19 Aug 2019 | by Lucy Saxton

With ROI for exhibitions in decline, exhibitors need to engage attendees more than ever. We’re not talking fire eaters in gold spandex and show jumping rabbits (* the latter have indeed appeared at a show at Earls Court) but there are many ways of increasing your stand foot fall. According to The Centre for Exhibition Industry Research, 83% of attendees at trade shows have buying authority, 79% of these attendees use trade shows to make buying decisions for their business and each attendee/delegate is likely to tell more than six other people about their trade show experience. Delegates spend on average eight hours at trade shows over a few days, visiting more than 26 different stands at each event. With all this in mind, targeted clever marketing, engineered to make your exhibition stand memorable, is more important than ever…

Engage attendees with a game

 Let’s do a quick straw poll - how may promotional stress balls, keyrings or pens did you leave your last trade show with? Hundreds right? We’ll stick our necks out here and put money on the fact that months later you’re still finding them in random tote bags that you chucked to the back of your wardrobe. Promotional merch can be great and it’s always cool to see your logo brought to life on a mug, that will probably sit at the back of a staff kitchen cupboard for the next several decades, but people who pick up your fab logo mug will disappear without leaving anything of any value for you. A far better way of engaging attendees is with a game or contest. Quizzes and contests will make attendees engage with your team and the stand personnel.  A contest will also ensure that attendees leave their info or business card for a chance to win a prize.  Attendees love a challenge which will attract them over. Team up the game with fun social media clues or treasure hunts with that nifty hashtag in use.

Go all art attack

People love getting involved with making things and getting all Tony Hart. Visit IBTM in Barcelona, Spain and you’ll see a whole host of destinations stands taking ideas from their brands and destinations and hosting creative craft tables where attendees can stop for a while and get their creative juices flowing. Examples of this at IBTM were fan making and creating your very own origami which saw massive queues for all craft tables.

Give people a place to recharge

Keep your attendees' comfort in mind. Have comfy chairs and charging points and a decent cup of coffee on offer. Delegates walk for miles and are always grateful for a good pit stop to rejuvenate. Another shining example from IBTM, Barcelona in 2017 was ‘HotelMap’ which hosted a recharge area for attendees rather than a traditional stand, where the focus was to help attendees at the show rather than sell their service. The recharge area also included tables covered in different shapes, accompanied by buckets of colourful pens (*Inner child yet again screams to get out). Over the course of IBTM, attendees could colour in the shapes to their hearts’ content whilst charging their phones and resting their weary legs. Helping potential buyers in this way was non-traditional but worked wonders for the brand and made a lasting impression which was supremely memorable. First impressions are key.

Get click happy

What do people love more than exhibitions? We’ll give you 2 guesses. The answer of course is photos of themselves. More and more we are seeing exhibition stands using old school photo booths or Instax cameras with a cool backdrop or props. Not only is this enticing attendees over to your stand (because, let’s face it, who can resist some photo booth pics in a Miami Vice fake moustache and pineapple Elton John glasses?) but it’s driving attendees towards your social media accounts with carefully targeted hashtags and checkins. Win win. IMEX Frankfurt saw 14,500 delegates descend on the Messe Frankfurt where many of these attendees took pictures with lookalikes of Harry and Meghan on the 'Visit Britain' stand. Attendees could pick out fascinators or corsages and pose with them to celebrate the Royal wedding. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook were awash with the fake royal couple and the 'Visit Britain' brand - Marketing win. Think creative, think fun, and watch the attendees roll in!

Host mini live knowledge pools

Think of your stand as a really intimate live podcast. The best knowledge hubs are those that start intimate and get everyone else interested. Hold a mini pow wow/ knowledge pool every hour and create it like a live ebook, sharing knowledge and insights. Before you know it your intimate talk will have all those curious attendees flocking over in their droves.

Launch it

If you have something cool to launch, then an exhibition stand is the place to do it. Build the anticipation pre-event on social media and invite people to the launch. One of the top reasons why we industry bods attend such events and trade shows is to learn what's new in an industry, so giving the lowdown on a cool new product will grab the attention of attendees.

Roll up roll up it’s an exclusive

What’s the next best thing to a launch? Simple - giving attendees a product, concept or service that isn’t available to anyone else yet. We all like to feel special so getting something at a show that is not yet on general release will spark excitement into the stoniest of hearts. If you can’t give something away, go for second best and give an exclusive NEVER BEFORE SEEN preview. Exclusivity will always remain king.

Your secret weapon

You can have all the mod cons in the world and the most exclusive themed gifts that money can’t buy- you could have acrobats and bearded ladies on your stand but these still won’t be a hit if you don’t have the right team delivering all of this. Think of your attendees. Tired and weary trade show fatigued attendees won’t want a constant sales pitch rammed down their throats. Have the human touch, make eye contact… share a joke, and finally offer them a free coffee and a comfy seat so they can hop on social media when they’re done talking to you and wax lyrical about how damn good your stand is.

Go forth and conquer!




Lucy Saxton

By Lucy Saxton

Lucy Saxton is a journalist, content creator, social media advisor and broadcaster. Studying Criminology at Leicester Uni and completing an MA In print Journalism at The University of Sheffield, she began her career as Features Editor of the popular teen girls magazine, MIZZ Mag. More recently, Lucy has worked for Cosmopolitan Magazine and Seventeen Magazine. Lucy was previously a Journalist at M&IT Magazine which saw her travelling around the world and launching several social media channels for CAT MEDIA. Lucy is a regular travel correspondent on BBC radio.More articles by Lucy Saxton