What Makes Attendees WANT to Come to Your Booth?

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) recently released the second report in its newest series, 2016 Attendee Retention Insights Part Two: Exhibition Floor Features that Build a Loyal Alumni Attendee Audience.

The goal of this report is to provide Tradeshow Management with key attendee data that can help them grow their attendance, keep the attendees they have, and improve the experience for everyone (exhibitors included).

Using the transitive theory (see … I’m using my HS Algebra), these goals can be extended to individual exhibitors as well.

I urge you to review the entire study to assess specific information that address your individual needs and goals, but this blog will explore one of the study’s two key findings.

The two key findings are:

  • The primary exhibition floor feature that builds loyalty is the quality of face-to-face interactions with booth staff.
  • The second exhibition floor feature that builds loyal alumni is the quality of product interactions.

I don’t think anyone reading this blog will find this particularly earth-shattering news, but once again we are reminded of the importance of Booth Staff interactions, and how we communicate our product/service features/benefits/differentiators.

The irony for me, however, is the fact that when I walk show floors … and I walk MANY show floors across multiple industries … I routinely witness under-performing booth staff and weak in-booth demos … the two areas that the CEIR study indicates influence attendee opinions the most.

I commiserate. The vast majority of tradeshow marketers—probably 99.999%–work extremely hard to deliver a quality exhibit experience, and they are often undermined by shrinking budgets, pressured timelines, and reduced staff.  It’s tough.

Using the CEIR Study as a guide, it would appear that the two paramount ways to improve your booth experience are;

  • Booth Staff Training
  • Facilitated In-Booth Demos

I’ve written quite a bit about Booth Staff Training, and for more information I suggest reviewing this blog post and this Tradeshow Staff Training White Paper.

Right now, let’s explore the Facilitated Demo.

Your Sales Reps know what they’re doing when it comes to interacting one-on-one with their customers.  A few may have the charisma it takes to interact in a one-to-many situation, but practically NO sales rep has the knowledge or expertise it takes to put together a compelling in-booth demo that will cut through the show-floor clutter, unify the audience, deliver clear and consistent high-level messaging, AND keep an audience involved throughout the course of a demo … and do this 2X to 3X per hour … all day … for 3-4 days.

This is where you need to bring in the hired guns.  A well-defined, Professionally Facilitated Demo will attract, engage, qualify, deliver consistent messaging, connect leads with your reps, and enable your “demo experts” to relax and do what they know how to do … demo the product.

Imagine this scenario:

  • 1-2 Professional Engagers intercept attendees in the aisle, greet them, begin the lead qualification process, and invite them to watch the demo that’s about to begin.
  • A Professional Facilitator, perhaps working on mic, greets the growing crowd and generates interest.
  • The Professional Facilitator delivers high-level brand messaging to frame the demo and educate attendees about the brand.
  • The Facilitator now introduces the “Expert” to perform the actual demo.
  • Throughout the demo, the Facilitator engages with your expert, helping guide and energize it. A Q&A/Interview format is effective.  All of this interaction has been predetermined (talking points, etc.)
  • When done, the Facilitator fields questions from the audience, repeats them on mic for all to hear, and the Expert answers them.
  • The Facilitator acts as the “Time Police,” taking “one last question,” before delivering closing high-level messaging and a powerful call-to-action.
  • The Facilitator, the Engagers, and the Rep, escort attendees to product kiosks to connect with sales reps for detailed sales conversations.

This process is repeated 2x per hour … or more if the demos are short.


  • A steady stream of educated & qualified attendees flow into your booth and connect with your reps.
  • Reps spend the majority of their day talking with interested attendees and not standing on the aisles trying to lure people into the exhibit.
  • Your exhibit is constantly filled with energy.
  • ALL attendees, qualified or not, receive clear, consistent, and specific brand messaging that promotes powerful word-of-mouth and overall brand recognition.

Additionally, your demo experts could rotate throughout the day, enabling each rep to schedule client meetings, etc. The reps stay fresh, and the hard part is left to the Professionals.

Of course, the next hurdle is the subsequent interactions these attendees have with your reps, but that’s another issue.

Facilitated Demos help accomplish your business goals, and, as the CEIR study indicates, it services the entire show.

This aligns with the old saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats” … but I’ll let you in a little secret; if you’re the one implementing the Facilitated Demo, it will lift YOUR boat the most!