If you're planning a trip to an upcoming industry trade show or conference, you need to appreciate the event for what it is: the chance to break through the online noise and clutter and make a real, personal, and hopefully lasting impression on future colleagues, partners, and customers.
Start planning early
We're living in the digital age, which means a lot of people take trade show and conference marketing as an afterthought. But that's a mistake because you can almost always spot the companies who didn't start their planning early enough. Their pamphlets are lame and their t-shirts and banners look rushed. They're not drawing visitors because they didn't go over their strategy and pitch ahead of time.
People want to be here. They want an experience that's not like window shopping online. But if you don't plan, you end up like that poor anonymous company that just ripped logos and slogans off their website, sent it to a print shop and called it a day.
Use newer technologies like VR and AR
It's hard to believe, but virtual and augmented reality are going mainstream right before our eyes. It's out there in a big way, but it's still new enough that companies can knock the socks off event-goers with the right kind of VR or AR experience.
VR and AR are all about fully engaging the senses. So creating a VR experience for your trade show booth could be a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the conference. More importantly, these are tools for giving people a sense of space, something tactile, or something visually engaging. Maybe it's a digital tour of one of your plants, or the opportunity to interact with huge machinery or animals in augmented reality. If your business puts you on the ground in far-off or interesting places, create a VR demo using footage from your last trip. Nothing sells your mission better than putting potential partners and customers in your shoes.
Concentrate on creating an atmosphere
There's something appealing about a trade show's straightforwardness. Here's a bunch of people looking for vendors, and here are a bunch of vendors looking for people. But there's more to trade shows than that, right?
You don't need a professional stage and lighting crew, but do think about how best to use things like light, color and even scent to create an atmosphere that people genuinely can't wait to spend time in.
Conferences and trade shows can be busy, on-your-feet-all-day places. So make your booth an oasis with comfy chairs — or even stools pulled up to a "charging bar" where they can top off their devices.
When you're thinking about lighting and color, play with brightness as well as the moods that different colors invoke by choosing a daring but welcoming red or orange, or a tranquil shade of blue. Getting their attention won't be difficult, but getting them to leave might be!
Give people something they may actually want
The phrase "marketing collateral" sounds unappealing and antiseptic. That must be why brands phone it in so often on the same branded can cozies, pens, keychain flashlights, and totes. We're not saying you need to reinvent the wheel or anything, but you should try to turn some heads with your branded merch. Give the people something they'll want as soon as they see it, and that will have them thinking about your brand and your creativity long after the event is over.
Whatever you choose, make sure it's relevant to your brand and your values. If there's something about your company that's especially "green" or sustainable, give out little tree saplings to visitors with information about the tree and how to plant and care for it. A dash of green from across the trade show floor is definitely going to garner some attention.
Or, maybe you could provide some gonzo art supplies so people can decorate their conference name tags and turn some heads of their own. People will be flocking to your booth all day long just thanks to word-of-mouth.
These are only two examples among possible thousands, but the sky's the limit. Actually, your creativity is.
Remember your pitch
We've talked a good bit here about setting up a trade show booth and building an "experience" for event-goers. But sometimes we need a reminder of the basics, too. If you haven't practiced your presentation, your phrasing, your easygoing smile and 30-second and minute-long variations of your elevator pitch, you're probably going to get caught with your foot in your mouth.
The goal is to come across as natural, friendly, and not overly rehearsed. Rehearsing lines beforehand kind of shatters that illusion, but it's still a great way to make sure you're prepared for whatever and whoever finds their way to you during the event.