How Distinct Are You on the Trade Show Floor?

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There’s no doubt we live in a noisy world with thousands of messages constantly flying at us from all directions, both online and off.

That assault of information definitely holds true for a trade show floor as well – perhaps even more so because of the concentration of messages in a limited space and timeframe. So what hope does any exhibitor have of standing out in this ocean of messages?

The key is to find a way to be distinct.

I recently listened to a podcast interview with Scott McKain, author of Create Distinction, and his newest book, Iconic: How Organizations and Leaders Attain, Sustain, and Regain the Ultimate Level of Distinction. (Here’s a link to that interview so you can check it out.) He outlines what he calls the Four Cornerstones of Distinction, and those definitely apply to exhibit marketers.

  1. Clarity is defining what you’re all about in a simple, easily-understood way. This is one of the most important parts of exhibiting. I often refer to it as the 5-7 Second Rule: make sure people can grasp who you are and what you do in a matter of seconds, or else they’ll pass right on by your booth.
  2. Creativity comes into play when you find some way to put your own unique spin on what you do that your competitors don’t. Trying to get attention on the show floor with a generic, same-old-same-old message won’t convince anyone to spend time learning about how you can help them.
  3. Communication is not only what you’re sharing, but how you share it. Facts and data only get you so far. Instead find a way to tell a story … or even better, draw your audience into the story with interactive elements. Make it real for them.
  4. McKain calls the final cornerstone Customer Experience Focus, and that brings up another critical component of exhibiting: creating an engaging experience. Messaging alone is not enough. You need to engage, educate, and entertain your ideal audience. Guide them through every aspect of your story and what they can expect next. Focus more on building the relationship and creating a memorable experience than on selling them anything. (For more on this, check out the report I wrote for CEIR: Designed to Engage.)

So how can you be more distinct and therefore more memorable? There are as many answers for that as there are exhibitors, because the definition of being distinct means ultimately finding your own way.

But there are some basic strategies you should consider on the road to becoming distinct:

  • Design an engaging exhibit that is uncluttered and has one easy-to-grasp theme and/or message.
  • Create a pre-show promotion campaign that not only gets the word out about what you have to offer, but why attendees should care and what benefit they’ll receive from spending time in your booth.
  • Educate your staff on how to creatively engage and effectively communicate with those who do indicate interest in your company.
  • Craft a memorable post-show follow-up campaign that solidifies not only your core message, but also why you are the right choice for them.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, these four strategies will sound familiar. Yet few exhibitors take the time to do all of them. I hear all kinds of excuses, but really it boils down to one thing: focus.

In order to stand out on the show floor and get the results you desire, you have to spend some time focusing on what you will do to make an impact and become distinct. It doesn’t happen by accident.

© 2019 Marlys K. Arnold  (Reprinted from the February 2019 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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