Make Trade Shows Fun

15 Ways to Make Trade Shows an Absolute BLAST

How do you make trade shows fun and drive more traffic to your booth? Try one of these ideas!
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Let’s face it: we don’t like being sold to, but we love to buy things. Nowhere is this truer than at a trade show. However, suppose you can make trade shows fun. In that case, you have a greater chance of striking an emotional connection with attendees and earning their business. 

People attend trade shows to learn about new products and services and buy things. However, those same people are leery of “salesy” staff trying to influence them to hand over their wallets. Consider that roughly 80% of attendees remember a booth based on their interaction with the staff.  

Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to lower an attendees’ guard at a trade show and make the encounter fun. If you’re an event coordinator or trade show director, here are some ways you can support your sales team.  

15 Ways to Make Trade Shows an Absolute BLAST

Kevin O'Leary at Bitcoin
Kevin O’Leary speaking at the 2022 Bitcoin Conference in Miami.

1. Live presentations  

Is someone on your staff gifted with the ability to speak? Put their skills to good use by asking them to put on a special product demonstration or get them to host an educational session. Just remember to include a call-to-action (CTA) during the presentation!    

TRADE SHOW ROI GUIDE Exclusive insights and equations for measuring your Trade Show ROI

2. Giveaways  

Unfortunately, most giveaways and SWAG items find their way to the bin. That’s because most people fail to give something of actual value. Be sure your giveaway is useful and unforgettable.  

For example, make your giveaway a high-end item that people can enter to win. The item could be your product or service at a discounted price, making attracting your target audience easier.   

Social Media and Trade Shows
Instagram activation at the 2018 E3 gaming convention.

3. Social Media  

Wait, how is social media supposed to make trade shows fun? Doesn’t it distract from the face-to-face element? Well, the fact is that we are attached to our phones! 

There are a lot of strategies for using social media to raise brand awareness and make trade shows more fun. For example, provide a photo opportunity in your booth design for attendees to share on their profiles. Or another idea is to get a celebrity to come to your booth to take pictures.  

Pokémon World Championships
Broadcasting desk at the Pokémon World Championships.

4. Live video streaming 

This is particularly helpful for prospects and clients who cannot attend the show. But, with all these ideas, the sky is the limit. Setting up a professional streaming studio at your booth will surely capture the attention of onlookers.   

Of course, the question arises, what will you be streaming? Interviews with business leaders, celebrities, and heck, long-time employees could all be good ideas.   

Fun Trade Show Ideas
Green screen at the 2019 PAX West gaming convention.

5. Green screen technology  

Speaking of photo opportunities, setting up a green screen and photo booth is a fun way to attract people to your booth. You’ll have to get creative on how it would apply to your business, but we’ve seen it done!  

TRADE SHOW ROI GUIDE Exclusive insights and equations for measuring your Trade Show ROI

6. Leverage bloggers and press  

Many trade shows offer media plans that include spots on show highlights. The videos are filmed during the show and then posted on YouTube, the show’s website, and social media. Being interviewed gives a real sense of prestige and competence. Plus, your staff may enjoy showing their stardom with loved ones.  

Make Trade Shows and Absolute Blast
Bull riding at the 2022 Bitcoin Conference in Miami.

7. Interactive games  

Maaaan. We’ve seen it all. From stages mimicking late night tv shows to jeopardy and family feud, games are a surefire way to draw a crowd.

Here are a few tips. Don’t be bland—lottery wheels are cliché. Do choose a game people will recognize. People will lose interest if you have to spend half the time explaining the rules.   

TRADE SHOW ROI GUIDE Exclusive insights and equations for measuring your Trade Show ROI

8. Sponsorships and graphics  

From a technical marketing standpoint, sponsorships are hit or miss. The fact is it’s just hard to measure their effectiveness. You can track views and clicks with online ads, but with physical banners, it’s a little more difficult to calculate ROI. However, printing a QR code on your sponsorship areas is an excellent measure of results.   

The most impressive sponsorship we’ve seen recently was at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) show. ParcelLab gave free Lyft rides to attendees to and from the convention center in exchange for their information. Visitors had to scan a QR code, prove they were part of the conference, give their information, and then they would receive their free ride.   

Fun Trade Show Marketing Ideas
Talkdesk at the National Retail Federation Show.

9. Engaging surveys

I don’t personally know anyone who enjoys taking a survey. I mean, you take one for a friend or a business that goes above and beyond, but it’s still not exactly enjoyable. Why? For starters, it’s just not fun or interesting.  

But by making it a tactile experience on the show floor with ping pong balls and relevant questions, you can do a super fun survey at a trade show.   

Experience Staff at Trade Shows
Dancers at the Wargaming exhibit in Gamescom.

10. Hire experience staff  

We’ve seen it all. Booth babes. Magicians. Mimes. Acrobats. This tactic really works because these people are trained to be engaging and fun. It’s what they do. Why not leverage special talents to draw attention? Of course, there are extra points for tying the performance in with the theme of your products and services.  

Rentpath Sponsored VIP Lounge at NAA’s Apartmentalize conference.

11. Sponsor a quiet space  

Walking for hours on concrete makes your feet hurt. All the lights and stimulation also dry the eyes out. Sponsoring a quiet space with an event structure is a great way to show attendees you have the resources to care for their needs.  

YouTube Gaming exhibit.

12. Design a crazy booth  

There’s no denying that a custom booth dramatically impacts a company’s presence at a trade show. But sometimes companies ask why it’s so necessary? After all, booth costs can get pretty crazy.   

For one thing, building an awesome booth signals to prospects that you’re here to stay. For instance, are you more likely to purchase an item from a business with a brick-and-mortar store or a street vendor? Probably the former because if you don’t like the product, you can at least be assured you can take it back.   

TRADE SHOW ROI GUIDE Exclusive insights and equations for measuring your Trade Show ROI

13. SMS Messaging  

This is a pretty cool thing that trade shows have recently offered in their media packages. Basically, you can send a text message or notification directly to attendees’ phones. You can let them know about an upcoming demonstration, game, or interview happening at your booth before it happens.  

Solera at NADA
Solera’s two-story exhibit at NADA.

14. Serve up some food and drinks 

Everybody needs to eat, right? Nothing draws a crowd like BBQ and beer or chocolate and sweets.  

15. Give an exclusive booth tour 

This is a fun pre-show idea. Send an email to your top prospects before the show offering an exclusive booth tour before the exhibit hall opens. People love getting VIP treatment. The best part is it costs almost nothing to put on!  

Conclusion: A few reminders 

The bottom line to making trade shows a blast is this: To be engaging, you have to be engaged. Let your passions shine through the show floor. People with passions seem more interesting and are more fun to be around. But there’s two other important things to remember.  

Make sure you’re attracting the right people to your booth

A full booth is only good if it’s full of buyers. You want to make trade shows fun to the right target audience. If you sell to consumers where everyone in the hall is a potential client, then everything listed here will be useful for you. But if you’re like most of us, your market is much narrower.  

Create booth graphics that clearly state who you are and what you do. This helps weed out people who are not part of your target audience. Having people walk past your booth is OKAY if they’re not part of your target audience.  

Collect leads at the show

Make sure you’re collecting leads at the trade show. Use lead capture software to track who you talked to and help plan follow-ups after the show. To go above and beyond, develop a system to rank the leads you collect.

Make sure to get some teammates together to brainstorm and have a good time in the planning process. If you need more ideas to make trade shows fun, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the Trade Group’s friendly marketing consultants for advice.  

The Trade Group is a full-service trade show and event marketing company. We will work with you to create an exhibit or an event that brings in leads and helps you achieve your business goals. Contact us here or give us a call at 972-734-8585. 

Cameron Wilkinson is a writer and editor in Dallas, TX. His writing for the events industry pairs with his interests in sales and marketing. He also holds a B.A. in English Literature form the University of North Texas. 

Photo Credit: Pexels

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