How to stand out in a crowd(ed tradeshow)

Broadreach apprentice Julia Sivakoff weighs in on how to make a memorable tradeshow.

According to Forbes, “Differentiation is the key to success in a hyper-competitive world, and commoditization is the enemy. Become different in a valuable way.” 

A crowd of mini-figures

The key to making the most out of a convention experience is building new relationships by exchanging ideas. Genuine intentions shine to foster effective communication which is the first step is to form a sincere connection. On the crowded tradeshow floor, the ability to stand out is more than just having the flashiest booth. These key strategies will help stand out and, more importantly, make a lasting impression whether you’re an exhibitor, a speaker or just attending, trying to generate some new business contacts.

As an exhibitor:

Optimize Your Team –  Ahead of the event collaborate and strategize what each member of your team should be doing, based on their strong suits and a foundation of interpersonal communication. Within the event, there’s likely a number of different things going on – the tradeshow floor, breakout sessions, potentially one on one meetings and executive sessions. Think about who on your team is best suited for networking throughout the day versus manning the booth or attending educational sessions.

Have an Exhibition that Stands Out – While having the flashiest exhibit on the floor may not be the end goal, it is important to stand out and present a polished image. You want to be distinguishable from surrounding booths and eye-catching in your presentation. Do this by incorporating a creative and lively color scheme or visional into your stand to make it visually pleasing and appealing to visitors.

Provide an Incentive – Guess what? No one remembers branded stress balls or cheap note pads. What they remember is the interaction they had with your team and a quality, useful giveaway helps remind them of that interaction. If you give away pens, make sure they’re good pens that people will enjoy writing with. If it’s technology, think about items that will be genuinely useful and that maybe not everyone already has (looking at you, USB drives). Know your audience and think about the things they use every day and activities they enjoy.

Beyond giveaways, give attendees a reason to interact beyond your sales pitch. Research the demographics event attendees and tailor an activity to their interests and hobbies. As an example, Broadreach uses a homemade golfing game. Aside from knowing that over 29,000,000 Americans ranging from age 25 to 65 enjoy golf, we like the game ourselves. The game runs throughout the day of the event with the winner taking home a grand prize. Things have been known to get competitive.  

Have a Visibility Plan – Use social media to share updates and photos in real time.  Being active on social media leading up to the event and during your exhibition can help generate interest. Utilize different platforms to spread the word about your presence and provide information. For example, use the exhibition show’s hashtag and tag relevant accounts to boost your visibility. There has been an increase in reporters turning to social networks for news story ideas so it may spark interest by media as well as the general public.

As an attendee:

Put Your Best Foot Forward – By putting forth the best impression for your business or yourself you will generate more connects and cultivate more relationships. Some companies opt for branded polos, some for suits and we’ve seen everything in between. Know the audience and make sure you’re dressed to impress. Keep in mind that if you’re not exhibiting, you are your booth.

Have a Goal – Why are you attending? To learn something new? Make new contacts? Chase down a meeting with that one, super-important prospect that could make your year? It’s easy to get distracted at the show. Make sure you identify your highest priority and keep it clear in your mind.

Get Social – Stay connected by using social media platforms to react, share updates and photos in real time throughout the event. It’s good content for your channels and can sometimes lead to unexpected connections at the show.

Know Your Industry – Position yourself as an expert. Use current news stories, industry trends and recent projects as talking points. Get to the heart of the brand and ask thought provoking questions. To make the most out of conventions or events where you have high visibility, it is very beneficial if you have a “three-ring binder” in your head at the ready so that you know the ins and outs of your field of expertise and your company’s mission statement so that you can eloquently answer any questions new connections might have.

Invest Your Time Wisely – Be discerning when choosing business prospects and prioritize your time to effectively communicate how you can help their company excel. For example, “We specialize in helping large-scale, complex firms in highly technical, and regulated industries clarify their stories and connect with their most important audiences.”

As a speaker:

Be Prepared – Create a template to have for a reference and create sample questions you think the audience may ask so that you have a solid communication plan consisting of concise and concrete messages.

Content – Know your intended audience and craft relevant messages that they will relate to.  

Context – Provide background to the content and activate prior knowledge while referencing current examples so that the audience will see you as credible source.

Be Thoughtful – If you’re participating on a panel, remember that it’s not the You Show. The audience wants to hear from you, and they want to hear from the other panelists as well. Practice active listening and try to create opportunities for your fellow panelists to add value to your answers.

Create a Safe Environment – Make the audience comfortable asking questions to create a conversation. Your audience is there to learn and the best way to learn, and by extension remember you, is through questions. Greet and/or thank people for their questions, as appropriate for the venue, even if it’s a tough or uncomfortable question. Repeat a paraphrased question to show that you were listening and to ensure everyone in the audience heard. And then answer it to the best of your ability. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and offer to research an answer.

Close the Loop – Test for understanding and create closure by repeating your key points. (Hint: You should only have a few…)

In the end, a tradeshow or an event is a big investment. Of time, money, and human capital. Make sure you invest the time to plan accordingly and maximize your investment.