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14 Trade Show Booth Activity Ideas

Trade shows are a powerful marketing medium for lead generation, brand awareness, and relationship building.  But they can also be mind-numbingly dull, for both attendees and booth staffers.

What makes a booth boring?  Nothing does.  And by nothing, I mean standing around in your booth doing nothing.

With no activities in your trade show booth, attendees focus their attention instead where there is movement.  With no activities to host, your booth staffers retreat inside themselves or their smartphones.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  You can make your booth a mecca of face-to-face engagement.  You can be the fun booth.  You can pull people in, and get conversations started. Conversations that become leads and sales.

Here are 14 trade show booth activity ideas to help generate more booth traffic and engagement:

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #1: Demonstrate Your Products

product demo activity to draw attendees to your trade show boothBuyers come to trade shows to see in person the (mostly B2B) products they don’t feel comfortable buying online.  So, have your booth staffers demonstrate your products all through the show. You can also let the attendees get their hands on your product and try it out themselves. The best demos have movement, noise, and clearly prove your major advantages that matter to buyers.  Got a small product? Consider amplifying the demo with a live video feed on large monitors.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #2: Photo Op

Even though almost everyone has a camera included with the smart phones in their pocket, they will still stop to get their photos taken at events.  Entice attendees into your booth with fun wearable props, props they can hold, cool things or people they can pose with, or something that exemplifies the event location. Get your brand into the act with logoed backdrop screens and hashtags or oversized social media post frames.  Or, just use the photo op as a way to stop attendees and start a conversation.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #3: Augmented and Virtual Reality

virtual and augmented reality as digital activities to attract trade show attendeesThese technologies add high-tech cool factor to exhibitors’ booths.  Done well, they let attendees experience products in new, more memorable ways. Virtual reality puts your booth visitors in virtual places in locations and at a scale they can’t in real life.  Augmented reality overlays more visual information over the product or visual prompt they see before them.  Both AR and VR can help you tell stories and make benefits more explicit.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #4: Trade Show Games

Trade show trivia game choices for island exhibitsTrade show attendees like to win prizes and attempt to score higher than their friends.  With the best trade show games, booth visitors learn about your products as they compete for prizes or top-dog status.  Games can be old-school analog or digital interactive games. As people get excited playing, their enthusiasm will attract even more attendees. Just be sure that attendees can figure out how to play in seconds, and your prizes don’t break any industry gift-receiving rules.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #5: Time Trials

time trial races as an activity with attendees competing in your trade show boothHosting a contest of skill, where attendees compete against the clock or each other, is a sure draw. This works especially well if your product users are motivated by ease and speed of use.  Display a leaderboard with the names of the fastest competitors. Give the setting a bit of game show pizzazz. You may even have an emcee who cheers on competitors, which will attract even more people.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #6: Subject Matter Expert Talks

subject matter expert presentation activity in your trade show displayAttendees come to trade shows to learn. That’s why most trade shows have many sessions along with their trade show floor.  Get some of that action by hosting presentations by your own subject matter experts or company executives.  Talk about the latest trends, most wanted how-to topics, and biggest challenges your customers face. Just be sure your subject matter experts are also good presenters – if not, get a professional presenter to learn the content, or to interview the expert.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #7: Attendee Survey

survey attendees digitally as an activity in your trade show displayAsk attendees to share their opinions to key questions facing your typical buyers.  They can share their feedback by writing on white boards, Post-It® notes, texting, data-entry kiosks, touch screens, or any way you can capture and display their votes. Some attendees will be willing to share their opinions, while others will only want to see what others have said.  Either way, you have attendees engaged rather than just walking by.  Bonus: their opinions are a natural starting point for a meaningful dialog.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #8: Hospitality

Food hospitality to invite attendees to visit a trade show boothOne of the oldest ways to bond with people is to break bread with them. Offering food and drink gets attention and gives your staffers something more productive to do with their hands than hold their smartphone. I recently read that people who receive a warm drink (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) from someone feel closer to that person. So, set up a café and hand out the treats and finger food – as long as it’s not messy!  The better the aroma, the more traffic you get.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #9: Entertainers

Entertainers to draw a crowd to a trade show exhibitEntertainers put some of the “show” back into trade shows. Magicians, dancers, musicians, artists, performers, actors, and more, can attract attendees who want to see something fun they usually don’t get to see live. You will need space to host them, and perhaps extra sound amplification.  You may need permission from the show if the performer or the audience will clog the aisles. Be sure to tie the entertainment to your brand or show campaign theme.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #10: Charity Donations

charity or cause marketing in a trade show booth to draw attendeesThere are a few reasons to consider offering to attendees that you will donate to a cause or charity if they visit and interact with you in your booth.  First, it’s an emotional appeal that lets them know you care about something worthwhile.  Second, it can help you build stronger relationships when you choose a cause that is a good match for their demographics.  And third, you build your brand by supporting causes that fit your corporate culture and personality.  As people make donations, let them put up their name on a board to show they also care.  This activity works even better in industries that don’t allow gifts for attendees.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #11: Animals

animals as an attraction activity at trade showsWhether you bring into your booth animals that are cute or exotic, they have a surprising drawing power on the human psyche.  People will line up to pet a cute puppy, bunny, goat, or kitten, and even more so if you have a bunch of them.  This may be harder to tie into your brand message, so it’s not for everybody.  We know of one exhibitor that brought baby goats attendees couldn’t resist – perfect because they sold soap made from goat milk. Exotic animals can tug on attendee’s curiosity.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #12: Arts & Crafts

Art activities in a trade show boothLet your attendees explore their artistic side.  Give them something to paint, draw, sculpt, or combine that give them a fun activity but also reinforces your brand message. These activities will make your attendees happy and keep them in your booth longer. And as they sit there making art, other people will see them and want to make art, too. Then share photos of their art with social media posts and a hashtag to make them all easy to find.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #13: Journey

take attendees on a journey or tour within your trade show boothKeep attendees in your booth longer and tell a more complex story by taking them on a journey through your booth.  You can design your exhibit with graphics and hands-on stations where attendees learn about successive aspects of your product offerings, competitive advantages, or company history. Some exhibitors will give attendees a punch card or passport that can be redeemed for a prize once completed when attendees visit each step of the journey.

Trade Show Booth Activity Idea #14: Experiences

experiences and activities to attract audiences to a trade show exhibitExperiences help create more memorable and emotional attachments between exhibitors and their attendees.  Experiences appeal to multiple senses, create interaction, and get attendees emotionally involved with an exhibitor’s brand or story. Some of the other ideas in this article could quality as experiences, but do not cover all the experiences possible. Some examples of successful experiences include an escape room, a Zen garden, and a recreation of the customer’s usual home environment.

When deciding between these 14 trade show booth activity ideas or others, also consider:

  • Which activities will best fit your brand?
  • What activities will best attract your target demographic?
  • How will you convert activity participants into leads?
  • How much space do you need for the activity?
  • How will you set the stage for the activity?
  • If trained, can your own booth staffers host the activity, or do you need professional help?

In Europe, they call a trade show booth a “stand.”  But that’s the last thing you want your booth staff to do – is just stand there and do nothing!  Choose a suitable trade show booth activity idea for your company, and create motion, excitement, and engagement that brings in more visitors and generates greater results at trade shows.

If you’d like to see more about how you can drive more booth traffic, keep attendees engaged longer, and capture leads with our fun interactive trade show games, click here to ask for a product demo. We’ll help you generate a serious increase in excitement, crowds, and leads.

Trade show activity comparison tool

Compare Interactive Trade Show Games To Other Promotional Activities

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is a thought leader, researcher, speaker and award winning innovator on event technology. In 2011, BizBash Magazine added Sam to its annual innovators list. Since then, Sam has won awards from Exhibitor Magazine, IBTM World, RSVP MN, International Live Events Association and MPI for innovation in event technology.

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