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How to Stop a Trade Show Attendee in 5 Seconds Flat

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By Brian Gordon

The goal of any trade show exhibitor is to stop attendees in their tracks in just 5 seconds, before they take a few more steps and are gone. But how do you do that?

I’ve found in my years of trade show experience there are 5 things that reliably have the stopping power of disc brakes:

1. A powerful demonstration

Attendees are walking the aisles looking for answers to their problems, but they also have their guard up. A demo creates movement that attracts the eye, plus a demo allows an attendee to see for themselves that your product does what you say it does. Put together a great demo and watch the attendees pile up. Just be sure to design your exhibit so that the demo is easily seen. And speaking of your exhibit …

2. A bold, customer-focused exhibit

Your exhibit can appeal to attendees through size, color, imagery, and messages. Large exhibits allow you to build your brand at a monumental scale. Color appeals to their emotions, and helps convey your brand. Cover your exhibit with big images of things that matter to your attendees, be it your products (that they are looking for), or images showing them or your staff in action. And messages honed to concisely convey your advantage, written in large letters, quickly seize attendees’ attention.

3. An engaging opening line

If you really understand your target market, know what they are looking for, and can boil that down into a short statement, the power of your voice is as good as a wizard’s spell. You can charm people out of the aisles by asking a short, essential question. Or tell them what they will benefit by visiting you. Or tell them the experience they will get in your booth. You can try several different opening lines at the start of the show, and then stick with the one that works best.

4. A compelling promotion

When you offer a promotion that your target audience really wants to experience or take home, you appeal to their self-interest enough to get them out of the aisle and into a discussion with you. The best promotions offer learning, an experience, or an exchange of value. Giveaways can work, and work even better when they appeal more to your buyer and not to everyone else.

5. A welcoming booth staffer or crowd gatherer

Your booth staffers make the most difference of all. Great booth staffers stop attendees, by assertively (without being too aggressive) engaging them as they pass by. Your best booth staffers keep their focus on attendees venturing by your booth, rather than each other, or their computer, or their smartphone. Welcoming booth staffers exude positive energy and provide the human connection that is the hallmark of trade shows.

If you are not getting enough attendees in your booth, consider this list and see how well you measure up. Maybe there is something you need to stop doing, and start something else, to get attendees to stop in your booth.

About the Author:
Brian Gordon is a founding partner of Skyline Toronto, helping companies communicate their message through trade shows, events, and related displays.


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