I was asked to host a booth for a Human Performance/Safety Fair at a Florida nuclear plant yesterday. In between visits to my booth I started capturing the ideas you’re reading about now. Am I an expert at this? Well, not exactly, but I have been to dozens of tradeshows and conferences with poster sessions and booths and have created my own with some “success” – whatever that may translate into in this world of posters and booths. For me, success means return on investment – of time and of money.
So, I have come up with eight of my personal suggestions and strategies when participating in this world. If you plan on doing something like this, I recommend you think hard on this and do oodles of benchmarking based on this question: “What can I do that would be fun for a quick visitor who may be interested in hearing what I have to say or show?” This is way harder than you may think to make something clever and worthwhile. This particular post is not just laden with ideas from me, click on any picture or graphic to see a booth or trade show tips video from youtube that I think you may find helpful.
Suggestion #1: Signage Matters
Start with a cool and inviting sign so people know immediately whether or not they want to spend some time at your booth. Make it noticeable, clear and obvious. Staples made mine for only 12 bucks! For more money they also come with special outdoor material to prevent ink from running in case it gets wet, and you can get grommets to hang your sign, too. All of that costs extra, but you can still get them same day, which is pretty darn cool. By the way, those brochures were just over a dollar each, and the color printouts were 69 cents each, which ended up costing more than my flight.
Suggestion #2: Giveaways
You must have giveaways! That’s what attendees want, so make them thoughtful and interesting. My brochures and business cards weren’t burning up the scene as much as I was hoping. Regardless, I still spoke to dozens and dozens of people. I’ve seen the wheel you can spin, and bean bag tosses or golf ball putting shots, and some people do think they’re pretty cool. These things never really interested me. I’ve been to a lot of large and small conferences with swag give-aways and nothing has really impressed me as much as USB drives, because they are an actual helpful tool… and flashlights… I can always appreciate a flashlight… A lot of bigger companies have policies about use of USB drives for IT reasons, because of virus transfer probability, so this great idea is becoming part of the past now.
Suggestion #3: Sign-up Sheets
If you want the potential for contacting people after the event, plan a prize that has people sign up with their names and email address. Invite them to sign up for your site, but do not pester them or share their email addresses with anyone. That would have a negative unintended consequence.
People responded to my email sign-up sheet for a free Snap Circuit Jr. fairly well.
What people responded to the most for my booth was a logic-puzzle that took verification practices to solve. Nothing to win here, but people from all backgrounds were intent on getting the answer correct. This happens when you hang out with smart people!
Suggestion #4: Photo-booth Phun
After I watched the engineering group, I wish I had a photo-booth area – they had a cool background with clever props and a frame the person holds up. After they take the picture, they make it available to the subject immediately, Poloroid-style, but with two separate and very colorful Fuji-Film cameras. Some of the pictures came out extremely white (including mine), though, so I had to go back a second time. What I liked about it so much was that it was fun. Engineers having fun? I thought the sticks with the glue-gunned graphics on them made for some pretty awesome picture props, and I really loved the frame idea. I would add some thought bubbles, and encourage more group shots with this format. Get your products or message involved somehow – that is the challenge.
I have to admit – I got caught up in the fun, too! Hashtag “I work safe!”
Any time you can capture a memory to make the event stick with your customers, I think your sales mission is partly accomplished. My DJ business took this point to heart and would always take digital pictures at events and give a photo-cd to the paying client at the end of the venue. They always LOVED it, especially when it was a surprise. Cell phone camera quality has made this idea less impactful, but it’s still a good idea.
Suggestion #5: Game Shows!
This worked very well, but took a lot of coordination, a video and sound system, and a “stage” of sorts. Microphones are important and not just for effect, and also length of time considerations and prize possibilities. Charm and charisma of the people with the microphones matters here, and a audio/visual tech running the computer, music, and sound effects in the background makes this all come together. Maintenance had two games they were hosting – one was a Foreign Material Exclusion (FME) game called “Wheel of FME Fortune” and the other one was called “HU Treasure” where the players were asked Human Performance knowledge questions and then chose numbers to see if a prize was beneath them. I thought this was fun and clever and opened up a myriad of ideas for me. I would have loved to see something like a Family Feud where two teams competed against each other with “top answers on the board,” or maybe a Jeopardy-style game, but make sure the players speak into the microphones to include everyone.
Suggestion #6: Let’s Talk Raffles
What are you raffling off that’s interesting and is something I may actually want? Ipads and other notepad-type electronics always interest people, but how relevant to your product are they? The person who up fronts the money for these expensive items is probably not very memorable, unless you can possibly make the items part of your brand. I went to a conference where ALL attendees got an etched iPod with the company’s name on it and a video they had pre-instaled on it. This idea had to cost thousands of dollars and take a lot of coordination time! The attendees loved it, that’s for sure! Perhaps one-of-a-kind items, like a famous book in your field that is actually signed and perhaps even donated by the original author. This could be a win-win if you advertise to the author ahead of time and you can obtain giveaways for free – do not be shy to email or call them. Gift certificates are an awesome idea, but who will remember where they are from? Maybe that’s not important, but as a small business owner, I care big-time about return on investment.
Suggestion #7: Actually Have Products!
Have the products that you sell or work with at your booth. The most impressive looking displays are those that actually have products they sell. There is a lot of aggravation in bringing your products all over, but it’s cool to hold in your hand a new tool or even a tactical flashlight.
Suggestion #8: Multimedia, Sound and Video
Ask yourself this: would a DVD cover laying on a table be anywhere near as impressive as that same DVD actually playing (even without sound) on a screen? People want to experience multimedia and you need to give visuals and movement if possible, which is why at the very minimum I have a PowerPoint slideshow or Prezi or combination of the two playing on multiple screens if I can. This may be a logistical challenge, but one worth figuring out.
Don’t forget to follow up with people who sign up for something you’ve offered. Feel free to email your tips, tricks, or questions to me at HumanPerformanceTools@gmail.com and have a great booth at your event!
Bonus tip for those who read through to the bottom of the post:
If you’re booth area is going to be outdoors, plan for potential wind issues!