Have you considered exhibiting at a trade show? This list of 30 trade show ideas from brands like GE, Amazon, and more will help your company successfully attract visitors.
Trade shows have been around for quite a long while and just about every industry has at least one worth attending. And while this event type can be both fun and beneficial for attendees, it can be complete game-changers for exhibitors. The following list of 30 trade show ideas will allow your booth or kiosk to attract more foot traffic, grow brand awareness, and increase event ROI. Sound good? Then let's get started!
What's a Trade Show?
A trade show is an event that brings people in a specific industry together to discuss, demonstrate, and display the latest available products their company has to offer. These events are often hosted in large spaces such as convention centers and take place over numerous days — though small, one-day trade shows also exist.
Attendees of trade shows, also known as trade fairs and expos, vary depending on the rules of the trade show in question. For example, some trade shows, like the Consumer Electronics Show, say they only allow professionals in the electronics industry to attend. Others, such as South by Southwest (SXSW), are free to anyone and everyone.
Why Exhibit at a Trade Show?
Exhibiting at a trade show can have major positive benefits for your company. One of the more unique event types, trade shows will allow you to showcase new products and demonstrate them in-person to your target market. This often leads to many high-quality leads and new customers.
Exhibiting at a trade show will also give you a chance to evaluate your competition. What have they been working on? How do they interact with their customers? Is there anything you can learn from them? There are a lot of benefits to keeping an eye on the competition and there's no better place to do it than at a trade show.
Lastly, exhibiting at a trade show will help you and your team network with major players in your industry. From new vendors and distributors to top talent looking to change companies, you'll be able to meet fresh faces and present your brand as professional and worthy of working with.
30 Trade Show Ideas
Now that we know what trade shows are and why exhibiting at them is worthwhile, let's discuss how to make your booth stand out from the hundreds (or even thousands) of other companies attending the event as well. We have 30 ideas to help you win the trade show game!
1. Use a Pop-Up Tent
The pop-up tent is a classic in the trade show world because it works really well. It can help a company attract foot traffic and it’s easy to travel with and set up. Pop-up tents offer a more intimate environment than the typical open-air style kiosk.
In the above example, Vodafone (the British multinational telecommunications conglomerate) uses a pop-up tent to help entice visitors into their world. If it fits with your brand, consider renting a pop-up tent for your next trade show as well.
2. Create a Relaxing Atmosphere
Attending trade shows is a lot of fun. It can also be hot, sweaty, and exhausting. To stand out, consider making your trade show booth have a more "homey" feel that invites attendees to come in and relax. The above example from Dyson not only looks comfortable to those passing by but it also gives attendees a better sense of how the company's products work (and look) inside the home. It's a perfect mix of marketing and sales!
3. Teach Something
Source: Fit Small Business
Many people attend trade shows in order to learn about new products in their industry and the companies making them. Or about the latest discoveries and developments in their specific fields. Why not lean into this fact and offer attendees a truly educational experience when they visit your booth?
That's what GE has done. The space shown above is very interactive and informative, teaching folks about the products they offer and the values the brand is built upon. If you go the education route with your trade show kiosk, just make sure the learning experience is engaging.
4. Go BIG
The @Google Assistant Gumball Machine is cracking jokes and giving out prizes. #AI #HeyGoogle #cesIEEE #CES2018 #IEEE #CES #tech #technology #engineer #engineering https://t.co/g8xJAjGzmi pic.twitter.com/vjNRnOgYi7— IEEE (@IEEEorg) January 11, 2018
Google is known as a highly creative and fun company. So it's no surprise that their trade show booth at CES 2018 had a few imaginative features. Specifically, we're talking about the giant gumball machine display.
While something like this may be out of budget for most companies, the principle behind it still applies. Think about ways you can go bigger with your trade show booth. Giant pictures, huge stuffed animals, enormous TV screens? Big things are eye-catching and inspire the inner-photographer in all of us.
5. Get Your Branding Right
When planning your trade show strategy, it's important to get your event branding just right. Keep that in mind as you read through this list. While some ideas may work for other companies, not all of them will work for yours.
Applegate, an organic meat company, does a great job of preserving its brand when attending trade shows. From the wood paneling to the statue of a cow, the entire booth feels like Applegate. Make sure your booth accurately reflects your company's brand as well.
6. Make it Interactive
Alienware is a computer hardware subsidiary of Dell focused on the gaming community. While their booth pictured above may look simple, it does a fantastic job of encouraging engagement. Folks are asked to take pictures and post them to social media using one of Alienware's favorite hashtags. In return, participants get featured in the Alienware booth.
This is a really simple, yet effective idea that you can also use at your trade show kiosk to increase interaction and brand recognition.
7. Give Attendees an Exciting Experience
Mazda has a reputation for building cars that are a ton of fun to drive. So the company decided to use this fact to their advantage and created an exciting booth feature for NAIAS 2017 attendees — a virtual driving experience that allowed folks to "test drive" Mazda cars.
How can you allow attendees to test out your company's products at your next trade show? It’s a great way to increase quality leads. After all, people are much more inclined to buy when they've had the chance to try a product before spending money.
8. Blow Attendee Minds
If you have the budget, sometimes the best thing you can do is go all out and blow the minds of every attendee that walks by your display. Look how big, sleek, and eye-catching the above example is from Dell. For those who work in corporate event management, consider investing in stellar booth design for your next trade show. The increase in foot traffic, qualified leads, and brand recognition will be worth it.
9. Be Eye-Catching
Source: The Trade Group
Speaking of eye-catching, the above image from Twitch (a live video streaming platform owned by Amazon) is a great example of stunning visuals that won't necessarily break the bank. They use bright colors and make excellent use of lighting. Do your best to add eye-catching elements to your trade show kiosk design as well.
10. Partner With a Pro
No design skills? No problem! There are companies out there that will design a stunning, branded trade show booth for you. Skyline imagined and built the above display for Polaroid. Notice how the booth is both sleek and stylish, yet inviting and practical. These are features that might be hard for your company to replicate without professional help.
If the design isn't coming together for your trade show kiosk, know that there are folks ready and willing to assist — for the right price of course.
11. Rent More Space
Source: Corbin Ball
Another way to stand out from the crowd of other companies exhibiting at a trade show is to simply rent more space. Secure a bigger area to display your products, offer more interactive features, and invite in a greater number of attendees. That's what Samsung did at CES 2018 (pictured above). Just remember, if you use this event strategy, you must fill your extra space with enticing elements. Space for the sake of it won't benefit your company.
12. Go Virtual
Virtual reality has been taking the world by storm over the last few years. Jump on the bandwagon and add a VR element to your event kiosk like Intel has done. It's a great way to increase foot traffic and engage attendees. Plus, consumers are 53% more likely to buy from a brand that makes good use of VR. Worried about the cost? Don't be. Google Cardboard can be obtained for as little as $10.
13. Get the Swag Right
Swag (short for "stuff we all get") is used in just about every industry. Your accountant gives you free pens, your dentist offers a free toothbrush, and local bands playing at the bar by your house hand out free CDs. Why not use this same principle in your B2B event marketing strategy?
Swag works for a few reasons. First, we all love to get free stuff. Second, when a business offers branded swag, they increase brand recognition. So slap your company's logo on a few t-shirts, bags, or ball caps (like Radius does) and hand them out to attendees at your next trade show. It will help them begin to know, like, and trust you.
14. Hold a Contest
Contests are an extremely easy way to increase attendee engagement at trade shows. The trick is to do something creative and offer a great prize to winners. At Dreamforce 2017, New Voice Media asked attendees to guess how long it would take for a block of ice surrounding an iPhone to melt. Those who guessed right received a brand new phone for their efforts.
But even the participants who didn't win had fun. And New Voice Media won too because their contest boosted traffic to their booth and helped them secure leads.
15. Let Attendees Test Your Products
Remember, one of the main reasons people attend trade shows is to see and test new products. So make sure that your booth prominently displays your company's offerings and allows event-goers to get hands-on with them.
Sleep Number brought in multiple mattresses to CES 2018 and allowed attendees to lay on them right there in the middle of the expo floor. Let folks experience your products first-hand and they'll be much more inclined to purchase them.
16. Book Live Music
Music is one of the most powerful, moving forces on earth. Use this to your advantage and book a band or DJ to perform at your trade show booth during the expo. The right artists will help keep the energy flowing and people smiling. At Dreamforce 2017, Deloitte Digital hired a DJ to play ambient music for guests.
17. Tap Into Current Trends
What's popular right now? Can you add it to your trade fair kiosk? These are important questions to ask! For example, James Cordon's Carpool Karaoke segment is wildly popular. So Cadillac took this idea and ran with it for NAISA 2018. Basically, attendees stood in front of a green screen and sang their favorite songs while being filmed. The result showed them inside a simulated Cadillac car in their very own Carpool Karaoke video. What trend can you play off of?
18. Offer Something Fun
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Remember what we said earlier about fun? Trade show attendees want it! So try to think of something unique and entertaining for them to do at your booth. The above smoothie bike example is a great idea. Folks pedal and blend their own fruit beverage. It's fun, different, and memorable.
19. Create a "Taste" Experience
The grocery store industry has been on to this secret for a long time: people love free food. If your trade fair allows it, offer some to attendees. This is an especially great event marketing strategy for businesses in the food industry. But any company can take advantage.
In the example above, Hillshire Farm and Jimmy Dean operated a booth together and offered folks free samples, held a sandwich-making competition, and featured professional chef demonstrations.
20. Give Attendees Something Unique
Source: Evan DeHaven
Trade shows are full of innovative companies and exciting new products. How can your brand separate itself from the crowd and grab attention? By offering a unique experience.
When Lionsgate wanted to promote their new movie, Buried (a film about a man stuck in a box underground) they dreamt up a way that attendees could experience the story in real life. At ComicCon, folks were able to walk into a black box while freaky sound effects played. Their reactions were then filmed for everyone's enjoyment.
21. Inspire Awe
How can you make your trade fair booth unforgettable? The answer for Splashtacular Entertainment was the cylindrical display shown above. As event attendees walked through, creative lighting gave the illusion that they were underwater. Inspire awe and your trade show display will be a success.
22. Provide a Quiet Space for Attendees
Source: GM Stand Design
After three or four days on the expo floor, event attendees will be tired. Keep this in mind and consider building a quiet space for attendees. Make sure it’s shielded from the hustle and bustle of the expo, where they can really relax. The space above, designed for Adobe, has a wonderful lounge area for tired guests.
23. Don't Forget to Look Up
When imagining expo booth designs, most of us tend to think about the things right in front of us. But there's a huge opportunity above our heads. Displays that hang can be seen from far away and will catch the attention of foot traffic on the expo floor. Rise above your competition, literally, and create a hanging display like Salesforce has done in the above example.
24. Put Attendees at the Center of the Action
Source: NAIAS Report
In the NAIAS booth shown above, Ford created a one of a kind experience. Attendees were able to get behind the wheel while a camera filmed them. Tech experts then created a fantastic experiential marketing activity by making movie posters and trailers featuring each of the event guests who stopped by. How cool is that?
While this idea takes serious capital — it cost Ford almost $250 per person to execute — do your best to put attendees at the center of the action at your booth and engage them.
25. Bring the Outdoors In
Slack knows about good design. Their Dreamforce 2016 booth featured living plants and solid wood fixtures — a welcome, peaceful aesthetic amongst the busy expo floor. Plants, in general, are a great idea for trade show kiosks. They have a calming presence and guests enjoy them.
26. Have a Great Trade Show Motto
A catchy phrase or motto can get stuck in trade show attendees' heads and help them remember your brand long after the event has ended. While everyone already knows who IBM is, they nevertheless executed this strategy to perfection. The company's "outthink competition" motto was a perfect fit for the Dreamforce crowd. What slogan will your brand use?
27. Secure an Engaging Emcee
Looking to capture attention at your next trade show? Try securing an engaging emcee to host your booth. Whether you hire a professional or simply ask a charismatic team member, a great emcee will draw crowds, entertain them, and keep the positivity flowing. The Conversica booth, shown above, was hosted by the brand's CMO who helped the company draw in the event's biggest crowds.
28. Help Attendees Get Where They Need to Go
Source: Cabrio Taxi
At major events and trade shows, transportation is always a concern. Going back and forth between the event center and the hotel — sometimes even just getting from one end of the expo floor to the other — can be a pain. And the bigger the event, the tougher transportation becomes.
There aren't many events bigger than the Super Bowl. In 2016, Levi's and Cabrio Taxi teamed up to offer free rides to folks in the area. This helped with both brand recognition and goodwill.
Can you help trade show attendees in the same way? Maybe you could offer free shuttles to the expo each morning. Or hand out directions to the best restaurants near the event center. Help folks get where they want to go and they'll thank you for it.
29. Invite Folks to a Fun Afterparty
Who doesn't love a good afterparty? Answer: no one. As attendees frequent your booth, invite them to the killer bash you're planning to throw that night. It's just another way for your brand to connect with potential customers. Worried about hosting a get-together on your own? Partner with another business or two and split the hosting duties.
30. Have a Show-Stopper
Source: Inside Sales
Lastly, if you're able to, add a showstopping element to your trade fair display. In the above example, Accenture brought in a sleek ride for folks to gawk at. Perhaps your business could connect with a sponsoring company as well. You provide the space, they provide the showstopper, and everyone wins!
Key Takeaways: Rock Your Next Trade Show
Trade shows present an awesome opportunity for marketing and sales professionals. Exhibiting at one will allow you to showcase your company's new products, meet new potential customers, and network with important industry folks.
But to really take advantage of the expo opportunity, you need to make sure that your booth or kiosk is a hit with attendees. Just remember these main takeaways:
- Grab Attention: This is the name of the game at trade shows. When there are hundreds of other companies exhibiting and fighting for attendee attention, what will your business do to stand out? Crack that code and you'll be miles ahead of everyone else.
- Know Your Audience: People attend trade shows for many different reasons. Why is your target market there? Also, what will they need and/or appreciate during their stay? Sharing tips and tricks, giving hands-on experiences, and providing relaxation areas are just a couple of ways your brand can meet customer needs. But you need to know what those needs are before you can successfully meet them.
- Keep It Fun: Yes, people attend trade shows for business purposes. But that doesn't mean they don't want to have a good time while they're there! Think about ways that you can entertain folks — whether it's by hiring a great emcee or musical act, creating one of a kind experiences, hosting an incredible afterparty, or something else.