How to Improve Traffic to Your Trade Show Booth

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Promo Expert

Published: May 11th, 2020

It's loud, crowded, and exciting. No, we're not talking about the Super Bowl or Lollapalooza. This is all about trade shows, which are giant conventions where businesses can show off their products or services while housed under giant displays. It's like Comic Con with just as many nerds, but fewer people dressed as Batman.

What are some ways to stand out? How do you attract a crowd to your booth? It's time for your business to be the shining star at your next trade show!

Quote Icon

When you have 15,000 square feet at your disposal and 100 employees staffing your booth, you can pretty much accomplish any goal you want. You're going to have to decide what you want from the show and design your booth to achieve that.

- David A. Gilliam,
Professor of Marketing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

How Your Business Can Steal the Spotlight

There can be a lot going on at a trade show, to the point where it's information overload. That's why it's important for your business to do whatever it takes to stand apart. You want to be what attendees talk about with their friends and family after they leave the convention hall!

Luckily, there are a few things you can do before and during the show to bring more attention to your display.

What You Should Do Before a Trade Show

Think of it this way – the best movies in the world aren't going to get attention without the trailers. Why should a trade show be any different? In fact, 70% of show attendees will create a list of the booths they want to visit before they even arrive to the event.

Take these steps ahead of time to ensure your booth makes the list!

Use Social Media

Use Social Media

Social media is a beautiful thing. You can use it to send out updates about the trade show and encourage your followers to come visit. Let them sneak a peek at how exciting it's going to be at your booth.

Use Social Media
Create an Eblast

Create an Eblast

Are you displaying a new product at the trade show? Give your subscribers a heads up with a pre-show eblast. Even if you don't have a design team, you can still craft a well-designed email that will hype people up!

Set Up Appointments

Set Up Appointments

Make it possible for prospects to schedule a time to talk with you at the show. You can even take it a step further and give them a nice gift for thinking ahead. If the attendees know a gift is involved, they're more likely to pay you a visit.

Set Up Appointments
Send Out Direct Mailers

Send Out Direct Mailers

While it may seem old school, direct mailers are still valuable in the business world. Be creative with your design and remember to include a QR code, promo item, or raffle ticket they can use at the show.

Offer Incentives

Offer Incentives

You want attendees to visit you before anyone else. Maybe the first 100 people to visit your booth will get a complimentary dinner or a prize basket with your new product, free of charge! There should always be a reason for them to visit you over anyone else.

Offer Incentives
  • Post about your appearance at the trade show on social media.
  • Send an email to your followers.
  • Set up appointments with attendees.
  • Create a direct mail package.
  • Offer some kind of incentive for visiting your booth.

What You Should Do During a Trade Show

Now that the buzz is going, it's time for the main event! After all, the last thing you want to do is hype up your booth only to fall short in the execution. Unfortunately, this happens more often than you might think as 66% of trade show attendees are not satisfied with their experience.

Stay in the crowd's good graces by following these industry-approved tips!

Give Away Something Cool & Relevant

Give Away Something Cool & Relevant

Free giveaways like logoed keychains, tote bags, and pens come with the trade show territory. Every business has these tchotchkes decorating their booth. Stand out with giveaway items that look unique, tell who you are and what you do, and will actually get used rather than thrown into the garbage.

Give Away Something Cool & Relevant
Put It Into Action

Put It Into Action

You can talk all day about how awesome your products or services are, but the attendees want to see if it works. Whether you give a demonstration or let them take it on a test drive, it's more powerful to show human hands using the product or service instead of listing out bullet points about its benefits on a piece of paper.

Bring the Right People

The grumpy guy in accounting should stay home on trade show day. Stock your booth with vibrant, enthusiastic personalities! Your staff should avoid jargon, dress nicely, and be willing to dance, laugh, and venture out of the safety of the booth.
Make it Visual

Make it Visual

In this context, looks definitely matter! You're not going to attract attention with just your brand personality. Dress to the nines with a colorful display, bright lighting, and floor arrows pointing in your direction. Some companies even go all out and use eye-catching inflatables!

Create an Experience

Create an Experience

Raffles, games, live shows, and fun extras will attract the crowd to your booth. The attendees are likely tired, so also consider hosting a relaxation station with chargers, Wi-Fi, comfy seats, and food. If you have a personal masseuse there too, that definitely wouldn't hurt!

Create an Experience
  • Give away promotional products.
  • Demonstrate your product or service to the crowd.
  • Staff your booth with enthusiastic people.
  • Make your display visually appealing. Create a memorable experience.

10 Things You Should Have at Your Trade Show Booth

1 Free Giveaways That Aren't Lame

2 Staff Members
with Good Personalities

Bright Lighting & Eye-Catching Props

3 Bright Lighting &
Eye-Catching Props

Bright Lighting & Eye-Catching Props

4 Relaxation Station
with Chargers, Wi-Fi,
& Comfy Seats

5Raffles, Contests, or
Games that are Actually Fun

6 Fun Extras like a
Comment Wall, Smoothie Machine, or Photo Booth
with Props

7 Live Entertainment or a Celebrity Appearance

8 Follow Up Incentive like
Coupons, Workshops, or Tickets to an
Exclusive Event

9 Decorative Display
with Easy-to-Read

10 Free Food and/or

10 Things You Should Have at Your Trade Show Booth

  1. #1 - Free Giveaways That Aren't Lame
  2. #2 - Staff Members with Good Personalities
  3. #3 - Bright Lighting & Eye-Catching Props
  4. #4 - Relaxation Station with Chargers, Wi-Fi, & Comfy Seats
  5. #5 - Raffles, Contests, or Games that are Actually Fun
  6. #6 - Fun Extras like a Comment Wall, Smoothie Machine, or Photo Booth with Props
  7. #7 - Live Entertainment or a Celebrity Appearance
  8. #8 - Follow Up Incentive like Coupons, Workshops, or Tickets to an Exclusive Event
  9. #9 - Decorative Display with Easy-to-Read Signage
  10. #10 - Free Food and/or Beverages

Should Your Trade Show Booth Have a Theme?

While these tips are definitely a great way to get the crowd's attention, it also pays to have a theme at your trade show booth.

David A. Gilliam, a Professor of Marketing at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is a strong proponent of themed displays. In 2012, he studied trade show booths at multiple conventions across the United States to see which ones had the most traffic. Based on his research, he found that the most successful booths were the ones that honed in on a target goal, created an interactive experience, offered relevant, unique giveaways, and had a memorable theme.

For example, Gilliam went to one show where the company was named Tango. Even though their company had nothing to do with dancing, they still featured live tango dancers at their booth. This was an effective way to pay homage to their company name, while at the same time attracting attention.

David A. Gilliam, The Journal of Marketing Management

Overall, it pays to create an experience the audience will remember, which could include a theme. The attendees will associate that experience with your brand and immediately recall the product or service you were there to advertise. After all, who could forget seeing live tango dancers at a convention?

The Best Trade Show Booths of All Time

Ready to be blown away by some nifty displays? Get inspired by the most incredible trade show booths of all time!

  1. Nickelodeon – Licensing Expo
  2. SplashTacular – Skyline Exhibits
  3. Nature's Path – Living Maxwell
  4. Ply Gem – International Builders Show
  5. Brooks Sports – Outdoor Retailer Winter Market
  6. JustWink – National Stationery Show
  7. Organic Valley – MG Design
  8. Junk Food Clothing

Are You Trade Show Ready?

Now that you've taken steps before the show and are all set with a good theme and awesome giveaways, there are a few last-minute things to get in order. Make sure you're prepared with this useful trade show checklist!

At the end of the day, customers are going to gravitate to the booths that look prepared and aren't running around in a frenzy. What good is spending all that time preparing for an interactive experience if you end up forgetting comfortable shoes at home?

Stats for Success

The average attendee spends 8.3 hours viewing trade show exhibits.

92% of attendees come to a trade show to learn what's new in products and services.

71% of businesses get more traffic after meeting with potential customers in person.

The Bottom Line

The show, or in this case trade show, must go on! A little bit of pre-show planning, trendy promotional products, and an energetic vibe can make all the difference when it comes to attracting visitors. Be creative, and most importantly, remember to have fun!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a super cool Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. She's a fan of diving into the history of some of the earliest promos on the planet. If you need her, you'll find her buried in research, in the middle of a phone interview, or singing way off-tune in her office.