What Is A Trade Show Interactive?

Adding a trade show interactive has become one of exhibitors’ favorite tools to getting today’s more reluctant show attendees to cross from the aisle and into and their booth space.

Why are trade show interactives more necessary than ever?  Let me count the ways:

  1. Attendees today have more control of the buying process, because they can easily get product info from the web. So, exhibitors must offer a more compelling experience attendees can’t get online to get them into their booth.
  2. Attendees love technology, and spend much of their personal time playing with their phones and tablet computers consuming digital content. So, tech-driven interactives meet their expectations – especially with Millennials, which are now the largest generation in the workforce.
  3. Attendees are overwhelmed with too much work and not enough time. So, when they return to work after the show, they all too quickly forget much of what they learned, except for the most compelling experiences.
  4. Time-starved attendees need a more personalized experience that gives them just the information they need, in a faster and more memorable fashion.
  5. The high potential sales value from trade show visitors justifies investing more to create greater impact and results from each face-to-face interaction.

For all these reasons, trade show interactives are more popular than ever.

Trade Show Interactive Definition

What actually is a trade show interactive? It can have many elements about experience, senses, journey, and more.  Here is our definition:

A trade show interactive takes attendees beyond just looking at displays or conversing with booth staffers. With a trade show interactive, attendees interact in a staged, planned, personalized, multi-sensory way with objects, technology, games, and people to more memorably experience the exhibitor’s marketing message or story. A trade show interactive can be as small as a trade show game on an iPad or as large as an entire island booth.

Now that we have a more formal definition, let’s do deeper dives into various key aspects of trade show interactives.

Trade Show Interactive Ideas

Trade show interactive kiosk game

Creating a trade show interactive requires a shift in perspective.  Marketers and agency creatives have expertise about their company and client brands. They represent those brands in digital marketing campaigns, print ads, direct mail, and other mediums.

Now, the goal is to create activities that help trade show attendees experience, absorb, and retain brand elements and competitive advantages.

You can get inspired for your own trade show interactives by:

  • Deep understanding of your target audience: What industry are they from, their level of management seniority, their main job responsibilities, their worries, and their aspirational goals. And what do they look like demographically – their age, gender, education level, and level of introversion/extroversion.
  • Knowing your company’s brand personality – is your company reserved or playful, youthful or established, risk-taking or conservative, and more.
  • Surveying your current and planned marketing: What current marketing campaigns are working well in other media? What promising new campaigns could be morphed into an interactive experience?
  • Looking at examples inside and outside your industry: Have you and your team experienced an interactive at a trade show that wowed you? Not to rip them off, but to examine the effective elements of their trade show interactives, and as inspiration to raise your game.

Trade Show Interactive Games

Trade show interactive game display

Exhibitors love trade show games because they give attendees a fun, non-threatening way to enter their booth and enjoy themselves.  Games shake attendees out of their trade show stupor and put them in a more heightened state. At that point, exhibitors can more easily engage their booth visitors in meaningful discussions.

Trade show interactive games can run the gamut from an off-the-shelf activity that sits on a table top or fits in the hands of attendees, to large-scale customized tech marvels played on a stage and overseen by a game host.

The best trade show games not only fun for attendees, but also:

  • Match the exhibitor’s brand (visually with colors, logos, images, and fonts, plus also emotionally with the brand’s personality)
  • Integrate with and educate about the exhibitor’s marketing message, so while attendees have fun, they also go home better informed about the exhibitor’s products, services, benefits, and advantages
  • Use technology well, so attendees quickly grasp how to play the game, and have a smooth, enjoyable experience that matches or exceeds their expectations from consumer technology
  • Are affordable and easy to implement, because exhibitors don’t have excess time or budget for any promotional activity – too often, exhibitors skip promotional activities because they run out of time or budget.

Trade Show Interactive Touch Screens

Trade show interactive touch screen displays

For many exhibitors and attendees, touch screens are an integral part of any trade show interactive. Perhaps the most common tech used in trade show booths are iPads and other tablet computers.  Those touch screens allow visitors and booth staffers to navigate websites without a mouse or keyboard.

Exhibitors also design trade show interactives that leverage the touch screen in every visitor’s pockets: their smart phones.  This can include creating interactives that encourage or require smart phone use, such as sharing photos with show-specific hashtags in order to win a prize.

To stand out even more, exhibitors go beyond iPads and smart phones in two meaningful ways: First, they use larger touchscreens, and second, they use more sophisticated media than websites.

While an iPad allows for a personalized, one-on-one experience, a larger touchscreen monitor lets groups of attendees engage with a presentation or an app.  Exhibitors can build their trade show activity within a custom app that allows for bigger impact, still using the navigational superiority that a touch screen provides.

Custom apps deployed on large touch screens powerfully digitally portray and explain physical products.  Prospects can interact with product specs, videos, literature, 3-D product models, capabilities, uses, and more.

While most custom apps let attendees navigate information brought together especially for the trade show experience, other custom apps can take visitors on a digital journey.  This may be a game, a self-driven presentation, or more.

Trade Show Interactive Tech With Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two of the more popular of the higher tier of technologies for trade show interactives.

Virtual Reality allows exhibitors to create trade show interactives that give attendees an even more personalized and sensory experience.  Virtual Reality surrounds and submerges attendees within a digital world that portrays your products, locations, games, and customer experiences.

Augmented Reality overlays computer-generated images, animations and objects over real objects seen through the view of a smart phone or iPad. trade show interactives.  Attendees enjoy the interactive aspect of Augmented Reality as they digital elements appear and move, prompted by where the attendee aims the iPad.

Trade Show Interactive Kiosks & Displays

Exhibitors searching for trade show interactive kiosks and displays can widely range in size and substance:

  • An iPad stand that holds their trade show interactive application
  • A small part of their overall booth, meant to provide more interactivity with attendees, with or without digital technology
  • A comprehensive, experiential trade show marketing campaign, hosted in most or all of their booth space

The first two choices are more common and manageable for exhibitors. Plug-and-play trade show interactives give exhibitors the freedom to experiment with various promotional campaigns as they move through their trade show schedule.  Trade show interactive kiosks and smaller displays also let exhibitors integrate the same promotional idea in a wider variety of booth sizes.

When ambitious exhibitors decide to host an experiential marketing campaign, they desire trade show interactive displays in the largest sense of the concept.  These exhibitors want their display to act as a stage to host the activity. So rather than design their booth around the usual company features, benefits, and product images, their display instead is designed to facilitate the interactive experience itself.  At this point, the exhibit and the experience are combined.

Are You Ready For A Trade Show Interactive?

Trade shows continue to thrive as a marketing medium, because they get thousands of potential buyers in the same big room as sellers. But, to get those attendees into your booth and then have a meaningful, memorable experience, more and more exhibitors are relying upon trade show interactives.

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, feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate a serious increase in excitement, crowds, and leads.

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.