Having attended more than my fair share of trade shows over the past six months, I have one question. To quote a former NFL coaching legend, “What the hell is going on out there?”
No matter the industry or size of the show, it seems that the current economic climate has caused most exhibitors to go back into their shells and rely on the dull, boring, and overused means of generating awareness and impact, attracting folks into their booth, and conducting business.
Attendance at many shows is way down, and companies are sending fewer representatives, if any at all. That’s a fact. Dragging the same old booth to the same old show with the same old speech just won’t cut it anymore. I would argue that it has never been more critical for exhibitors to get out there and do something different to make an impact with show attendees.
What can you do differently with your presence and/or your booth space to stand out from your competition, generate traffic and buzz, and achieve your goals? Try doing something totally different. We’ve had several clients do a trade show 180 over the past year, and the results have been dramatic.
CHANGE YOUR BOOTH: Get into the current mindset of your target. Survey your audience ahead of time. What are their points of pain? What solutions are they looking for? What needs are they trying to fill? Focus your team’s goals, your booth, and your talking points in these specific areas…and find a way to do it differently than everyone else! One of our clients recognized that a key trade show was right in the middle of the Daytona 500. They also knew that their audience loves car racing and drinking beer. So, they turned their booth into a giant weekend sports bar, complete with numerous hi-def flat-screen TVs that showed nonstop sports programming, including the Olympics! Booth attendance was like nothing they had ever seen before, and showgoers lingered and engaged with the reps for much more time than in previous years. The PR generated from doing something so unique was an added bonus.
It was unique, aligned with the brand strategy, and crushed the money-blowing machines, Wii bowling, prize wheels, and washed-up ex-pro-athlete autographs that other booths were using to stand out.
SURROUND THE SHOW: Consider taking your message outside of the convention center walls to stand out. Once again…get into the mindset of your target. Where will they be staying? What will they do at night or for fun while they are there? Will they all fly into the same place or travel along the same route? Do a scouting trip or two and get inside the head and the potential itinerary of your key attendees. Talk to the convention center, nearby hotels, and nightlife spots. Challenge them with ideas that they may have never seen before. We have taken this approach for several of our clients and have implemented some very unique ideas at convention centers, airports, hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and even on the sides of buildings.
So consider doing something different at your next show. It could pay off in a big way. And make sure you save some time to walk the show. You’ll get a great sense of what is going on in the marketplace, and how you should position your brand to stand out.
– Stephen Weinstein – Director of Account Management