How many times have you loaded up your car and dragged your tired booth to a networking event wondering why you even bother? After all, nobody wants to talk to you about your product or service anyway…or at least that’s how it can feel.

Here’s the good news about you having those feelings, you are not alone. The bad news is that if you feel that way about your booth experience there’s a good chance that you will attract more of the same at your next event.

Last week I attended a small networking event that had maybe 100 attendees and housed approximately 12-15 booths.  Although this might sound like a low attendance to make your efforts worthwhile it had quite the opposite effect…for some of the exhibitors but not all.

I arrived at the show at the start time so that I could have a good amount of time to watch the interactions of the attendees to the exhibitors and here’s what I noticed.

The first attendees of an event are looking to talk to someone, anyone and the exhibitors are the obvious choice. They are ready to talk about their business and you are happy to engage and listen. So why then did 3 booths have nobody stopping to chat? It was actually very easily to identify, the booths were boring to look at, they had minimal to no swag and it was not clear exactly what they were there to sell or promote.

For the sake of keeping you engaged in this story I will talk about only 1 of those 3 booths and hope you are still with me for the summary.

The Bad Booth

This “booth” consisted of a table and a rather large clear plastic business card display stand, one that you would see in a facility that houses numerous professionals ie; A clinic that has a Physiotherapist, Massage Therapist, Acupuncturist etc.

In the display case were some random business cards of which I recognized one so now I am actually intrigued and I walk over. Once I arrive at the table, I had a full page flyer of business coach services shoved in my hand and the rehearsed speech began. I lost interest rather quickly as the other exhibitor standing beside her asks me a question about accounting, turns out he’s an accountant. Was he working with her, for her or against her? At this point I didn’t know and I was already planning my escape. Stopping them both I asked about the business card stand and in particular the one card of the person I knew and asked the connection. As it turns out the booth is at the show representing a networking group and they (business coach, accountant and business card guy) are all members. Then (and only then) did I notice the banner stand that was off to the side and directly behind the accountant. Ah, there it is…Networking! Phew, the pieces fall into place but I’m already moving on to anything else.

My point to all of this? If the booth was to promote the networking group why were we talking business coach services and accounting services? Why was the banner behind and off to the side and the accountant blocking it out? Why was the only print material on the table about the business coach and the accountant? My guess is that both of those people are interested in building the network group and their own business, but they simply lack the information on how to showcase this at a networking event.

The Good Booth

In comparison the booth directly across from them had 4 people manning the booth…4! This seems a little excessive for such a small event but two of the people were behind the table and two were out engaging with the attendees pulling them (me) back to the table. Aka “booth bunnies”. All were wearing simple black t-shits with a bright logo on the front, there was swag on the table and a video running of what they are all about. Their backdrop was well lit with a clear message and they teased me into signing up to receive information on their next speaking engagement which happened to be on a topic I was interested in. They very quickly had my attention, my business card and I had opted in to receive their newsletter.  Not bad for a few minutes work! As the event filled up with attendees, they continued to work their magic creating energy around their booth that was difficult to ignore and quite frankly nobody wanted to.

Busy Gaming Booth

5 Tips to Make Your Event Booth Better and Your Exhibiting Experience a Success.

  1. Make your booth stand out – Use up every inch of allotted space to decorate your table, use a tablecloth that displays at the very least your logo and company name. Have your banner stands or back drops be well lit, clean and contain more images than words. A wordy banner will get overlooked at these events.
  2. Try not to go it alone. If you’re there on your own it can be very challenging to give your attention to just one person while others sort of mill about waiting for their turn. Have one or two (at least) other people working that booth with you so that they are drawing others to you or they are catching the ones that you can’t get to because you are trying to nurture the one you’re talking to…as you should!
  3. Have something engaging happening at your booth, this is often games, spin the wheel/win a prize type games but can (and should) include technology. With more and more attendees falling into the dare I use the term “millennial” category having engaging activities that involve tablets, phones or screens of any kind will surely be a hit.
  4. Food works….it just does, candies are ok but boy oh boy a basket of fresh baked cookies? Yes please! Ok I just threw this one in but…cookies!
  5. Last but certainly not least, put your phone away, just do it. Don’t have it on your table, don’t even have it turned on, just don’t. It’s too easy to hide behind it and nobody will be interested in approaching your table if your face is looking down.

Zooming Off Into The Right Direction

I suspect that if you have nailed those 5 items as you load your gear into the truck to take to the show (it’s a truck now because a car would probably be too small) you are already of a different mindset. This is going to be a great event and you will come out of it with a few great leads! Isn’t that a much better feeling? You had better believe it is. I know, I’ve been there!

Add to the booth/event itself a marketing strategy leading up to the event and a clear plan of following up afterwards and you are guaranteed to find success.

At Sparkitects we work with you from start to finish. We help you with graphic design to great marketing material and signage. We help you develop a strategic social media marketing plan and email campaigns to get the ball rolling so that you can let people know you will be there. Finally we help you with your follow up marketing so that you don’t drop the ball on a potential warm lead that you worked so hard to get.

If you are planning to showcase your company at a networking event or tradeshow you need to talk to us. Let us develop an event marketing strategy that will make your event a success!.