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As we strive to constantly improve our client’s annual meetings and the satisfaction of their sponsors and exhibitors, how to increase traffic to the exhibit hall is regularly on our minds. To tackle this question, a team of three of us recently spent an entire day researching and brainstorming how to best serve our sponsors and exhibitors, and we came up with a number of ideas – some are new and some build on practices already in use.

Provide Guidance Both Before The Meeting And On-Site To Exhibitors To Help Them Plan How They Will Drive Traffic To Their Booth

On-site, it is easy to see which exhibitors have pre-planned how they will drive traffic to their booth and which exhibitors simply set up their booth and wait. As expected, the former has much better attendance and is much more satisfied with their experience at the meeting.

So, how can we get all of our exhibitors to be prepared, engaged, and satisfied? One way to nudge exhibitors to pre-plan how they will drive traffic to their booth is to simply encourage them to do so.

We suggest a two-step process. First, send a pre-conference questionnaire to each of your exhibitors a month or two in advance of the conference to get them thinking about how they will engage delegates. This can also be used to gather valuable data about exhibitor expectations which can assist you in quantifying the success of the exhibit hall post-conference. Examples of questions to ask:

  • What are your goals for this meeting – sales, brand awareness, lead generation?
  • How will you determine if you have met your goals? Examples: specific number of leads generated, specific number of impressions from purchased marketing opportunities, revenue from sales made
  • How will you drive traffic to your booth to achieve your goals? Examples: Pre-conference and on-site communications (social media, e-blasts, etc), competitions/contests, branded giveaways, food and beverage

Second, provide an on-site exhibitor pack to each exhibitor which includes all of the key on-site information they will need (compact version of the program, show hours, key contacts) as well as tips and tricks to help them stand out in the exhibit hall. Examples include encouraging them to post to social media about their presence at the meeting and inviting delegates to visit their booth, attending the social events to network with delegates, etc.

By encouraging exhibitors to identify their metrics for success and plan how they will meet these metrics in advance of the conference, they will have greater success in driving traffic to their booth at the meeting and will thus be more satisfied with their participation and more likely to come back year after year!

Create A Presentation Stage In The Exhibit Hall Where Special Presentations Can Take Place, And Exhibitors Can Showcase Their Products

The exhibit hall is often not the highlight of a conference, but rather a side activity to complement the academic sessions. So, what can we do to make it more of a main event? Plan sessions and activities within the exhibit hall!

Sessions and activities can be for the conference delegates, the exhibitors, or both. If you want delegates to attend, plan these activities during breaks in the academic program. For exhibitor-specific activities, take advantage of slow times in the exhibit hall to share important information with your exhibitors.

Examples of sessions and activities to host in the exhibition hall:

  • Product theatre for your exhibitors to showcase their products to delegates. This also can be a revenue generating activity, as presentation slots can be sold as marketing opportunities
  • Interviews with keynote speakers and association leaders
  • Physical activities such as yoga or Zumba
  • Award presentations
  • Tutorials for exhibitors
    • Provide information to exhibitors on how they can be actively involved with the organization throughout the year
    • Introduce the corporate opportunities for the following years meeting
    • Provide them with information about future conference destinations they will need to know for applying for visas, organizing shipments, etc.

Have A Fun And Interactive Booth For Your Association In The Exhibit Hall That You Can Use To Drive Traffic To The Exhibits

Make the exhibit hall a fun place to hang out and relax, and delegates will come. One way to do this is to have your own booth in the exhibit hall that you can use for fun activities such as:

Photobooth: Delegates can capture the fun with a photo souvenir of the conference. Provide costume pieces and props.

Prize wheel: Who can refuse free prizes? Exhibitors can provide prizes, or you can give away pens, stickers or coffee gift cards.

Interactive games: Have fun with your delegates and play some games. Games can be as simple as a putting green or as complex as a virtual soccer game.

Chair massages: Sitting or standing all day can be tiring. Hire chair massage therapists to help delegates loosen their muscles and relax.

Therapy Pets: It’s been proven that interaction with pets can help reduce stress. Partner with a local Therapy Pet Group and provide them with a booth space to drive traffic to the exhibit hall.

Throughout the meeting, drive traffic to your booth, and thus the exhibit hall, by promoting the activities you have available and the prizes that can be won.

Submitted by Ernest Ho, Samantha Wale, and Paul Fogerty, as part of Malachite’s 24-Hour Challenge (a quarterly event of the Innovations and Trends Committee)

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