How to Create a Memorable Trade Show Experience in a Pandemic

4 Minute Read

Where have all the trade shows gone? It’s another COVID casualty, y’all. And despite attempts to forge ahead with virtual events, it’s just not the same as the real thing.

If you’re like us, you’ve probably got lost in a few moonage daydreams, remembering those carefree, pre-pandemic days. Those cavernous conference center floors have never been so sad, so lonely.

And so hot!

As trade shows make their intrepid return, it’s kind of like going on a date with your high school crush—it’s years later, they look great, you look awesome, and you’re feeling all the feels. It’s finally going to happen. There’s no way it could end badly.

Unless, of course, you don’t share the same vax and mask credo.

And like it or not, if you’re getting ready to dive back into in-person trade show marketing, you might have to think about that. We all want to get back to business, but you must do it safely—or else we’re back to Zooming it … (cue the sad trombones).

Should You Be Planning a Trade Show Experience in a Pandemic? Yes, You Should.

Fortunately, there are ways to do trade shows right in a pandemic—meaning, without putting yourself, your colleagues, or your prospects at risk. And we know you already want to be there, but yes, there are plenty of reasons you ought to.

Due to public health concerns, logistical issues, travel restrictions, and staff shortages, chances are you’ll have fewer attendees. But that actually might work in your favor. Anyone who makes the effort and invests time, money, and the angst of COVID-era travel to get there is likely to be quite keen to buy. There will likely be fewer booths, so you won’t have as much competition. There will be fewer attendees, but the ones there will spend more time at each booth, so you’ll probably have more meaningful conversations with plenty of qualified leads.

In fact, this might be your last chance to capitalize on the lower attendance before everything goes back to “normal.” So, if you’re planning a trade show experience and want to make it memorable, do it with these factoids in mind. You need to seize the moment—because, just like your high school crush, if you don’t jump on it now, some other hot mess is going to step in and steal the last dance.

Dreamy, right? Oh yeah.

Safety Precautions?

The trade show venue is responsible for establishing and enforcing safety precautions. But if you’ve been to any type of event in the past few months, you probably know that most people are so eager to get out there and mingle with their peeps that most of the rules go out the window pretty quickly.

One thing you can probably count on is capacity limits. And being that most trade events are in massive, well-ventilated venues, you’re probably safe there. You could also set up a sanitizing station with branded hand sanitizer and masks, but keep in mind, some people might want to forget the pandemic. They might be more interested in non-COVID-related swag, like candy, hats, or pens.

Of course, depending on your industry, you might have an audience that isn’t terribly interested in mask-wearing or social distancing. In that case, make your policies known with signage and be prepared to enforce them.

Ways to Create a Memorable Trade Show Experience

Use QR Codes

QR codes are a great way to deliver content, videos, demos, and collect lead information. QR codes are contactless, easy to set up and display, and anyone with a smartphone can use them.

The trade show itself might be using QR codes for check-ins, so people will be hip to using them. However, it presents a challenge when greeting people, as you won’t know whether the person is an attendee, an exhibitor, a member of the press, or a hand model for your competitor (hint—models usually come with instructions and glue).

Create Badges for Your Staff

The lack of badges at the organizational level shouldn’t prevent you from making your own. Create custom branded badges for yourself and your booth staff, complete with the company name and title, so others will at least know who YOU are. That’s half the battle.

Make an Effort

After such a long hiatus, you’ve probably picked up a lot of bad habits that have become par for the course in your routine. You know, dressing down, shaving your beard in a weird design, or tying your hair up in a glorious man bun. You and your staff are so used to working from home you probably don’t notice that you’re paying more attention to your phone, laptop, or burrito than you are the people in front of you. Get it together.

The impression your booth visitors take away about your company is highly influenced by your staff’s behavior. Sure, your display matters. Your branding matters. Your product matters—but your people are the stars. Make sure they look and act the part. Don’t eat at your booth, don’t turn your back to the aisle where people are walking past. Make eye contact. Be friendly, engage people proactively. That’s why people are there—don’t ever lose sight of that. More than your signage, giveaways, swag, or a jumbotron playing your greatest hits, what’s going to convert them is your people.

And … Action!

Engaging your attendees is a sure-fire way to pack them around your booth—safely distanced, of course. Product demonstrations are great for that, but you might have other ideas depending on your business model. Think about fun stuff—close-up magicians, jugglers, a dog on a unicycle, or maybe a keynote speaker that has relevance to your audience. Anything you can do to get people to look your way is going to work.

So, can you create a memorable trade show experience in a pandemic? Of course you can. When you’re ready to talk trade show exhibits, sales kits, print collateral, and everything you need to make a splash, we’re here to help. Set up a call today.

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