11 Ways to Drive Traffic to the Trade Show Floor

Skift Take

There’s always one area on the trade show floor that gets skipped over. The success of your event, from a vendor perspective, hinges on ensuring that this doesn’t happen. Drive attendees to this cold zone with a combination of fun and fear of missing out with these tips.

If you’ve ever hosted an event with an exhibition element, you know there are always dark spots on the show floor that get missed by attendees. It’s uncanny, like some Bermuda Triangle that the average event goer avoids. Obviously, your vendors find no humor in that situation and they’re likely not  to return if they were in the “black hole.” So how do you avoid such things? Here are a few ideas to drive traffic to the entire floor, not just to those booths at the front entrance.

Where’s the Food?

If you have an exhibit floor that you think will pose problems from a flow perspective, such as a lower level, you need to give people a reason to visit that area. Food is a great one. Set up lunch or snacks on the lower level, or rarely visited part of your exhibit hall. The hungry will visit.

Host a Scavenger Hunt

Creating a game that incentivizes people to visit several different areas/booths will increase traffic. Ask attendees questions for which they have to go to each booth to find the answer, scan a QR code or use a scavenger hunt app. Consider giving attendees with completed cards a reward of some kind or make them eligible for prize draw for something fun. Another popular option is a passport game, where attendees get stamps from different vendors. Both drive traffic and fun, especially if you combine these activities with social media.

Create a Mini Session on the Floor

Nowhere in the rules is it stated that all learning must occur in a conference room. Break out of the mold and go rogue. ASAE hosted Ignite-inspired sessions in a pop-up “classroom” on the exhibit hall floor. If people wanted to see the session, they had to walk through to the back of the exhibit hall.

Create Interest

Add giant footprints or a path to follow. There’s a little Hansel and Gretel in all of us and when we see a path we want to know where it leads. The curiosity behind what the path is and where it leads will be strong. Show them the path then watch people explore it.

Also ensure that your event signposting and wayfinding in general is tip top. Sometimes attendees can be generally unaware that there is a part of the event they haven’t explored. Think creatively to point them in the right direction.

Host a Book Signing

If you have a large name as your keynote and part of the activities involve a book signing, no one said it had to be immediately after the keynote (or at least that doesn’t have to be the only one you host). You can host one on the show floor too just make sure you have adequate signage to get people there and remind them on your event app, through text, or through an announcement.

Give Away Tickets to a Special Party

If you have a special party or excursion that people love and would go out of their way for tickets, place the ticket booth in your area less traveled on the exhibit floor. People who want tickets will get there but again make sure everyone knows where this is happening.

Use Your Most Popular Booth

If you have a booth that everyone loves this is a great way to drive traffic. At a conference I attended years ago on a regular basis, there was a tourism bureau that gave away the cutest stuffed animals every year. They had a fun prize wheel and people stood in line for these things. Very long lines. But it was a tradition. All returning attendees knew to expect this booth and they looked on the vendor map for it each year. If you’re lucky enough to have a vendor like that, ask if they might agree to be in that less traveled area. Don’t tell them it’s less traveled because with any luck, and the addition of their booth, it won’t be.

Move Registration

If you still do a registration table – and I’m hoping you don’t – you can place your table in the middle of your problem area. Lines always form at registration and vendors will give people something to look at as they wait in line. You could even do things “deli style” where people take a number for service and that way they’d be free to explore.  

If you can’t move all of the registration area how about having a swag bag collection point in the place you want to drive footfall. Attendees can pick up a voucher at registration to be exchanged for their goody bag or verified through your event app.

Host a Contest

Host a contest for the most creative booth or best giveaway. Have attendees vote on their favorite booths. Make sure your staff is directing them to view the whole floor or the multiple levels that you have for the most accurate voting.

Provide the Basics

Sometimes it’s not a “cursed” area but the lack of vendor knowledge on how to effectively market that keeps people out. Make sure you provide some marketing tips and ideas and ways for them to connect easily with customers and potential customers. This could include helping them schedule meetings through your app or reaching out to people in their target market. Don’t assume your vendors know how to market their booth and drive traffic. Some don’t.

David Brull, former VP of Marketing and Membership at the Trade Show Exhibitors Association, suggests vendors should reach out to people and invite them to stop by through traditional mail. He says, “A postcard is pretty much the most effective – and odd sized is even better so that it doesn’t just blend in and end up in the trash. I know one person that shaped theirs like a fish once, and that really brought people in.”

Use Fear of Missing Out on Social

Make sure you are sharing a lot of images of these vendors in the dark zone. Even if you have to stage shots with your staff lined up to speak to them, showing pics of fun things going on is a great way to inspire people to check it out. You can even broadcast live on social. By doing these things, you’ll build interest in the area. After all, no one wants to miss out on the fun. Remember, always include your event hashtag and booth numbers whenever appropriate for quick reference.

In Conclusion

Whether it’s a true curse, a black hole, or the Bermuda Triangle, getting people to visit those less-traveled areas can take some creative thinking. But attendees often go where the line forms so look for ways to cause a ruckus in these spots. Give your guests something to wonder about. Play to their fear of missing out and you won’t have to worry about these areas any longer.