how to engage customers at a trade show

Trade shows can offer some of the most lucrative opportunities of any marketing activity.  Nowhere else will you have so many potential customers in one place, all in buying mode.  But standing out from the crowd at a trade show isn’t always easy.  You are surrounded by other stands all vying for attention.  You need to differentiate yourself to get noticed.  But how can you do this?  Here we look at the steps you can take to increase your exhibition engagement with customers.

1. Choose your location carefully

You need to book a space that will receive a lot of footfall – being in a corner on the back wall isn’t going to do you any favours.  Locating near areas that get a lot of traffic is a good idea, so busy intersections, near restaurants or toilets.  Being close to, but not actually by the entrance can work – people will want to move away from the busy entrance quickly but will then look around.  Try to find out where the main industry players are positioned, they will be a magnet for the crowds so if you are nearby you can benefit from this, as long as your stand doesn’t pale into insignificance next to theirs.

2. Think about your stand design

You need an eye-catching stand to engage the attention of customers at your exhibition stand.  Include graphics and text large enough to be read across the hall.  Don’t overdo the amount of text, no one will read it and it will make your stand look too busy.  Think about the lighting – don’t rely on what is supplied by the organiser – clever use of spotlights can highlight areas of your stand and people are naturally drawn to light.  Another way to stand out is to be taller than your neighbours.  Include high-level branding in your stand or have hanging signs.

Make sure there are no barriers to entry on your stand, it needs to appear welcoming.  If you are having a desk, keep it to one side.  You need to make sure the space flows well and there is room for people to move around.  Having tables and chairs or sofas where people can relax for a few minutes is a good idea, exhibitions are tiring, but keep them to the back of the stand.

9xb exhibition stand design for a trade show. Two Open Sides. High Level Branding: Lighting, photo-floor, counters, tv

9xb Exhibition Stand

3. Provide an incentive to approach the stand

You need to give customers a reason to engage with you and your exhibition stand.  Demonstrate your product if possible or allow visitors to interact with your products.  People are much more likely to buy products they can touch.

Have interactive elements on your stand such as iPads, this will not only give visitors something to see but also automate the lead capture process.  Audiovisual equipment will also attract attention.  Use it to run videos of your products in action.  Some exhibitors have a celebrity on their stands to attract attention or a magician.

Think about having some branded merchandise to hand out, everyone loves a freebie.  Just try to think of something that people will use like a memory stick or reusable coffee cup.  These will not only attract customers to your stand, but also keep your brand fresh in their minds for months to come, maintaining a long term engagement from your exhibition stand.

Kuklink exhibition booth design for an event. Three Open Sides. High Level Branding: Lighting, photo-floor, counters, tv

Kuflink Exhibition Stand

4. Reward interaction

Run a competition where visitors can win a prize in return for their details.  Make sure the prize is worth it, for instance, an iPad or similar.  Or have a special offer that new customers who sign up at the show can claim.

5. Be welcoming

Pay attention to the body language of your stand staff. Looking bored or tired will not engage customers.  Staff should look enthusiastic and welcoming at all times.  Sitting behind a desk, using mobile phones, eating or chatting amongst themselves will all put visitors off approaching.  Make sure you have enough staff to allow for regular breaks, it is hard work being engaging all the time, they will need time to recharge.

6. Ask questions

To engage with visitors ask them about themselves and their requirements.  A dreary monologue about your products will turn people away and you could lose out on potential customers.  You need to come across as friendly and approachable.  Try to be more original and engaging whilst by the exhibition stand than opening with ‘how can I help you?’.

7. Keep it personal

Potential customers want to engage as a person so listen carefully to them and keep the conversation natural.  Don’t just reel off facts and figures, and remember that although another customer might have liked one aspect of your product, this may not appeal to everyone.  Treat each visitor as an individual and find out their requirements.  Include personal anecdotes that will humanise you and the business and engage people better.

JD Cooling Systems exhibiting at Produce Industry Fair 2018


Exhibition engagement at trade show you need to stand out from the competition and look welcoming.  Paying attention to your stand design, what you do on the stand and the manner of your staff will all help to engage customers effectively and generate a good ROI.