Trade Show Exhibitor Secrets from the Pros (C2E2 Edition)
The mother of all conventions is the San Diego Comic Con, which often hosts Hollywood types who want to screen footage from their movies or television shows. With more than a quarter million visitors each year, it’s no wonder that exhibitors hit the jackpot with their target customers on their doorstep.
The difficult part? Their proximity to very similar vendors and artists means they need to work twice as hard to get the attention of the passersby.
C2E2, or the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, is only three years old and is growing rapidly as a late spring pop culture event for Midwesterners.
We’ve written before about Artist Alley booths and the overall C2E2 experience, but we wanted to tackle niche convention presence in general and what makes a booth great.
Paul Rudd was unavailable for comment.
Good: The Onion
- Knows its audience with quirky humor (e.g., wears “nerd” and “snob” as badges of honor)
- Large poster with brand name prominent.
- Added Twitter logo with handle.
- Enticement to approach booth with contest.
- Catches attention with visible prizes on counter.
- Freebie coasters on the table.
- Poor communication to prize winners: I won a gift bag and only found out via Twitter once I got home, because reception sucked in convention hall.
- No one at the booth any time I passed during the two days I was there.
Still bitter about the prize package. Harumph.
Fix-Its: A text to winners or predetermined time to check a winners’ list would have been helpful, and I wouldn’t have walked away empty-handed. Having people at the booth to engage passersby would have improved relationship-building with potential readers. Adding in some kind of skilled activity to compete for the prize would have been a great way to start conversations (e.g., headline writing contest). Also, there were no copies of The Onion in regular newspaper form (it’s always free anyway!), which was a huge missed opportunity to snag new readers.
It's the opposite of the carnival - you'll almost certainly win, and you're probably weirder than the person behind the table.
Better: Vantage In House Productions
- Name and art featured prominently on banner, plus web address.
- Comics and prints available to purchase (and credit cards accepted and marked clearly).
- Interactive game earns prizes.
- QR code and Twitter handle on rule sheet.
- Guaranteed prize (plus you can decide if you are able to meet the challenge before you pay).
Can you name ten?
- Costs a dollar to play.
- Art style may not have wide appeal.
Fix-Its: Free to play, but if you lose, you have to do a sketch for the artist or something equally silly (and free). Include other styles of art that may appeal
Coal-eyed monsters are a real attention-getter but may not be appropriate for all industries.
Best: Christopher Jones Comic Art
- Candy as freebies, which is extra attractive in venue with overpriced food/drink.
- Call to action with actual product as reward/promotional product.
- Large poster with name displayed prominently with his art.
- Current art prints, trade paperbacks, and back issues all available to purchase.
Candy - the freebie that appeals to ALL demographics
- Doesn’t make use of vertical space.
- No activities/contests to engage passersby in conversation.
- No additional promotional products with his name for additional brand impressions.
- Might have butterscotch flavored suckers in there which are super gross and make the other suckers completely inedible just by touching them.
Fix-Its: Take a leaf out of Terry Huddleston’s book and maximize his use of vertical space. Include an activity or a contest that entices people to linger and consider the challenge. A trade show or convention is a unique opportunity where your target audience is eager to have an in-person conversation with you. Pique their interest and latch on!
- Offer freebies and sale items (if appropriate).
- Maximize visuals by expanding into vertical space.
- Contests and activities draw attention.
- Visible social media links for those who are too shy to approach but may want to check out your business later.
- Calls to action.
What aspects of a convention booth stand out to you? Where do people go wrong in trying to lure in interested passersby? What’s the most creative booth idea you’ve ever seen? Sound off in the comments below!
Until next time, keep expanding your brand!