Exhibiting at trade shows offers your company the opportunity to gain brand exposure and new leads. It can be a great return on investment, but to get the most out of a trade show, you need to attract a large volume of traffic to your booth. You could use multimedia or outstanding products demos.
Or you could use games.
Trade show games sound like pure fun, but they’re serious methods for generating interest and encouraging people to stop in. Once you have them, you have the opportunity to get contact details and start new, promising conversations. Much more than simple fun, they can be perfect for drawing attention and maximizing lead generation.
Gamification = Activation of Booth Visitors
You may not be aware of it, but gamification is a concept that’s widely used in a variety of settings—from classrooms to boardrooms to your favorite websites and forums. It involves the addition of game elements to an existing setting. Game elements could mean:
- Rules of play
- The ability to achieve or score points
- Competition with peers and/or yourself
Adding these elements can boost motivation (and the stakes of taking part), thereby encouraging participation and making a mundane task more rewarding.
At a busy trade show, gamification could be the unique, intriguing element that encourages attendees to visit your booth instead of your neighbor’s or the competition’s. Once they’re there, it can encourage them to spend more time at your booth—more time soaking in your brand and your message.
Gamification can also increase their ability to retain your message. People tend to remember more of what they do than what they see, hear, or read. The simple fact of engaging in an activity helps them retain more of the information associated with that activity.
Gamification also allows you to tap into a very human trait—the thrill of competition. Whether it’s competing against others or an attempt to win the top prize on the wheel or beat their own high score, the competitive spirit is a strong motivator for many people.
All these factors also help strengthen your brand’s relationship with visitors—those who are new to your brand and those who are already familiar with it. For each attendee, engaging with your game acts as a brand activation, a crucial part of moving them along the path to becoming a client or customer.
Many of the biggest brands in all industries are getting in on gamification, recognizing the huge potential it has for attracting and engaging visitors. Delta got all of New York City playing find-the-Red-Coats (their flight attendants), who were hidden throughout the city. The prize? A free chartered, catered flight from NYC to L.A.! Starbucks® Rewards provides members with free things and exclusive offers for purchasing products and encourages them to play (purchase more) with Double-Star Days and Bonus Stars.
How Trade Show Contests and Games Can Add Value to Your Booth
In terms of a trade show exhibit, gamification literally means adding a contest or game as an extra element to your booth. The value a trade show game adds to your exhibit depends on the kind of game you choose and how you integrate it into your booth design. Common ways in which exhibits benefit from trade show games and contests are by:
- Providing a branding opportunity by giving away branded items as prizes
- Acting as conversation starters that can help you identify qualified leads
- Driving traffic to your booth
- Providing opportunities to engage visitors
- Giving you another (unique) way to collect contact information
Which Trade Show Games Make the Biggest Impact?
There are two main types of trade show games:
- Those where no major participation is required to enter
- Interactive games where the entrant performs an activity to earn their shot at a prize
In both cases, each visitor provides their contact information—typically a business card—in exchange for entry.
Games in the first category often consist simply of prize draws, where entrants drop their business card into a bowl, and a prize winner is drawn from this pool. They don’t require active participation and, unless there’s a high-value prize involved, don’t make much of an impact.
These days, something more sophisticated—and engaging—is needed to win the attention of trade show attendees. This is where gamification shines. Adding game elements that are active, engaging, and memorable attracts attention, drives booth traffic, and helps create strong brand relationships.
One of the best-known examples of gamification in recent years is that of the massive playground that Google built at CES in 2018. The three-story interactive playground led visitors on an odyssey inside a game-like environment, to learn more about Google Assistant. The experience was capped off with a visit to the Google Assistant gumball machine—a massive machine that showcased the latest version of the popular app. Each user could ask the assistant a question and be rewarded with a random prize—anything from a branded beanie to smart speakers and gift cards.
Most companies don’t have the kind of budget that allowed Google to create an experience like this! Fortunately, there are many simple, inexpensive, and effective ideas for trade show games to add interest to your booth.
These kinds of games typically work best when someone from your booth staff can supervise. Make sure they can maintain the high-energy style needed to attract people’s attention as they pass by your exhibit. In order to attract foot traffic, the game needs to look exciting from the outside. Part of that is how it’s presented by booth staff. If you want people to play your game, it needs to look like fun!
Most of these games will produce multiple winners; in some cases, many winners. With the prize wheel, for instance, most or all entrants will win a prize, depending on how your wheel is set up. Adjust your prize selections accordingly!
If you’re not sure what kinds of prizes to offer, think of interactive games as engaging ways to hand out free swag. Choose inexpensive gifts for games where there will be lots of winners, and higher-value items for games with fewer winners.
1. Social Media Spot Prize
This game works best on Twitter, as it’s the platform on which people are most likely to engage while at a trade event. If you have a good-sized Twitter following and your audience is highly engaged, this can be a great way to boost your visibility in the show’s Twitter feed. It’s not as useful for generating leads, of course, since you’re not receiving contact information.
For this game, advertise ahead of time that you’re using Twitter to give out spot prizes. This pre-show promotion will help you maximize attendee participation. To be eligible, people must follow your brand or company on Twitter. During the show, they must tweet about the show using your company’s trade show hashtag, plus the official trade show hashtag. Then, choose a winner every two hours, or every four hours, from the pool of people who meet the eligibility criteria. The time period over which you do this is up to you. Generally, the bigger your brand and the more active your social media following, the more winners you should choose. If you have an active social media presence, choosing more winners helps keep audience participation and engagement high and keeps you in sight on busy Twitter feeds.
Another option is to combine the social media focus with a photo wall. Set it up within your exhibit, and encourage people to take selfies or photos of what they see at the event and post them on social media with your brand’s event hashtag. Computer hardware company Alienware often employs this tactic at events and always inspires plenty of fans to participate. They encourage high levels of participation by giving out spot prizes to people who post their photos and by displaying photo entries in the booth.
2. Twitter Trivia
Like the previous game, this one is open to people who follow your brand or company on Twitter. For trivia games, use questions that relate to your brand, to your industry, or to the show. Throw in a random question—on pop culture, history, or politics—occasionally to add a twist. Choose winners by selecting from the pool of people who answer questions correctly, then have them show up at your booth to claim their prizes.
3. Prize Wheel
Games of chance are popular booth games because they provide entrants with some anticipation and excitement. It’s a more engaging way of handing out free swag, particularly because each entrant gets to spin the wheel themselves, instead of being a passive participant. Another advantage of the prize wheel is that it’s instantly recognizable. When passersby see a prize wheel in your booth, they’ll immediately know what it’s for and that they might win something. Plus, it’s a fun activity almost everyone enjoys! Few people will pass up the chance to spin, so you’re likely to have a consistent stream of traffic to your booth.
Up the interest factor by including one or two big prizes on the wheel, along with lower-value items. People will be glad to hand over a business card or contact info if they have a shot at winning something good!
Or you could populate the prize wheel with coupons that provide discount deals on orders placed with your company. Make sure to add one or two higher-value items to increase the incentive and interest.
If you don’t want to use an actual prize wheel, there’s a digital option! Virtual prize wheels can be customized with branded graphics and whatever prizes you choose, and they’re set up to capture each entrant’s information before they get to spin. There are other digital games to choose from, too, including variations such as Plinko and trivia.
4. Dice Rolling
This game is similar to the prize wheel, but instead of spinning a wheel, entrants role a pair of dice to determine if they win. Different dice rolls are rewarded with different prizes. In some variations, only doubles win prizes. In others, certain numerical values are assigned as winners.
This can be a good alternative to the prize wheel if you’re on a smaller budget, although it doesn’t have the attention-grabbing game attraction level that the wheel does.
5. A Live Event
In gamification terms, a live event means a game show! Host a game show a few times a day from within your booth, publicize the schedule, and be prepared to generate plenty of buzz.
For more than a decade, Ford Motor Company has used this strategy at the Mid-America Truck Show, hosting a game show that attracts huge numbers every year. Several times a day, Ford hosts the Tough or Not Tough Game Show, with a warm-up entertainer, on-stage contestants who compete for a cash prize, and spot prizes for audience members who correctly answer trivia questions. A well-written script provides plenty of brand messaging woven into the game, and the Ford-focused trivia questions ensure that visitors intent on winning must learn about the brand in advance!
6. Where’s Our Mascot?
If your company has a brand mascot, this game provides another chance for people to play while they walk around the show floor. If you don’t have a mascot, other options are a promotional model or one of your booth staff, who carries a branded sign or banner as they walk the show floor.
As your mascot or representative walks around the show floor, people must find them, take a selfie with them, and then post it on Twitter or Instagram, with your brand hashtag and the show’s official hashtag. You can pick winners in the same way as you would for Twitter spot prizes or choose a different method that works for you.
7. Beanbag Toss
Most people are familiar with beanbag toss games, and if not, can quickly figure out how they work! The game typically includes a wooden board with one or more holes in it. It’s played by tossing small beanbags to get them through the holes. People will find it easy to play your game, but not necessarily easy to win!
Give each entrant a small number of tries, like one to three, in exchange for their business card. Offer a prize to anyone who hits the target at least once.
Another option is to set up an oversized chess, checkers, or Jenga® set. In this instance, you provide the game, but there are no prizes involved—the incentive is simply the friendly competition that starts up as people play the game. It can be a great way to attract attention, as people stop to watch the game and then bring their friends in to play.
Use High-Impact Trade Show Games to Drive People to Your Booth!
Booth games, Twitter games, and floor games can all be effective ways to drive booth traffic and increase your brand awareness. Choose one or more of these games for your next trade show booth to attract attention, get more visitors, and generate more leads!