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16 Fun Things to Do at a Trade Show

February 10, 2012

By Mike Thimmesch

Trade shows are a serious marketing medium in which we invest billions of dollars. In our quest to achieve business results, we often talk about getting the highest ROI (Return on Investment) or ROO (Return on Objectives).  But what about the greatest ROF (Return on Fun)?

Trade shows are about meeting people, those unpredictable, emotional beings.  To be engaging, you need to be having some fun, because if you are bored or too serious, that puts up an invisible barrier.  After a few days per show, and many shows per year, how can you keep yourself entertained (without going overboard at the clubs and the casinos)?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Look up on the show city’s Visitors and Convention Bureau website all the fun activities you can do outside of show hours (try indoor skydiving in Las Vegas, it’s a blast).
  2. Go to dinner with the funniest sales person who is staffing the booth.  Repeat nightly.
  3. Count how many trade show booths you can walk by before a booth staffer tries to engage you.
  4. Visit your competitors at the show and ask them what they don’t do well.  Watch ’em squirm.
  5. When you meet attendees in your booth, stop treating them like numbers on the sales chart, and treat them instead as if they are going to be your new best friend.
  6. Drinking game: Walk down the trade show aisle carrying a bottle of water (unless you are at a European show).  Whenever a booth staffer says, “Hi! How are you?” you reply, “Fine,” take a swig, and keep walking.
  7. Pick up giveaways from your fellow exhibitors, and then give them back … to different exhibitors.
  8. Go to lunch with the second-funniest sales person who is staffing the booth.  Repeat daily.
  9. Look up old friends you haven’t seen in ages that live in the show city, via Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media, and relive the glory days.
  10. Create a fun activity in your booth that helps get your message across to visitors.
  11. Walk into an island trade show exhibit and play with their products. Count how many seconds (minutes?) it takes for a booth staffer to engage you.
  12. Smile at your booth visitors, even if they aren’t.  Pretty soon you’ll both be smiling.
  13. Have a contest with fellow staffers to see who can work specific obscure words into conversation when talking with booth visitors, such as “corollary,” “obtuse,” and “Sandra Day O’Connor.”
  14. Walk the show with a colleague.  Have a bet on who can count the most: booth staffers sitting down or booth staffers on the phone.  A third friend can count booth staffers eating or drinking. (This is like counting states on license plates when on a long drive.)  Loser buys lunch.
  15. Have another bet: Before you hit the show floor, bet which trendy new color will be on the trade show displays.  Then count the exhibits with that color.  Loser buys drinks … that are the color they picked.
  16. Thank everyone who has helped you with the show – your booth staffers, your exhibit house, your manager, the show owner, the show labor, and especially your booth visitors.  You’d be surprised how much fun that can be.

What do you do to keep yourself entertained when you are at a trade show? Share your ideas in the comment box below.

Another way to have fun is to do really well at the game of exhibiting.  Improve your ability to win by getting a free copy of What’s Working In Exhibiting, a 32-page white paper report that shows how your peers are improving results and stretching their budgets. Complete the form to request your copy today!