Trade shows get more and more competitive every year. At the most popular shows, you’ll often find some of the world’s biggest brands vying for attention by injecting an element of Hollywood into their booths. Few companies have the budget to compete at that level. But there are lower-cost alternatives that can help you entice the trade show crowd to your booth.
How the Big Brands Attract a Trade Show Crowd
Over the last few decades, it’s become increasingly common for the biggest brands to hire major celebrities to appear at trade shows. Trade show audiences love a spectacle. So, for these big brands, celebrity representation has proven to be a hugely successful way to attract crowds of exhibit visitors.
Take the Consumer Electronics Show, for instance. Held every year in Las Vegas, this event almost always features a few celebrity speakers and appearances, alongside the CEOs and chairpersons of electronics and tech companies. In 2019 the Foo Fighters stole the show, performing courtesy of Harmon and JBL. In 2020 singer Alicia Keys spoke on a C-Space panel, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps appeared at a Panasonic press conference, and actors Terry Crews and Mandy Moore put in appearances for an NBC keynote. Meanwhile, rock legends Stevie Nicks and Pat Benatar sang at a private corporate party for JBL, and Janelle Monae performed at the CNet Party.
Trade shows like CES are generally crowded, chaotic environments. Huge celebrity names let you cut through the noise to get the trade show crowd showing up at your booth instead of your competitor’s.
More and more exhibitors are introducing an element of show business to their trade show displays to help them get noticed. And there’s definitely a trend towards using celebrity star power to draw attention to a booth or brand. While celebrity trade show appearances have been few in 2021 and 2022 while live events took a backseat, Sony brought Spider-Man star Tom Holland to CES in 2022 for a press event to the excitement of both PlayStation and Marvel fans. Also in 2022, MJBizCon featured celebrity appearances by former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, hip-hop artist Xzibit, and actor Jim Belushi.
Even virtual events have gotten in on the act: In 2020, for instance, the Salesforce event Dreamforce to You featured a number of celebrity appearances, including a performance by Metallica. And in 2022, the Dreamforce hybrid event featured appearances by Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, multi-award-winning singer Jennifer Hudson, and legendary U2 frontman Bono.
Not all brands have the kind of budget needed to hire such huge, world-famous celebrities. But there are other ways to get the kind of attention that attracts a crowd to your trade show booth.
Crowd-Generating Booth Strategies
1. Hire a Showstopper
Celebrities are certainly an effective way to draw a trade show crowd, but what if your budget won’t stretch that far? When it comes to special booth guests, there are other options. Magicians, clowns, and other entertainers are popular, but not so popular that they’re considered commonplace. That means they can be deployed to attract attention—and visitors—to your booth.
With entertainers, you have a couple options. One is to set them up inside your booth. This way, they draw in attendees who want to see what’s going on in your booth and then stick around to check out your products. The second option is to send a roving entertainer out into the crowd to generate interest and send more visitors your way. Either way can be an effective method of getting more of the trade show audience to your booth.
2. Create Visual Interest in Your Trade Show Booth Design
Add movement and interest to your trade show display with 3D video/laser image displays. Suspended above your booth, they add huge visual appeal without taking up exhibition floor space. Another option is Gobo lights suspended across tension fabric displays. With ever-changing colorful displays, they make any booth stand out from across the exhibition hall.
Lighting can help you attract attention, even from a distance, by making your trade show exhibit distinct from those around it. Use high-activity lighting, such as overhead digital signage, to make your booth stand out, so attendees notice you from a distance. You can use digital signage to spell out your booth’s key attractions and make it even more enticing.
Lighting is also an effective way to highlight key products or information in your booth. Backlit displays and LCD displays let you showcase your flagship product or any key details that you want visitors to know.
Digital signage can also add that glitzy visual interest that grabs the attention of people passing by your booth. Digital signage is particularly suitable for this role. Opting for digital means you can create dynamic displays that are much more visually interesting and engaging than other kinds of signage. For instance, you can:
- Display a socials wall with real-time social media updates
- Display user reviews or testimonials
- Use digital signage to tell your brand story
- Create an interactive display that demonstrates your flagship product
3. Train Your Staff to Impress
Both you and your booth staff have an important role to play when it comes to attracting trade show crowds. Personal presentation and training are key to helping you rack up booth visits and in collecting qualified leads. You only get a few seconds to make an impression on people who pass by your booth. A little professional polish can definitely help make sure that impression is a good one.
Staff should look professional and have a professional manner. But it’s important they’re also friendly and approachable—think business casual, more than formal. When staff are on duty, they should be attentive to visitors and be ready to engage in conversation as soon as new people enter the exhibit. Nobody who’s on duty should be eating or drinking or using their phone. If potential visitors walk by and see a booth full of inattentive staff, they’re likely to just walk right on to the next booth.
4. Create an Experiential Booth
Experiential marketing is all about creating branded experiences that make an indelible mark in the minds of your audience. It’s an effective way to add interest to a booth and draw in a bigger share of the trade show crowd. This kind of exhibit design lets you give your trade show audience an engaging booth experience that leaves a lasting impression. After the event is over, that experience makes them more likely to remember you and your products.
Some options for creating a more experiential booth include interactive displays, mixed reality displays, and product demonstrations.
Interactive displays often mean LCD-based digital presentations, but they’re not the only option. Inventive and hands-on product displays can also work well. These give your booth visitor the chance to actually handle your products and see for themselves what they’re like to use. If this isn’t an option for your booth, consider an alternative: a virtual or augmented reality presentation that simulates using the product while also providing a novel and exciting VR experience.
Another way to add that experiential element is with a product demonstration. This makes your booth look more interesting and engaging to people passing by, upping the chance that they’ll stop in to take a look. At the same time, holding product demos lets you showcase your product and provide more information than your audience would get from a brochure or screen presentation.
5. Add Excitement with Giveaways and Freebies
Swag, prizes, and other giveaways can up your booth visitor count significantly. This means more opportunities to engage your audience and identify qualified leads. Some options for using giveaways to attract foot traffic include:
- Swag: It’s always a popular part of the trade show experience. If you’re thoughtful about the swag you offer, it can be an effective way to attract more booth visitors too. Learn more here.
- Games: Whether it’s a simple prize draw or a more interactive experience, such as a prize wheel, booth games can be a fun way to add an interactive element to your trade show display.
- Incentives: Another option is to provide practical incentives to get people to stop by your booth. For instance, you might set up a mini charging station, where visitors can charge their phones and devices—perhaps in exchange for their contact information.
6. Send Out Invitations
A well-designed trade show booth will do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to attracting foot traffic. But another way to boost your number of exhibit visitors is simply to invite them ahead of time. In this case, you’ll use whatever email or customer lists you have to issue an invitation to your current customers and others who might be interested. Let them know you’ll be at the event, and invite them to drop by if they’re attending too.
Think Creatively to Attract a Big Trade Show Crowd
It’s not easy to attract a large trade show audience when you have to compete with big companies and their even bigger budgets. But creativity and out-of-the-box thinking definitely pay off when it comes to attracting bigger crowds to your booth. By being smart about the elements you add to your exhibit, you can get plenty of booth visitors and achieve trade show success without spending outside your budget.