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How to Engage a Tradeshow Audience Year-Round

by Rob Murphy  |  
January 14, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Four ways to consistently engage your tradeshow audience
  • How to use tradeshows as a long term, lead-generation tool

Tradeshow participation is proven to build brand awareness and help marketers discover new business opportunities. But the companies that fare the best—and maximize their return on investment (ROI)—are those that realize that simply showing up isn't enough.

This article outlines how to build a communications strategy that keeps customers and prospects fully engaged before, during, and after the show.

1. Plan in advance

The first step toward tradeshow success is creating an engagement timeline to support your company's strategic marketing plan.

It's also important to link all forms of communication (advertising, online marketing, media relations, public relations) together to achieve an action-oriented goal. Make sure your messaging aligns with your overall marketing strategy and clearly explains how your products or services can benefit customers and prospects. Value-added information, such as research data or company news that will help recipients solve a specific business challenge, is also helpful.

The key is to make sure communications are free of self-serving propaganda that could alienate customers and prospects.

2. Build quality traffic

Having a tradeshow exhibit doesn't necessarily ensure quality foot traffic. Engage customers and prospects well in advance of any event, and make it clear how they stand to benefit from visiting your booth. Incentives can include special show pricing, access to exclusive research or information, or an in-booth gift (or other giveaway) that provides a meaningful experience to prospects.

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Rob Murphy is the chief marketing officer of MC2, a global exhibit and event marketing company. Check out the eConnections Digest blog and find MC2 on Twitter (@MC2experience_ and @MC2_FastTrak) and Facebook.

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  • by Greg Timpany Fri Jan 14, 2011 via web

    Tradeshows are an experience. They can be fun, tiring, engaging, or all of these. What is important is they are face to face dialog, that is brief in the scheme of things. Following up and keeping a dialog going is critical to maximizing the ROI on these events.

  • by Malia Ott Fri Jan 14, 2011 via web

    A great way to keep the dialog on-going is by leveraging a private online community, like customers of Passenger, Inc (like Nike, Coke, Pepsi, GE, Mercedes, P&G, etc) do with theirs.

  • by Diana Fri Jan 14, 2011 via web

    Thank you for this article. I have my first tradeshow coming up next month and this was definitely helpful.

  • by Caroline Meyers, MC2 Marketing Sat Jan 15, 2011 via web

    Rob Murphy and I thank you for your excellent comments. Sustaining the show floor experience is the challenge for every exhibit marketer. Luckily there are now so many ways we can keep the conversation going long after the exhibit is dismantled.

    Diana, you might also look into EXHIBITOR magazine's education series called FastTrak. MC2 has been able to support these sessions for the past ten years and they are a wealth of solid, actionable information.

  • by Jan Brassem Mon Jan 24, 2011 via web

    With the growing importance of Globalization, Trade Fairs are proliferating. This has become a hot topic.

  • by Caroline Meyers, MC2 Marketing Mon Jan 24, 2011 via web

    I agree Jan. Trade shows/fairs are one of the only ways to aggregate people, products and services, and companies in one space for an intensive period of time. The cross-cultural exchange that can happen under these conditions transcends what digital media can do. But thank goodness for email and the Internet after everyone heads back home!

  • by kbnky Tue Jan 25, 2011 via web

    We have been using fun games to attract customers to our booth. We started out with a prize wheel a few years ago. Now we have a prize wheel, plinko game and prize dice. We purchased the games from and they have all been great.

  • by Caroline Meyers, MC2 Marketing Tue Jan 25, 2011 via web

    In-booth activities can be so message specific. Fun games really work for some kinds of shows and audiences. Others provide information-heavy experiences. We've seen instances of a nice marriage between the two. For a plastics client, we mounted a concentration game where the matches were products and the emcee delivered product information along with game show host patter. Attendees loved it.

  • by Kristin Hovde, Smash Hit Displays Thu Feb 17, 2011 via web

    Caroline and kbnky, fun games are excellent ways of bringing in a crowd, but most of the people that stop by are only their for the entertainment and wouldn't necessarily be potential customers. Presentations are effective at informing attendees of what your company does. Social media is not just used to target a younger audience anymore. I have made several business contacts and customers by using LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, so it doesn't surprise me that these sites would be incorporated into trade shows. Its a great way of getting the word out for little to no cost, but don't forget to use hash tags to make it easier for "tweeters" to find you.

    Also, as Rob said, Following up is very important. Not every attendee is going to remember talking to you at the event, especially if they also spoke to your competitors. Following up is a nice gesture that will be remembered when they are ready to do business.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • by Caroline Meyers, MC2 Marketing Fri Feb 18, 2011 via web

    Kristin, your point about games attracting people who are not necessarily potential customers is an important one. This exact thought was brought out in the Marketing Profs PRO seminar yesterday -- Boost Your Booth. What's important about games is how cleverly they can also deliver your brand or product message and how booth staff can smoothly integrate both game and message into their visitor engagement.

  • by kbnky Fri Feb 18, 2011 via web

    We have incorporated trivia into our prize wheel. By placing the question on the front of customizable prize wheel and answer on the back, we are able to engage our visitors. It works great! The spinner (and the other people that are lined up) learn more about our company and industry. We use the 12-slot floor prize wheel from, as it allows us more space to write the question. Plus... it only ways 14 pounds and is easy to transport.

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