Ready to Take a Leap in Your Exhibiting?

Today is Leap Day, which brings to mind the famous quote from astronaut Neil Armstrong: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” While it may be a stretch to say that exhibiting could offer a giant leap for all mankind, it can offer a giant leap for your business.

Next week is the annual EXHIBITOR Show in Vegas where the industry’s movers and shakers will be showing off what’s new in exhibit design, promotional tools, booth attractions, and lead management. I’ll be walking the show to discover and report back to you on what I find that can help you make a leap.

So what defines a giant leap for you?

Over the years, I’ve watched clients take all kinds of leaps in their exhibit marketing strategy. Sometimes it’s simply signing up to exhibit at a show they’ve never participated in before, or upsizing their booth to gain more visibility at a show with their ideal target audience. It could be as basic as raising the bar on how many leads they want to gather. For example, one company that started out telling me they wanted three or four strong leads (which could produce decent revenue, since they sell high-end equipment), but after we discussed the show’s audience potential and what they could accomplish within the footprint of their booth, they increased that goal to 50 … and came home with close to 80 leads!

Sometimes I’ve been the one taking the leap. I remember one of the first times I upgraded to being a sponsor, it turned out to be the best way to drive results at a show where traffic was slow.

You know it’s not a good sign when you arrive at your assigned booth to discover another exhibitor is already set up in your space! Somehow I had been moved to the far corner of the room with two other exhibits along the side of the main stage. Great location, right? Not exactly. There was nothing else on that side of the room to draw people (other than they were looking at our booths while watching speakers on stage). But as a sponsor, I was able to insert a postcard in the registration bag and an ad in the program (although both had incorrect booth numbers). I had also done a pre-show scavenger hunt, so people came with their forms filled out and ready to talk to me. They made the extra effort to find me in my alternate location, ready with questions and comments based on exploration they had already done. The final result? My leads totaled about 10 percent of all conference attendees and they were all highly qualified. After chatting with some other exhibitors (including some household names), I learned that my booth likely saw more traffic than most of the others in the show.

There are so many more examples … I’ve known exhibitors who turned their display sideways to attract attention, broken the “no barriers” rule with a VIP-style velvet rope entry into a walled space, and show-stopping promotions that created buzz and leads. I hope to discover more of these examples next week in Vegas. But since I can’t be at every show, please share in the comments below what “giant leap” examples you’ve seen … or implemented … in trade shows you attend.

© 2012 Marlys K. Arnold  (from the February 2012 TradeShowTips Online. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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About the Author:

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. She travels the country consulting and training both exhibitors and show managers, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image (2002), host of the Trade Show Insights blog-cast and creator of the ExhibitorEd training kit. To request access to her free video series, “7 Mistakes Exhibitors Make (and how to avoid them),” go to

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