How to Maximize Attendees' Time in Your Trade Show & Expo Floor

About 8 years ago, I was a vendor at, what was promised to be, ‘the largest event showcase’ in my home city of Philadelphia. At the time, I was working full time for a well-known, high-end catering and event venue and took the entire day out of the office. Between setting up the booth, manning the booth and leaving myself time to network, it was a huge undertaking.

There must have been over 200 vendors that filled the Convention Center floor—everyone from lighting companies to staging, venue representatives and event designers packed the space. We were set up 15 minutes prior to the start of the event as instructed…and we waited.

And waited.

Oh, and waited some more.

The event began at 10:00am, and we did not see one person roaming that expo floor until well after 3;30pm. Even then, I would estimate less than 50 planners actually walked the expo. Many of those who did, came for the candy, giveaways or promotional items and did not have intentions to book business with any of us.

What. A. Waste.

After having that experience, I vowed to never make that mistake for events I plan—but it isn’t always easy. Below are some tips to ensure that your attendees are drawn to, and stay on, the expo floor.

Use Space to Your Advantage

When possible, try putting your expo in a central location that attendees will walk through during the conference. A great example I saw of this was at this year’s Cannabis World Congress, where the Expo was in the middle of the Javitz Center floor and the workshops were on the outside. Attendees were driven to walk through the space, just bit the nature of the event setup itself.

Schedule Strategically

When you’re developing your schedule, make sure that you have dedicated time for the attendees to interact and enjoy the expo floor. For a multi-day conference, having an hour or two a day isn’t typically sufficient for those partners who are spending sponsorship dollars to meet your attendees! Depending on the size of the space and the amount of attendees, having grab-and-go meals and networking within the space is a great way to ensure your attendees will remain in the space for a longer period of time.

Upgrade Your Sponsors’ Experience

I’ve discussed many times how to think ‘beyond the booth,’ but something that I saw at BIzBash New York that I loved, were the quick, 20 minute sponsored sessions to the side of the expo floor. There were some challenges (sound, people walking through the space), but it definitely made even sponsored sessions feel like they ‘came alive.’

Another option, if you have media onsite, would be to schedule interviews or live broadcasts from the Expo space, depending on sound restrictions (some podcasts, for example, like to have the background noise when broadcasting live!).

Use Event Technology

Event apps and bots offer a unique advantage to a planner, as they typically have a feature that allows push notifications or text messages to be sent to anyone enrolled in the service. The messaging behind this outreach is what will separate the sponsors who gain attendee attention through this method and those who lose it, but a quick run-down of some options with the company’s communications or marketing team is a great way to ensure you’re communicating the right message.

These are just some of the ways you can make sure that your key stakeholders and sponsors are able to maximize their exposure at your events. What are your favorite expo and trade show secrets?

Photo by Dreamplay for VOICE 2018