What Do You Need to Know?
Modern trade shows have been around since 1851 when Queen Victoria invited people to see The Great Exhibition. It’s been 172 years, and trade shows are still an effective marketing tool for connecting with new clients and unveiling products.
Planning a trade show booth for the first time can be challenging. Businesses debuting at trade shows should use every tool to wow the crowd and effectively use their time and resources. This guide discusses how to make the most of a trade show booth from start to finish.
Planning Ahead of Time
Trade shows happen throughout the year, but a business may have its eyes on a specific trade show for its industry. Planning for these shows should occur months in advance. For example, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show happens in late October and early November each year. Coordinating for the show should start in July at the latest.
These five strategies should be on the planner’s itinerary for any trade show.
The first step for businesses at trade shows is to establish goals. What is their primary target for attending the trade show? Many companies see trade shows to launch new products. For example, Chevrolet used the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2022 to unveil the Silverado EV pickup truck, which will hit the streets in late 2023 for the 2024 production year.
Businesses could promote a new product, spread brand awareness or create other objectives. The target will influence how the organizers design their booth, engage with guests and make connections.
Reserving a Good Spot
For decades, people have uttered the phrase “location, location, location,” and it’s worth repeating here. The location of a trade show booth means a lot. Ideally, the company’s organizer should select a space with heavy foot traffic. Attendees will naturally gravitate toward the restrooms and refreshment areas during the convention.
The trade show planners should reserve booth space as early as possible for each show. The most popular sections will sell out quickly. Booking four to six months in advance may present opportunities for discounted rates. Some conventions have membership plans, allowing exclusive offers for subscribing companies.
A crucial part of planning a trade show is knowing who will attend. Some shows allow you to access or purchase the registration list a month or two before the events begin. Planners should take advantage of this opportunity and use it to contact attendees.
Direct marketing tactics like email and letters directly engage with the consumers and give businesses a leg up. Attendees will search for an organizer’s booth if they know where it is beforehand. The attendee list also presents an opportunity for social media buzz. Data show over 300 million Americans use social media, so it’s well worth the time to generate excitement on
Considering Booth Design
Getting attendees to the booth is half the battle. Then it’s time for the staff to wow the guests, establish connections and make sales with the design. How a company creates its booth can go a thousand ways. The design team should err on the side of caution and keep the design simple. The composition should grab the attention of observers but not overwhelm them with bright colors and tiny text.
A 2020 study examines automotive booth designs and how attendees perceived them. The researchers use grey relational analysis for evaluation and neural networks for studying the design elements. The study concludes fashionable, noble and attractive designs are the best for attracting attention, whereas features like retro, warm and fantasy were the least liked. Booth designers should consider what features best fit the theme they aim for.
Knowing the Types of Booths
Determining the presentation will depend on what type of booth the organizers select. There are numerous types of booths a company can choose from, such as:
- Linear booth: The most common type of booth at trade shows is inline or linear. These booths connect side-by-side in a line down the exhibition floor. There’s typically a booth behind, so the only way to access the linear booths is through the front. This setup is the cheapest and allows companies to focus directly on the guests in front of them.
- Peninsula booth: Another trade show booth is the peninsula. Like the geographical term, a peninsula booth allows access through three sides, with the back typically having a wall. A business will typically have a 20-by-20-foot peninsula booth or larger. This setup is versatile because an organization can alter the height, design and layout with numerous options.
- Perimeter booth: Perimeter booths are similar to the inline setups, but they’re larger. Businesses with a perimeter booth can expect a wall on the backside and booths from other organizations on their left and right. Perimeter booths often have high ceilings, ideal for designers who want a large visual display.
- Island booth: The last type of booth is the largest. Island booths put businesses in the spotlight because they have an extensive setup. With this booth, a company can do nearly anything for a presentation because there’s ample space with four open sides for guests to walk in.
Engaging the Customers
After developing a design strategy, planning how the booth will interact with guests is essential. Many companies choose the standard route, with employees talking to patrons about their new products and outstanding services. However, organizers can take it to the next level by having activities in the booth.
A raffle or games like mini-golf get potential customers involved and interested in the company. Many businesses use virtual reality (VR) to give guests interactive experiences with cars and other innovative machinery. Trivia games are fun to test peoples’ knowledge and initiate conversations about business products. Or, to really stand out, consider offering an AI Photo Booth experience using the latest technology to transform your attendees into super unique (and branded) portraits in any style you can imagine.
Engaging the guests is critical during the show, and businesses should follow up after. The booth employees should organize the obtained contacts and schedule meetings with interested parties. The post-show reflection is also a time for the business to measure this year’s strategies and find ways to improve for next year.
Setting the Tone With Swag
Another way to engage clients at your booth is with free items. Giving away candy, coffee and other refreshments is a terrific tool for giving them a positive first impression of the business. The trade show also presents an opportunity to hand out company swag. Businesses should consider the area they’re in and what fits them the best. SEMA Show attendees in Las Vegas will appreciate sunglasses because of Las Vegas’ year-round blazing sun.
No matter where people are, they love getting free items. Receiving something at no cost gives a positive charge because it’s unexpected, no matter how much the item’s value is to the person’s life. Getting free stuff also lowers expectations for recipients. A free pair of sunglasses will have lower expectations than ones from a store.
Navigating the Trade Show Floor
Trade shows are a terrific time for a business to generate leads and excitement for its products. The first time organizing a trade show booth can be intimidating, so this guide is helpful for first-timers preparing for their first exhibition.