Making a Visual Impact at Conventions

This article is written for small trade show exhibitors who rent 100 or 200 square-foot booths and are looking to make a statement by maximizing their presence.


Trade shows are the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your product or service face-to-face with your customers. Unfortunately, it’s not a one-on-one setting, and you will be vying for their attention with large companies, whose 1,600 square-foot exhibits easily dominate the floor. In addition to size, large organizations also have more than a few arrows in their quiver to get the attention of an over-stimulated attendee. They bring in antique automobiles, prize giveaways, free drinks, and even puppies. You will have your work cut out for you to compete with these attention grabbers. Even with a small booth, however, there are ways you can increase your visibility and presence without breaking the bank.


Location, location, location. There's a reason spaces by the entrance are grabbed first. Attendees' attention spans tend to fade the longer they are in a crowded convention room, meandering from aisle to aisle. If you are familiar with the "Primacy and Recency Effect" in psychology, you will know that catching someone's attention early is always a good strategy. If, however, all of the booths near the entrance are claimed before you arrive, getting a corner booth can be just as valuable, if not more. For example, say you grab a corner 10' x 10' booth which has 10' of facing on two sides. Placing a two-sided banner stand at a forty-five-degree angle on the outside corner will make you visible from four directions and help you to optimize your space. Grabbing one of these preferred booths typically requires early registration, so if you plan on attending a specific event, pay attention to when the sign-up window opens.


Graphics. Similar to billboard advertising next to highways, you're trying to grab the attention of a moving target. If it takes someone more than three seconds to understand what you do, they are likely to walk straight past, so: Keep. It. Simple. You can always communicate the detail of your message later by talking to them or by handing out a brochure. Graphic design is also an important consideration. Dull boring graphics communicate that your business is dull and boring. Make a statement and be bold about it!


Prizes, handouts, or swag. Prize giveaways are your best way of grabbing the attention of a busy attendee. Simple games like darts, basketball, or spinning a wheel are great, and there is nothing wrong with doing a good old fashion drawing where people register to win products or cash prizes. Frequency is important for prize giveaways, and you should aim to announce a new winner every 1-2 hours, with one big winner at the end of the day. The more impressive your prizes are, the more attention you will get. You shouldn't bother with cheap pens, note pads, or other disposable junk. You will see a greater return on investment if you give away product samples or spend money on quality gifts you can give to select attendees who are genuinely interested. Just imagine having an in-depth conversation with an interested customer. Would you rather hand them a plastic pen or a coffee mug with your company logo on it?

However you decide to engage attendees, be sure to ask those who stop by if they'd be willing to share their contact information. This is extremely useful for networking and building out contact lists for your next email campaign or newsletter.


Technology and social media. You’ll find that touch screens, digital signage, and social media are central to any big company’s trade show booth. While you might not be able to afford an augmented reality app or 10 iPads, there are ways you can integrate media into your set-up. Having QR codes which link to your social media accounts can be a great way of connecting with attendees who do not feel like sharing their name or email. Keep in mind, however, that your attendees are there in-person, and creating an impressive physical space will always leave a lasting impression.