Make the Most of Exhibiting at a Trade Show

Posted by Meghan Smith

So you’re going to a trade show?

Great—so are 100+ other companies in your industry. Learning how to stand out and get the most out of your attendance is something we have experience with at GS&F, from designing a booth that will provide qualified traffic to setting up interviews with media to strengthen publicity opportunities throughout the year—and everything in-between. So let’s get started with tips and advice, followed by examples of some of our work from 2016.

First, you need to have a reason to be there. There are plenty of reasons to be at a trade show: build your brand or reposition your brand, generate publicity, gain client insights, launch a new product, research your competitors’ products, recruit new employees, generate sales leads or close a deal. Figure out your objective for the particular show you’re attending. Why are you there? Think about your marketing strategy for the year and incorporate trade shows into the overall plan as a tactic you can use. Leverage what these trade shows offer: valuable face time with your audience—existing customers, potential customers, industry leaders and media.

Next, start thinking about how your booth design can help you achieve these goals. It should be a representation of your brand and, if done right, can serve as a valuable tool for engagement. Think about videos, demonstrations, visual treatments and layout. What experience do attendees get when they interact with your brand?

At GS&F, we helped clients with all of these important questions as we prepared them for some of the biggest trade shows in their industry in the past year.

LP Building Products | IBS

The International Builders’ Show (IBS) is the largest annual residential construction show in the world. It draws in 80,000 attendees and features exhibits spanning over 569,000 net square feet. Over the past 10 years we’ve been there with LP Building Products, and this year we got even more involved by completely redesigning the booth. They had been using the same booth for five years, and it was time for something different.

The house design features a real doorway. Although there were other ways to enter the booth, we noticed most attendees opting to use the front door like they would at their own home. It enhanced the experience and engaged people from the moment they stepped in the booth. Once you walked inside, it felt like being in a private environment and not on an exhibit room floor.

The booth was designed in the shape of a house with a private meeting room space.

FauxFire®, created with steam and specialty lighting, grabbed people’s attention and tied into LP’s fire-resistant products.

Hunt Brothers Pizza | NACS

The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is the biggest trade show for the c-store industry. Virtually every brand you’d find at a convenience store is there—Coke, Skittles, M&Ms, Doritos, the list goes on. So for Hunt Brothers Pizza, this wasn’t just an opportunity to introduce their first-ever dessert menu item, Mega S’mores, to the media or to take advantage of sales opportunities among c-store owners. It was also an opportunity for them to strike up partnerships with other brands.

To help accomplish all of these goals, we gave their booth a refresh that included top-level information about the company for c-store owners—easy implementation, high ROI opportunities, and a long history of success. While the booth should draw attendees in and be a representation of your brand, the heavy lifting should be done by the sales and marketing team.

Tip: Make sure all information is above waist-level and less than six feet so it’s readable—and keep it brief because nobody wants to read a novel on a booth panel.

Other tactics to increase booth traffic include eblasts and direct mail pieces before the trade show to spark interest. When you sign up for a trade show, you’ll get a list of attendees and their emails—use that list to your advantage. GS&F deployed emails and mailers to trade show attendees and media with our booth number and reasons to stop, including championship NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick signing autographs and, of course, free pizza.

Crossville | TISE

The International Surface Event (TISE) is the largest North American event serving the floor covering, stone and tile industries. It attracts designers, architects and distributors from all over the world. So after we developed a new campaign for Crossville, a leading manufacturer of award-winning tile collections for residential and commercial applications, we decided this trade show was the perfect place to show the world the new “Beauty is a Problem Solved” campaign.

The focal point of the booth is a video experience that makes the audience feel immersed by using curved displays that create the feeling of being inside a private space. In other areas of the booth, product samples and case studies are displayed as touch and talking points. And while the booth does its job in getting the brand across to attendees, the layout also allows for the sales team to do the heavy lifting.

At any trade show, the sales team is crucial. At GS&F, our job is to give that sales team the best advantages going into the week of the show.

Tip: Huddle up with your team at the beginning of the trade show to ensure everyone understands their assignments and has what they need to fulfill them. Do this huddle again at the end to discuss key takeaways that can be used for improvement next time.