As you approach a trade show, there are so many moving parts to consider. Budgets, travel, swag, logistics, pre-show marketing, at show marketing, post-show marketing, exhibit design, show-related events…. It’s a torrent of activity. Where do you start?
Don’t ‘google it’ – whatever you do! Doing a little research can make it worse – every article you read offers more tips and tricks, key to-do activities, what NOT to-do… you’re soon swimming in minutiae.
We’d like to offer our one single suggestion for cutting through all of the noise and simply getting the most out of your tradeshow: Consider the attendee experience.
Every element of your exhibit should be hyper-focused on how the attendee experiences your brand.
Considering attendee engagement at every turn will allow you to get to the essence of what you’re conveying and why, and help you most meaningfully engage with your desired audience. Everything else will align if you keep the attendee front of mind.
Let’s face it… meaningful engagement with attendees is difficult with the blur of activity on the trade show floor. There exists a whole world of options to help you stand out… usually limited only by budget!
No matter what your budget is, though, ensuring that your brand stands out as memorable when the show is over… that is the key to maximizing your return on trade show investment.
In most trade show exhibits, there are two primary elements which support this: the physical exhibit space, and the experiences your prospect has there. Although these elements are closely tied together, they contribute, in tandem, to the end result of the attendee engagement.
The physical space of your exhibit should be an embodiment of your brand. Put another way: Every single item in your display space should reflect your brand in some way. (Pro tip: If you don’t have your brand down, you probably shouldn’t be exhibiting at a trade show until you do.) Your exhibit should also include some mechanism for attendees to engage with your brand, ideally using a variety of senses. Three decidedly different exhibits are explored here, all of which achieve these objectives beautifully.
With an informal and friendly brand targeted toward children, the best option is a playful and inviting exhibit featuring cartoon-type graphics, toys and bright colors. Rethink Water offered the perfect 8’x10’ booth to highlight their children’s water product at the Natural Products Expo. There is so much to love about this booth, despite its small size! Graphics and product display make it clear what the product is, and who the intended audience is. Abundant, readily available product samples and cozy, low-key areas to rest or play invite the attendee to stop and enjoy the brand. Sampling is the most basic, most time-tested method of brand engagement you’ll find. It can also be very powerful and cost-effective. As their booth grows, Rethink can add engagement activities to help show attendees feel like a kid at heart – like a coloring wall or a branded hopscotch game which stands out reinforce brand recall. They could also use a subtle strawberry scent in their exhibit to further engage the senses.
Try to imagine Rethink Water’s booth, only the exhibitor name and product changes to L3 Technologies, a military and aerospace technology provider. Could you imagine a drone plane in this space? There are so many reasons that wouldn’t work!
L3 Technologies’ actual exhibit has a sleek and modern look, with precise accent lighting and gleaming or metallic construction elements surrounding prominent displays of some very large products. Their 60’x100’ space allows for demonstration of their capabilities, but also impresses and assures confidence with its sheer size. Kiosks placed throughout allow focused hands-on demonstration of various products. L3’s clients include government intelligence agencies, NASA, and other aerospace contractors. Conversations around these attendees’ needs could be sensitive, so L3 included three private conference rooms to allow for the privacy their potential clients require. Well lit, but not overpowering, graphics illustrate their expertise in air, land and sea technologies without causing much confusion. Their simple logo is featured repetitively and prominently throughout and above the space, in hanging signs, the base of the bag racks, on tabletops and in many other locations. The attendee never doubts which exhibit they are visiting, and leaves with a clear picture of what L3 Technologies does.
Now picture wading boots in either of these two examples. It’s not working, is it?
The Original Muck Boot Company is a rugged brand; their products are literally made for being in the dirt and muck. Their 20’x30’exhibit is constructed using naturally-inspired materials, such as warm wood, rustic stone, leafy textures and sunlight-inspired lighting. These material choices remind the attendee how it feels to be outdoors gardening, fishing, or working. With a vast product assortment, Muck included over 150 samples to literally surround attendees with their brand – everything in their exhibit leads attendees straight to their products. A water tank, prominently displayed in a high-traffic corner, featured a submerged boot. Attendees completely engaged with the brand by actually reaching into the boot to feel that the waterproof boot was dry even after extended submersion. The gurgling of the moving water in the tank further engaged attendee with sound, subtly reinforcing the brand. Iterative logo placement and wordless graphics featuring damp environments continued to inform attendees about the Muck Boot brand.
Each of these examples illustrates completely engaging exhibits that have clearly considered the attendee experience from every angle. Branding is clear and consistent, graphics contain minimal wording, materials used in construction carry the essence of the brand and thought is given to the attendee interaction with the environment. Most importantly, each exhibit incorporates ways for the attendees to physically interact with the product – Rethink Water through taste, L3 through hands-on demonstration and ease of private discussion, and Muck through feel and sound. These sensory engagements will help with brand recall beyond just seeing the product as you walk by.
One piece of closing advice… as you consider attendee engagement for your own exhibit, consider how YOU interact with exhibits at a trade show. What makes you linger? It could be an interactive element, an intriguing graphic, or just plain old good swag! On the flip side, what makes you keep walking on by? Overly wordy graphics, bored staff, and an unclear offer/product/value proposition are sure to decrease your interest in an exhibit.
Often you get a first, quick glance to attract an event attendee – you need to make sure that every tool in your arsenal of physical environment and engaging atmosphere works in your favor, in order to have that attendee experience – and recall – your brand!
(All three examples in this article were designed, built and serviced by Acer Exhibits and Events).