The trade show industry has grown rapidly over the past few years. Technology has fused itself with booth design to create some of the most visually appealing events ever.
If you're still relying on nametags, dull signage or other humdrum tactics to liven up the atmosphere, you could be doing more harm than good. Here are some tools every trade show organizer should have in his or her kit:
1. Mobile app
Planners can now be more connected with attendees than ever. According to Pew Research, 64 percent of Americans have a smart phone—a figure that grew from just 35 percent in 2011. There are so many valuable uses that come from linking visitors with exhibitors and each other that it can truly hurt return on investment for many of the parties involved if it's absent.
An excellent mobile event app will let users check in to certain areas of the venue, strike up digital conversations with exhibitors of their choosing and follow the schedule from the comfort of their phone, according to Event Manager Blog. All of this will provide data that an organizer can leverage to see how well his or her event performed in accordance with key metrics, or to provide statistical insight to future attendees and exhibitors.
Trade shows should be an immersive experience, but staff members telling attendees where to go and what to do can often ruin the vibe. Think about it—from the moment someone walks into the venue, they're greeted at the registration desk, then shuffled off into a crowd where, if they get lost, the staff tells them where to go. Even speaker presentations can drone on about topics the audience may not want to hear.
"Staff should facilitate interest, not direct it."
Instead of guiding attendees to their destination, let them find it and give them the tools to do so. Registration can be done through the event app or a mobile check-in spot—Event Manager Blog reported that self-use tablets work well and get the crowd in the mood to discover certain aspects of the event on their own. When pairing this method with interactive elements like digital LED signage and virtual reality headsets, the crowd becomes completely immersed in the event.
Consider taking another look at lecturers, too. What are they adding to the event? Presentations should be unique and stray from status quo—this sometimes means using a striking image or video as a prompt, rather than a PowerPoint. Question-and-answer sessions should certainly be just as long as the presentation itself to allow the crowd to get the most out of it.
Better known as "free stuff," swag serves two purposes: spreading your brand and giving attendees something they can take home. According to Marketo, these giveaway items can be excellent conversation starters at booths.
Consider straying from the norm, which is normally coffee mugs, pens or plain white T-shirts with the company brand planted in the center of it. Instead pivot to interesting gadgets, like portable power banks for phones, USB flash drives or even a smaller version of one of your products. The possibilities are endless, and the connections made with visitors often returns investment through brand loyalty over time.