Written by Sofia Troutman.

Learn how to better engage trade show attendees by reviewing this telling research from CEIR about tactics attendees engage with on the show floor.

The 2017 Attendee Floor Engagement Study by CEIR, the Center for Exhibition and Industry Research, shows which engagement strategies are most likely to drive attendees to engage with people and product at the trade show floor.  After all, that is a big part of why we exhibit, right?  To get the attention of attendees.  To get them to visit our booth, talk to us, check out what we offer and hopefully, eventually, if we play our cards right, have a relevant offering for them and follow up to make a sale.


The number one thing that brings people to B2B shows is the quality of the interactions attendees have with booth staff and experts.   One important opportunity that tends to be overlooked when selecting staffers is the opportunity to enhance that experience with technical product experts.

In my mind, the percentage of attendees that engage with a particular tactic is less important than what opportunity is more successful in engaging attendees than is likely to be offered by exhibitors.  In other words, what is the gap between what the exhibitor might offer and what is likely to engage the end user?  That is where the latent opportunity is.  So, for instance, I think the opportunity is bigger for receptions, lunches, and meetups where the offer gap is 42% than for talking to sales and marketing staff with a gap of only 6%.   This gap is important because it gives your company an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and differentiate yourself.

Tactic Percent of Attendees engaged through Percent of Exhibitors offering this engagement tactic  Opportunity  Gap
Talking to sales, marketing staff            81%                        75%             6%
Talking to technical product experts            79%                        52%            27%
Talking to executive management            72%                        56%            16%
Receptions, lunches, meetups in the booth            64%                        22%            42%
Product user, peer to peer interaction area            61%                       24%           37%
Area for meetings with booth staff            59%                       30%           29%

What this table tells us is that it is expected that you will have sales and marketing people in the booth and attendees will talk to them.  However, not many exhibitors will have receptions or peer-to-peer interaction areas yet there is a high interest by attendees to have that experience.


While some opportunities could be big, they may be outside of your budget.   For example, having a celebrity in your booth is sure to draw attendees and few other exhibitors will do it, but finding a celebrity to come to the trade show is beyond most of our budgets.  That said, if you are in a niche industry or participating in a local show, you may be able to get an industry or local celebrity which can be much more affordable.  Or better yet, you can devise a game to help educate your visitors about your company or product benefits and stand out even more for probably a fraction of the cost.

Tactic Percent of Attendees engaged through Percent of Exhibitors offering this engagement tactic  Opportunity      Gap
Theater style presentations                51%                        5%               46%
Booth tours                49%                       10%               39%
Invitations to provide product feedback                44%                       19%               25%
Games that help educate attendees                67%                        7%               60%
Celebrities in the booth                65%                        5%               60%
Fun games with no link to showcased products                58%                      10%              48%
Augmented or Virtual reality devices                47%                       2%              45%
Hands-on activity e.g. writing a statement to finish sentence                48%                       6%              42%


Many exhibitors bring products to the show.  Yet, other exhibitors don’t have them or have products that are hard to transport or showcase.   However, if your company does have products and it is practical to bring samples, know that attendees value the opportunity to view and interact with them in person and many are open to purchasing them on site.  Also, most attendees want the opportunity to have the exhibitor capture the information about what products they are interested in so the exhibitor can follow up with them about it after the show.  This is a great opportunity to get detailed information about their product interaction and interests at the show so you can better communicate about their specific needs and explain to them why your company can help after the event is over.

Tactic Percent of Attendees engaged through Percent of Exhibitors offering this engagement tactic  Opportunity  Gap
Interactive product displays – can see, touch, taste, etc.               78%                       46%             32%
Badge scan by exhibit staff to capture product interest for follow up               76%                       43%            33%
Ability to purchase product on premise               57%                       19%            38%
Area for one-on-one or small group product demos               56%                       39%            17%
Interactive screens/ tablets promoting products               50%                       24%            26%


Let’s be honest, fewer and fewer people want to carry heavy literature when they are at a show.   Offer to send them a PDF instead (bonus you can get their contact information).

It is worth noting that both self-serve and digital product information are very attractive to attendees yet are seldom offered by exhibitors.

Tactic Percent of Attendees engaged through Percent of Exhibitors offering this engagement tactic  Opportunity  Gap
Printed product information                  62%                        87%            -25%
Digital product information                  46%                       29%            17%
Self-serve product info request options. E.g. badge scan, send email, etc.                  40%                       12%            28%


Tactic Percent of Exhibitors using
Giveaways/samples for visiting                        67%
Raffle prize drawings                       40%
In booth activity that can be shared on social media                       19%
Amenities for attendees (charging station, beverage service, etc.)                       15%
Game that gives attendees a chance for fun no linkage to Co. products                       10%
Games that help educate attendees about your products.                         7%

The CEIR research also analyses the emotional triggers that are used to engage attendees depending on the exhibiting objectives.   They evaluated the type of emotional messaging used as it compared with their objectives.   However, I will not cover that information in this summary.

This is an excellent study that included 972 exhibitor surveys and 172 exhibition organizers and 10 in-depth exhibition executive interviews.   If you are planning your next exhibit and are looking for some good food for thought regarding engagement tactics, this would be an excellent read.   You can purchase it and more research reports about the Exhibition Industry by going to the Research page on the CEIR website.

 About the Author:
Sofia is the Customer Engagement and Industry Relations Manager for Skyline Exhibits. An experienced marketing professional with branding, innovation and product commercialization expertise, she heads up Skyline’s marketing efforts in customer engagement, exhibitor education, industry relations and market research.

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