Trade shows are a serious marketing medium in which we invest billions of dollars. In our quest to achieve business results, we often talk about getting the highest ROI (Return on Investment) or ROO (Return on Objectives). But what about the greatest ROF (Return on Fun)… more specifically, how do we make the shows fun for ourselves?
Face to face marketing (trade shows and events) is about meeting people, those unpredictable, emotional beings. To be engaging, you need to be having some fun, because if you are bored or too serious, that puts up an invisible barrier. After a few days per show, and many shows per year, how can you keep yourself entertained (without going overboard at the clubs and the casinos)? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Lean on TripAdvisor or Yelp to find the rankings of the best places to eat, stay and play. I have used this sites religiously and have rarely been led astray.
2. Look up on the show city’s Visitors and Convention Bureau website all the fun activities you can do outside of show hours (try indoor skydiving or exploring the hot springs in Las Vegas, both are a blast).
3. Book dinner with the funniest sales person who is working the show with you. Repeat nightly.
4. Seek out new experiences (noting what is working and what is not) from other exhibitors, such as a virtual reality experience. These can be very entertaining and have some scary realism. You may need to take off your badge to keep your secret identity (another exhibitor) safe.
5. Count how many trade show exhibits you can walk by before a booth staffer tries to engage you.
6. Visit your competitors at the show and ask them what they don’t do well. Watch ’em squirm.
7. When engaging attendees in your exhibit space, stop treating them like numbers on the sales chart, and treat them instead as if they are going to be your new best friend.
8. Drinking game: Walk down the trade show aisle carrying a bottle of water (unless you are at a European show). Whenever a booth staffer says, “Hi! How are you?” you reply, “Fine,” take a swig, and keep walking.
9. Find an exhibitor doing live karaoke on the show floor and jump right in to entertain attendees. It is quite fun and most everyone is a pretty terrible singer anyway.
10. Pick up giveaways from your fellow exhibitors, and then give them back … to different exhibitors.
11. Go to breakfast or lunch with the second-funniest sales person who is staffing the booth. Repeat daily.
12. Look up old friends you haven’t seen in ages that live in the show city, via Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media, and relive the glory days.
13. Create a fun activity in your booth that helps get your message across to visitors. Some things work and some things don’t… be careful to know which is which. For example, cornhole (bean bag toss) does not generally work, but music adds life at a low cost.
14. Walk into an island trade show exhibit and play with their products. Count how many seconds (minutes?) it takes for a booth staffer to engage you.
15. Smile at your booth visitors, even if they aren’t. Pretty soon you’ll both be smiling.
16. Have a contest with fellow staffers to see who can work specific obscure words into conversation when talking with booth visitors, such as “corollary,” “obtuse,” and “a virtual cornucopia.”
17. Walk the show with a colleague. Have a bet on who can count the most: booth staffers sitting down or booth staffers on the phone. A third friend can count booth staffers eating or drinking (this is like counting states on license plates when on a long drive). Loser buys lunch.
18. Have another bet: Before you hit the show floor, bet which trendy new color will be on the trade show displays. Then count the exhibits with that color. Loser buys drinks … that are the color they picked.
19. Throw things at attendees… what I mean by this is to engage attendees with some type of spongy give away like a small nerf ball or similar. You will always get attention when you toss it to them and then strike a conversation from there.
20. Thank everyone who has helped you with the show – your booth staffers, your exhibit house, your manager, the show owner, the show labor, and especially your booth visitors. You’d be surprised how much fun that can be.