andrew Klausner recommends these plan elements:

  • Detail the specific activities you intend to undertake
  • Identify the audience each activity is targeted at
  • Specify how you’re going to measure success
  • Be flexible enough to allow adjustments as necessary
  • Stipulate who on your team is responsible for each activity

Define the Experience

The design of your trade show exhibit and visitor experience are a primary way to stand out from other booths and to express your brand. In order to achieve effective trade show learning, every element should be consistent, positive and inviting. After all, your competitors are just an aisle or two away and ready to connect with the same prospects – or worse, your customers. If competitors do speak with members of your target audience, you want to make sure you’ve provided a superior exhibit and experience.

As you plan your experience, ask questions like:

  • What will the attendee experience be like? It is quick? Or an enriched trade show learning experience?
  • How will attendees flow through the exhibit? Is there a central starting point? Can the experience begin from any approach?
  • Will attendees participate on their own, or will exhibit staff be on hand to facilitate the journey?
  • Are there interesting design elements, visuals or lighting to accent the experience?
  • How and where is contact or lead information captured?
  • Do you want attendees to share their experience on social media? If so, how do you make it easy and quick?

Think about each and every moment of your customer or prospect’s journey and clearly define all the touch points needed to support the experience and create the desired perception.

Make a Plan for Engagement

rated activities and thought-out technology applications go a long way to foster attendee engagement – as long as each supports your message. For example:

  • New technologies like virtual reality bring your product stories to life in new and powerful ways
  • Gamified activities add a spirit of competition and boost participation
  • Simple quizzes and polls increase attendee knowledge retention while providing valuable audience insights
  • Remember 66 percent of attendees are here for trade show learning. Deliver the knowledge they seek.

Staff for Success

Engaging attendees on the trade show floor requires a different approach. Your staff has the potential to encounter hundreds of prospects over a few show days, compared to the handful of people they’d talk to or meet with during a typical day.

As the front line representation of your brand, the most successful exhibitors proactively greet and engage attendees. Warm, friendly and professional personnel are a must.

Beyond the initial engagement, make sure your staff asks open-ended questions and are able to quickly, but politely, disengage if a guest isn’t a prospect. It’s also important to record conversation notes and capture contact information. Pre-show training sessions are a great time to make sure all staff are well-versed in what’s they’re expected to do while working the exhibit.

Follow-Up After the Show

Despite all the effort put into creating an exhibit program, there are still many companies who don’t follow-up with their show leads.

Provide your team with sample emails and materials to jump-start the lead follow-up process. Work hand-in-hand with sales leadership to keep an eye any proposals generated or closed sales from leads generated at the show.

Follow these tips and delivering an A+ exhibit will be well within your reach.