How to Increase Traffic to Your Exhibit Hall
Before you dive in, if you are interested in conference sponsorship, check out these titles in our “sponsorship for conferences” series:
How to Plan a Conference: A Step-by-Step Guide
How to Market a Conference: Everything You Need to Fill Your Event
How to Plan a Virtual Conference
Conference Sponsorship Proposal Template
Conference Sponsorship: Expectation vs. Reality
Sponsorship for Virtual Events, Conferences and Meetings
How to Get Conference Sponsorship the Right Way
Seven Sponsorship Activation Ideas for Your Next Conference that Audiences will LOVE
How to Upgrade Your Exhibitors into Sponsors
Your event is taking place at an exhibit hall again this year. You’ll admit, in years past, you haven’t exactly attracted the most traffic. This year, you want to up your attendance numbers so you can chase higher-caliber sponsors. How can you increase traffic to your exhibit hall?
The following tips will boost traffic to your exhibit hall:
- Rework your marketing campaigns
- Create an event app
- Use activations
- Do a giveaway
- Offer door prizes
- Provide refreshments
- Have a signing or several
- Host live sessions throughout the day
If you’re looking for tips and advice on how to incorporate any of the above measures into your next event, I’ve got just the info you need ahead. Make sure you check it out!
8 Smart Ways to Get More Traffic to Your Exhibit Hall
Rework Your Marketing Campaigns
If your events are barely getting a trickle of people rather than the deluge you expect, then the first area to look at is your marketing.
After all, if your marketing campaigns aren’t reaching enough people, and especially if they’re not reaching the right people, then they’re not going to be effective. There’s simply no way.
Only you know what kind of event you’re throwing. Maybe it’s purely corporate, it’s more about entertainment, or it’s something in between.
Whatever the event is, are your marketing efforts reaching the type of people who would attend those kinds of events?
If you don’t even know who should attend your type of event, then you need to fix that first.
I recommend looking up events like yours and seeing what kind of demographic checks it out. That gives you a narrower segment to target.
And no, you should not market to anyone and everyone under the sun hoping someone will be interested.
If your company was selling a new product or service, you wouldn’t try selling it to just anyone. You can’t market your event to just anyone either.
You don’t want bodies there for the sake of a full exhibit hall. You want people who will engage with the booths and vendors, participate in activations and contests, and eagerly come back next year.
Besides the audience you’re marketing to, check your marketing channels.
Since we’re living in the 2020s, I would recommend digital marketing rather than direct marketing like billboards or mailed catalogs.
You can track digital marketing metrics, the same which cannot be said of direct marketing. You can be sure your message is out there, and then it’s all a matter of seeing who’s receptive to it.
Oh, and above all else, as you revise your marketing approach, please have a marketing budget, You don’t want to blow all your money promoting your event. You won’t have any cash for the event itself!
Create an Event App
Does your event have an app? If it doesn’t, then why not?
Event apps are becoming more common than ever among events of all kinds, especially those held in large spaces such as exhibit halls.
An app is advantageous to your audience in many ways.
You can provide a vendor list so attendees know who will be at the event.
They’ll also have a map of the grounds, which will make it easier for them to find their way around.
This way, your attendees can see and do everything they want to and don’t end up missing something.
Your app will also act as a live schedule that updates attendees on everything going on that day, from which live sessions or speakers are coming up to other exclusive events and entertainment they’ll certainly want to check out.
For you, you can use the event app for data collection, tracking how many people downloaded the app, who used it, and how it was used.
Even once your event ends, you might continue to update app users about news for next year’s event through the app, such as sponsor announcements and early-bird ticket sales.
Does your event currently have activations?
If you’re reading this right now and asking aloud, “what in the heck is an activation?”, then the answer is no.
Allow me to explain activations, since they’re something I deal with quite a lot here on the blog.
Activations are experiential marketing opportunities at an event, program, or opportunity.
Did that still not clear it up for you?
An activation can be a lot of things, but it’s a way to bring a sponsor or partner and your target audience together while fulfilling the goals or needs of both.
Photo walls, branded phone charging stations, refreshment stations, and virtual reality are all some examples of activations. They run the gamut.
You’ll want an assortment of activations for your event. This way, the exhibit hall will be filled with so many activations that no matter what your diverse audience likes, there’s a little something for everyone.
If you’re struggling to come up with any activation ideas off the top of your head, allow me to point you in the direction of several blog resources that will surely help.
This article is about conference activations, this one has sports activation ideas, this article is about digital activations, these are some of my most unique activation ideas, and these are some more event and marketing activations.
Do a Giveaway (or Several!)
People love free stuff. It’s just a proven fact of life.
If you can offer several exquisite prizes throughout your event, then I’m sure your exhibit hall will be more crowded this year than in years past.
You can make it a fun and engaging experience by hosting a contest during the event.
Scavenger hunts are popular, be those in-person or virtual scavenger hunts.
You could make the scavenger hunt exclusive through your event app, which ought to inspire plenty of people to download the app right before or during the event.
You can also blend contests and activations with a branded contest or giveaway. Your sponsor will love all the recognition they get while people will clamber for a great prize.
As for giveaways, you could do onsite raffles. People can take a ticket (or download a virtual ticket through your event app) and then wait until the end of the day for you to announce the winner.
That will keep people who were maybe thinking of ducking out early from leaving.
No matter which of these contests or giveaway ideas sounds best, I have two takeaways.
First, an event contest or giveaway should be separate from any other contest or giveaway you have ongoing at that time. You want the entirety of the contest and giveaway to take place during your event, not over weeks or months like other contests.
The other takeaway is that it should be easy for your attendees to participate. If they feel like they have to jump through hoops, then many people will not bother.
That brings me to prizes. What in the world do you give away?
The prize should be something that your audience finds valuable. If it’s themed to your event, that’s even better.
You know your audience best, so you can say what’s valuable to them.
Now, usually, I would dissuade from really tantalizing but thematically empty prizes like a boatload of cash or a new car.
However, since you’re trying to boost exhibit hall attendance, those prizes will certainly do it!
Offer Door Prizes
In a similar vein to contests and giveaways is the door prize.
You’ll usually see retailers offering door prizes or doorbusters around the holidays to inspire people to get out of bed in the dead of night and get on those great deals.
Well, it works exceptionally well for these retailers, and it should work well for you too.
You have to put some consideration into what your door prizes will be, especially if you’re also hosting contests and giveaways during your event.
If the door prize is too good, then people will show up but not engage as much with the other contests and giveaways because they already got the good prize.
Yet if the door prize isn’t good, then it’s rendered ineffective.
Are you worried that if you just give people free stuff they’ll take it and go home?
That’s not terribly likely. After all, these people bought a ticket for your event. They’re going to want to get their money’s worth, and that will mean sticking around for at least a little bit.
That said, I understand where you might feel uneasy about the idea of people taking a door prize and leaving.
To combat that, don’t just give away door prizes. Make the prize part of a game like hide and seek, count and guess, or tell the best joke.
By the time your participants play and get a feel for the event, they’re not going to just turn around and bail.
I think all of us have been to an event where the refreshments and food are way on the other side of where all the action is happening. Maybe the food is right outside the exhibit hall.
The thing about these kinds of events is that when they come around next year, you don’t want to go. The refreshments are so inconveniently located that you spent all day starving or subsisting on snacks. It sucked. You don’t want a repeat.
If you’re expecting people to stay at your event all day, and especially over several days, then refreshments must be made readily available.
You need a variety of food vendors that cover all tastes, cuisines, and budgets.
When choosing vendors, think also about how easy it is to walk and eat.
Sure, I’m assuming you’ll have seated areas, but there are more attendees than there are seats, so those will go fast. Many attendees will walk and carry their food, munching away.
Try to avoid serving anything too messy and anything with the potential to spill, especially hot fluids.
Have a Signing or Several
Besides freebies, another surefire way to get more tickets sold for your next event is to add some celebrity signings.
You’ll see entertainment conventions do this all the time. Even the big comic conventions like San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con have a laundry list of celebs for signings.
People will attend your event literally just to meet a star, but that’s okay. They’ll come for the celeb and stay for everything else.
If yours is a smaller event or you’re a nonprofit or small business, then you may be thinking, “but am I going to find a celebrity for my event?”
Well, I can’t promise that you will, only that it’s worth trying.
You might want a few smaller celebs for this next event. Also, rather than movie or music stars or even sports stars, maybe think of superstars within your industry.
These people might not be celebrities, per se, but they do have name recognition.
When your audience sees that that person will be signing books or photos or whatever, their interest will be piqued.
If all you have during the first year of your event is one signing, that’s okay. You can always add more next year.
Host Live Sessions Throughout the Day
My last idea for increasing traffic to your exhibit hall is this. Make your event worth staying for the entire day!
You can do that by hosting live sessions.
Perhaps these are seminars or speeches, maybe they’re instructional demonstrations or tutorials. Either way, your event is providing educational value to its attendees.
That’s what a good event should do, entertain and educate.
Live sessions of the nature described above work for more types of events than you’d think.
Even if yours is a sports convention, you could have live speeches from current and former players about injury safety or getting into the major leagues.
At a business convention or conference, these types of events are perfect. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.
You can use your app to list all the live sessions throughout the day, including what they are, who’s hosting, where in the exhibit hall they’re located, what time they start, and what time they end.
You could even allow attendees to mark if they’re going to the live session through the app. Now that’s handy!
You can later use this data to gauge which types of live sessions were the most popular.
The live sessions shouldn’t cost extra, as that will lead to the biggest turnout.
If your exhibit hall is lacking traffic, you need to do something about it before your next event. With the tips and suggestions in this article, you can finally begin attracting the large crowds you’ve always wanted. Good luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.
After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.
Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.