Conference booth activation strategies to increase event marketing ROI

Conference booth activation strategies to increase event marketing ROI

Alex Patriquin
Alex Patriquin
July 26, 2021

These are only a few of the many questions businesses have to evaluate before even stepping foot on the conference floor. However, once they commit to activating at a conference, one of the most important questions many companies wrestle with is: how will their conference booth stand out from the hundreds of others next to them?

In other words, how will they make their presence memorable? These four strategies will help field marketers plan a successful on-site activation that will lure in new potential customers and re-engage old ones in an innovative and unforgettable way.

Make your conference booth interactive

Interactive conference booth
Photo courtesy of

It sounds simple, right? Well, it’s not always that easy. Many companies are focused on just getting to the conference and making sure they have some sort of brand presence on-site.

But to truly extract value from your conference activation, it is important to make sure your booth is inviting and also has a “hands on” element that can be personalized for potential customers.

Here are a few ways to accomplish that:

  • Create a lounge area. Conferences will have a preferred furniture vendor that you can rent from ahead of time for your activation. Lounge areas are a great way to lure potential customers who might be looking to sit down, relax or charge their phone.
  • Personalize your demo for the prospect. If you’re a SaaS company and are able to do quick demos on-site, it’s always great to (1) use a monitor or a TV screen that can be mounted at your booth (2) personalize the demo with information, data or specific use cases for that client.
  • Focus on an experiential moment. “Spin the wheel” gimmicks and raffles are good ways to collect business cards, but they are overdone. Consider how to integrate your brand into a unique, hands-on experiential moment. From ball pits to crane games, there’s plenty of ways to facilitate a memorable brand interaction.

There are so many ways to stand out.

Conference attendee research shows that “only 34% of attendees said they were very satisfied with their experience at exhibitions they visited.” Attendees are craving experiences at booths. Consider how your company can provide a unique one.

Select promotional items that are practical, yet unique

trade show swag promo items
Steve Carell from the Office gets some choice swag.

Picking the right item to give away at conferences is a major decision—perhaps just as important as your conference booth experience. Why so? The item will serve as a trigger that will remind the potential customer of your brand when they see it.

On a busy conference room floor, this will facilitate the buzz that can build from happy consumers who are excited to have scored a sought-after promo item. At ExhibitorLive 2019, we gave away EventGeek branded socks, which turned out to be really effective.

When selecting your promo items, consider the following:

  • Browse lists of “what’s popular.” Most promo sites will have a tab that highlight products that are popular or are newly released. This information can be helpful for two reasons: (1) you can get new ideas (2) you’re also aware of the items that a lot of companies are buying...and should maybe stay away from them, so yours will be unique.
  • Consider how often your product will actually be used. One-and-done promo items will not provide an ROI that is truly effective for your business. That’s why it’s imperative that your promo item is practical—preferably something that your customer will actually use and hold onto far after the event has been concluded.
  • Research the weight of the item. This may sound odd, but you should consider how easy it is to ship and transport boxes of the items you are buying. A branded, hard-back notebook might seem like a good idea at first, but if you’re giving away 500 and only 25 come in a box, you better have a plan in place to get them to your booth (and maybe eventually back to your office) in an efficient way.

With the right promotional item, you can integrate your brand into your prospects’ day-to-day life.

Go beyond your conference booth with a digital campaign

Conference booth digital integration
Photo courtesy of SXSW and Texas A&M

In addition to engaging your consumers face-to-face at your booth, consider how to set up a digital campaign that will complement your ground efforts.

Let’s face it. Consumers visit a lot of booths and talk to so many different companies at these events. Statistics show that the average prospect will spend close to 9 hours on the show room floor at some conferences. You can’t rely on your booth alone to ensure your messaging stays top-of-mind for your consumer.

That’s why you need a digital strategy to drive traffic to your booth and create opportunities to build upon the brand awareness you have established on-site. Here are a few strategies to deploy:

  • Send an email one week before the event. Cross-reference the conference’s website with your database to see if you have email addresses for any attendees or try to acquire a list from the organizer. Send out personalized emails to prospects you’re hoping to meet and send a mass email to your database inviting your prospects to visit your booth and say hello.
  • Use the official event hashtag on social media. Using the event hashtag to post insights, photos and other content from the event is a great way to natively integrate your brand into the broader conversation. On top of that, the conference’s social media team is likely following that hashtag to find user-generated content to share with their feed, thereby amplifying your reach.
  • Launch a digital ad campaign. Whether you have the full attendee list from the organizer or are just creating a list of contacts you met at the event, you can upload their emails and create a “Custom Audience” in Facebook or target their companies through LinkedIn ads to re-engage through an ad campaign them in the weeks to come.

Tying Your Conference Activation Together

It’s important to use the same messaging on your conference booth, promotional items, marketing collateral and digital campaigns in order to weave all of your tactics together into one seamless narrative and strategy.

You should approach your conference booth activation as an integrated, omni-channel marketing campaign—one that engages prospects in-person at the event and in their daily life through your promo item and digital campaigns.

By keeping these strategies in mind, you can execute an engaging, memorable and impactful presence at your next event.

Update: Santa Fe, N.M.  – Aug 3, 2020 – Event management platform EventGeek relaunched today under the new name Circa, with an updated mission as the first and only event management platform built to help marketing teams adapt strategy and skills to succeed in the new world of virtual and hybrid events. While EventGeek was originally designed to help marketers coordinate logistics for dozens or even hundreds of in-person events, Circa adds virtual event measurement capabilities, ensuring that enterprise marketing and sales teams can adapt existing event programs effectively and unify engagement data across all their events, whether they are hosting or sponsoring an event, and whether events are in-person, virtual or hybrid.

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