Event Planning Tips

6 Tips to Drive More Traffic to Exhibitors Booths

Planning a conference, trade show or expo isn’t without its challenges. Among them is dealing with sponsors and exhibitors. In a previous post we talked about how to attract them to the events. However, even after partners have been secured, details have been ironed out and tickets have been sold, you’ve still got another potential hurdle lingering: ensuring sponsors are happy with the experience and sometimes the best way to do this is by driving more traffic to exhibitors’ booths.

No matter the event, sponsors and exhibitors come to the table with unique sets of goals and objectives. Meet or exceed expectations and you’ve set the stage for a long term relationship ripe with incremental revenue potential. Miss the mark and you’ll not risk losing the business but could also wind up alienating future prospects — bad word of mouth can be risky for any planner.

How to ensure you hit the mark for every sponsor, every time? For starters, be sure you’re clear on partner objectives going into the event. To find out a raffle fell short or a brand had “too few” email sign ups after the fact leaves you with limited make good options — knowing those goals going in helps you and your team keep a close eye on progress and pre-determined benchmarks as the event goes on, troubleshooting as needed. And, second, be sure to focus your efforts and attention on driving booth or exhibit traffic. Regardless of a sponsor’s specific objectives, chances are it involves driving attendees to their booth or other brand presence. Start there and you’ll position your partners and yourself for success. Here’s where to start.

#1: Promote creative booth decor

At any expo or trade show there are, likely, dozens or even hundreds of brand-driven experiences, plus a sea of exhibitors’ booths. Without bold, eye-catching decor it’s easy for an exhibitor to get lost in the shuffle and, even, overlooked by valuable attendees. While, chances are, you aren’t personally involved in a sponsor’s booth or exhibit build-out, you can take steps to encourage a strong presence during the event. For starters, consider sharing “best practices” along with case studies and images from past partner executions. Seeing the successes, key learnings and other brand inspiration will often set sponsors on the right track so, come event day, their space is ready for action.

Another tip? Consider sending third-party vendor recommendations tied to booth decor, AV integration, design add-ons and more. Be sure to choose vendors you or your sponsors have worked with in the past who have specific experience creating compelling booth/exhibit build outs. If current partners don’t have time to focus on their event presence, these pros can take charge and deliver a finished product that gets results.

#2: Encourage freebies

It’s simple but it’s always effective: encourage sponsors to have ample freebies at their booth or exhibit. Whether it’s a branded pen or other premium or, even, a snack or drink to grab en route to the show floor, attendees are very likely to stop by if there’s something clear-cut — and high value — in it for them.

That said, while having free gifts available will no doubt drive foot traffic, your sponsor may still feel their presence missed the mark — maybe the stop-bys weren’t on-target or people simply popped by, grabbed the goods and left. To avoid these issues, recommend your sponsors tie the product giveaways to something tangible — signing up for brand emails or enter a sweepstakes, for example — or, minimally, ensure those freebies come with brand information and a compelling call-to-action that drives recipients back to the booth to learn more.

#3: Stay active on social during the event

You and your team should be posting to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter throughout the event, using both your program’s designated hashtag as well as those of participating sponsors. But it’s not enough for you to keep posting — to ensure greater foot traffic to exhibitors’ booths, encourage partners to do the same.

More and more, event attendees are following social media to see the latest and greatest emerging directly from show floors. By posting to these platforms and including limited time offers, special promotions or other reasons to stop by, sponsors will boost attendee engagement and, likely, snag some long-term friends, fans and followers — and, even, customers.

#4: Create an event-wide contest to drive massive traffic to exhibitors’ booths

As the planner one of your goals is to get as many attendees to engage with as many exhibitors’ booths and other activations as possible — so why not weave multiple partners together into one large-scale promotion? An event-wide content encourages attendees to interact with several sponsors, workshops, events and other targeted programming throughout the day, boosting partners’ foot traffic while helping all participants have the best possible experience.

How to execute? Consider a “passport” that drives attendees to multiple booths, exhibits or workshops — each earns the participant a stamp or other marker. At the end of the event reward attendees who hit the most booths, for example, or enter all those who participated in an exclusive contest to win a high value prize. The added layer of competition will no doubt inspire even the busiest attendee to get moving!

#5: Use an event app to enhance the engagement

By encouraging attendees, speakers and sponsors to download your event app ahead of time, you’ll have a built-in audience for targeted messages, promotions and other day-of happenings — and that can be extremely valuable in touting sponsor activations.

Whova event app, for example, has a variety of extensions that enable seamless communication with registered users during the event. Have a sponsor hosting a workshop? Remind app users. Time running out to snag those giveaways? Make sure these key attendees know time’s ticking — and, more importantly, know where to go to take advantage of the offer and engage with your sponsor. Even more, Whova has built features specifically for sponsors that allow them to easily distribute freebies and attract attendees, making the above tips much easier to implement.

#6: Host workshops

Chances are attendees come to your events for strong industry insights, learnings and other important takeaways. Tying sponsors and exhibitors to workshops and other programs is a great way to align them with the best content and best attendees, without the “hard sell” that comes from booth/exhibit engagement. Promote workshops ahead of time so sponsors get the benefit of this powerful outreach leading up, then layer in added promotions and collateral onsite to ensure maximum participation. If possible, give the sponsor some hands-on activations during the workshop — introducing the speaker or panel, for example, or sharing featured trends and insights — and integrate them into any post-workshop follow up. Not only will this keep them top-of-mind with participants, but it will make these valuable partners better woven into the day’s programming, a major win from a relationship-building perspective.

Coordinating the sponsors and exhibitors has always been one of the most critical tasks when organizing an event as you need to keep good relationship with them. At the same time it is very challenging to handle it properly and effectively. We hope the 6 tips could provide a strong starting points and inspire you on the way to address the challenges.

Do you have any fool-proof tips, tricks and must-tries for boosting booth and exhibitor engagement? What tips do you have to drive more traffic to exhibitors’ booths? What’s worked for you or your brand during past events, expos and trade shows? Share your feedback in the comments section below!



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Author Yuanyuan Zhou

Yuanyuan(YY) Zhou is CEO and Co-founder of Whova and is also a Qualcomm Chair Professor in Mobile Computing at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She obtained her Ph.D from Princeton University. She is an ACM Fellow and IEEE Fellow and ACM Mark Weiser Award Winner (2015). She has organized tens of academic conferences and alumni events and has also supported many graduate students to attend various conferences to shake some hands. This is how the Whova idea was born. With Whova, now her students can shake the right hands.

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  • #3 is so obvious but so key – and the rest are equally important but we’ve done a lot of activations and events where interacting on social DURING the event really raises the engagement with the brand/experience/event

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