You could just fling $20 bills in and around your trade show booth, which is one surefire way to attract people to your booth (we would be there!), but not a feasible plan for most exhibitors. But taking a careless approach to what does attract your target audience to your booth is like throwing lots of $20 bills around—and away.
Because trade shows can be such an effective way to get in front of your target and introduce your brand to those who can help your products or services gain popularity and demand, you want to be sure the space in your trade show’s exhibitor center works for you. Here are four ways to may sure that happens:
Understand Booth Location and Type
Just as the “early bird gets the worm,” the early planner gets the best pick of potential trade show space and in many cases gets a discount. But, if you’re not the earliest of birds, you can still understand how to make your space work by understanding trade show psychology and the four basic types of booths.
With inline booths, exhibitors have options, even though only the front of the booth is open to the aisle. Inline booths (the most common trade show booth layout) are sometimes called perimeter booths if they’re backed against the exhibit center wall. Inline booths are arranged parallel to other inline booths, which can create a sense of logical progression from booth to booth for attendees. Another advantage of an inline booth is that booth personnel are attendee-facing almost exclusively. If your booth staff is inviting and professional, they look on-point and ready to answer questions or invite attendees into the booth space. Because entering an inline booth is akin to entering someone’s home, it’s important to be always inviting and open. No tables that close off space. Consider a small sofa or chairs that invite respite from the trade show traffic.
Know that if your inline booth is in an area where there are only one-sided displays, your attendee traffic may be lower. People like linear progression, but they also like the rhythm of turning left and right as they progress, just as they might in a grocery store aisle. Psychologically, attendees may think they have more options. Attendees almost always prefer aisles with exhibitors on both sides.
Corner booths are at the end of aisles. What distinguishes a corner booth from an inline booth is a corner provides access for attendees from the corresponding horizontal and vertical aisles. Corner booths can be active places, as attendees see a brand or product from two sides and it’s naturally inviting. Conventional wisdom (see what we did there?) is that corner spaces are worth any upcharge, even without a directly facing exhibitor, because the booth personnel, branding and products are exposed from both the side and front.
A place to sit can be effective in a corner booth and corner booths may provide more room for such a set-up. The drawback is attendees can use a corner to park themselves—even without interest in what’s in the booth—particularly if the booth is near the primary exit of a trade show venue. Also note that the farthest wall on either the right or left of a trade show hall tends to be busy early in the day and show (remember that grocery story analogy?), but traffic drags as the day goes on.
A peninsula booth is also at the end of an aisle, but a peninsula booth is open from three sides with the back against another booth, often an inline booth. When a peninsula is backed against another peninsula booth, it creates an island, which is among the busiest booth installations at trade shows.
An island booth features four open sides and easy access for attendees. Island booths tend to attract the most attention, just given their size and accessibility for attendees. If you’re not planning an elaborate display, avoid an island booth. The extra expense is wasted if you don’t work the configuration to its potential.
Note: If your booth is near any kind of food booth or a food court, expect to be busy. Trade show attendees migrate toward food. (Have an extra trash can, too, for the trash they leave behind near your booth.)
Choose Booth Staff Wisely
Friendly, knowledgeable booth staff are an automatic choice. Sometimes the most enthusiastic personnel dominate the front of the booth and fail to connect with quieter, but still interested, attendees. It’s smart to have a lower-key, but thoroughly informed, person in the booth to help drive conversations with those attendees. Qualified leads come from every type of attendee personality. Not everyone appreciates a carnival emcee.
Know What Works Now
Right now, themed displays, photo booths and product demos are used to create a unique (almost) trade show booth. Even if other booths feature a photo booth, trade show attendees appreciate any opportunity to document the show with friends and colleagues, so no picture opportunity is wasted. The trick may be to create a takeaway from the picture, such as a photo lanyard or badge. Know your trade show audience, but think about how to give something away that’s unexpected. A photo booth allows for attendees to earn their prize, which always makes a show takeaway stickier.
As far as themes, you can tie into the trade show’s general theme, which creates memorability. Also, trade shows put a ton of effort into building the general theme, so it may be beneficial to piggyback on their research and efforts.
Other theme ideas include highlighting a charitable cause your business or brand supports. Remember that food court idea? Create a coffee bar or snack shop in your booth. Attendees will linger to hear about your products and services while they nosh. Turn your booth into a charging area for tablets and phones and see attendees flock to it, just as they do to those spots in an airport. (Double points if charging is connected to your brand or products!) Product demos are nearly always relevant, particularly if your trade show goals are around building awareness or educating audiences.
Stay on Message – Stay on Brand
This is a short, but snappy, way to create memorability among trade show attendees. Don’t violate your own goals or messaging, to which you gave a lot of thought throughout the year, to be clever or eye-catching. Embrace who you are and what you do. No one ever wanders into an Apple trade show booth and wonders what brand, products or brand identity is at work. Don’t violate your logo, brand colors or messaging tag, just to be flashy and fun. If you need some guidance on how to stay yourself, stay on brand and stay on message, we can help. But it’s easier than you think if you’ve done some self-reflection and understand your brand, products or services.