One of the most commonly overlooked marketing means for local business owners is the tried and true trade show. But truth be told, they can be one of the most effective mediums for getting the word out about your local business. Not only is it a rare channel in that it requires face-to-face interaction (compared to other, less intimate marketing methods), it boasts some serious opportunities as far as getting your business in front of ready-to-buy consumers.

Just how ready-to-buy are trade show attendees? Check out these stats from Excalibur Exhibits:

  • 49% of trade show attendees plan to buy one or more products or services exhibited.
  • 82% of attendees have the authority to buy.
  • 67% of all attendees represent a new prospect or potential customer for exhibiting companies.

Even then, exhibiting at a trade show can feel like a heavy lift for many local business owners. But it’s not just about showing up at trade shows with a few business cards in hand, and it’s definitely not about spending thousands of dollars trying to outshine the local competition.

Expert Advice on the Topic

According to the world’s fastest growing event technology company, Bizzabo, savvy event planning isn’t just for corporate marketers. It’s also for the entrepreneur looking to expand awareness for your small business in the local community.

When asked how local business owners can stand out at your next trade show without breaking the bank, Bizzabo CMO and Co-founder Alon Alroy had some great advice. “There are a few things to keep in mind. Number one is that to attract the attention of attendees, it’s not a matter of having the biggest booth or the fanciest set-up. It’s about thinking different.”

Thinking differently sounds great, but we know you don’t have endless hours to spend researching the latest and greatest giveaways and swag.

Alon clarified, “At TechCrunch Disrupt, we used a fleet of mini-helicopter drones to grab people’s attention. We ended up getting written about in several publications. Number two is getting whoever is stopping by your booth to stay there. That’s where it pays to have a comfortable and inviting set-up. Standing in front of your booth and off of your computer is a great way to make people feel welcome. Finally, the power of positivity can go a long way. An enthusiastic smile is a very low-cost way to get people to speak with you.”

3 Secrets to Trade Show Success

Not sure about your mini-helicopter drone skills? Neither am I. Here are some additional ways you can stand out.

1. Go back to basics with giveaways and swag.

Thinking about purchasing giveaways? Think helpful, not hip. Though some of the booths around you may have the latest and greatest gadgets cluttering up their tables (things like cell phone stands, phone chargers and wireless earbuds), chances are attendee attention will be focused on these items, and not on the products and services being showcased at the booth.

Think about what you’d find useful at a trade show. Over-the-shoulder swag bags, chap stick, mints and pens are all inexpensive, incredibly useful items to consider giving away. Not only are they affordable, they encourage continued use after the show, as they are less likely to lose their appeal after the initial “cool factor” wears off. So if you can manage to get your logo and contact info on one of these more utilitarian items, you’ll be most likely to garner lasting recognition for your business.

2. Feng shui your booth.

Many trade show presenters get carried away with the branding of their booth, and they forget about the layout and setup until the day of the show. Don’t fall victim to this oversight!

While consistent, unique branding on items like your table cloth, banner stands, brochures and collateral is important, making your booth feel inviting is what will keep people lingering for longer periods of time. The more folks linger, the longer you have a captive audience to ask the right questions and pique interest. And as an added plus, a busy booth is a more inviting booth, since passers-by will want to get in on the excitement.

So how do you make your booth comfortable enough to encourage attendees to hang out? Consider renting some tall bar tables and chairs. If you’ve got a larger space, rent a couple chairs or even a couch. Pro tip: Don’t forget a neutral, gray or blue rug to make things feel extra homey. Their tired feet will thank you!

3. Smile and make the first move.

As Alon mentioned, a friendly smile can go a long way toward making your booth seem approachable. Even when you’re standing there grinning from ear to ear, walking up to a total stranger can be hard for many people.

So take the pressure off, and make the first move. All you have to do is speak first. Greet folks walking by with a simple, “Hey there!” or “How’s the show going? See anything cool yet?” By starting the conversation yourself, you’ll end up squashing the initial awkwardness, ultimately making attendees feel welcome and comfortable continuing a conversation with you.

Alon Alroy

Special Thanks to Contributor Alon Alroy, Bizzabo CMO and Co-founder

Alon believes in the power of in-person experiences. As the CMO and Co-founder of Bizzabo, he helps marketers create impactful professional events.