How to get the most out of your expo, conference, and trade shows

written by Anna Marie Imbordino, CEO Chicago Buzz Marketing

Expos, conferences, and trade shows are a tried and proven way to promote your business. In many ways exhibition style marketing is one of the only marketing mediums that has not gone out of style with the changes in technology and communication of the twenty-first century. So how can your business benefit from this style of promotion? The answer lies in understanding the psychology behind why exhibition marketing works. As marketers, we use exhibitions as a tool to bring a foreign brand or product to a market that has never been exposed. We do this because exhibition style marketing utilizes the same trust building principles as face-to-face relationship building or networking. Knowing that, we have to understand the importance of the first impression in these scenarios. People are unfortunately irrational, unpredictable, biased creatures. I say that of course with love and understanding that each and every person, myself included, who walks up to your booth will be assessing your setups, body language, and materials to decide if you are worth trusting and engaging with. They will be applying their subconscious limiting beliefs, fears, past experiences on you before you even have a chance to greet them for passing by. Thinking in terms of the psychology behind what motivates attendees to stop and interact is going to help give you a strategic advantage in these environments.

Understand The “Why” Behind Why You Are There- In order to be most effective in an exhibition environment it is vital to understand what goal you are trying to accomplish by being present. Are you looking to launch your brand into new markets? Are you looking to promote a particular product line or service? Are you looking to test a new product line or service to see if your market will receive it? Or are you looking to reestablish trust after a merger, re-brand, or public relations mishap? Establishing that “why” helps ensure you are not only communicating effectively while you are there, but also that you bring the right materials to support your message.

Build Trust- The best way to build trust is having consistency in look and feel of your materials. Make sure every banner, business card, print material, promotional product, and giveaway utilizes identical branding look and feel as well as identical messaging. For example, if you are promoting a new product launch everything that you say to attendees as well as every piece you handout or item you give away should scream that message exclusively. A confused mind never buys, and a confused mind never trusts! Another important part of trust building is asking more questions and talking less about yourself and your business. Yes, you heard right talk less and listen more to the exhibition attendees. Learn as much about them and their needs so that when you begin to interact back you have the right ammunition to explain why you are the answer to their need. Listening also instantly disarms many fears and anxieties attendees may have as it helps them feel in control and therefore more comfortable with you.

Stand Out- Standing out has a similar strategy to building trust; consistency, consistency, consistency. The more brand-centric the booth the easier to see it in a crowded room. I also encourage thinking in terms of height and color contrast. Something simple as choosing to be forward with a secondary branding color like blue versus a neutral like gold can dramatically improve how well people can pick you out in a room. It can also be helpful to dress in your brand colors so people feel less afraid to interact with you as they walk by. And lastly, standing out has a lot to do with aesthetics of course, but also has to do with promotional style. Booths that are more interactive, that are more information driven, and that have more staffing are statistically proven to get more action.

Be Interactive– Always plan multiple interactive elements for your booth. Giveaways, games, and raffles are an easy tool for adding fun to your booth but common among other participants. Additional interactives becoming popular in the exhibition world are multi-media elements such as flat screens streaming videos, interviews, or power points, computer touch screens, social media contests, live streaming or tweeting, holograms and lighting shows, and other forms of technology innovation. The exhibition world is also seeing trends towards actual performance artists, entertainers, food demonstrations, spa demonstrations, on site service offerings, dancing, comedians, spin wheels, out-of-the-box promotional products, just to name a few. The less static and the more out of the ordinary your booth the better chance you will be interacted with. However, please always filter your creative interactives through your brand personality so as not to feel gimmicky or off topic.

Focus on Education– Lead with your “why’s” not with your sales pitch. Make every attendee a brand warrior even if they do not care to have your product or service personally. Why does your service change peoples lives? Why do they need you? Why do you do what you do? How can they keep in touch with you? Those questions should be answered first before asking if they would like to receive a free gift or sign up for your opt in. People like free stuff, but they also like to feel acknowledged and taken care of. Focusing on those basic human needs is the best way to ensure they tell YOU they want your product or service.