Drawing attendees to trade show booths is a must for hotels, destinations, and venues to ensure a steady stream of group business leads, year after year. But not all attendees are created equal, and not all activities or "booth bait" solutions are successful.
What works and what doesn't? Here's a look at some best practices and innovative trade show booth ideas for drawing qualified leads to your area.
Discover the top trade show booth ideas for driving leads:
1. Pick the best trade shows for your exhibit by researching their audiences.
The first important step comes long before you enter the trade show floor. You need to evaluate events at the outset to determine which ones are the best investments of your team's time and money. Patty Moery, chief analyst with Moery Company, an organization that works with associations to help build membership, recommends looking at each show as a whole, not just at the exhibiting portion. Is the host organization drawing enough people to create critical mass and ensure that exhibitors have an audience? Does the agenda have enough free time, breaks, and incentives for attendees to visit the exhibit hall? And, of course, do attendees represent key decision-makers or influencers aligned with your target markets?
2. Use digital marketing such as social media to let attendees know about your trade show booth.
Once you've chosen the best trade shows for your business, you need to develop strategies to get attendees to your booth. Awareness is the greatest tool, and social media can play a big role. Social media offers low-cost, highly targeted opportunities for exhibitors to reach an audience, suggests Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital. It's a great way to extend the presence of your trade show booth before, during, and after an event, she says.
“On Twitter, for example, you can consider running ads targeting people who use the hashtag from the trade show, driving them to your booth with an incentive," Neher says. "If you have a list of booth visitors, you can also use targeted ads from Facebook custom audiences to send ads to the people who visited your booth. These are great, scalable ways to get your brand or message in front of more people and to extend your impact."
Gamification helps drive attendees to booths as well. Check with the host organization ahead of time to see if they are planning to use any attendee games or contests through the mobile event app. You may be able to find fun ways of participating and helping attendees perform well. For instance, if there's a game that requires attendees to get their picture taken at the booths they visit, bring along funny photo props that promote your brand.
3. Maximize your conference time by connecting beyond the exhibit hall.
Remember, though, the focus should be on generating relevant booth traffic. And, as Moery points out, potential customers aren't just at the trade show portion of the event. Work to set up private meetings and lunches. Make sure that you leave time to network throughout the event to make connections organically. Think about ways to capitalize on new and different opportunities for engagement. “More traffic isn't better anymore," she cautions. "The goal should be qualified, interested potential leads."