How many times have you read an article telling you that the best way to engage your audience is by greeting them, having strong communication skills and standing just outside your booth?
Don’t get us wrong, that’s good advice, but sometimes it’s just not as simple as that. Attendees expectations are rising, and at some shows simply saying hello and giving a sales pitch isn’t going to cut it. So to help you start thinking outside the box, below are a few not-so-obvious ideas for engaging your audience.
lead an industry “hackathon”
If you don’t already know, a hackathon according to Wikipedia, “is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development…collaborate intensively on software projects.” While Hackathons may have originated in the tech world, many at their core are simply about collective, marathon problem solving. Take that idea and apply it to your industry.
Think about the problems your audience faces, especially those without any concrete solution. Then, invite groups of attendees to stop by to talk, brainstorm, maybe even scribble on white boards together to come up with a new idea or solution. Sure, you may not have a whole day to dedicate to it like computer programmers, but why not host them in 15-minute bursts throughout the day? In addition to providing an in-booth activity to drive traffic, you’d be engaging your audience and demonstrating your companies dedication to industry innovation.
provide and share content (lots of it)
Content has been taking the marketing industry by storm over the last year, and for good reason. With SEO value for the creators, and knowledge value for the readers it’s a win win situation. So what does that have to do with face-to-face events? Build content around your exhibit that is useful and sharable. Consider the problems your visitors face on a daily basis, what they will be asking in your booth and create content that addresses those needs. The best part is good content can engage pre-show, at-show, post-show and be a touch-point for your audience all year long.
host pop-up education in your booth
While sales may be your main goal at the trade show, keep in mind that many attendees are interested in being there for the industry education as well. Make your booth an extension of the sessions being offered by the show itself by hosting your own mini-sessions throughout the day. Furthermore, take a hint from the concept of pop-up stores and make the experience feel spontaneous and exciting by announcing topics just moments before or even springing up surprise sessions when traffic is busy.
host expert Q&A panel discussions
This engagement idea goes hand-in-hand with education in your booth, except in this version your visitors get to run the show. Turn part of your exhibit into a viewing area and invite attendees to attend Q&A panels with experts. Experts could be sourced from in-house or through connections with other industry influencers. Cover buzz topics and current issues attendees are hankering to hear about. The Q&A format makes it highly interactive, and keeps the focus on what your audience wants to learn. If you go this route be sure to choose panelists who are good conversationalist and a facilitator who can keep the discussion on-track.
use purposeful interactive trade show booth ideas
Gamification is the idea of incorporating interactive gaming aspects into a non-gaming context (in this case trade shows). There has been some hot debate over whether gamification is the proper way to go about engaging an audience. Does it really work? Do attendees really want it? The question you have to ask yourself is can I do it correctly? Gamification can encourage interactivity and help your visitors make a stronger connection with your brand. However, to do so it must serve a purpose by adding some kind of value to your visitors’ experience; otherwise it could end up being a unwanted distraction. Plan a strategy that aims to educate, facilitate networking or fill an attendee need.
For some examples of gamification done right, read PCMA Convene’s article Step Up Your Gamification.
provide a social media hub
At most shows, people aren’t without their smartphones or tablets. Your audience is spending more time engaging on social media during trade shows. If you’re exhibiting at a show you know will have a high volume of social media activity, be a facilitator of that engagement by having a social media hub in your booth. Display live feeds showing the online activity for guests and engage with discussion on the trending topics of the day. Plus having a social hub could open up for more opportunities like leading Twitter chats form your booth.
real world creative trade show booth idea inspiration
Need some real world inspiration? Check out the links below to see the creative trade show ideas actual brands have engaged successfully with their audiences.
In-Booth Radio Show: OAUG drives traffic to their booth and engages with RadiOAUG
Creative Education: A graphic artist draws a live piece of art daily covering a health care topic incorporating tweets to a specific hashtag and visitor comments.
Have you noticed a central theme in this post? The key to successful trade show audience engagement is simple. Make your strategy all about your audience. Keep the focus on what they want/need and you’ll be golden!
Have you seen some spectacular creative trade show booth ideas on the trade show floor? Let us know what you’ve seen and we’ll add them to the “real world inspiration” list in this post.
- “ENGAGE” by Squire Morley via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
- “SxSW: Pitchfork and Printed electronics” by InteractiveNewsprint via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
- “Wikimedia Hackathon 2013, Amsterdam” by Sebastiaan ter Berg via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)