When attending a trade show, the booth you set up may be the most influential factor for your success. The focal point of your presence in the trade show and the beacon attracts the attendees to you. So learning what makes a good trade show booth and what makes a trade show booth effective is crucial. Just having a booth in a trade show is not enough.
Even if you have an established clientele, a competitor that has put more effort and resources into its booth design can attract a significant population of attendees away from you. But if you know what makes a trade show booth great and incorporate that into your booth design and setup, you can stand out from the crowd.
If you are wondering what makes a trade show booth effective and promising, there are various factors. They include (but are not limited to):
- An attractive setup
- Good booth design
- Engaging activities
- Knowledgeable and engaging booth staff
- An inviting vibe
- Smart giveaways
However, the answer is much more complex and varies from business to business and trade show to trade show. For many service-oriented businesses, giveaways are not a practical option, but they can provide activities as a viable alternative.
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Attracting people to your trade show booth is something that you start working on before the trade show starts. It guides how you design the booth and enhances its visual appeal, but it’s not limited to that. You can start attracting people to your trade show booth way before through your marketing efforts.
Even if you are not creating a landing page for your booth in the trade show and start diverting your online traffic towards that page, you can add information about the trade show and what attendees can expect when they visit your booth. This creates anticipation ahead of time and primes many potential attendees (that already interact with your digital presence) to see and engage with your booth.
For B2B companies, the marketing may also include directly informing routine customers about the trade show. This is the ideal strategy for companies that have a relatively small consumer pool, many of which are expected to attend the trade show.
With the right market approach, you can potentially “attract” a lot of attendees to your booth by creating anticipation. But you must follow through with what you commit to your customers via your marketing.
Then there is the marketing in the trade show. If you have banners and people at the right spots, diverting attendees to your booth, you may attract a decent enough crowd to the booth.
The next step to attracting people to your trade show booth is to design it correctly. What makes a good trade show booth is that it doesn’t just stand out; it attracts the right kind of attendees. An exciting trade show booth may attract a lot of footfall, but if it attracts people that are just curious and not your target market, you may actually hurt your chances of success.
The booth design should be in line with your marketing aim. There should be coherence between the two. Otherwise, people may visit expecting one thing and receive something different. For example, if you are attending a trade show to market one specific product/service or a range of services, the booth design should lean towards that. You may even subdue your default brand image to enhance what you are promoting.
Your booth should be visually appealing enough to attract attendees, even if it’s just for taking a look. If you can trigger the curiosity of enough attendees, you may be able to engage them when they are near enough.
An exciting booth is, by default, more attractive to attendees. If you can offer engaging activities which may or may not be related to your branding or trade show message, you may have the chance to attract more people than your booth’s visual appeal would have on its own.
And when attendees see people constantly engaging with your booth, they may become curious and will naturally be attracted to it. So by offering activities, you can easily draw in a larger crowd. This may include interactive games, trivia, game shows, etc.
When you are attending a trade show with tens, if not hundreds of direct competitors, many of which might be more resourceful or creative than you, it’s challenging to stand out. But what makes a trade show booth great is not that it just stands out from the crowd but that it attracts the right kind of attendees and actually helps you meet your trade show goals of engagement, education, or sales.
Still, the first step is to make the boot stand out, then leverage its attraction to meet your trade show goals.
The right location can be crucial in helping your booth stand out. Central positions, i.e., usually the first booths attendees see when they enter the trade show, are naturally helpful in this regard. But these are not your only options. Some corner locations or proximity to activity hubs that naturally see a higher footfall can also help your booth stand out.
Coherence is the key to good design. If you have been marketing your booth effectively and the potential customers already have a notion of what they might see at your booth, your goal should be to meet their expectations. This consistency should permeate all the facets of your presence in the trade show, including your booth design. If your trade show banners send a different message than your booth design, your visitors may get confused or disenchanted from the lack of coherence.
Another way to make your trade show booth stand out is to incorporate a lot of empty spaces in your booth design. A different way to look at it is that you shouldn’t clutter your booth. A few feet of space between hanging banners/signs and your booth might look much better than your trade show booth looking like a silo. Similarly, three banner stands (one on each corner) might give a much better impression than a wall of banners on two sides.
This is also tied to the psychology of accessibility. If your trade show booth is built like a fortress with only one way in, it might discourage many people from entering. However, if it’s open, with multiple entries and exit points and a lot of space in between booth elements and furniture, this may subconsciously look more inviting to attendees.
This is tricky to do but highly rewarding if you do it right. For example, a fitness equipment manufacturer might place a small treadmill at the booth entry that people have to walk through to get into the booth. A news website may cover one or a few walls exclusively with newspapers or cuttings. Having your booth express what your business is and stands for, and having the booth design tell the story of your business, is a great way to help it stand out and attract more attendees.
From branded charging tables and sanitization stations to interactive kiosks, there are numerous trade show accessories that can help your booth stand out. What makes a good trade show booth is a harmony of essentials and accessories.
We might not be too far away from holograms which may revolutionize trade shows, but meanwhile, there are a lot of ways to make your booth more “interactive and engaging.” Something unique and fun might help you stand out to attendees that are bored by the literature-driven or technical marketing of your competitors. And if you can educate and inform your target market through these interactive displays and demos, you may achieve more than just helping your booth stand out.
Being creative with different aspects of your booth helps it, and in turn, your business, stand out. You can be creative with your:
Booth Design: Incorporating your products and services is just one way to make your booth creatively different from generic ones. You can incorporate unique themes and elements like arched entrances to the booth or simple pressure sensors for producing music when people walk by or touch the walls of the booth.
Anything that’s tastefully creative might help your booth stand out, but it may not necessarily draw the right crowd. This is not an issue when almost the entire audience is your target market but should be carefully considered for trade shows of mixed audiences.
Product Display: It’s pretty easy to stick to the conventional models of product displays, like glass cases and individual stations, but products in a rustic cage-like structure or suspended in mid-air by tiny threads are bound to draw curious eyes.
Displays: Displays and banners are a common sight in trade shows. But branded balloons (if allowed) or hanging banners in the form of medieval pageantry might be unique enough to stand out from the crowd.
It’s essential to check with the trade show organizers to ensure that your creative booth design forays are actually allowed. You should also run a cost-benefit analysis.
Now that you’ve managed to make your booth stand out and attract a decent amount of footfall, you have to ensure that your booth is interesting enough for your attendees to stay and engage.
The first organic element of making a booth interesting for the people visiting it is the direct engagement with the booth staff. If the staff is knowledgeable, professionally friendly, and has an affable aura, it’s bound to make the booth more interesting for the attendees. In contrast, tired and grumpy booth staff can actually turn away a lot of people that your incredibly designed booth may have attracted.
Interactive engagement is also what makes a good trade show booth. A lot of people that might not be invested enough in your booth to engage directly with the staff there may engage with an attractive, interactive display. It can be an AI-based mascot, a full-body chat-bot, an interactive history of the organization, or a map of your products/services in the form of a game that attendees can play on the displays around your booth.
Many of these are easy enough to produce in-house, or you can outsource their development. And if they help you attract even just 10%-20% more attendees, that may cover their cost, and every attendee over the threshold would be net profit.
Creative giveaways, even if they are just unique calling cards, snacks, and small stationary items, can make your booth incredibly interesting. They may be interesting enough to encourage the attendees to engage with your booth staff or interactive displays.
Lastly, leverage technology as much as you can (and as much as your budget allows for). VR, AR, simulations, 3-D printed models of your products, and service mock-ups are just some of the ways technology and creativity can help you make your booth more interesting.
A well-designed booth can be the cornerstone of your success in a trade show, and a badly-designed, generic booth might be the liability that brings down your entire trade show investment. This is one of the reasons why most businesses rely upon trade show experts that specialize in booth designs. They have a better understanding of what makes a good trade show booth and can offer creative insights above and beyond what a business may be able to come up with on its own.
More importantly, they know how to translate the right creative and branding elements for booth design. So even if you are working on the booth yourself and are not outsourcing its creation, it might be smart to get a consultation about what makes a trade show booth great from the right professionals.
You will also be interested in these guides:
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- 15 ways to collect leads at a trade show
- How to determine if a trade show is worth attending
- How to choose a trade show
- A full guide to trade show hanging signs
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