• 4 Ideas to Drive More Booth Traffic at Trade Shows

    POSTED January 29, 2018

It’s an age-old question for suppliers: How do I drive more traffic to my booth at a trade show? Having a presence at shows, from small regional events to the industry giants, doesn’t come cheap. Here’s a look at a couple booth prices:

Association Forum’s Holiday Showcase: Booths start at $3,500

IMEX America: Floor space only from $110 per square foot

That’s a lot of investment—and a lot of pressure to drive ROI from having a presence there. Based on my experiences with shows in the last few months, the overarching theme of successful trade show booths is to make them local. No matter what city you’re in, you can showcase the best your city has to offer by bringing in an experience that helps attendees picture themselves there.

Here are four ideas to consider.

1. Make it a contest.

A CVB from California’s wine region created an interactive game at its booth. They set up nine bottles of wine in a triangle shape. Guests had three rings and three chances to get one around the neck of a bottle, standing about six feet back. If they did so successfully, they got to take the bottle home. (It was easier said than done, as I tried it and didn’t even come close!) This game could easily be replicated with bottles of beer, whiskey, cider or even soda, as long as they’re local to your city. As the show went on, this game got more competitive and people got louder—therefore drawing more guests in to see what all the commotion was about.

2. Serve a local beverage.

Rather than giving guests the chance to take home a beverage, entice them to step into your booth to taste one right there. Seattle did this extremely well at a recent event with coffee. They had an on-site barista who took orders (about three or four espresso drinks were available), and he ground the beans and made the drink right in front of them. I’ve also seen CVBs from Kentucky do bourbon tastings, others sample local beers, the island of Curacao sample its namesake blue liquor, and so forth. If you plan to serve something alcoholic, make sure it’s permitted by both the venue and event organizers.

3. Spin the wheel.

This is a tried-and-true strategy that’s been seen everywhere from carnivals to county fairs to conferences. The key to doing it well is to give prizes that people actually want and/or will use. Some useful swag I’ve seen recently: RFID-blocking credit card sleeves, mini iPhone disco balls, a locally produced snack or screen-cleaning wipes. You also can’t go wrong with $5 gift cards to Starbucks or a nearby food vendor that a guest can put to use immediately. Bonus points for playing upbeat music and adding lights to your booth to entice people in to spin.

4. Send a postcard.

A travel company called G Adventures had one of the most interactive ideas I’ve seen in a while. At the New York Times Travel Show this past weekend, they had a rotating display holding a variety of beautiful postcards with images from all the destinations to which the company hosts trips. They encouraged people to write a postcard to their future selves, fill in their address and stick it in an actual mailbox they had in the booth, with the promise of actually mailing it to them later this year. It was a smart way to draw people in, and the activity took some thought and a few minutes to complete, giving the company reps plenty of time to strike up a conversation with potential customers before they moved on to the next booth. You could replicate this idea by producing postcards with images from your destination as a discreet way of collecting contacts and adding another touch point with them beyond the show.

So tell me, suppliers: What methods have you found effective in drawing in more foot traffic to your trade show booths? Share your ideas in the comments.

For nearly a decade, Elizabeth Tulipana, owner of Anticipation Events, of has been styling events throughout Chicagoland and beyond. We challenged her to put a new spin on the age-old buffet setup. The resulting ideas will have your guests clamoring to take both photos and bites. Forks up!


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