5 Tips to Supercharge Trade Show Attendance

By Beth Buehler

Trade show attendance today is driven by experiences as well as opportunities to do business, make valuable connections and learn. There is also the very real possibility that one will miss out if they do not participate. Here are five tips to help supercharge your trade shows attendance, based on those I’ve been a part of.

Have unique, interactive booths and exhibits – At IMEX America 2017 in Las Vegas recently, I was drawn to Washington, D.C.’s booth with a barista creating incredible portraits and scenic landscapes on cups of coffee, and Hawaii’s booth with a man and woman in Hawaiian clothing making bracelets from orchids.

Beautiful orchid bracelets being made at Hawaii’s IMEX America booth. Photo by Beth Buehler.

Destination Colorado’s booth, featuring a glamping tent with a chandelier, picnic tables for meetings, and unique touches like lanterns and aspen trees also stood out as it was like bringing a slice of Colorado to Las Vegas.

Destination Colorado’s booth at IMEX America. Photo by Beth Buehler.

At Colorado Ski Country USA’s annual meeting in June, a session on affordable mountain housing was followed by the opportunity to view a tiny house parked in front of the conference hotel in downtown Denver. For the Colorado Agritourism Association and Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association’s combined conference, also in downtown Denver, Conestoga Wagon Co. also parked one of its luxurious covered wagons outside so attendees could view another option for clamping.

A luxury clamping option. Courtesy Conestoga Wagon Co.

Hold the trade show in a unique venue or a destination that attracts attendees.

Destination Colorado’s Front Range Trade Show is the place where meeting and event planners and suppliers from around the state gather to network and book business. Now in its 21st year, the event is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 6 from 4 – 7 p.m. at one of the Denver area’s hottest new venues, the Hangar at Stanley, located at Stanley Marketplace in Aurora. Holding trade shows in a well-known mountain town or a brand new, talked about hotel in a popular city also can work wonders with registration numbers.

The Hangar at Stanley

Integrate the trade show into a conference as much as possible. The Meetings Industry Council (MIC) of Colorado totally reworked the design of its annual educational conference and trade show, always held at Denver’s Colorado Convention Center, two years ago. Instead of staging the continental breakfast and breaks in pre-function space and the trade show away from the general sessions, they all went into  one big ballroom together. Some suppliers with booths that look directly onto the general session have lounge furniture to attract attendees to their spaces, and the closing reception also is held within the trade show.

Include educational components to increase value for target attendees. – MIC and IMEX both do a great job of offering a long list of interesting educational sessions, a key strategy to attract as many meeting and event planners as possible. It’s easier to justify time spent at these gatherings when there is a combination of networking, doing business and learning. Several classes at both apply toward earning the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation.

An educational session organized by Colorado Meetings + Events for the 2017 MIC Educational Conference and Trade Show. Photo by All Digital Photo & Video.

Make it worthwhile to stay until the trade show ends. – As the first day of the IMEX trade show was wrapping up, I enjoyed the more casual reception feel and made a stop at Monaco’s booth for champagne and reflexology while watching a beautiful video of the destination. At the MIC conference, drawing for their prizes from exhibitors happen at the closing reception, making it worthwhile to stick around until the end and avoid rush-hour traffic as well.

Karaoke during the closing reception of the 2017 MIC Educational Conference and Trade Show. Photo by All Digital Photo & Video.

Of course cost, availability of nearby lodging, a smooth registration process and more also drive trade show attendance, but these five recommendations are a good place to start when seeking to increase numbers at your next trade show.

Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events, attends trade shows and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.