5 technologies to entice trade show exhibitors

Aside from reaching out to attendees, another perennial challenge all trade show organizers face is finding exhibitors, the lifeblood of many business events.

This begs the question: how do you convince an exhibitor to sign up for your trade show? 

The pain points of trade show exhibitors 

The key to convincing vendors to be at your event is knowing what their pain points are. 

Ultimately, most, if not all, vendors care about attracting customers. If they are a B2B enterprise, they probably want to generate qualified leads with potential clients or build relationships with suppliers, investors, and prospective partners.

According to the Display Wizard Exhibitor Survey, 64 percent of exhibitors cared most about the quality of attendees when choosing to exhibit at a trade show. This was followed by the actual cost of setting up at the event (53 percent) and the venue’s geographical location (38 percent). 

In other words, if you want to get an exhibitor to sign up for your event, you need to prove your trade show is worth their time and financial investment. 

Tech to the rescue

Fortunately, the advent of events-focused technologies has made it easier than ever to demonstrate the ROI of your event to potential exhibitors. 

High-end trade shows like CES, DreamForce, and E3 use tech such as QR codes and beacons to help vendors engage attendees effectively and efficiently. We take a look at a few of these technologies and how they work below.  

Event apps with QR code tech

Digital QR codes leverage two common bits of technology:

  1. A smartphone (or tablet device) camera, which acts as a QR code scanner
  2. An app that reads the QR code and converts it into usable information

Using any smartphone, exhibitors can scan the QR codes on the badges (or phones) of their booth visitors for efficient lead generation. And because the event app collects and stores additional information from attendees, such as their industry background, event objectives, and demographic data, exhibitors can acquire a richer set of insights about their leads, which they can use to engage them after the event. 

Way-finding kiosks

Trade shows can be one big confusing mess, especially for first-time attendees. One way to ensure that people can find their way to the booths they want to see is to place multiple way-finding kiosks in strategic locations throughout your event floor—ideally one on each entrance and one in the middle of the floor. 

Way-finding kiosks typically include things like your event floor plan, complete with exhibit locations, food and beverage stands, and session room maps. You can also include searchable information such as a brief overview of every exhibitor at your event, times and backgrounds of your speakers, and schedules of keynotes and other events to see at the show. 

You could argue that maps on event apps make way-finding kiosks obsolete, but there’s something to be said about providing a way for people to look for exhibits in a format that everyone can walk up to and use.

Live event analytics

Giving your exhibitors the ability to gather and respond to real-time analytics data allows them to do things such as:

  • Respond to customer complaints
  • Adjust their marketing messages
  • Boost their brand visibility by pushing raffles, giveaways, coupons depending on attendees’ response to their products

Furthermore, providing exhibitors with live event analytics helps them decide whether signing up your next event is a worthwhile proposition. It also allows them to measure their exhibit’s performance, helping them understand how they did and where they can improve. 

Instead of relying on guesswork, your exhibitors get real, actionable insights on how to market themselves, position their products and services, and respond to common attendee concerns. 

Matchmaking apps

As mentioned earlier, attendee quality is the top concern exhibitors have with events. Unfortunately, research by Spingo shows that only 6 percent of marketers believe their organizations succeed in converting trade show leads, contacts, and conversations into customers.

Instead of focusing exclusively on getting as many people to your event as possible, you can invest in a matchmaking platform that creates custom networking opportunities between attendees who are looking for specific products and services and the exhibitors providing them at your event.

At Toasty, we help exhibitors and attendees develop meaningful business connections at your event by facilitating matches with Artificial Intelligence technology based on shared interests, objectives, and needs. Our Toasty matchmaking platform does this by asking attendees questions such as:

  • What types of companies would you be interested in meeting at this event? 
  • What products or services do you want to see? 

We can also provide your exhibitors with an overview of their matches (and vice versa), allowing them to see the exact person they’ll be talking to. This way, your exhibitors will have an idea of the potential talking points they can cover during their self-arranged meetings. 

However, it’s also important to consider where these meetings take place. A lot of times, business meetings between matched parties happen in a dedicated meeting area. If an exhibitor only has two representatives present at a trade show, you can imagine how inconvenient it is to juggle manning the booth and being in a meeting. 

Toasty takes care of this by allowing exhibitors to set up one-on-one meetings at their own booth, so they can stay where they are and maximize the number of people they engage with.

Augmented reality

Immersive experiences made possible by augmented reality (AR) may seem gimmicky today, but we expect the technology to be the future of events as companies like Google and Apple are including it as a standard feature into their devices. 

Through AR, you can create an interactive experience that combines real environments with virtual elements and interfaces. A device, such as your phone or a wearable headset, augments your environment by overlaying digital animations, such as arrows, text, diagrams, or moving images, creating a richer visual experience.

AR is particularly useful for showcasing products, which can be a challenge for companies in certain industries. For example, it can be impractical to bring full-scale heavy equipment to a trade show. This is where AR can be the perfect tool to help booth visitors explore and interact with your products.

In the example below, Emerson used AR to show visitors a virtual representation of the inner workings of their equipment, creating an immersive exhibit experience.

Show your exhibitors your trade show is worth their time and money

Ultimately, getting exhibitors to sign up or return to your trade show is about helping them realize a return on their investment. 

Event technologies now make it possible for you to track and measure the performance of your exhibitors. This gives them a clear picture of what attendees like about their exhibit, what attendees want to see more of, and how exhibitors can effectively engage attendees based on their event needs and goals.