You know the benefits of trade events; new networks, new exposure, and best of all new leads. It’s no surprise that both corporate companies and small businesses alike highlight trade shows in their calendars; it’s a chance to boost your reputation!

But hang on, how do you convince the attendees? The potentials who (far too often) passively look around from the centre of the aisle. That’s not exactly the ideal place to discuss your services, and swooping in like a bird of prey is more likely to startle someone than gain you a new customer. What you may not have realised, but your exhibition stand is the start to trade event success. So… what you’ll need to do is create the most show stopping, sensational, and spectacular stand!

Coming up short of ideas? Here are four tips to make sure the next event exceeds expectations!

USP, for all to see.

Trade shows are far from a guided museum tour, so your presentation stand needs to be eye catching. In fact, economist Marius Manic explains that “most people remember 80% of what they see and only 20% of what they read”; this means that the way to maximise your stand’s profitability is by increasing its visual appeal.

In such a competitive setting, studies show that the public responds to imagery, comic illustrations or video. The general advice is it helps to emphasise product benefits and keep copy short and snappy because you don’t have a big window to capture small attention spans. Therefore, it bodes well to have your unique selling points front and centre to catch someone’s gaze, rather than splurging on describing features and functions that’ll blend in with the setting.

Use a theme, to help 'em dream & use a prop, to make 'em stop!

Beyond the essentials like roller banners, pop-up displays, beach flags and signs that are necessary to an exhibit, choosing a theme for your display is a good source of inspiration and something that can help event goers notice your business. It could be anything from a comfortable lounge area for guests to relax (as posted on Moose Media Management’s twitter page), or decorated in the style of a popular tv or film, though keep an eye on copyright. This can incorporate props like director style chairs that can be easily transported and colourful textile posters that highlight your brand message; these choices really contribute to a welcoming atmosphere that guests will want to visit.

Here, some attention to detail with decorative choices and props will work in your favour because they’ll demonstrate your expertise in your field and commitment to spruce up the event. For example giant props related to your service are always a compelling way to get guests’ attention. Better yet, people will stop out of curiosity and take pictures. It also helps when you’re dressed in something unique, whether that be fancy dress costumes or funky printed t-shirts for all the advertising staff. It may sound silly at first, but amongst a myriad of exhibition stands that opt for safe options and business attire, considering your clothing choices can help your company stand out. After all, customers value companies they feel are approachable. Establishing this will make them more willing to listen to the quality care, advice, and benefits of the services you offer. If your stand looks the part, the first impression will surely guarantee a thumbs up, a smile, and an opportunity to engage.

A freebie tradition, should start with competition!

Almost anyone can appreciate free goodies and they’re no stranger to trade events. Many companies understand the usefulness of branding giveaway material for helping others think of your brand. Still, though appreciated, they don’t always generate the return you’d want. The right sort of freebies are those that are practical to your prospects (could be coffee, pens, USBs or even Wifi during the event) and they are what is worth having available at your stand. Branded fidget spinners or teddy bears are trendy but won’t necessarily be very relevant in someone’s day to day. The main goal is to generate returning leads and useful feedback. To encourage this, rather than simply giving gifts away, tie it to a game or small competition that helps involve potential customers. This way you’ll become more familiar to passerbys than if you just hand out a brochure and free goodie. Keep in mind, you need to create a bond to motivate people to remember and return to your services. Could be bingo, a round of spin the wheel, or posting a photo at your stand; just something to turn a passive experience into an active one. That’ll increase the profitability of your exhibit, as freebies like power banks will need to be earned, and creates a space for engagement.

Finding the right staff, means you're on the right path!

Obviously, a stand won’t engage by itself, it needs to be supported by confident colleagues that are polite, approachable, and believe in the service they’re promoting. Since you can’t take your entire company (well, you could but we wouldn’t advise that), choosing the right staff is fundamental. Passionate ambassadors will really go the mile to manage the stand and encourage people to start a productive conversation.

To round off, it’s clear that creating a stand that’ll earn you cheerful results will take some brainstorming, time, and planning but it’ll be worthwhile. That being said, it makes sense to visit trade shows beforehand to ensure your effort is not misplaced. After all, it would be annoying to invest in a brilliant display stand, only to find that the guests are not even your target customers.

Quoted: Manic, Marius. "Marketing engagement through visual content." Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov. Economic Sciences. Series V 8, no. 2 (2015): 89