The Biggest Booth and Best Location Doesn’t Guarantee a Win

The Biggest Booth and Best Location Doesn’t Guarantee a Win on

Here’s a step by step guide on getting people to visit your trade show booth.

You have about four seconds to engage someone who walks by your trade show booth. People are already distracted, but there’s a valuable reason to break through and connect. According to the Center for Exhibit Industry Research, it costs 62% less to close a lead generated from a trade show than one originated in the field.

It’s this yield on return that makes trade shows worth your investment. It is an investment, though, and you’ll want to make it work. Here’s a step-by-step approach that brings people to your booth.

Far in advance

Successful trade show exhibitors know that the most important element of a popular booth is preparation. The majority of work should get underway months before the event. Focus on two things before anything else.

1. Set participation goals. What do you really want to get out of the show? Is your goal to sell your product or service? How many attendees need to stop and interact with you to justify the expense of participating? It’s okay to have more than one goal. Make them clear goals you can measure.

2. Do the research. What justifies your trade show booth? Most often, it’s the target audience. Exhibitors often have a wealth of information about previous shows. Does the makeup of attendees match your target market? How can you connect with them before they arrive?

How it maximizes ROI

You want a strategic approach, and that means not rushing through your plans. Like any business undertaking, the trade show event should lead to more sales. That won’t happen if it’s the wrong show, the wrong audience, or the wrong reason for being there. So make sure you choose the right shows, the right audiences, and the right reasons for attending. This will always give you the best return on your investment.

Think beyond the booth

The booth at the trade show is a culmination of your planning. You’ll interact with some attendees who will see you for the first time. But that should not be your goal.

Trade show attendees schedule the majority of their time before they arrive. If you want some of that time, build connections beforehand with pre-show communications. Mailers, emails, phone calls, and promotions are momentum-builders. Start this as soon as you confirm your participation. Use your website and social media to educate attendees about what you’ll offer at the trade show.

Know Your neighbors

Will your competitors have a booth at the trade show? Do some sleuthing. Find out what they’ve done in the past. If they’re always the ones with the biggest booth in the best location, your strategy needs to go in a different direction.

Go past the competition. Ask the event organizer for projected attendance figures. You’ll need to know this to make sure you’ve got ample marketing materials. What sort of press coverage will the event get? If you’ve got a list, you can let the press know you’re going to be there.

Design the booth to tell a story

The best booth doesn't guarantee the most traffic. What matters is your offer. Attendees want interaction. What value-added learning experience about your product or service does this best? That’s what should drive your booth design.

Here are some traffic-grabbing ideas:

Be a charging station

Those mobile devices everybody has in their hands need juice. Even if the show does offer a charging station, it’s just a power strip on a table. You, of course, can do better. Kick it up a notch and be a WiFi hotspot, too.

Wear red pants

Pick vibrant apparel. You want to stand out, no matter how self-conscious it makes you feel. There’s a reason why performers wear sequins. Use the psychology of color and attraction to your advantage.

Apply the KISS principle

Yes, keep it simple. High tech, and the colors blue and orange dominate trade shows. You’ll stand out if you go in the opposite design direction. Especially if it complements your brand. Sharp designs can be intimidating. Go for comfort. Include these two things:

a. Floor mats soothe the tired legs and feet. Attendees will stick around longer.

b. Comfortable lounge chairs are a welcome sight. Again, they’re conducive to longer booth visits.

Whatever you decide to do…

Offer food.

Julia Child, the queen of food, once said, “people who love to eat are always the best people.” She’s right. Food is an excellent way to welcome attendees, especially if it's a sweet treat. It also makes you stand out from the competition. They're passing out the obligatory pen or plastic bag with their logo on it.


How long does it take to eat an ice cream cone? You’ve just turned a four-second window into an opportunity to deliver your whole elevator pitch.

Sale made. Trade show booth paid for. Pass the napkin.