No matter what industry you’re in, attending a trade show is all about making the right connections. The goal is to connect with qualified prospects ready to buy. The problem is, at big events, a quiet space can be hard to come by.
Sure, people come for the networking, but between all the hustle and bustle, it can be hard to have a real conversation with your prospects or even the average passerby.
We talk a lot about brand activations and making a big splash—but sometimes the appeal lies in creating a comfortable, quiet space where networking isn’t a yelling contest.
Think about it this way—sometimes our favorite things are the practical, comfortable things. If your booth is all flash, but there’s no place to sit and talk about a deal, what’s the point?
Here, we’ll make the case for setting aside some booth space for a little R&R (though one of those might stand for ROI).
Invite Prospects In
If you attend a lot of trade shows, you’ll notice something about how the booth is set up. Often, you’ll see a table and chairs right at the entrance of the booth.
This is a mistake for two reasons. The first — you’re placing a literal barrier between you and your prospects. The second — you’re placing seats around the perimeter, which is unlikely to make guests feel welcome or encourage them to engage with you or other attendees.
How to Deal with the PitchPeople see right through that charging station—they know that once they enter a brand’s domain, they’re going to get pitched. So, the thing to think about here is intent. Click To Tweet
Don’t try to trick visitors into hanging out in your booth so you can corner them.
That said, you can still include a “hang out” section, in your booth, if you’d like. If that’s the plan, make sure you spend time designing a seating area that is comfortable and slightly “out of the way,” so that it doesn’t impede foot traffic or block more interactive displays.
Here are a couple of examples:
In this one from Adobe, they’ve divided the booth into two distinct sections. On one side, you’ve got computers where attendees can pop by and try out the latest Photoshop features. On the other, you have a more intimate space that could be used for meetings or as a place to kick back and relax.
Another idea comes from luxury office brand, Arper. They’ve created an environment that both highlights their products and is set up for productive meetings. You’ll get the full experience of using their tables and chairs, but it’s a peaceful, functional seating area.
Sometimes “wowing” your audience is less about deploying the hottest tech and more about elevating the familiar.
This example still functions as a “pop up” experience, but it feels like the office of your dreams. The same approach might apply if you’d like to create a calm coffee shop environment or a kitchen counter that people can sit around and chat like they might at a friend’s house.
If you opt for this approach, keep in mind that it should relate to your brand and show people why your products are worth the investment.
Here’s another idea, from our own archives. This project we put together for Winsight features multiple seating areas:
Consider Hosting Workshops
We’re willing to bet that most people attending an event are hoping to come away from the experience with new insights and new contacts. Capitalize on this by building a booth with a space that supports workshop sessions.
With a “quiet” space built into your booth, you can host smaller, more intimate experiences with potential buyers, as opposed to one larger spectacle.
While we fully endorse the concept of a splashy brand activation, keep in mind that they’re designed to attract people who might not know your brand. By contrast, those who sign up for a meeting or a workshop already know who you are and are further along in the buying cycle.
Keep in mind that you’ll want to promote your workshops in advance to bring people into the booth. If possible, get speakers and sponsors involved.
They’ll be able to help drive engagement ahead of the event within their own networks while adding more value for attendees. You’re providing a networking setting that takes the focus off of the “hard sell,” which can go a long way in building trust with prospects.
After the show, make sure you integrate these partners into any post-workshop follow-up efforts, reinforcing the relationship-building benefits for everyone involved, from exhibitors and sponsors to attendees.
Try Setting Up WiFi and Charging Stations
Booths with outlets and the space to set up shop give people a reason to stay for a while. Outfit your exhibit with comfortable furniture and keep the area clean and uncluttered.
That relaxing environment can help clients feel more comfortable and receptive to talking about your products and services.
We know we mentioned that you don’t want to create a space that encourages anyone to just come and hang out without interacting with your brand—but it’s worth pointing out that a few amenities may encourage an impromptu meeting.
Food and Drink
If there’s room in the budget, consider taking your booth to the next level and bringing in some refreshments. Expo days are long and attendees walk around for hours. Beyond offering a place to sit back and relax, a few refreshments can help energize tired prospects.
It’s also worth pointing out that a little food and drink can go a long way in acting as sort of a social buffer for reluctant attendees—when there’s that added reason to be there, it’s less intimidating for attendees to pop by and see what all the fuss is about.
If they’re offered a pastry, they may feel instantly more comfortable in your booth.
That said, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to reinforce your branding and collect leads. Consider running a coffee bar or an evening happy hour—setting the price of entry at an email and maybe a qualifying question or two.
Combined with the right pre-show promotion strategy, a booth designed to support quality interactions is bound to be a win-win for anyone involved. Whether the aim is to create a space for informal conversations, workshops, or your own mini conference room, we’ll bring your vision to life.
At Echelon Design, we’ll help you design a booth built with trade show ROI in mind. Check out our work for a look at what we can do for your brand – be it a quiet space, a big splash, or a little of both.