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Seven Killer Moves to Up Your Tradeshow Game


The tram doors parted. A blast of hot, humid air greeted me as I stepped out of the super-chilled car into the bright Atlanta daylight. Far from home, I was here on a mission: to get my jetlagged body and brain to a tradeshow event for which Electric Pen had created the branding. Ultimately, I was there to network and sell. But wasn’t everybody?

Stepping inside an event center like this, the vastness of the space and its hundreds of booths instantly zombifies the mind of the visitor. And that creates the main challenge for exhibitors: how to awaken the hordes of meandering tradeshow zombies and draw them into your booth, in a way that opens them to your brand, your messaging and your wares.

Figuring out how to do that is the money-ball question. After all, companies spend millions on tradeshows every year hoping for a successful outcome. So … would you like to know how we helped NexTec Group — an IT services firm with national reach — create a wildly successful tradeshow presence that yielded TWICE the number of leads as the previous year? Step up to the plate — here’s our pitch.

1. Think about big, medium and small.

Nextec Tradeshow Booth Blog Visuals_R2-01 copy

As event designers, our most important task is to draw attention to the tradeshow booth. A key approach we use when creating a tradeshow experience is to think in terms of the big, medium and small stages. Consider the question: What happens when someone looks out over the floor of a tradeshow? That’s the big stage. What does someone see when passing by your booth? That’s the medium stage. The small stage is the area within the booth itself. A successful design plan involves putting thought into all three.

2. Get attention.

nextec brochure mockup First, let’s investigate the big stage. Think back to the last trade show you attended. Looking out across a sea of booths and people, what you probably witnessed was something like a major sporting event. It’s a formidable task to stand out from this cacophony of visual noise; to do so we must compel people to notice our booth.The human brain pays attention to things that are unique within their surroundings. One easy way to trigger that attention is through the use of color, a powerful tool that can differentiate your booth from others that surround it. For NexTec Group, we prioritized the use of green from their brand palette in a dominant way throughout every part of their tradeshow setup — the booth, its accompanying banners, even the shirts worn by the booth staff. The net result was that NexTec Group’s green branding created a powerful visual presence that helped their booth stand out from the visual clutter that surrounded it.

3. Location, location, location. (Oh, and 4: Bigger is better).

Now on to the medium stage. All the color in the world won’t help you if your booth is hiding in a dark corner or is postage-stamp small. Rules 3 and 4 involve location and booth size. As far as location goes, our good friend Catherine at NexTec Group did a stellar job of scoring a spectacular location right in the center of the storm, producing large volumes of traffic. Further, the footprint was large enough that it provided ample space to allow their green branding to stand out. Could a larger booth have been purchased? Well, sure. But the rule of thumb to apply here is “as big as necessary but as small as viable.” Applying this principal minimizes costs while maximizing value.

5. Have a hook.

NexTec_BannerStand_RecallOkay, so we’ve attracted attention on the tradeshow floor, are located in an opportune area, and have enough real estate to work with. Now what? It’s time to put our medium-sized space to work by creating a “hook” that will reel a prospect into the booth space and give our sales people the opportunity to work their magic. Ideally, as prospects are walking by, they’ve already noticed the booth. Now we want to pique their curiosity enough to reel them in!
NexTec Group’s focus was to sell their Food CRM, ERP and BI software and consulting services. We targeted this very specific niche by setting up grocery-style shelving and then placing NexTec Group’s customer’s products on the shelves, creating a grocery store within the tradeshow. This approach proved distinctive enough to successfully attract their prospects’ attention. Judging by the fact that NexTec Group doubled their lead count over the previous year, we can deduce that wherever their prospects’ attention went, their feet followed. The work of prequalifying prospective customers was done.

6. Tell a story and make your case.

Now we’re ready to focus on the small stage. At NexTec Group’s booth, our wandering prospect has been enticed by our messaging and grocery-store “hook” to take a closer look. If we’ve done our job right, our customer candidate walks into the booth space and immediately engages with the tools we’ve created to tell the story of how NexTec Group’s services solve the pains of its IT customers. These tools include banners, videos, case studies and brochures.

7. Staff your booth with your “A” team.

You’ve got your prospect engaged with your brand story — victory is within your grasp! Now is definitely not the time to send in the bench warmers. The key to success on the small stage is having all-star brand ambassadors staffing the booth who can knock it out of the park with prospects. In this respect NexTec Group really shined: their green-shirted sales pros were always on hand to effectively evangelize anyone that stepped onto their turf.

For NexTec Group, the results of applying these game-changing tactics were huge. When the players left the field, the final tally was a doubling of their lead count from the previous year. If you’re interested in creating a win for your company’s next tradeshow, let’s talk.