If your role has anything to do with planning your company’s trade show exhibit, this post is for you. It addresses what can be argued is one of the most important factors of exhibiting – audience engagement. And more specifically, it addresses how not to fail at this crucial engagement opportunity!
- The forced activity.
Here is a possible scenario: perhaps you’ve attended a few trade shows and you’ve participated in booth activities like a game or interactive questionnaire, etc. You found the activity to be memorable and maybe it even made you more interested in the product or service. Based on this experience, you spend hours researching and crafting an activity for your own exhibit that you just know your audience will enjoy.
Here is the potential trap – does this activity really tie to your industry, product or service? Is your activity fun and temporarily engaging or does it drive the desired outcome or carry impact? Is it worth all the time and money you are spending on the planning and execution, or should you consider other ways to deliver a memorable in-booth experience?
There is no reason to force an activity or gimmick on your audience if it doesn’t help your brand or support your trade show goal. Instead, focus on an approach that will leave an impression and that will help you market to your audience in the most meaningful way.
- The awkward interaction.
You’ve done the research and legwork and you and your team have chosen an exciting booth engagement that is on-message, on-brand and will most definitely be well-received by the visitors to your booth. This is a great first step. So, how could this possibly fail? Let me put this plainly: people.
The people staffing your booth for the duration of the show need detailed training on not only how the activity works (including technology and flow, if applicable) and how you want them to interact with your exhibit attendees, but also why you chose the activity you did and how it ties to your brand, your message or your exhibit theme.
Your booth team must be comfortable enough to get your attendees excited about participating in your well-thought-out activity and they must be ready to help drive your message home. Otherwise, you risk awkward interactions where your team members stumble over the messaging or sound too scripted and don’t help the attendee make the connection between the activity and the marketing message you are trying to communicate.
People remember other people and that is why staff training and selection is crucial for success. No one likes feeling awkward.
- The technical glitch.
Have you ever sat through the painstaking torture of a company presentation where the screen keeps blacking out, or the person talking can’t be heard or understood, or the meeting is delayed because of technical issues? This leads to agitation for both the presenter and the participants.
If your in-booth activity relies on some form of technology, it is ideal to give yourself plenty of time between the end of your trade show booth install to the show opening to practice, practice and practice again.
And since a technical glitch can’t always be avoided, it’s also a good idea to have a plan B in place. This includes training (see #2 above) your booth staff on what to do if the activity isn’t working. Ideas include memorizing key talking points taken directly from the activity to spark conversation (also known as engagement) and asking attendees for contact information so that your team can follow-up with interesting content or a digital video to engage with the prospect after the show.
- The lack of substance.
Prezi’s 2018 State of Attention Report, found that “nearly 9 in 10 respondents said a strong narrative or the story behind a presentation is critical in maintaining audience engagement”. In addition, the study found that “over half [of respondents] attribute disengagement from a presentation to instances where the story either lacked substance (30%) or did not challenge them mentally (24%)”.
What do the results of this study tell us? That even the most fun and exciting game or activity in your booth is not necessarily going to drive sales or be memorable in the long-term if it doesn’t have substance. So, whatever your marketing message is, be sure that the way in which you present it gives your audience something to sink their teeth into and that it is worth your participants' mental investment.
Your prospects are stopping by your exhibit for a reason. They want to learn more about your company and your offering. Attendees want to hear your brand story and gain a better understanding of how you can help solve his or her individual problem. Don’t allow the bells and whistles of your activity to detract from your core messaging.
Your end goal? To create an in-booth environment that allows the visitor to truly experience your brand or your message. You want to not only capture attention, but to keep it, harness it and grow it, turning your interactive and engaging activity into a real opportunity.