I recently went to a conference where we had a booth on the exhibit floor and I’ve realized that a lot of things have to come together to assure that conference visitors receive a great experience at your booth. Both sales and marketing teams have to collaborate closely to coordinate a targeted message and an exciting vision.
1) Understand Your Conference Audience
Before going to the conference, a lot has to happen. Get as much information about who will be attending. Are these CEOs? Engineers? Marketers? Technical teams? Non-technical teams? This will determine how you want to coordinate the right message and experience. For example, if you’re going to a conference for software developers, create marketing material and a booth experience that is highly technical. Use industry terms, common acronyms and reference inside-jokes. Along the same vein, if you’re going to a conference with mostly CEOs or CFOs, keep messaging high-level and financially relevant. Technical jargon will only lead them into the weeds and they’ll become disinterested.
2) Education. Not pitching.
No one visiting your booth is ready to buy. Invite people into your booth with the intent to educate. Don’t waste valuable time trying to qualify each visitor with BANT questions! The average length of my conversations during the conference was less than 3 minutes. They want to know what you do, why it’s relevant to them and get your information. That’s it. They have other things they want to do at the conference. It’s better to build rapport with each visitor and feed their curiosity if it’s there. Bonus points if you can share a laugh together during the short time you are in front of each other. There should not be any pressure to buy anything and save the qualifying questions for another meeting.
3) Be Interesting
It’s a given that your marketing material has to be catchy, informative and easy to digest, but you should also have interesting stories to tell. Don’t just tell visitors what you do, have several stories in your back pocket to show people why you’re relevant right now. These stories should be interesting and less than 20 seconds long. The more unique or eye-catching your booth is, the better. For example, one of my coworkers brought her ukelele because she wanted to practice during the occasional downtime. While a ukelele is usually out of place at a conference, after several attendees heard her playing, they came by the booth to talk about it! It turned out to be quite the conversation starter and earned us extra attention. It was a small action to help us stand out.
4) Have Great Conference Giveaways
To be honest, I used to think that conference giveaways were trivial. And that’s likely because my giveaways were terrible. Forget pens, mugs and stress balls. Just like my advice to “be interesting”, your giveaways need to be interesting also. It should draw out the curiosity of the visitor. If possible, give away something relevant to your business and technology. We gave away webcam covers and had a raffle drawing for a very expensive drone. The webcam covers were a tribute to our core business as a web security company and got people questioning “Why do I need a webcam cover?”. Similarly, the drone was something the average person wouldn’t typically buy for themselves. It’s essentially an expensive toy for adults. People really wanted to win something cool and that brought them to our booth. A neighboring exhibitor even gave away a Vespa Scooter.
Every sales and marketing team likely understands these points, but to execute properly is difficult. At a conference where you’re literally vying for limited attention in an ocean of other exhibitors, it becomes increasingly important to hone these qualities. You only get a couple minutes (if not seconds!) with some visitors, and your job is to make those minutes count!