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How Exhibitors Are Improving Booth Traffic

By Spencer Mitchell


  • ROI: the metrics you need for success
  • Strategies to increase traffic now

Exhibiting at a trade show or event can be an excellent way for an organization to drum up leads and get its brand in front of target audiences…

If it’s done well.

Exhibiting is a major investment of time, work, and resources. So, exhibitors should get the best possible return for their investment. This means scrutinizing the entire exhibit strategy to ensure it is focusing on the right shows.

How can exhibitors tell which events are worthwhile? What can exhibitors do to attract more (and better) attendees to the events they choose? And how can show organizers help that happen?

The big question: ROI

Today, many exhibitors prefer to narrow the focus on fewer events that offer the most value.

Often, they’ll dip a toe in the event waters. They may first attend or sign up to be a presenter or minor sponsor. Once on site, they will walk the floor to get a feel for attendance. If the event seems well-attended by the right kind of attendees, only then will they commit to exhibiting.

Throughout this decision-making path, ROI is first and foremost in the exhibitor’s mind — but frequently exhibitors aren’t clear on how to measure it. Every organization has to set its own priorities, but certain metrics can help provide a clear picture of success, including:

  • Lead generation. How many badges did we scan/business cards did we collect?
  • Conversion. How many of those badges/cards eventually converted into revenue, and how much?
  • Social media. What impact did we make and what engagement/response did we see?
  • Survey booth staff. Were the right attendees there? Did you have in-depth conversations and educate people?
  • Travel avoidance. Were we able to hold meetings with clients or leads from across the country or overseas? Who would we have otherwise had to spend money and time to visit?
  • Decision-maker contact. Were we able to talk to a CEO? Whereas if we’d only walked the floor, we might have only met with lower-level staff?

Selecting metrics and then gathering data allows exhibitors to use their budget wisely, delivering the biggest and most effective message for their dollars.

What exhibitors can do to increase traffic and ROI

“If you build it, they will come,” may have worked for Kevin Costner, but passively waiting for attendees to pass by a booth is a recipe for lackluster results and unimpressive returns.

Instead, exhibitors can grab the reins and work to boost their own booth traffic long before the show starts with strategies that might include:

  • Get creative to generate traffic. Demonstrations, interactive activities, AR and/or VR, and product launches give attendees what they really want: a chance to be part of the story and learn about something new that solves specific hurdles. Invariably, the most popular booths are those where attendees can participate instead of just watching.
  • Promote in advance. The show organizer will do its own promotion. That shouldn’t stop exhibitors from promoting the event (and their presence at it) to audience contacts via social media, email, and even snail mail.
  • Strategize sponsorship dollars. Concentrate on doing bigger things at fewer shows. Focusing on a single, targeted show with widespread logo placement, speaking opportunities, and lanyard sponsorship will generate more concentrated impact than small gestures at several shows.
  • Focus on engaging attendees and solving their problems. Handing out tchotchkes might attract those attendees determined to collect every piece of swag. But the end result holds little value for the exhibitor or the attendee.
  • Whenever possible, arrange appointments before the event. If a client or lead will be present, seize the opportunity to get some precious face time with them.
  • Focus beyond just ROI. Think about ROO (return on objectives) as well. This approach can be especially helpful if the purpose for exhibiting is to increase brand awareness rather than strictly for sales purposes.

Exhibiting at an event can provide significant business results via new leads, industry contacts, brand recognition, and enhanced relationships.

But to boost attendance and maximize value, exhibitors can’t just build a booth and hope people show up. Instead, by promoting the booth and brand, offering something of real value to attendees, and holding show organizers to a high standard, exhibitors can ensure every show they choose is a solid success.

Want to make even stronger attendee connections?
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